Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Here's a third-hand account portraying young John Kerry as a sort of Lord Banastre Tarleton of the Low Seas in Viet Nam.

“[T]he fabled and distinguished chief of naval operations,Admiral Elmo Zumwalt,told me — 30 years ago when he was still CNO —that during his own command of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam,just prior to his anointment as CNO, young Kerry had created great problems for him and the other top brass,by killing so many non-combatant civilians and going after other non-military targets.‘We had virtually to straitjacket him to keep him under control,’


Sure, it's far from primary source material. But the provenance is reliable.

Notice the date of the column...last February. Which of course predates any of the Swiftboat Veterans brouhaha by a comfortable margin.

Blogging and Nothingness 
Someone named MaryAnne is doubting my existence.

(Geez, and I thought "Aren't you through yet???" was a downer!)

The Main Effort... 
...And the Decisive Point.

This is where the war for Iraq will ultimately be won or lost.

More on Bush's Medals 
A retired USAF Master Sergeant squares us away on the regulations for the USAF marksmanship ribbons:

If you EVER qualify expert, the ribbon is yours to wear forever. You can qualify expert the first time you test and fail to pass basic qualification for the next 20 years, and you still get to wear the blue, green and yellow ribbon. If you qualify with both the M-16 and the 9 mil, you get the star device. You can only earn each once.

So there's the chink in Bush's armor. Since the small arms expert ribbon is a permanent award, then it should, by rights, be included in his personnel records somewhere, or annotated in a blanket award (an order authorizing wear for "the following individuals" with a roster attached. We have Xerox machines now, so that's easy for us. Not sure how they would have done it in 1971. But it should appear on a DD214 (notoriously incorrect) or the State equivalent (ditto.)

If I were Terry McAuliffe, I'd have some evil henchmen, far removed from the Kerry campaign, go after this one.

Splash, out


Belmont Club Out on a Limb 
Belmont Club seems to be predicting a terrorist attack on US soil timed to coincide with the GOP convention.

Personally, I think the bombings in Russia and Israel, plus the kidnappings of aid workers in Darfur are timed to coincide with the RNC convention. It could be coincidental, but that that is less likely than to assume the enemy, who is commanded, is working to a plan. That means the enemy will attempt an attack in the USA. We already know that, but it bears remembering that if they can kill 12 in two Israeli buses, they can do it in America.

I disagree. First of all, the public transit systems in most cities will not support an attack. We all know that Al Qaeda is exceedingly patient. But the waits for buses in most US cities will test the resolve of even the most committed mass transit martyer.

Well, that, plus, I don't believe jumping the gun benefits the terrorists. If I were Al Qaeda, would continue to play my cards exceedingly close to the vest for now. I would husband my resources, and not expose any of my agents or cells. Until the general election.

Then I would target Florida. In a series of strikes, starting early in the day. In such a way as to drive voters away from the polls.

But Florida will be ready.

So maybe I wouldn't concentrate on Florida, but on another hotly contested state. Like Pennsylvania.

But who wants to go to Pennsylvania in November? If I'm going to be a martyr, I'm going to spend my last night on earth hanging out on South Beach.

So it's Florida after all.

That's my own best guess.

Your mileage may vary. But I'm paid to be paranoid.

Splash, out


Oh, No!!!! 
Not Again!!!!!

Why Democrats are Losing 
Because 75% of Democratic rhetoric, most commonly the "Bush Lied, People Died" theme, is based on the notion that the Bush Administration deliberately lied to the American people in order to go to war with Iraq.

The problem for Democrats is that a statistically significant majority isn't buying that idea.

While the public remains divided on the war in Iraq — half say it wasn't worth fighting — two factors mitigate the damage to Bush. One is that 57 percent of registered voters reject the notion that the administration "intentionally misled" the public as it made the case for war. The other is that 54 percent believe the war did contribute to the long-term security of the United States — its fundamental rationale.


Of course, that won't stop the Democrat knuckleheads from preaching and screeching and directing their rhetoric at one another, rather than, you know, America.

Splash, out


Reuters In The "Balance" 
According to DNS News Service, Todd Eastman, a Reuters News editor, responded to receipt of a National Right to Life Committee press release by emailing this response:
"What's your plan for parenting & educating all the unwanted children you people want to bring into the world? Who will pay for policing our streets & maintaining the prisons needed to contain them when you, their parents & the system fail them? Oh, sorry. All that money has been earmarked to pay off the Bush deficit. Give me a frigging break, will you?"

Keep this in mind next time you read a Reuters story mentioning abortion or its opponents. Do you think this guy's going to give it to you straight? Are you sure he's even capable of doing so?

Splash, out


(Hat tip: Oh, That Liberal Media, which is always worth a look.)

NYC Protesters Show Their Colors 
It was bound to happen. Despite entreaties from reasonable Democrats and from New York City to "play nice," the GOP Convention protesters have turned violent, torching a rickshaw, punching a delegate in the face and running away, and putting a cop in the hospital in serious condition after he was assaulted and kicked in the head.

I don't remember any cops assaulted in Boston by conservatives.

Of course, you won't see an effective condemnation of these people by the DNC, since the DNC is desperate to keep these people from voting for Nader.

Folks, if the DNC weren't so hostile to Democrats and moderates who happen to attend church, if the DNC weren't so quick to make excuses for terrorists and coddle dictators, if the DNC were more willing to run on John Kerry's plan for the future rather than his past, and more willing to give us a reason to vote FOR Kerry rather than rely on us voting against Bush, they could make up the ground they lost on September 12th, 2001, and they wouldn't need the pack of jackals now infesting the streets of New York.

But as long as they continue to court MoveOn.org, A.N.S.W.E.R, and their ilk--and even rely upon them, Zell Miller is right--the Democratic Party doesn't deserve a nationwide office.

Splash, out


Fox News Spurns The Nation Advertisement 
Lefty magazine The Nation recently submitted a 60 second advertisement to several news channels, including Fox News and CNN.

CNN will run the ad. Fox won't.


Fox News--which itself advertises in the pages of The Nation--ain't saying specifically.

But it might have something to do with the fact that the language of the ad itself pokes a backhanded thumb in Fox News's eye:

"Nobody owns The Nation. Not Time Warner, not Murdoch. So there's no corporate slant, no White House spin. Just the straight dope."

Now, why Fox News could reasonably be expected to run an ad that postulates a 'corporate slant' or 'white house spin' to its news is beyond me. Sure, Fox News is guilty of both--as is CNN. But Fox is a bit more awake to its critics.

Moreover, the assertion that "nobody owns The Nation is laughable.

Somebody owns The Nation.

I don't know that I'd run the ad, either.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Another Medal Controversy 
The rabid hyenas at Democratic Underground are all in a tizzy over whether Dubya was photographed wearing a medal he did not earn.

I don't think there's any there there. The medal in question, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, is simply worn as a matter of course by all members of the unit for as long as they are in that unit. In practice, there would be no reason to annotate it on a form AF11. You would only have to take it off when he transferred. Multiply that by several hundred people constantly transferring in and out, and updating AF11 with temporary unit awards would turn out to be a major clerical task.

Fat chance.

As long as he was a member of that unit, no one would have reason to question the award. So there would be no reason to update the AF11 with it. Nor would it go on a DD214. Heck, half the time the DD214 doesn't even reflect medals a servicemember actually DID earn. Mine STILL doesn't have the Basic Parachutist's Badge (I graduated from Airborne School on August 17th, I think, 1991)!

Just for the sake of argument, though...if a servicemember were to wear an unauthorized decoration, why the hell would anyone in his right mind choose a unit award????

The Marksmanship badge should probably have been noted on a form, though, or written up somewhere in the form of an order. BUT, if the badge is temporary, and Bush didn't requalify expert later, he probably would lose the right to wear the small arms expert ribbon. And the AF11 would be updated to reflect that fact.

But the fact that even some of the Democratic Underground wingnuts are sceptical ought to belie the nothingness of the claim.

Splash, out


Naked Boys Dancing! Or: Is There No End to Lefty Stupidity? 
Apparently not.

Convention officials arranged discounts for conventioneers to a variety of New York attractions, such as Broadway and off-Broadway shows.

Well, it came to pass that one such show happened to be entitled "Naked Boys Singing!"

Well, when convention officials realized what they had done, they took the show off of the website and off of the list of offered discounts, quite reasonably feeling the show was "inappropriate."

And the reaction from the show's producers?

"We feel we're being discriminated against and feel we're being censored," says producer Carl D. White, as quoted in an article on a gay issues website called Planet Out.These idiots have no idea what censorship is. No one is trying to shut the show down. It's astounding to me that there are still people out there who believe that the First Amendment requires people to actually pay attention to them.

The decision to go elsewhere for a show is not censorship. It is part and parcel of the exercise of freedom.

I can't believe that New York area schools are churning out a bunch of spoiled children who haven't figured that out.

Splash, out

(no pun intended)


With Friends Like These (Naked Lesbians) 
A San Francisco liberal is dreading the idiot wing of the Democratic party putting themselves on display during the GOP convention, and is trying to tell them to cool it.

