Monday, March 26, 2007

Private Snowball, Front and Center!!! 
What do you get when you cross Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket?

I don't know, but it's pretty f***ing funny!!!!

(Warning: strong language)


Sunday, March 25, 2007

VA Budget Cutbacks 
This would probably be a good time for the President to reexamine his plans to roll back VA health care funding in 2009 and 2010.

I'd push to fund it by defunding the outrageous pork bribes the Democrats awarded themselves for voting for the surrender bill.

The Democrats handed Bush the initiative, if he wants to seize it.

I hope he does.

I doubt he will.

Splash, out


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The New York Times can't even write a sex-assault in the military story!!! 
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!! Pwn'd!!!!!

One of the women featured in the story was a former builder constructionman Amorita Randall, 27, who served six years as a Seabee. Randall told the Times that while in the Navy, she was raped twice — in 2002 while she was stationed in Mississippi, and again in Guam in 2004. She also told the Times that she served in Iraq in 2004, which the Times reported as fact but which it now appears was not the case.

The story was written by Sara Corbett, a contract writer for the magazine. Here’s how Corbett presented it: “Her experience in Iraq, she said, included one notable combat incident, in which her Humvee was hit by an I.E.D., killing the soldier who was driving and leaving her with a brain injury. ‘I don’t remember as all of it … I don’t know if I passed out or what, but it was pretty gruesome.’ “

The story goes on:

“According to the Navy, however, no after-action report exists to back up Randall’s claims of combat exposure or injury. A Navy spokesman reports that her commander says that his unit was never involved in combat during her tour. And yet, while we were discussing the supposed I.E.D. attack, Randall appeared to recall it in exacting detail — the smells, the sounds, the impact of the explosion. As she spoke, her body seemed to seize up; her speech became slurred as she slipped into a flashback. It was difficult to know what had traumatized Randall: whether she had in fact been in combat or whether she was reacting to some more generalized recollection of powerlessness.”

The Navy, while expressing sympathy to a woman it believes is suffering from stress, is annoyed that the Times did so little to check the woman’s story.

Well, I guess when you work for the New York Times and you're working on a story to make the military look bad, some things are just too good to check out.

Apparently, not only had this woman never served in Iraq, but those two rape accusations for which no one was ever punished? The Navy has no record that she ever levied a complaint.

Here's the correction.

Based on the information that came to light after the article was printed, it is now clear that Ms. Randall did not serve in Iraq, but may have become convinced she did. Since the article appeared, Ms. Randall herself has questioned another member of her unit, who told Ms. Randall that she was not deployed to Iraq. If The Times had learned these facts before publication, it would not have included Ms. Randall in the article.

Yeah, no shit.

Here's her dad:

“This lady was sexually assaulted twice in the Navy and no one was ever punished for it,” he said. While the Navy says it can find no rape complaint, Lund says she told her doctors about the assaults.

“She went through a lot.” Lund said. But he admits he doesn’t know for sure if Randall was ever in Iraq.

“If she wasn’t, it was a bad mistake on her part,” he said. But, he added, “For her to cope with [all she’s been through], her mind somehow believes she was in Iraq … She doesn’t remember anything in Iraq . If she was wrong about that, she’s sorry. But what you folks need to realize is how traumatized she is. If she’s wrong, I don’t know. She doesn’t know.”

Wow. She doesn't even know whether she was in Iraq or not (she claims to have been injured in an IED explosion) but her word is reliable on the sexual assaults? Apparently the New York Times thinks you can be traumatized by events that never occured!

Now, it's certainly possible that she was sexually assaulted during her time in the Navy (by a sailor? By someone else? Who's to say? Obviously she's not reliable).

So let's blame the Navy when she doesn't tell her chain of command (Apparently, she told her doctors, but doctors keep things like that confidential, in most cases. It's up to the victim to exercize a modicum of initiative and common sense and file a complaint with the chain of command or the MP's / Shore Police / local law enforcement.