If you guys haven't left yet, here's my wish: Break a leg. Literally. We could afford you in Seattle in 1999; in fact, you pretty much made the scene there. But in New York, a small army of Republican Party apparatchiks, Fox News television producers, and Wall Street Journal editorialists are waiting for you, and they're a lot more sophisticated than you will ever be. They want you to smash windows and intimidate public safety officers here near the epicenter of Ground Zero; in fact, they'll be looking right over your shoulder, rolling videotape. On prime time that night, your bandanna'd visage will be on fourteen million televisions in Florida, Ohio, and every other swing state, and your crude epithets will settle into the brains of every undecided retiree or unemployed steel worker. Of course, you may not care a whit about the November election and may even hew to the ridiculous notion that a Bush re-election will radicalize the public and shorten the days till the revolution. But on the off chance that some of you are still listening, hear this plea: stay home, and knit a sweater or something.

Turns out David Corn is nervous as hell, too.

Hell I'll bet all the adult supervision at the DNC is nervous as hell.

They should be. After all, they helped create this monster.

Read the whole thing.

I promise, there's a reference to naked lesbians in there.

Graphic Data 
The Iowa Electronic Futures Market is looking pretty bleak this week for Kerry.

To Be FAIR... 
Fairness and Accuracy in Media is doing good work blowing down some of the silliness coming from conservative pundits and lazy reporters who parrot them. Unfortunately, FAIR's also guilty of trying too hard, themselves.

Claim: Kerry voted against 13 different weapon systems, including the M1 tank, the Trident Submarine, the Patriot Missile, the B-1 bomber.

Fact: Most of these votes didn't come seperately, but were included in a single vote: the vote against a 1991 defense appropriations bill.

One of the few reporters to take a serious look at the RNC's list—on which 10 of the 13 items refer to the single 1991 vote on an appropriations bill—was Slate's Fred Kaplan (2/25/04). Kaplan noted that 16 senators, including five Republicans, voted against the bill, and concluded that the claim against Kerry "reeks of rank dishonesty." Kaplan also pointed out that at the time of the 1991 vote, deeper cuts in military spending were being advocated by some prominent Republicans—including then-President George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who was secretary of defense at the time.

In other words, Kerry voted against the weapons systems the same way McCain voted against breast cancer victims.

Nevertheless, the fact that Kerry was out in the fringe on the vote tells you something in itself.

But that kind of political rhetoric is irritating.

Claim: John Kerry gutted the defense community by seeking a 1.5 billion dollar cut in intelligence expenditures earlier this year.

Fact: True. But Kerry's sought-after cut was actually much, much smaller than the 3.8 billion dollar reduction that was actually passed by a Republican congress.

Claim: Kerry voted for higher taxes 350 times.

Fact: You can only arrive at that figure by counting votes to keep taxes the same, as well as votes to reduce them by less than Republicans wanted.

The claim, as written, remains true, though, since in each case Kerry voted for the higher of competing tax rates. A vote for higher taxes is not the same as a vote to raise taxes. And no one ever made such a claim.

Red States Pulling for Kerry? 
Well, sort of...

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Light-Heavy Doctrine 
In recent years, there has been a strong push among defense reformers to 'lighten up,' to reduce reliance on tanks and go with a more easily deployable "expeditionary" concept of light infantry, air-mobile armored personnel carriers, and attack helicopters and aircraft.

American leaders even went to war in Afghanistan with no significant armored formations that I'm aware of, and controversially, had the artillery left behind.

The New York Times runs an article today that calls these reforms into question.

As usual, though, a journalist with an inadequate command of military doctrine misses the boat.

It's simply amazing to me that the New York Times could run an article on urban light-heavy doctrine without once mentioning the singular red-letter event in recent military history for light-heavy thinkers: the experience of the Russian Army in Grozny.

Within the first month, the Russians lost 223 armored vehicles destroyed.

Initial Russian vehicle losses were due to a combination of inappropriate tactics, underestimation of the opposing force, and a lack of combat readiness. The Russians moved into Grozny without encircling it and sealing it off from reinforcements. They planned to take the city from the march without dismounting. Due to shortages in personnel, the Russian columns consisted of composite units and most personnel carriers traveled with few or no dismounts. These initial columns were decimated.

As the Russians regrouped, they brought in more infantry and began a systematic advance through the city, house by house and block by block. Russian armored vehicle losses dropped off with their change in tactics. Russian infantry moved in front with armored combat vehicles in support or in reserve.

A close reading of the New York Times article reveals that this is, indeed, how the U.S. Army operates. Indeed, it's how it's supposed to operate. When the Army goes to war, every infantry battalion gives up a company or two to complement a tank battalion. Conversly, every tank battalion gives up a company or two to provide heavy firepower to an infantry battalion. It's called "cross attachment."

It's not a matter of whether tanks or infantry are better in an urban environment. The question is how commanders can best utilize the two arms, in tandem, to complement and protect one another, to function as a combined arms team.

The Times doesn't mention this, but the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is, most commonly, an infantry carrier.

When the shit gets thick, or when the Bradleys enter close terrain, they drop the hatch and out comes a six-man squad of infantry. Oh, guess what...at the moment they dismount, they're light infantry. They're guys with M16's and SAWs. And they dismount to clear the alleys and rooftops on the flanks and rear of the Bradleys and tanks, and allow the Bradley 25mm and the M1A1 120mm guns to do their business forward, unmolested.

We've always known tanks can, in certain circumstances, operate in urban areas, when supported and protected by infantry and engineers. But we need to be careful not to get carried away. Circumstances in the next war may not be so favorable for armored vehicle crewmen. Here's why:

1.) The Mahdi militiamen, while in many cases possessed of great personal courage (narrowly defined as the willingness to take a bullet in a stupid attack), and are relatively incompetent, when it comes to articulating their force into coherent hunter-killer teams and coordinating their attacks in a decisive manner. The Fedayeen were able to do this, though, as were some elements in Fallujah. Some Al Qaeda types--presumeably trained by veterans of the war against the Russians in Afghanistan and Chechnya--are able to do this, as well. We cannot assume that the Mahdi militia will remain stupid. If the Mahdis continue the fight, the need for infantry to counter their tactics will increase.

2.) Iraq has few very tall buildings. Tank and Bradley guns can only elevate so far. The next battle may take place in even more built-up areas, and with buildings that can withstand main gun rounds. If, in the next battle, tanks are engaged from the tops of highrises, the distances will preclude CAS. Helicopters will be able to drive the enemy from the roofs and top floor or two. But in order to surround and clear a large building, you're still going to need the infantry.

If you don't clear the building with infantry, the insurgent will simply hide, and attack the huge logistical tail of fuel tankers and ammo trucks that must neccessarily follow tanks into battle.

3.) The insurgent in Iraq has few effective anti-armor tools at hand. The overwhelming majority of RPG's in Iraq are the old RPG-7 variety, which is rarely effective against the Abrams tank, and is frequently defeated with a series of effective countermeasures. The RPG 18 is an entirely different animal, and is an order of magnitude more lethal than the 7.

Further, the Milan anti-tank missile is now widely available on the market, and already in use in 41 countries. The Milan which has already proven extraordinarily effective against modern armor, when properly employed. What's more, the Milan is manufactured by the French, who have proven themselves singularly whorish about providing weapons technology to countries who use them against US and British forces. The insurgent does not appear, to my knowledge, to have equipped himself with any anti-tank weaponry beyond 1970's technology.

Again, we cannot assume that the next battle will be as armor friendly as this one has been, so far.

4.) The Iraqi insurgent boasts no significant engineering capability for countermobility operations. They have a few ingenious, Macgyver-like dweebs who can make an effective roadside bomb out of a dirtbike and a milk crate, and set it all off with a gravity switch made out of a water bottle, using potato spuds for batteries. But the capabilities are not yet systemic or reproducable.

What was amazing to me in Iraq--and is still amazing--is that the Iraqis didn't make more use of actual anti-tank mines. Apparently, artillery and mortar rounds are much easier to come by. But they're not nearly as effective as a well-placed mine. Artillery shells explode in every direction; land mines are directional, and deliver all their explosive force on the target above.

Yes, they used them...they seemed to be more common up north for some reason..but to hear of a land mine rather than an arty shell in the IED role was definitely the exception rather than the rule during my tenure there.

We did capture a few hundred land mines in weapons caches in and around Ramadi, but none were used against us, as far as I know. These caches were apparently kept by tribes and clans to use against other tribes and clans in an expected civil war, and not intended for use against Americans.

At any rate, we cannot assume that the next urban battlefield will not feature the use of antitank mines, competently employed. Again, the balance tips toward the greater need for infantry.

From the Times article:

Yet in Najaf, two battalions of the Army's tanks did what a lighter Marine battalion could not,

Well, it's good to have bragging rights over the USMC, sure. But two battalions can almost ALWAYS do what one battalion cannot.

inflicting huge casualties on Mr. Sadr's insurgents while taking almost none of their own.

Yeah, but which casualties? The tanks can only engage those who first chose to engage the Americans.

The 70-ton tanks and 25-ton Bradleys pushed to the gates of the Imam Ali shrine at the center of the old city. Meanwhile, the Marines spent most of the fight raiding buildings far from the old city. Even so, seven marines died, and at least 30 were seriously wounded, according to commanders here, while only two soldiers died and a handful were injured.

Moreover, we should also consider the nature of the objective. Nobody ever doubted that an armored column can quickly overrun Najaf, or any other town in Iraq. The US Army, if it wants to, can seize ground almost at will. What is not clear is this: Having seized the ground, can the US destroy the insurgents and win on the very ground it holds?

Armor can punch through to the decisive points. It can deliver local successes against those enemy who choose to reveal themselves by firing from a building. And in Iraq, Armor can usually destroy that building.

But you cannot win a decisive victory by eliminating only those who choose to engage you. Victory will be obtained when US forces are successful in engaging and destroying those who are desperate to remain hidden.

This is going to require good, human intelligence which cannot be gleaned from the TC's seat in a tank, and is going to require stealth, and is going to require light infantry bashing down a door in an apartment complex.

If the Marines are engaging in intelligence-driven raids--even far from the Old City--they may well be delivering the decisive blows against the Mahdi leadership and financial and logistical support structure. Those whom the Mahdi wishes to keep safe and sheltered will not be living at ground zero.

I say this not to belittle Armor. I hold an Armor and infantry MOS and spent a few years as a tank platoon leader and company XO myself. In certain circumstances, Armor is truly the Arm of Decision. But let's not get carried away with Najaf, and work in lessons that won't apply elsewhere.

Splash, out


Saturday, August 28, 2004

More Good Stuff 
War story fans will like www.thegreenside.com.

It started out as a Marine major's emails to his young niece back home, but quickly degenerated into a multi-marine blog, of sorts. Not sure how 'official' it is.


Combat Outpost: A Backgrounder 
Joe Galloway...the real-life reporter from "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young," and Joe Swanson, have an account of the April 6th fighting in Ramadi, mostly through the eyes of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.

The accompanying photograph depicts a memorial service being held at "Combat Outpost," a piece of real estate on the outskirts of Ramadi which Gannett News Service calls "arguably the most dangerous military camp in Iraq."

A bit of background on Combat Outpost:

Combat Outpost was originally occupied by an element of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment called Task Force Eagle, and was called "Eagle's Nest" in the early weeks of the occupation. Its current moniker, however, came from the call sign of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment--a Florida National Guard unit from North Miami, which occuppied the position from May 2003 until the end of February, 2004, along with elements from my own Headquarters Company--namely, the aid station, the supply section, and most of the support platoon, who cooked, drove trucks, and most importantly, were qualified on the .50 cal machine gun and Mk 19 grenade launchers.

It's a dusty crooked octagon carved out of the Ramadi suburbs, and pocked with blocky, concrete buildings, and surrounded by a wall between 8 feet and 10 feet in height, which shields the interior from view at ground level, although residents in some apartment buildings to the west can see into the compound very readily. Apparently, it was a maintenance depot for some government agency in its former life.

Upon rolling into the compound for the first time in May, 2003, and walking its perimeter, I immediately thought of Rorke's Drift--the South African battlefield portrayed in the movie "Zulu."

It even had two different company commanders living there. (I was kicked out to the larger and much more secure Hurricane Point, on the other side of town, where the battalion headquarters was--a decision I don't recall fighting much about at the time.)

Looking over the terrain, I was pretty sure it wouldn't be long before the position was seriously probed. And if the insurgents were able to gather in sufficient strength, I believed they may well actually try to overrun the compound.

It wasn't long--less than a week, perhaps--before Combat Outpost came under a night RPG attack. The first of many, although some heads-up gunnery on the part of Charlie and HHC shooters seems to have dissuaded the insurgent from direct fire attacks, and the mortar became the weapon of choice.

The mortar attacks came in--if not daily, then at least multiple times a week. Everyone stationed there had at least one close call.

One 60mm mortar shell scored a direct hit on the rooftop of the HHC billets in July, though it did not penetrate the roof.

It did, however, perforate the heck out of an unoccupied sleeping cot and mosquito net a few feet away. And that was the end of anyone escaping the heat by sleeping on the roof for a while.

The most immediate challenge was the engineering. The thick brush lining the walls could serve to conceal insurgents in their assault positions, or conceal explosives designed to breach the wall immediately beyond, and had to be cut or burned away. The top of the walls needed to be lined with concertina wire. And a system of claymore mines and tripflares needed to be emplaced.

(The tripflares, it turned out, resulted in more than a few false positives, thanks to local dogs and other critters.)

Our observation posts also needed to be reinforced, and fitted with overhead cover. This was done through contracts with Iraqi construction firms--but having Iraqi work crews entering the compound every day posed security problems of its own--a problem faced at installations all over Iraq.

Simultaneously, some rudimentary latrine facilities had to be set up (no, we didn't get port-o-let services out there for months. Waste was dealt with the old fashioned way: via a private with a stick and a mixture of gasoline and diesel and a match.)

Our Forward Ordering Officer, or FOO, as luck would have it, was a construction project manager in real life, and so was ideally suited for his post. (Actually, he was relieved of his normal duties as support platoon leader so he could focus on the construction jobs, and on literally dozens and dozens of reconstruction projects on schools, hospitals, and mosques all over Ramadi. An excellent move.)

There was no plumbing on the post, so the FOO contracted to have a small gravity-fed water tower built near a roofless warehouse, which fed an open-air shower point. It worked well in the summertime, when temperatures ranged into the 130's (Our digital thermometery conked out at 137 degrees on two days in August 2003.) But when the weather turned cold the absence of hot water was a hardship for the troops for months.

We also contracted with Iraqis for a satellite internet service there--called "Hajinet" and even got satellite television.

Several soldiers were wounded there by mortar fire, including our supply sergeant.

By the end of our time there, Combat Outpost became liveable. I spent a few nights there, occasionally, as a sort of 'vacation home.' Sure, the mortar attacks were nerve-wracking. But it was good to get away from the TOC once in a while, and to see the rest of my company.

I was not involved much in the garrison of Combat Outpost. I was there almost every day, long enough to change out a water buffalo, buy a cold soda from one of the kids at the gate, or pick up and process our detainees and inventory their equipment. And then I was on my way. But I spent only a handful of nights there.

But I did not share in the hardships or sacrifices borne by Combat Outpost's permanent residents in the summer and fall of 2003. My hat's off to those who did.

Splash, out


Media Relations, Iraqi Style 
From the Guardian:

Correspondents in the Najaf Sea hotel said around a dozen policemen, some masked, stormed into the rooms of journalists and forced them into vans and a truck.

The Independent's Donald Macintyre reported that the police, some masked, "shouted threats and abuse at the reporters, along with their Iraqi drivers and translators, and fired about a dozen shots inside and outside the hotel before taking them before the police chief, Major-General Ghaleb al-Jazaari, to hear his emotional complaints about media coverage and the sufferings of police officers during the present crisis".

And the Daily Telegraph said today that its correspondent, a translator and a driver had been forced into a bus and two lorries before being subjected to a "tirade against the press".

No, I was not directly involved.

We're making progress, though. At least the press in Iraq can now publicly acknowledge that Iraqi thugs try to intimidate journalists--which is more than they could do under the previous regime.

No, I don't condone the Iraqi security forces' behavior here. I understand it!!!! But I don't condone it.

Splash, out


As if the Left Couldn't Get Any More Unserious... 
...Howard Zinn is now reduced to co-writing book blurgs with guitarist Bonnie Raitt.

And Bonnie gets top billing!

They Don't Make Journalists Like They Used To. 
From today's Editor and Publisher magazine:

NEW YORK Attention GOP convention-bound journalists: If you were among those complaining in Boston about the portable toilets, crowded outdoor press filing area, and lack of decent food, get ready for something different. A spa, with free facials and manicures, for example. Not to mention a pool table.

Besides an army of antiwar and anti-Bush activists, New York's Republican National Convention is ready to greet you, directly across from Madison Square Garden, with a full city block of indoor media workspace, gourmet prepared-to-order edibles, and dozens of permanent bathrooms. And if that's not enough, there's the complimentary day spa, which will offer free massages, facials, manicures and shoe shines.


Man, I wouldn't even THINK of accepting a free massage, compliments of the GOP. That's just too creepy to mention.

Yeah, the inadequate press filing area sucks. And the DNC should have put more thought into press arrangements. (Not that most of the newsrooms in the country aren't DNC filing areas anyway).

But the old school types at the Washington Post frown on reporters even accepting so much as a complimentary cup of coffee from their sources and subjects of their stories.

I'm not sure we need to go that far, but the symbolism is important.

And the thought of a journalist on the job covering the convention accepting a free massage and facial compliments of the subject of their story, is just obnoxious.

Splash, out


Friday, August 27, 2004

Man Down 
You bastards!!!

CB, the anonymous infantryman in Mosul who wrote My War: Fear and Loathing in Iraq, was penning the best grunt's-eye journalism of the entire war. Actually, I rank his riveting personal accounts of small-unit action in Iraq to be some of the best pure military writing anywhere.

His company and battalion commander were apparently fine with it. Some rear-echolon idiot higher up apparently shut him down.

And now he's shut down his site, deleting its archives and renaming it "Over and Out," and featuring no text except Johnny Rotten's last public words at his last gig: "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

Well, I've got that feeling right now. And the American people have been cheated. They've been cheated of the best war writing in Iraq by the kind of square-headed morons Robin Williams parodied in "Good Morning, Vietnam!"

Officially, of course, there would be concerns that a blogger might leak operational details that might be useful to the enemy.