Even if she did inform her chain of command, can you imagine trying to investigate and gather a coherent story from someone this flaky? No wonder no one was punished. If she can't tell whether she was wounded in Iraq or not, then what else doesn't she know? If she's delusional about the one, can you really say she's not delusional or at least unreliable about everything?

To be fair to the Times, at least there does seem to be some sort of fact-checking regimine in place. They seem to have uncovered this themselves rather than have a blogger do it for them, entirely.

I'd check out the other lady, too. A soldier ought to know better than to appear in uniform with her hair down.

Splash, out


From an Ann Althouse Commenter 
..though I couldn't put it any better myself:

No one can make a coherent, intelligent case as to why losing in Iraq is in OUR best interest. No one can make a coherent, intelligent case as to why losing in Iraq improves our prospects of winning the larger war on militant Islamic Fascism. No one can make a coherent, intelligent case as to why losing in Iraq is good for our military, retention and morale. No one can make a coherent, intelligent case as to why losing in Iraq is good for our ability to develop and maintain alliances, when our word will have proven hallow and insincere, just as they were in April 1975. No one can make a coherent, intelligent case as to why losing in Iraq would persuade moderate Muslims and moderate Arab governments that the U.S. is a steadfast ally in the fight against militant Islamic Fascism. No one can make a coherent, intelligent case as to why losing in Iraq does not empower al Qaeda, validate its strategy that we are weak and have no stomach for protracted war, and enhance its recruitment of terrorists. No one can make a coherent, intelligent case as to why losing in Iraq makes it easier for us to deter the Irans and North Koreas of the world.

Via Althouse, who also just got accused of being a "troll" on her own blog.

The left is stupid in so very many, many ways.

Splash, out


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cpl. Jason Dunham to have a ship named after him 
UPDATE: A reader suggests changing the parameters of my NY Times archive search to James L. Dunham. Still drawing a blank, but the New York Times did do a story on Cpl Jason L. Dunham (had to add the "L.")

No, it didn't make the A section. It ran on page 3 of the B section, nearly three years after his heroic sacrifice and death. He did get 1,878 words, though.

Corporal Jason Dunham, the first Marine to have recieved the Medal of Honor for service in Iraq, will have a destroyer named after him.

The New York Times never wrote a story on him.

Then again, the Times doesn't know what the Medal of Honor is.

An article in The Arts yesterday about Tavis Smiley, the television and radio host and author, omitted the co-author of his new memoir, ''What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America,'' in some copies. He is David Ritz. The article also misidentified the Congressional award given to Rosa Parks, for which Mr. Smiley campaigned with Tom Joyner, a radio host on whose show Mr. Smiley appears as a commentator. It was the Congressional Gold Medal -- not the Medal of Honor, given for military service.

Oh, and then there's this:

An Op-Ed article last Sunday about the Plaza Hotel misstated details about an award given to the songwriter George M. Cohan. He won the Congressional Gold Medal, an award also given to other songwriters. He did not win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

And this, too.

And this.

Nor does the Times know what a Marine is.

Splash, out


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Friday, March 23, 2007

USMC Unit Expelled from Afghanistan 

Just when you thought media couldn't sink any lower 
they do.

What kind of message does this send to impressionable young women? To young men?

Whoever came up with this stunt ought to get sacked forthwith.

This is wrong on so many levels.

I don't care how hot it is.

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Inept public relations 
Ask any trade show planner and they'll tell you - be sure to set up somewhere where media can go to file their stories. That's the way to get good, favorable coverage of your exhibitors, and lots of it.

The military, of course, with so many public affairs types who have never held a real job in their lives, and with an officer corps that too often considers media relations as a chore rather than an opportunity, is fucking it up, big time.

Here's Michael Yon:

The great difficulty in filing stories from Iraq is leading me to experiment. We are into the fifth year of the war Iraq, yet no comprehensive system exists to help media communicate to people at home. Raw information only trickles back from Iraq because the flow is strangled. That we are into the fifth year of war here, yet there is no filing center on even the larger bases is telling. Telling, perhaps, that information flow to America has never been a priority, or perhaps the priority has been to squelch it. The system of elaborate excuses is the only part of it all that is well-refined.

Well, if anyone's been wondering why journos so rarely leave the green zone, there's one answer for you.

I’ve been evicted from a trailer due to lack of space (something I cover more in a dispatch ready to launch tomorrow). Billions of dollars are spent on the war each month, millions of dollars fly around here like sparrows, yet there are no designated places for journalists? While so many soldiers and their families shout for coverage from Afghanistan (remember that place?) and Iraq, I can sometimes be found from midnight to sunrise sitting outside, trying to transmit photos through a wireless network that only works sometimes.

Chances are very good that the Army didn't set up that wireless network, but soldiers or marines took it on themselves.

I have not left base in a good two weeks. This is unprecedented, given that sometimes I would run two or three missions per day, or at least try for five or six or seven per week. Trying to get living quarters and good communications is truly a waste of time. Only the richest or most determined news agencies dare come here for more than a brief stay. Most of the journalists seem to start cracking pretty quick anyway.

Generally it’s a huge waste of time and money to come here, and the hassle and risk to reward ratio is very bad. I’ve spent more than a year embedded in Iraq, and numerous times public affairs people have made snide remarks that journalists should be happy they get to eat “their chow” for free. Of course, they don’t mention that “their chow” belongs to American taxpayers, the same taxpayers they hurt when they squelch journalism from the war. Whether they do it directly, intentionally indirectly, or just by plain bungling the simplest stuff, like making sure writers have a surface to write on, whatever the case, I haven’t met anyone yet who knows how to write or hold a camera who comes to Iraq for free food. It’s really not fun here, next to impossible to do the job, and the food is nothing special. After all, we’re not talking about covering the French army.

Back during Yon's first embedding in Mosul, he had a close relationship with a local battalion commander and staff. It was that command emphasis on media relations that made all the difference. Here it looks like the commanders have left media relations to underlings - and selected some of the weakest staff officers to the task. Well, maybe not weakest, but staff officers who wish they were doing something else.

Media relations is vital to the war effort, and deserves support from commanders, the officer, and NCO corps. Indeed, I/O failures may be the most damaging failures the military has right now.

But considering all the planning, organization, logistics and resources that went in to putting up what amounts to a food court in a surburban mall, how hard would it be, really, for there to be a clean, well-lit press trailer, open 24-7, with some desks, chairs and lockers, wired for the internet? Not on every base, but on enough of them so that stories from everywhere else could get out on a regular basis. For a military that is the first to gripe about not getting enough press–in a kind of war where the press can determine the outcome–it seems fairly obvious that the first step would be to at least make sure there is a place for the press to work. If this were a few months into this war, I could understand it, but to not even be at square one this far in?

Yes, that seems lame. Did you that IF is the middle word in "Life?"

A general emailed in the past 24 hours threatening to kick me out.

Some General wants Michael Yon, of all people, out of the country?

Betcha Petraeus would have other ideas if he knew.

The first time the Army threatened to kick me out was in late 2005, just after I published a dispatch called “Gates of Fire.” Some of the senior level public affairs people who’d been upset by “Proximity Delays” were looking ever since for a reason to kick me out and they wanted to use “Gates of Fire” as a catapult. In the events described in that dispatch, I broke some rules by, for instance, firing a weapon during combat when some of our soldiers were fighting fairly close quarters and one was wounded and still under enemy fire. That’s right. I’m not sure what message the senior level public affairs people thought that would convey had they succeeded, (which they didn’t) but it was clear to me what they valued most. They want the press on a short leash, even at the expense of the life of a soldier.

There are reasons to discourage pressies from picking up a weapon in a combat zone, as a matter of policy. Number one, they aren't subject to the UCMJ. Number two, there's no way to ensure that they'll be shooting at our enemies rather than at our own troops. You know, like they do with their articles.

In this case, though, it seems that Yon could argue he was firing in self defense, and journalists have as absolute a right to self defense as anyone else on the battlefield.

Sounds like one of what Hackworth used to call a "perfumed prince."