But I never once saw anything he wrote that would violate the ground rules the Army gives to any imbedded journalist.

I hate to break it to the Army, but the kids joining up today are not dumb. They are media savvy. They consume news from a variety of sources. They fix computers. They set up their own satellite internet networks in the barracks from wires and gear they buy off the local hajis. They get around the censors and filters. Yes, they even download porn.

They are light years ahead of the brass when it comes to technology and media.

And in this case it shows.

This kind of leadership makes me want to tear my hair out. And it makes these super kids, these smart, independent-thinking, squared-away soldiers, want to leave the Army as soon as they can.

Fortunately, all is not lost. You can find a cached snapshot of "Fear and Loathing in Iraq" here.

Don't miss it.

I hope this kid gets out of the Army soon, so he can become a journalist. He's put the Army and journalism to shame.

Splash, out


Why I Believe in America, Ch. 1. Charlotte and Lee Counties, Florida 
I owe the Battalion Commander an After Action Report (AAR) on hurricane relief operations vicinity Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, Florida. I'll write that up and I'll be posting the salient points here over the weekend.

I have to say I was super impressed by the Charlotte County community. Sure, some people were irritable, and tempers flared at a couple of ice distribution points. But even as thousands had had their homes and businesses severely damaged or destroyed, the gestures of support and generosity from within the community--not just to the hurricane victims themselves, but to the emergency services workers that arrived there from all over Florida, and to the mobilized guardsmen, were humbling indeed.

I'll never get them all, because I'll never know them all. But I'd particularly like to thank the management of Walgreen's Drug Stores on King's Highway, adjacent to one of the local staging areas for emergency workers. We had a couple of hundred guardsmen living in cots in the shell of a nearby minimall. All the guardsmen had to pack at a moment's notice, and many had arrived missing toiletry articles, flip-flops, and other basic neccessities of life.

Walgreen's was donating these articles free of charge to soldiers coming in to purchase them.

Thanks also to Carraba's Italian Grill, set up unbidden at the emergency services staging area on King's Highway every night I was there, and catered hundreds of free (and delicious) meals to emergency workers and guardsmen.

Actually, Carraba's meals were so good we had to lean on the soldiers to eat the Army food, since we were about to get in trouble for throwing so much army food away. (Note to future company commanders: If you decide not to order chow, or understate your projected meal headcount, But If you overstate your headcount, and wind up wasting food and money, it makes the brigade DFAC chief warrant's the brigade S-4's heads explode, with unappetizing results.)

Domino's Pizza donated hundreds of free pizzas.

Spirit Airlines, as I mentioned, donated my plane ticket to get back to Florida from California.

One company was located adjacent to a Hooter's restaurant on Highway 41. Hooter's squared them away with loads of free chicken (no beer), and all the posters and girlie calendars a troop could shake a stick at.

Outback Steakhouse set up an operation at the Charlotte County Airport Emergency Operations Center, and probably gave out thousands of free meals to relief workers.

Hardee's was comping meals to uniformed guardsmen for a few days. They stopped, but I still think they've got the best hamburgers of any fast food chain, bar none. It's not even close. Better milkshakes, too.

Burger King, these guys are going to kick your ass.

Dozens of private individuals or small churches showed up with free hot dogs for the troops. One church even wheeled into the Lee County Civic Center with an entire trailer barbecue stand. "What are you looking to do here," we asked.

"I want to feed hurricane relief workers!"

"Oh, great! Well, how many can you feed?"

"About 300."

Hurricane Charley was the only light infantry op I've ever been on where every soldier gained weight.

I believe in America. And Charlotte and Lee County, Florida, are great places to live.

Just don't live there in a trailer home.

Splash, out


Another Feather in Patterico's Cap 
Patterico has forced the Los Angeles Times to issue another correction--this time retracting their false reporting that none of the Swift Vets actually served on Kerry's boat.

The Latest from Howell Raines... 
The column is a semicoherent, bloviating mess.

Does anyone in America doubt that Kerry has a higher IQ than Bush? I'm sure their SATs and college transcripts would put Kerry far ahead.

Ok, I'll answer the question: I have my doubts.

Does anyone in America think that this kind of dingbat speculation is responsible reporting?

That's a college newspaper mistake.

The irony--lost on Raines--is especially rich given this passage from later in the piece:

But in reviewing what I wrote in 1982 after two years of close observation of Reagan on the campaign trail and in the White House, I saw a couple of points that seemed worth revisiting as Reagan's self-appointed heir seeks a second term. I characterised Reagan as a "political primitive" who valued "beliefs over knowledge" based on verifiable facts.

Since Raines puts more stock in his belief that Kerry has a higher IQ than Bush than he does in, well, actually mustering some evidence for his claim, I think it's fair to say that by his own definition, Raines qualifies as a "Journalistic primitive."
This guy was the Editor of editors at the Newspaper of Record?

And here he is blaming Kerry's ponderous ineptitude on...wait for it...Karl Rove!

Over the course of the summer Bush, or more likely his political adviser, Karl Rove, dictated the subject-matter of the campaign by successfully triggering Kerry's taste for complicated ideas and explanations. Kerry is telling voters that we live in a complex world. Americans know that, but as an electorate, they are not drawn to complexity.

My God...if John Kerry can't take responsibility for the car parked in his garage, can't we even hold him responsible for the words that come out of his own yap?

The fact that Kerry is trying to tell us we live in a complex world and that he doesn't have the intellectual consistency to articulate that is not Karl Rove's doing!

Kerry's explanations about his conflicting votes on the Iraq war and how he would have conducted it are wondrous as rhetorical architecture.

By Howell Raines' standard, Long Term Capital Management's investment strategy was wondrous as financial architecture.

Complexity is not a virtue. The ability to grasp complexity is good. But Kerry has not, in my view, evinced an ability to grasp complexity so much as the tendency to become entangled in it.

Kerry's demand that Bush condemn the commercial and Bush's hair-splitting refusal to do so dominated the news all week. Bush refers to Kerry's Vietnam service as "noble" while carefully avoiding a specific, direct denunciation of the veterans' grossly misleading ad. There's a good reason for this. The president does not want to identify with these worms who sponsored the ads...

Question for Mr. Raines: is it your opinion, sir, that the 245 odd swift boat veterans bearing their witness as to Kerry's wartime record are "worms?"

but he wants their commercials to keep eating away at the apple of Kerry's much stronger reputation as a warrior.

Well, given the latest polling figures, it's pretty apparent that the public overwhelmingly considers Bush the better man for the prosecution of the war on terror.

Apparently, Kerry didn't have much of a warrior reputation among the swiftboaters themselves, huh?

Splash, out


Sunday, August 22, 2004

Still Out of Contact 
Hello, everyone...

Still conducting hurricane relief operations in the Lee County, Punta Gorda, and Port Charlotte areas.

Not much connectivity here. I'll have lots of operational lessons learned soon, though.

No, I can't check my email. The geniuses at DOIMS block all hotmail accounts.

Keep checking in, though, and thanks for your patience.


Saturday, August 14, 2004

One Weekend a Month, Two Weeks a Year My Arse!!! 
Mobilized again. Hurricane relief duty. Possibly as long as two weeks.

Packing a couple of bags and off I go to join my unit already in the field.

I'm already back in South Florida. A major shout-out to Spirit Airlines for squaring me away with a free ticket on no notice, and for just generally playing heads-up ball, all around.

I'll be traveling your airline again, and look, I'm recommending it to 1,600 or so of my closest friends!

Don't know what my connectivity or time demands will be in Port Charlotte. Signing off the blog for now.

Please don't send me attachments. If I can't check my email they'll clog up the box and cause emails to bounce. Text only please.

Splash out


Euro-Trash in its Natural Habitat 
A reader in Switzerland responds to "Bergen Belsen Mon Amour:"

It is a fact anybody wearing a Israeli flag (or an American) in Europe get sooner or later involved in a discussion about Palestine/Israel conflict, (Iraq war) human rights violations. The temper of the ones involved and the type of discussion s define if the situation escalates. To criticize the Israel state is not automatically anti-Semitism. As big reader you should be aware that European institutions, governments and population are more then critical of Israel. Because it is a democratic government the requirements are higher then ones of a banana republic. Increase of anti Semitism has a reason and the action of the state Israel has a lot to do with it ( I can provide letters to Sharon of Swiss Jewish organizations just saying this).

My own response:

1.) For these idiots to accost these people within the confines of Auschwitz itself goes beyond insensitivity, beyond rudeness, beyond crassness. It was simply vile. For you to be unable to recognize this for what it is simply reflects how deeply you have mired yourself in the gurgling cesspool that passes for moral reasoning among Eurolefties and their ilk. Your hatred and resentment of Jews has left you utterly blind.

2.) Given the facts presented in the article, the three French idiots committed battery, which in the US and under common law systems, is a crime. You don't seem to have a problem with crimes, though, so long as the victim is Jewish.

3.) Your last statement, that actions on the part of the state of Israel contribute to anti-semitism, and tying actions of the state of Israel to this particular anti-semetic assault (it's amazing the cheap excuses and schnitzel-shop rationalizations you people are willing to come up with to justify your own venomous hatred), utterly contradict your own argument.

It is true that people can be critical of the state of Israel and not be seething anti-semitic bigots.