I’ll post a major dispatch within the next 18 hours. Lots of photos. I worked very hard for you. They’ll probably say I broke some kind of rules. Fact is, as soon as the public affairs people will start being part of the solution and not part of the problem, I can start writing about the successes and the soldiers like Q who are out in Baghdad even now, trying to make this work.


Splash, out


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They support the troops 

Is it possible to be antiwar but still support the troops?
Somewhere in a thinktank deep in the bowels of the Ministry of Propoganda sometimes after the Vietnam war someone came up with the idea that instead of supporting the war we will tell the public to support the troops. If you don't support the war you must be "anti-people", "you don't care about the soldiers fighting, suffering and dying". Any liberal or lefty that questions the validity of war deserves to get his ass kicked because he's insulting the sacrifice of the brave soldiers. Clever isn't it? Even people on the far left will get caught up in this and become "cheerleaders" for the troops.

Aren't the troops the muscle behind imperialism? fascism? capitalism? Any dictatorial power that uses force to compel obedience needs soldiers, without them they would be nothing. Remember the song by Donovon? Universal Soldier? He figured that out a long time ago.

Is there any justification for anyone to join the military? If you are poor, uneducated with no employment prospects does that justify becoming a soldier? If you kill people in your role as a solider (with the blessing of the government) are you really a hero or a murderer?

Lots of premium twittery in the comments. A few highlights:

Yeah, my impulse is to shout "fuck the troops", but to do this we have to forget an important detail: members of US military are deceived, tricked into joining up. Lies about money for college, for example. Poor people join the miltary, so "fuck the troops" coming from middle class white kids with options is bullshit. We're lucky the army isn't our ONLY ticket out a fucked up life. Also, let's not forget all the insurgents who're joining the Iraqi police and military for the free training and the free guns and ammo. Anarchists say "fuck the troops" but go running when the troops come gunning, because we don't know how to shoot back. Nonetheless, if someone breaks into your house (or country) with a gun and starts shooting up the place, fuck em, even if they have anti-war mom's back home.


comeing from a poor person that didnt join the army i just want to say that im sick of people using the excuse that they didnt have anywhere else to go and that they didnt have any options. thats not true every single person that has joined the army made the choice to become a pawn of the government. and there are other ways to get out of their fucked up lives. any other way is better in my opinion.


Cause, really, you have to remember, the US military ain't "our" troops. They're the capitalists' troops. Why should I give a shit about them other than caring that hey, hrmm... they ain't actually *here* in the US. (Golden opportunity for revolution actually... the military ain't here to protect the fuckers and it would take *quite* a while for them to get here...)


Do I care about the people in the military. Of course. I care enough for them that I want them to stop obeying their masters and either lie their weapons down and come home and help fight a fight for other members of their class or even better, turn those weapons on their officers.


Sorry, I have no sympathy for anyone who puts on a uniform and takes up a gun in the name of capitalism. The world is headed into an era of untold environmental devastation and human suffering and it is these mind numbed nazi stormtroopers that are doing the dirty work for the rich. They are no less responsible than the masters they serve. Eugene, you moan about soldiers and their pensions, medical care and getting exposed to environmental toxins. I say they get what they deserve.

Oh, and don't miss the part where these sniveling little bottom feeders start accusing each other of being racist!

Hilarity ensues.

Splash, out



Thursday, March 22, 2007

Is Petraeus Being Played? 
Pat Lasswell lifts and drops the question on your plate.

At a late night meeting with senior political players in Iraq, concerns were raised about General Petraeus' ability to distinguish friend from foe in Baghdad. The heart of the problem lies with the importance of the former Ba'ath party members and their involvement in the Islamic Party of Iraq. My sources claim to hold documents from April 2003 from Saddam's Headquarters directing Ba'ath loyalists to join the Islamic Party and gain control of it. They are also very experienced in the brutal political realities of Iraq. Of significant concern to my hosts was the movement from Mosul to Baghdad of the leader of the Islamic Party that Petraeus worked with when he was in command of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). My hosts also worked with General Petraeus during that time and had met him repeatedly. They assessed him as very smart and quite well organized and had nothing disparaging to say about his character or leadership, however, his political savvy in tumultuous Iraq was questioned.

I don't think any American alive can fully grasp the tribal and internecine politics of Iraq as well as an educated and experienced native. Knowing whom to trust is one of those intangible qualities that requires as much luck and skill. And even the best can pick a bad horse to ride - Chalabi being a case in point.

It may also be true that no Iraqi alive can be entirely trustworthy to the U.S., at least at the higher echelons of power - and expect to retain the structural integrity of his neck - much less his position of authority.

Perhaps the most damaging aspect of the ascendance of Democrats to power in Congress and the political and cultural successes of the antiwar movement more generally is that as Bush's term in office draws near a close, continued American commitment to victory must come under question.

Any rational Iraqi actor will then begin to hedge his bets - and that extends to all levels of Iraqi politics.

The sheikhs are vaguely aware of how American politics works. Some of them speak English, and some have even lived in the United States and Great Britain. When Americans waver, they will become more willing to deal with bad actors, even terrorists, whose commitment does not waver.

This is the risk calculus upon which American success depends, and is very much a contest of will as well as perception. Expectation of victory, in this sense, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; as does, alas, a resignation to defeat.

Splash, out


Lying headlines and the lying liars who write them. 
The usual journo suspects continue to jump on military-women-as-victims stories. All the rage these days. From the Ass Press:

The key quote here is this one:

Army spokeswoman Maj. Cheryl Phillips said, "There is no evidence that the actual number of assaults is increasing in the Army, but there are definite indicators that the Army has created more willingness among Soldier victims to report incidents."

Get that? No evidence that the actual number of assaults is increasing. The Ass Press does not attempt to subvert or question that assertion in the text. The entire article, indeed, is a regurgitation of Army-provided data.

So what's the headline these lying runts choose to run?

Sexual Assaults in Military Increase.


What's really happening is that senior commanders are putting a full court press on right now to stop what sexual harrassment there is in the ranks - and requiring company commanders and first sergeants to be extremely proactive in educating soldiers not only about what the standards are, but how to file a report.

Just last November, I received a requirement to show a half-hour video presentation and hand out some literature, and explain the ways you could file a complaint in detail. Similar orders have been going out around the Army for months and months and months.

Lo and behold, reports of sexual harrassment and sexual assaults are increasing!

Who would have thunk?

Well, a lot of people. Except dumbass reporters who can't tell the difference between reporting an act and the act itself.

Sexual harrassment has no place in the Army. Sexual assault is a crime. I will ruthlessly confront it where it exists and I will not tolerate either in my command.

But I'm tired of these halfwits in the drive-by media, these instant experts dragging my Army's name through the dirt.

A correction is in order.

Splash, out


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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why we fight 
Because this is our enemy:

Insurgents in
Iraq detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle with two children in the back seat after US soldiers let it through a Baghdad checkpoint over the weekend, a senior US military official said Tuesday.


The vehicle was stopped at the checkpoint but was allowed through when soldiers saw the children in the back, said Major General Michael Barbero of the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

"Children in the back seat lowered suspicion. We let it move through. They parked the vehicle, and the adults ran out and detonated it with the children in the back," Barbero said.

Splash, out


Via Powerline


Monday, March 19, 2007

The New York Times Takes on Women Home From War 
Only had time to read the first two pages today, so far, so no comment yet.

Have at it. Click below to enter the net.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Persian Mirror looks at '300' 
Interesting take from an Iranian-born, Greek-raised writer.

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"There's nothing like the death of a general officer to cause a much-needed round of promotions in the Army."

The Army, as ALWAYS happens in wartime, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS, is promoting a higher percentage of its officers in middle grades to the next higher rank than normal.

The Boston Globe looks at it, and poses the question: Is the Army sacrificing quality for quantity?

My answer: No.

Remember, those being promoted are selected from a pool of combat veterans who themselves self-select to stay in and do another combat tour. That's the best assurance of quality we have right there.