But you, sir, can't.

Splash, out


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Bergen-Belsen Mon Amour 
Our friends the French at work again:

While on a tour of the museum at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland on Sunday, a group of around 50 Jewish university students from Israel, the U.S. and Poland were verbally attacked by a three-member gang of French male tourists.

Man, why did it have to be the French again?

Splash, out


Edwards' S-Corporation Tax Shelter Revisited 
A couple of weeks back I posted this story, arguing that slamming Edwards with the allegation that he was abusing a tax shelter was wrong. I argued to lay off Edwards on this score.

Turns out the Wall Street Journal was onto something, I was the premature one.

A Certified Public Accountant (and mother of a Screaming Eagle Soldier recently returned from Mosul) squares me away.

I think you are wrong on the Edwards story. The S Corp was simply a scam to avoid paying the Medicare tax. He took $360,000 in salary out of ¼ of 26.9 million each year and that is not a reasonable figure considering that the entire amount was earned by his professional activities. The IRS routinely deconstructs such situations where the salary is not commensurate with the amount earned by professional services. A 50% ratio would have been better. As for a 401(k), the problem with a top heavy plan would have existed at a salary of $360,000. What he should have done is set up a defined benefit plan and put away over 100,000 each year. As for avoiding liability, you can only avoid liability for the actions of others- not your own professional negligence. Since he was the only employee- he effectively has no liability protection at all. Courts routinely pierce the corporate veil to get at the assets of the sole professional shareholder of an undercapitalized corporation.

It was a blatant attempt to cheat the social security system of its money. It was however not a tax shelter and not illegal. It was crass exploitation of a tax loophole and a typical rich democratic ploy- let the poor middle class salaried smucks pay my fair share...

there is an IRS history of unwinding large dividend payments in single person Sub S Corps. A singe person Sub S is usually a personal service type corporation. Since personal services (not sales of goods) are the source of the income, then the IRS gets really testy when small salaries are taken out of large personal service income. His net income was probably about 5 million plus per year. A salary of $300,000 is not reasonable under those circumstances. There is no hard percentage but less then 10% is not reasonable.

Perhaps scam is the wrong word but I think what he did was a contemptable use of a legal loophole which I do not beleive would stand up under an IRS audit as he went way to far beyond the intent of the law.

And yes, sure enough, her argument checks out. Turns out there's a whole cottage industry devoted to analyzing S-corporation payouts and keeping them within what the IRS would consider reasonable.
And that's the lynchpin here. Under the circumstances, would the IRS consider Edwards' 90-10 breakout between dividends and salary reasonable?

Prolly not. Other businesses have been bitchslapped by the IRS for doing just what Edwards did.

Any other CPA or tax law types want to weigh in, here?


A Near-Total Media Failure 
Hugh Hewitt, VodkaPundit, and a host of others are all over the mainstream media's failure to cover the fact that the Kerry campaign has been caught in a series of baldfaced lies dating back years.

The fact that Kerry was lying about being in Cambodia is confirmed by every living member of his chain of command, plus at least one member of his own swiftboat crew.

To make matters worse, the Kerry campaign tried to assert that Kerry never said he was IN Cambodia. They said Kerry said he was NEAR Cambodia. Glenn Reynolds photographed the congressional record and put that lie to rest. The campaign retracted and said they would "clarify."

No clarification has been issued yet. Not by the Kerry campaign.

But no such "clarification" is necessary. I've got a clarification of my own:

Kerry lied.

Fox News has it. The bloggers have it. The story's been out at least since Monday. It's checking out all over the place. It's been confirmed and confirmed again and again.

The UK Telegraph picked it up 11 minutes ago.

Ooops...they just put up another story, headlined "Kerry Invented Christmas in Cambodia Claim."


The New York Times? AWOL.
USA Today? AWOL.
Boston Globe? AWOL.
Washington Post? AWOL.
Reuters? AWOL.
Associated Press? AWOL.
Los Angeles Times? AWOL.

Our nation's premier news outlets are being shamed by the Fort Wayne News Sentinel.

It's a miserable media failure.

Funny how all the media failures break the same way.

If every member of Bush's chain of command, including those on his crew, came forward now and testified that Bush was never in Alabama, and never served, because they were with him when he never served, you think it would get some play?

How about if 200-odd members of the Texas Air National Guard came forward and said "We knew George Bush, we served with him, he is not fit for command."

Think that would get some play?

Then where are the biggies on this one?

Where are those who claim to "speak truth to power?"

It's pathetic.

Well, now that the Telegraph has broken the omerta, our own majors will have to acknowledge the issue.

But they'll have to be dragged by their hair, kicking and screaming, until they're forced to cover the story, the same way you force a dog to acknowledge its own crap on the rug.

Splash, out


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

In better news (see below if you're reading this before the post I just wrote)...

Went to a seisun in Santa Monica last night. At a pub called Finn McCool's. Was just sitting down with a few flute players to get started and rosining up the bow when some chick crawls in through the window.

She turns around and I see it's none other than the very excellent Kathleen Keane!

Life is good, indeed.

Everyone there could play. It was a grand session. Hated to have to leave early...I wanted more than anything to stay and play tunes and close the place down.

Hopefully, I'll get to go again. They have a session twice a week. I show up maybe once a year, and it's always loads of fun (even if the bar gets too loud.)

Thanks for the tunes, Kathleen, and everyone else.



...So not two days after I arrive in Los Angeles do two hurricanes form threatening Florida.

Like all guardsmen, when not under federal orders, I work for the governor, and the Guard is tasked to provide MSCA, or Missions in Support of Civil Authorities, which covers all sorts of disaster relief and riot control sorts of contingencies. Our main focus in Florida, obviously, has been hurricane preparedness.

We get false alarms all the time--hurricanes which form, we get all geared up, and then the hurricane veers off course.

I'll just have to keep tracking the storms, and hope it's a false alarm like the rest.

If the call does come, I'll likely wind up having to cancel this trip and eat the cost of a no-notice ticket to Florida.

Sonova Beach!!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

This Ain't No Disco. This Ain't No Country Club, Either. 
This is L.A.

...So I'm sitting with my fiddle at the Celtic Arts Center, in North Hollywood/Burbank somewhere, on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, getting set to play in a seisun, and some woman who doesn't know I was in Iraq tries to convince me that Iraq was a secular society, and Saddam was a secular, pro-woman ruler, and his society was marked by a comparatively egalitarian distribution of wealth, with a definite middle class, had Jews in his government, and "the best health care and education in the world."

"Umm, no he didn't. What are you talking about? Pro-woman? The guy employed state rapists. How 'pro-woman' can he be? Education? Once you get out of Baghdad, Most Iraqis have about a sixth-grade education, if that."

"Well, that was before the sanctions. The sanctions ruined all that. Also, it was the sanctions--it was U.S. interventionism, that unleashed the hostility between the religious sects, and the regionalism."

Me: "You gotta be kidding me. The sanctions were in place only from 1991. Saddam slimed Halabja in 1988. And Sunnis have been merrily slaughtering Shia for centuries. The Saudi Wahabbis used to go rub out entire Shiite villages for sport more than a century ago."

Ah, it's a good thing it came time to play some tunes.

My tolerance for stupidity is not what it once was.

Splash, out


Monday, August 09, 2004

Traveling Today 
Blogging will be light for the next couple of weeks. What blogging I do do will be from Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Newport Beach, Salem Oregon, or San Diego.

Between Seisuns, of course!!!



Sunday, August 08, 2004

"Just Walk Away" 
Here's a story from The Oregonian that deserves more attention:

Oregon Guardsmen were ordered to return prisoners to Iraqi police officials who had been torturing them.

On the morning of June 29, Oregon guardsmen set off from their base near the Interior Ministry on routine neighborhood patrols.

Lookouts climbed towers ringing the base, and scouts took their usual positions in hidden vantage points around the neighborhoods of east Baghdad, looking for threats and signs of trouble.

One of the scouts posted in a tall building squinted through his rifle scope at the courtyard adjoining the Interior Ministry. He saw a man in plainclothes standing over a handcuffed and blindfolded prisoner. The guardsman watched through his rifle scope as the man reared back and brought what appeared to be a stick or metal rod down on the prisoner, who was lying on the ground.

The scout took pictures through his scope and considered his options.

The Oregon guardsman did not speak for this story. But others who spoke with the soldier said he radioed battalion headquarters to report the beating. According to one soldier, he said he would begin shooting the Iraqi guards if someone didn't intervene.

That message was passed to Lt. Col. Hendrickson, the battalion's commander, who gathered soldiers from the unit's headquarters company and a translator. Soon after, Hendrickson led a procession of Humvees from the guards' Patrol Base Volunteer to the Iraqi compound.

The squad of armed and armored Oregon guardsmen pushed into the detention yard "basically unchallenged," according to the written account by Southall, a Newark, Calif., middle school teacher who serves with the Oregon Guard.

Southall said he was speaking as an individual and not as a military officer. Senior Army officers have instructed soldiers not to discuss the incident.

According to Southall and other soldiers, the guardsmen began by separating the prisoners from the Iraqi policemen.

Some of the detainees said they had been held for three days with little water and no food. "Many of these prisoners had bruises and cuts and belt or hose marks all over," Southall said. At least one had a gunshot wound to the knee.