Our officers and NCOs alike are 100% better warriors than their compatriots at that given rank were six years ago - and that quality boost occurs all across the bell curve. By promoting the warriors who want to stay in and do another tour, the Army isn't rewarding mediocrity - they're retaining quality. The weak, or those with other priorities, will find something else to do with their time.

In order to stop the exodus, the Army last October established an Officer Retention Branch designed to "retain more of our best officers," Rochelle testified. It also increased from 412 to 612 the number of full scholarships offered to captains to attend graduate school.

Wow, sweet deal! Think they'll allow reserve component captains a chance to compete for those scholarships?


(One Army, My Ass!)

For example, the Army is struggling to fill 8,000 new midlevel officer positions it has created since 2002, representing a 58 percent increase in captains and majors, according to Army figures. The service projects for 2007 that the estimated 14,000 majors it will have in uniform will only be about 83 percent of the number it needs, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.


If only I could buy shares in O-Clubs!!!

Splash, out


How does a Democrat show they're tough on terrorists? 
Why, by inviting one to come testify before Congress, of course!

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The Gathering of Eagles 
Thousands of war veterans and their supporters rallied yesterday in a counterprotest against a leftie peace march.

Michelle Malkin has a terrific roundup of photos - and further damns our national media outlets and their misleading coverage in the process.

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The Return of the Son of Eeyore the Editor 
So the surge has driven much of the insurgency to ground, so far, and U.S. combat fatalities are down significantly over the last four weeks, compared to the trailing four week period before.

So how do the thumbsucking morons report it at the New York Times?

The heightened American street presence may already have contributed to an increase in the percentage of American deaths that occur in Baghdad.

I shit thee not.

Over all, the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq from hostilities since Feb. 14, the start of the new Baghdad security plan, fell to 66, from 87 in the previous four weeks.

This being the New York Times, there has to be a "but." There will be a but, no matter how desperately they have to strain for it.

But with more soldiers in the capital on patrol and in the neighborhood garrisons, a higher proportion of the American deaths have occurred in Baghdad — 36 percent after Feb. 14 compared with 24 percent in the previous four weeks. Also over the past four weeks, a higher proportion of military deaths from roadside bombs have occurred in Baghdad — 45 percent compared with 39 percent.

People still take those dolts seriously?

Splash, out


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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bear Claw 
One of the most interesting things about yesterday's stock market selloff is the way mutual fund losses were distributed among Morningstar's equity style boxes:

So-called value funds - more prone to paying dividends and, in theory, at least, selling at more conservative multiples of earnings, bled more than their headier growth cousins. To wit:

Large cap Value: -2.1% Large cap growth: -1.8%
Mid cap value: -2.1% Mid cap growth: -2.0%
Small cap value: -2.9% Small-cap growth: -2.2%

Why is that? Perhaps because financial services companies and REITs are more heavily represented in the value category? Possibly. Don't have time to dig, though. Glad I lightened up on internationals and REITs both last year. Should have lightened up even more, in retrospect, but whatever.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It's a terrible time to buy a house 
Patrick.net explains why.

# Mass foreclosures due to the poor lending standards of the last few years. Banks happily loaned whatever amount borrowers wanted as long as the banks could then sell the loan, pushing the risk onto Fannie Mae (ultimately taxpayers) or onto buyers of mortgage backed securities (MBS's). Now that it has become clear that at least a trillion dollars in mortgage loans will not be repaid, Fannie Mae is under pressure not to buy risky loans and investors do not want MBS's. This means that the money available for mortgages is falling, and house prices will keep falling, probably for 5 years or more.

# Prices disconnected from fundamentals. House prices are far beyond any historically known relationship to rents or salaries. Rents are less than half of mortgage payments. Salaries cannot cover mortgages except in the very short term, by using adjustable interest-only loans.

# Interest rates increases. When rates go from 5% to 7%, that's a 40% increase in the amount of interest a buyer has to pay. House prices must drop proportionately to compensate.

For example, if interest rates are 5%, then $1000 per month ($12,000 per year) pays an interest-only loan of $240,000. If interest rates rise to 7%, then that same $1000 per month pays for a loan of only $171,428.

Even if the Fed does not raise rates any more, all those adjustable mortgages will go up anyway, because they will adjust upward from the low initial rate to the current rate.

# A flood of risky adjustable rate "home equity loans" draining equity from existing mortgages. Just like the bad primary ARM loans, these loans do not have fixed interest rates. When the interest rate adjusts upward, it can double monthly payments, forcing owners to sell.

# Extreme use of leverage. Leverage means using debt to amplify gain. Most people forget that losses get amplified as well. If a buyer puts 10% down and the house goes down 10%, he has lost 100% of his money on paper. If he has to sell due to job loss or an interest rate hike, he's bankrupt in the real world.

It's worse than that. House prices do not even have to fall to cause big losses. The cost of selling a house is at least 5%. On a $600,000 house, that's $30,000 lost even if prices just stay flat. So a 5% decline in housing prices bankrupts all those with 10% equity or less.

# Shortage of first-time buyers. According to the California Association of realtors, the percentage of Bay Area buyers who could afford a median-price house in the region plunged from 20 percent in July 2003 to 14 percent in July 2004. Strangely, the CAR then reported that affordability fell another 4 percent in 2005, yet claims affordability is still at 14%.

Again, lots more at the link.

Hat tip: Lee Distad.

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A Leftist with Brains 
From Marxist.org:

But how is it possible for us to call ourselves Marxists and support a war waged by a coalition of rich western liberal democracies against the government of a poor “Third World” country? We would turn the question round: how it is possible that Marxism has been so corrupted and distorted that “Marxists” prefer to see thousands more Iraqis die in the torture chambers of the Ba’ath, and millions more suffer under the iniquities excused (not caused) by the UN sanctions, rather than admit that socialists not only can but must support even the worst bourgeois democracy against even the least bad tyranny? For the beginnings of an answer, let us consider just some of the transparent and disgusting lies generated and spread by the western “left” before and during the war.

Now THIS is a leftist. We need more like this.

Lots more at the link. Actually, I pretty rarely call something a "must read." This is a "must read."

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Are the results controlled for stupidity? 
When you're standing in ranks, look at the soldier or marine to you're right. Now look at the one to the left. Now look at the guy in front of you. If none of them are crazy, statistically, it means you're the nutcase. At least according to researchers in (ahem) San Francisco.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - High rates of mental health disorders are being diagnosed among US military personnel soon after being released from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to investigators in San Francisco.

They estimate that out of 103,788 returning veterans, 25 percent had a mental health diagnosis, and more than half of these patients had two or more distinct conditions.

Those most at risk were the youngest soldiers and those with the most combat exposure, Dr. Karen H. Seal at the Veterans Administration Medical Center and associates report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Seal's group based their findings on records of US veterans deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan who were seen at VA health care facilities between September 2001 and September 2005.

Yes. Because those veterans who self-select to receive treatment for medical problems at VA health centers (including mental health treatment programs) are, like, an absolutely totally 100% representative sample.

Or something.

We're nuts. But not THAT nuts.

Splash, out


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Monday, March 12, 2007

Army Reserve Medical Command is being torn apart and put back together 
This is happening fast.

The Army Reserve Contracting Center is conducting market research and sources sought for the requirement described herein. The contractor shall provide all personnel necessary in order to provide management and administrative support for the establishment and the ongoing transformation of the Army Reserve Medical Command (AR-MEDCOM) and assist with transition functions relatin g to the transition plan to inactivate a medical command (MEDCOM), activate a medical deployment support command (MDSC), convert a MEDCOM to an MDSC, disestablish current AR-MEDCOM headquarters and establish redesigned AR-MEDCOM headquarters.This is not a formal solicitation or a request for proposals.


Institutionalized Rape 
The anti-subjugator writes on the brutality that Saddam showed towards women - and the conspicuous acceptance of it by the left.

Any comments, Feministe?