"I witnessed prisoners who were barely able to walk," Southall said.

The Oregon soldiers moved the prisoners into the shade of a nearby wall, cut them loose and handed out water bottles. They administered first aid when necessary and gave intravenous fluids to at least one dehydrated prisoner.

At about that time, U.S. military police arrived on the scene and began disarming the Iraqi policemen and moving them farther away from the prisoners, according to Southall.

...And here's what happened next:

It wasn't long before the order came: Stand down. Return the prisoners to the Iraqi authorities and leave the detention yard.

That order infuriated the Oregon guardsmen, who viewed themselves as protectors of the abused prisoners. Nonetheless, the soldiers obeyed. None of the soldiers interviewed for this story said which U.S. general gave the order.

What is this, the Godfather Part II? Is this Hyman Roth?

"This is the business we have chosen! I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business!"

Geez, reporters, just follow the chain of command upwards until you find a command willing to take the responsibility.

We had something similar happen in Ramadi, in the summer of 2003.

I forget the details, but it had come to our attention that Iraqi police had been torturing prisoners, via beatings and whips. I think the particular incident arose out of a dispute between two Iraqis in a restaurant that happened to have been owned by a relative of the chief of police, or his assistant.

We dispatched some of our own medics to take photographs of the injuries. When our battalion commander saw what had happened, we simply fired the responsible official.

Of course, we can't simply fire Iraqi officials now that the Iraq government has sovreignty. And I'm not sure that building a kinder, gentler prison system is number one on Allawi's concerns these days.

Since these prisoners apparently weren't prisoners of war, but common criminals, they don't receive protected status under the Geneva conventions--the host nation is free to deal with them under their own laws, subject to basic conventions against torture.

But we should lean hard on Allawi to ensure his security forces actually comply with the law.

Splash, out


Saturday, August 07, 2004

Roy Weitz Weighs In on First Command 
Roy Weitz's website, Fundalarm.com, is sort of the Instapundit/Drudge Report of the retail mutual fund world.

Here he is weighing in on companies who, in his words, "sell garbage financial products to U.S. military personnel."

Vaughn Ververse Grasps the Point... 
...albeit barely. Here he is writing in The National Journal:

Instead of answers to how Kerry expects to lure international troops into Iraq, how he'll pay for his many promises and cut the deficit in half in one term or even whether he believes the war to be a mistake, about all we learned through the media was that he is a Vietnam vet. Rather than examine Kerry's proposals, the press seems more than happy to buy into the campaign's "message of the day." Haven't we seen this movie before, and wasn't it called "the buildup to war"?

The cynicism and distrust for this administration among much of the media appears to be intractable at this point. Feeling they were too trusting in the days leading to war, the Fourth Estate no longer trusts what is fed to them. Why they ever did in the first place is beyond us, but when Republicans cry "bias," they've got a point.

But here's the opening paragraph:

When Republicans complain about media bias in the next few months, don't be so quick to brush it off as the same old song. They just might have a case, but not for the reasons they will suggest. Rather than some ideologically-driven agenda to put a Democrat in the White House, press bias appears rooted more in a sense of guilt.

Leapin' Lefties, Vaughn! Just how many studies detailing a pervasive ideological bias is it going to take to convince you guys that the problem is ideological in nature?

It's not overcompensation at all. There is zero empirical evidence to confirm that an ideologically neutral press is trying to overcompensate for failing to press the Bush Administration on WMD intelligence.


Coverage was inept long before we went to Iraq. And coverage of a variety of social issues was hopelessly distorted long before we failed to find huge stocks of WMD.

The one-sided and incompetent coverage of gun control issues alone stands to convict journalists of their own ideological preconceptions, and has done so for more than 20 years, at least.

In contrast, study after study--survey after survey--confirms that journalists themselves are radically farther left than the population at large. Ideologically.

You've got to be pretty thick-headed to argue that, in the aggregate, such a pervasive ideological tilt DOESN'T predictably lead to skewed coverage.

The author constructs an elaborate straw-man argument: that conservative argue that journalists deliberately skew the news in a calculated effort to put one party in the White House and the other on the street.

That is a silly mischaracterization. Sure, some make that argument. But the fact is, for bias to exist, it does not have to be conscious or deliberate. Rather, I would posit that the inadvertent bias--the bias rooted in the assumptions that journalist hold dear, and wrongly believe that because their peers share them, that their readership shares them, too--is far and away bias's the most pernicious and insidious form.

Case in point:

The Times saw fit to run 20-some straight front-page stories on the Iraqi prison scandal, even on days when there was little or no actual news. Doom and gloom coverage throughout the press raised many a doubt about the handover of power to an interim Iraqi government.

From Iraq to the economy, Bush was buffeted by bad news -- and worse headlines.

None of the news was fabricated or made up in any way.

I'm throwing the bullshit flag on this one.

How many times have we seen the press blindly repeat the lie that despite the active participation of more than 20 countries, the Iraq war was unilateral?

How many times have we seen the press wrongly claim that "no WMDs have been found," despite the seizing of around a dozen WMDs by US troops and the seizure of enough chem to kill 20,000 people in Amman, Jordan?

How many times has the press wrongly stated that there were no Iraq links to Al Qaeda, despite the express insistence by the 9/11 commission that there were?

Is this distortion deliberate? Well, no. But the decision by the NY Times to run 20 straight front page stories on Abu Ghraib certainly was a conscious act. But conscious distortions are not neccessary to demonstrate bias.

Any valid scientific hypothesis or theory must be falsifiable. All hypotheses must contain the roots of their own destruction. All hypotheses must expressly state what findings will disprove the hypothesis.
My final question is: what on earth will convince you that there is an ideological problem with the press corps as an aggregate?

Ok, Vaughn, you're claiming that biased media coverage is a result of guilt over not having done a better job holding Bush accountable to his WMD claims before the war, and not a result of ideology within the press corps.

Alright, Vaughn, I'm calling your bluff:

What will falsify your hypothesis?

Just how many studies is it going to take?

Splash, out


Omar's Book Club 
Phil Carter has an interesting analysis of the changing intellectual climate in the Army, as evinced in the revised professional reading lists.

Here are my own favorites:

1.) About Face, by Col. David Hackworth

2.) Blackhawk Down, by Mike Bowden.

3.) Enemy at the Gates, by William Craig. The book. Not the movie (Even though Rachel Weisz joins Monica Bellucci on the Countercolumn "Officially Hot" list.)

I much prefer Enemy at the Gates to Antony Beevor's Stalingrad. Craig's reliance on personal accounts lends his book a human element and emotional impact that surpasses any military history I've ever read.

4.) The Defense of Hill 781: An Allegory of Modern Mechanized Combat. (I'd like to see this book--itself adapted from the much earlier "Defense of Duffer's Drift" updated to reflect an urban counterinsurgency mission)

5.) Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command, by Douglas Southall Freeman. Yes, I read all three volumes. Very dry, but once you invest in the first two volumes, reading about the final collapse of the Army of Northern Virginia when it was finally pushed into a hopeless position--and the astounding bravery of the desperate rear guard action at the little known Sayler's Creek--was a surprisingly moving experience.

6.) Street Without Joy, by Bernard Fall. But "A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Viet Nam" is excellent, too. One or the other will probably do. But if you liked one, you'll probably devour both. If you need more, then for God's sake, seek professional help!

7.) The Minutemen, by Gary Hart. Yes, that Gary Hart. A must-read for a political history of the Army, and as a treatise in the role an Army should play in a democratic republic. Journalists on the military/pentagon beat should be all over this one.

8. Company Commander, by William MacDonald.

9. Small Unit Leadership: A Common Sense Approach (for Cadets, sergeants, and platoon Leaders)
Company Command: The Bottom Line (for new company XOs and company commanders.)

10. The Art of Maneuver, by Robert R. Leonhard.

Honorable Mentions:

Knights Cross, a biography of Erwin Rommel. I remember that it was said that he never stopped teaching.

War As I Knew It, by General George Patton. Especially the last two chapters, consisting of proverbs, observations, and vignettes. Patton was at his best when he was also at his briefest and most direct.

Strategy, by B.H. Liddel-Hart. Check out Belisarius!
The Battle for the Falklands, by Max Hastings. I vividly remember the logistic lessons learned by the Royal Marines.

The Writings of Mao Tse Tung. Sure, he's a disgusting Chicom. But the man understood insurgent warfare. Indeed, he literally wrote the book.

The poetry of Wilfred Owen.

No, I'm not a big fan of S.L.A. Marshall, or John Keegan, particularly. Marshall's intellectual influence was huge, but I think his biggest contribution to military thought was his pioneering after-action review techniques, rather than anything he wrote himself.

John Keegan seems to demonstrate a firm grasp of the obvious. I remember attending a lecture of his once. He spent two hours leading up to the earth-shattering conclusion that the big winner of the Second World War was...drum roll...the United States.

And the biggest loser: Poland.

Well, no shite, Sherlock! Have another sherry!

Splash, out


Thursday, August 05, 2004

No More Questions. Shove It. 
Mike Hendrix at Cold Fury posts a lovely "scene we'd like to see" from an imaginary press confrence transcript with Tom Ridge.

It begins thus:

Press: “Mr. Ridge, how do you respond to charges that this security alert is really a scare tactic being used for political purposes by the Bush administration?”

Ridge: “Christ almighty, what is it with you people?

Go forth and read.

UPDATE: Bad link fixed. Sorry.

A Tough Day At the Office 
Check out CB's grunt's-eye view of an ambush in Mosul.

Check out the cojones of Kevlar on this guy:

Once we got to the FOB, and parked near the motor pool to re-supply, a Sgt ran up to us holding all his gear and his kit and asked, "Hey you guys rolling back out? Do you have room for one more?" This guy who asked us if he could ride with us back out, was in that vehicle that was right in front of us earlier that got RPG'd. They had to drive back to the FOB, because the RPG went right through their vehicle and hit the guy sitting next to him in the stomach, slicing his guts wide open. And now he was now asking us if he could come with, to go give em some more hell.


While you're at it, check out the whole blog. It's excellent. Every post is a showstopper.

In his element, he's a better journalist than the journalists.

Splash, out


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

What's Your Ethical Suribachi? 
I beat up on the financial services industry quite a bit. Because too often, it's proven itself to be an ethics-free zone: an industry which actually embraces as the norm conflicts which would be considered anathema in almost any other profession. An industry in which a single company can be fined billions of dollars for unethical sales practices multiple times, and yet continue to do business, and even thrive.

Which is why it's refreshing to come across this exerpt from an email sent by Schwab CE0 David Pottruck to every employee in his organization.

“The other issue we have been researching is late trading and we have found a limited number of trades that may have been entered or processed after the 4:00 pm deadline. Most of these trades were received on time but for one reason or another had an adjustment or substitution after the deadline in a manner that may have been contrary to company policy. We believe that our culture - with so much emphasis on client service - could have influenced our employees in doing these substitutions since none of our employees earn commission payments on these trades. But let's be absolutely clear, client service cannot be an excuse for not following industry regulations.

Our research is still a work in progress. In the millions of trades we have processed over 99.99% appear to be fine. Right now there are 18 problematic trades but that number will change as our research continues. Some might consider 18, 180, or even 1800 problem trades out of 33 million as a tolerable failure rate in a process combining people and technology. But in a firm where our ethics and our values are a huge reason why you work here, no failure rate, even .0001%, can be tolerated. We must strive to do better. We must strive for perfection.

Before we finish, I'd like to share with you the conclusions Chuck, the Executive Committee, and I have reached.

As a firm, our moral compass is strong and continues to guide us. But even among 16,000 employees, all of us must know and follow the rules. Client service is not an acceptable excuse for failing to follow industry regulations that are clear. Our oversight systems cannot be content with 99.99%. We need perfection.

This has been a daunting task... we are a firm with over $350 billion of mutual fund assets, thousands of employees, and millions of transactions to examine. We are grateful for the enormous effort extended by the research team. We are also grateful that every one of our employees is driven by our vision to be the most useful and ethical financial services firm in the world. This certainly includes a never-ending commitment to be within the letter, and especially the spirit, of the industry laws and regulations. That's the foundation as we strive each day to be worthy of our clients' trust.”

Awesome. The troops are hearing the law, they're hearing the standard, and they're hearing it straight from "The Six."

Pottruck's not leaving it to the compliance people. He's out ahead of the compliance people, and expects his crew to be, too.

You bosses, out there--when was the last time you cut through the levels of heierarchy, and made it crystal clear to everyone in the organization exactly where you stand?

Think such a practice might have helped General Karpinski? Think it might have helped Private Lynndie England?

Think it might have helped the Iraqi people and the U.S. alike?

You never know what you might have prevented, and what the consequences could have been had you not charged up ahead of your troops and planted your flag on the ethical Mount Suribachi.

Everyone's ethical Suribachi is different. For Karpinski, her ethical Suribachi was the dignity and well-being of detainees. Unfortunately, she didn't realize it until it was too late. For an investment company CEO, the ethical Suribachi may be trading violations or unethical sales practices.

No leader is worth a damn, though, unless he's got a Suribachi of his own, and he's willing to fall on his own sword for it. Unless he's willing to give it all up on a point of honor. And challenge others to do the same.

What's your Suribachi?

Splash, out


Dem Congressmen Threaten Legislation Against FOX News 
and Hube's Cube busts UPI for repeating the old lie that there are no links between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Basic Training Getting Tougher. And the New York Times Misses the Story 
The New York Times runs an article today saying the Army is toughening up initial entry training standards, throwing in more stress, and focusing more on the warrior skills soldiers need to survive in combat.

Somehow--and God only knows how they missed it, because it's freaking obvious to anyone who's been in the Army since 1993 and before--the New York Times has totally glossed over the fact that any such reforms amount to a quietrepudiation of Clinton-era training policies and social experimentation within the military.

From a 1997 Heritage Foundation report on Basic Training standards and gender integration:

The Clinton Administration's frontal attack against military standards has undermined basic training. Specifically, integrated basic training has lowered standards, engendered resentment, and undermined morale. At the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, for example:

Recruits are shown a video telling them that "physically, anybody can make it through boot camp."13 The "anybody-can-make-it" mentality is harmful because it devalues the prestige associated with completing basic training.

Recruits no longer drill with rifles.14 Until 1996, the Navy believed having recruits drill with weapons was an excellent way to instill discipline. Having executed an about-face, the Navy now claims that drilling with rifles is anachronistic.

Recruits are issued a "blue card" to deal with stress.15 Recruits are encouraged to hand their card to a trainer if they feel discouraged.

The Navy is not alone in allowing standards to slacken. The Army, too, has developed a kinder, gentler boot camp:

Recruits no longer run wearing combat boots. Studies have shown that female recruits suffer stress fractures more readily than male recruits.16 The Army's response has been to substitute jogging apparel for combat boots.

Drill instructors are warned to avoid verbally stressing their recruits.17 With this prohibition, drill instructors have been stripped of a time-tested technique for instilling discipline and inculcating mental toughness in their recruits.

Basic combat skills are receiving less emphasis. According to a 1997 report by the Army Inspector General, "There is no clearly articulated or enforced standard for soldierization skills to graduate from Initial Entry Training [IET]."18

I don't think the Army going to running shoes is a terrible thing. But read on:

The softening of boot camp standards has not passed unnoticed. A growing number of personnel, especially among the more junior ranks, have expressed grave concerns that boot camp has become less demanding than it should be. As one Army noncommissioned officer has commented, "There's less discipline across the board. They [recruits] come through an easier boot camp, and arrive at a duty station where their rooms aren't inspected."19 Expressing similar disappointment, an Army warrant officer asserted that "Basic training is too soft these days. Soldiers are reporting to advanced individual training and their next duty assignments with attitudes, no military bearing and less military knowledge than before."20

Alarming evidence of dissatisfaction with basic training also comes from another highly credible source: the recruits themselves. "I expected basic training to be tough, like the movies. This is more like summer camp," lamented an Army recruit at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.21 At Fort Benning, Georgia, another recruit voiced similar concerns about boot camp: "This year I think it's getting soft, and it shouldn't. It's like these drill sergeants, and you can just tell, they are trying not to lose their rank."22

In the present political climate, the military forces appear incapable of taking appropriate measures to restore rigor and common sense to basic training. For example, after a recent Army survey revealed widespread sexual harassment in the ranks, the Army recommended adding a week of "human relations" classes to basic training.58 The Army's Senior Review Panel Report recommended that the Army "incorporate ethics and human relations training in recruiting and IET cadre courses, to include professionally facilitated sensitivity training."

Remember, now--this was written in 1997. The New York Times piece picked up on NONE of this context.

Here's David Hackworth, writing in 1999.

These young folk are far more willing than the brass-and-staff weenies think to make the sacrifices that will turn them into the winners they joined up to become. But the new-breed brass haven't got the word. So things just keep getting softer with the hope that the quit rate won't skyrocket even more. Now, the Army recruits actually have their choice of omelets for a leisurely breakfast and get to use a knife and fork instead of the Basic Spoon most vets still consider a primary weapon. Not only are our selfless drill sergeants worried, so are America's fathers. Especially fathers like Nevada's Nick Olguin, a 10-year Army veteran, who says, "Two of my sons are senior Army NCOs. They'll tell you in a heartbeat what the problem is: The old standards of discipline and hard knocks which turned boys into men are gone in an Army spending too much training time in touchy-feely, non-warrior programs, like the now mandatory 'Sensitivity Training.'

"Soldiers aren't being challenged as they were in the past. Physical standards have been lowered, mostly to make 'coed training' acceptable." Olguin, whose sons have almost 40 years' active service, says, "Some soldiers coming out of Basic Training often cannot even pass a PT test. "Sergeants no longer get 'Sergeants Time' where they work one-on-one with their troops to teach them skills required in war. "Many NCOs are not permitted to go into the barracks unannounced to inspect in the time-honored tradition. Nowadays, inspections have to be 'scheduled.'" Citizen Olguin has good reason to be worried. As do the thousands of parents and small-unit leaders who write with similar messages like this one from a drill sergeant: "I hope we don't go to war and have to depend on what we are being forced to graduate. It will be ugly!"

More from Hack here:
I wouldn't let my two sons join today's Army. The initial entry training has been too watered down, made too politically correct to accommodate women and to give the recruits that warm, fuzzy Boy Scout summer camp feeling.

A Fort Benning Drill sergeant says "A private can tell a Drill to ---- off and be told ' The private's having a bad day, leave him alone.' No more Article 15's (Unit punishment) - way too many in the brigade this month. If a gung ho private squares away a dirtbag, it's the Drill Sergeant's fault, so relieve him. My battalion Sergeant Major's favorite saying is 'This is a business. We are putting out a product. Don't take too much pride in the product because the soldier's going to graduate whether you're here to train them or not'".

A rifle company commander doesn't think much of the product that Fort Benning's pushing out. "The troops coming out are in terrible physical condition. They're weak with a rifle -- most can't zero in under 18 rounds and usually just squeak out Marksman. In my estimation, if a guy isn't with us for at least three months and two field problems, he would be a casualty in the first five minutes of battle."

If I were King, I'd close Army entry training and send all future Infantry grunts to the Marines.

Again, the Times article misses the entire history of the problem.

But it's this problem which may have been a decisive factor in the lost convoy which nearly cost us Jessica Lynch--and DID cost us the lives of another of other soldiers, thanks in part to neglected weapons training and maintenance--something that ought to be unthinkable to any graduate of a quality basic training program.

From the Times article:

In what officers describe as the most striking changes to basic training since the Vietnam era, soldiers whose specialties traditionally kept them far from the front - clerks, cooks, truck drivers and communications technicians - will undergo far more stressful training.

Just who does this knucklehead think was doing all the record keeping, cooking, truck driving, and communications setups for the front line units since--ohhhhh--since the dawn of modern warfare?

The new training regimen includes additional time dodging real bullets, more opportunities to fire weapons, including heavy machine guns, and increasing the time spent practicing urban combat and hiking and sleeping in the field during the nine-week courses.

Gee. Training for actual warfare. What a concept. But real warrior leaders have been arguing the case for years.

"Historically, combat support specialists had been in the rear of the battlefield, far from direct contact with the enemy," said Col. Bill Gallagher, commander of the basic combat training brigade at Fort Benning, Ga.

That has only been true of the linear battlefield. It has never been true of the nonlinear battlefield, including mechanized desert warfare. Erwin Rommel wrote in his diary: In modern mechanized desert warfare, there is no front line. Or more precisely, it is front all around."

Furthermore, check out what these transportation corps soldiers were up to in Viet Nam.

The Army's senior leadership must approve the plan for it to become a formal part of the service's training, and additional financing must be secured for the changes to become permanent, as more realistic live-fire training and longer field maneuvers are more expensive.

True. And unlike fancy new weapons systems and bases, training, training ammunition, and spare parts budgets do not have well-financed lobbyists pulling for them, nor do they have constituencies in congress.

Support soldiers are also receiving added training for military operations in urban areas, which includes drills in how to enter a building held by hostile forces and to run convoys through contested territory. They will receive additional practice in how to manage prisoners of war and how to maneuver and fight when civilians are in the line of fire.

Actually, the Army was looking at increasing the urban component of small unit training before the war, incorporating lessons learned by the Israelis on the West Bank. Most officers that I knew thought it nearly unthinkable that the next war would be fought anywhere BUT the cities and towns, and were pushing for new and better MOUT training areas. This goes back years--at least to the end of the Kuwait war, and to Panama. Unfortunately, few quality MOUT sites had been built when it came time to go to Iraq. I spent some time in one at Benning during IOBC in 1992, and a couple of days in one at Schofield Barracks. That's the sum extent of my MOUT training experience in 12 years as an infantry and Armor officer.

"We are teaching quick-fire techniques, moving in an urban environment - things that have not been done in basic training for combat support and combat service support before," said Lt. Col. Fred W. Johnson, commander of a basic training battalion at Fort Jackson, S.C., where the Army conducts its mixed-sex training.

If quick fire techniques weren't tought to combat support soldiers for all these years (i.e., Military police and ordnance troops, including explosive ordnance disposal teams that go on more and more dangerous patrols than anyone in country) then that is a failure bordering on criminal.

Quick fire techniques aren't rocket science. They're right there in the Marksmanship Training field manual. I've never yet been on an M16 qual range that didn't have plenty of downtime for topics like this to get taught. And practiced in garrison. All soldiers should master the quickfire drill. What's more, they should be able to do it right or left handed. This takes practice. I practiced a lot myself in the Iraqi deserts, since I sat on the passenger side of the vehicle. I'd spend half an hour at a time drawing a quick bead on a boulder or rock in the desert as we drove by, until it was second nature. I advised others to do the same. (Unless you practice, the tendency is to bring the rifle up to the wrong eye, and use the wrong sight aperture.)

Quick fire is a survival skill. Use it. Learn it. Drill it.

While previous generations may recall basic training being the same for all recruits, the modern Army allows many new soldiers to choose their specialties when they sign up, and basic training is divided between those who go into combat arms and those who go into support jobs

Which put the lie to the notion that Basic was seriously challenging new troops. Infantry troops had been using OSUT for years. That's "one station unit training." In a nutshell, enlistees who volunteered for the infantry all went to basic training together at Fort Benning, and then went to Infantry Advanced Training together. And then, to the extent possible, they all went to the same post and served in the same division or regiment.

Why'd the infantry do this?

Two reasons: It makes sense for the infantrymen, and because they knew that Basic Training for the loggie wasn't cutting the mustard. Not to the standards required of combat soldiers.

Again, the Times article misses all of this. And any Army or Marine Corps veteran on the Times Staff could have clued them into some of the background and history of the story over the last 12-15 years.

Splash, out


A Craven Failure 
Monday's edition of NPR's Diane Rehm Show (You know, the knee-jerk liberal lady with the quaveriest voice this side of Kate Hepburn and a half-baked understanding of defense issues) featured an interesting discussion with the Washington Post's Pamela Constable--speaking from Mosul, and Anne Scott Tyson, the Pentagon and military correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.

Sometime during the show, they recieved a call from a Lebanese Muslim listener, who said that his belief was that all the bombings and killings bad things happening in Iraq were not the work of Ba'athist loyalists, quasi-Al Qaeda operatives like Zarqawi, Iraqi nationalists, and garden variety jihadists, but that actually the bombings and terror attacks--presumeably to include the recent church bombings, to be the work of the Israeli Mossad.

Naturally, Diane Rehm, Pamela Constable, and Anne Scott Tyson spoke with one voice to refute and rebuke this bigoted blood libel as just what it is--a racist and enormously destructive lie.

Ooops, I misspoke myself.

Diane Rehm, Pamela Constable, and Anne Scott Tyson listened respectfully and made no counterargument, no rebuttal whatsoever. They didn't even bother to express disagreement. They simply went on as though this caller had as good a claim to the facts as any other. His hatred--as clearly expressed and as vile as anything in Hitler's Mein Kampf--was not confronted. His hatred was not rejected. His hatred was simply tolerated as a matter of course. It was accepted without comment.

These are the tough-minded truth seekers and courageous journalistic crusaders currently in the employ of NPR, the WaPo, and the Christian Science Monitor.

If they can't even confront the antisemetic paranoid delusions of a Jew-hating jihadist, how in the world can we expect them to confront the spin of the Kerry campaign or the Pentagon (or any other campaign for that matter?)


I'm sure Leni Reifenstahl would have received a reasonably good film review, too.

Splash, out


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

More Military Media Cluelessness 
I missed this earlier. And you have to pay to retrieve the original article. But the Bergen County Record, out of Hackensack, NJ, did write up an article about Capt. Brian Chontosh, a Marine officer who won the Navy Cross--our nation's second highest decoration, equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross and second only to the Medal of Honor--for valor in Iraq.

(The Marine Corps is actually part of the Department of the Navy).

And how do the finger-sniffing feces-flingers at the Bergen County Record headline the story?

"Hooray for a U.S. Army Hero."

Editors, how many veterans do you have working in your newsroom?

Why Aren't Reporters Interested in the Valor of Our Marines? 
This snippet, courtesy of the Sandy Ego Union Tribune, says it all:

Marines Confront, Overcome the Crucible of Fallujah

During the encounter, journalists often asked Skiles, 43, of San Juan Capistrano, for information for their reports about the fighting, but he thought they were missing something.

"I kept thinking: What about valor? Why weren't any of the reporters interested in the valor of our Marines?

Why? Because the national press has been a failure, that's why. Journalists out to make a name for themselves (and really, it IS all about them) don't extol the virtues of warriors. There's no glamor in that, for them. There's no Pulitzer potential. They want to be the next Bob Woodward. Not Ernie Pyle. Or even Edward R. Murrow.

After all, they don't make "All the President's Men" about a feel-good story.

Journalists want to break news. And to them, breaking news usually means embarrassing someone in power.

Major media journalism is an exercise in cynicism, cynically applied, by professional cynics.

What's more, they often do not remotely understand, nor truly respect, those who hold valor in higher regard than cynicism.

Journalists don't fear death so much as garnering a reputation among their peers for writing puff pieces.

"All anyone wants to write about is our dead and wounded," he said, thumbing through military papers that included nominations for Silver and Bronze stars.

Lovely bit of irony, that. From a Navy-Marine Corps hometown paper.

Still no mention of Brian Chontosh in the New York Times.

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