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Enter the Dragons 
Nobody will take care of wounded warriors better than another warrior.

The Army has selected a warrior officer to take over Walter Reed.


Meanwhile, here's the former commander, a decidedly nonwarrior officer, as described by Dana Milbank at the Washington Post.

Kevin Kiley, the three-star general in charge of all army medical facilities, seemed stumped as he testified Monday about his responsibility for the Walter Reed scandal.

"I'm trying not to say that I'm not accountable," he told members of the House oversight committee.

But try as he might, he couldn't fix blame on himself.

How could he not have known that wounded soldiers were living in squalid conditions across the street from his own home? "I don't do barracks inspections at Walter Reed," he said.

Very well, General. Warriors do.

The entire article is fascinating -- and devastating.

The close:

Whatever the merits of Weightman's dismissal, the problems at Walter Reed have not disappeared with him. Before Monday's hearing, a patient with a prosthetic arm tried to get in but was stopped by a guard, who asked if the young man was supposed to be in the hearing. "I'd like to be," the soldier said.

"It's preselected, unfortunately," the guard replied. The young amputee walked away. Inside, three rows of seats had been reserved for the Army; almost all were empty.

Splash, out


Is this the beginning of the end 
Of the seven year bull market in bonds?

Delinquencies on loans made to less creditworthy borrowers — known as subprime mortgages — recently reached 12.6 percent. Some banks have reported rising problems among borrowers that were deemed more creditworthy as well.

Not too many people have been lending on real estate at 12.6%. The lenders are taking a bath on these loans. Real lossses will be even greater, because you have to subtract the effects of inflation on cash flows from mortgage payments. The mortgage companies may benefit somewhat by the massive appreciation of home prices over the last six years. They may be able to break even on some foreclosures on older loans. Newer loans? Forget it.

At the heart of the turmoil is the subprime mortgage market, which developed to give loans to shaky borrowers or to those with little cash to put down as collateral. Some 35 percent of all mortgage securities issued last year were in that category, up from 13 percent in 2003.

Looking to expand their reach and their profits, lenders were far too willing to lend, as evidenced by the creation of new types of mortgages — known as “affordability products” — that required little or no down payment and little or no documentation of a borrower’s income. Loans with 40-year or even 50-year terms were also popular among cash-strapped borrowers seeking low monthly payments. Exceedingly low “teaser” rates that move up rapidly in later years were another feature of the new loans.

The rapid rise in the amount borrowed against a property’s value shows how willing lenders were to stretch. In 2000, according to Banc of America Securities, the average loan to a subprime lender was 48 percent of the value of the underlying property. By 2006, that figure reached 82 percent.

Mortgages requiring little or no documentation became known colloquially as “liar loans.” An April 2006 report by the Mortgage Asset Research Institute, a consulting concern in Reston, Va., analyzed 100 loans in which the borrowers merely stated their incomes, and then looked at documents those borrowers had filed with the I.R.S. The resulting differences were significant: in 90 percent of loans, borrowers overstated their incomes 5 percent or more. But in almost 60 percent of cases, borrowers inflated their incomes by more than half.

A Deutsche Bank report said liar loans accounted for 40 percent of the subprime mortgage issuance last year, up from 25 percent in 2001.

Nice reporting, that.

Looks like bonds will be under pressure. Real estate will be under pressure. International stocks will be under pressure (actually, already are). Growth stocks will be under pressure. Is this the Perfect Storm?

I can't wait.

Splash, out


Air Force Captain Devin Taylor had a stellar military record ... 
Well, except for that small matter of his habit of kidnapping and raping fellow service men.


Top 10 Movies About World War II 
Ace of Spades posts a list.

Broadly, I'm in agreement.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Plight of Women in the Army 
Salon has a rather hysterical take here:

As thousands of burned-out soldiers prepare to return to Iraq to fill President Bush's unwelcome call for at least 20,000 more troops, I can't help wondering what the women among those troops will have to face. And I don't mean only the hardships of war, the killing of civilians, the bombs and mortars, the heat and sleeplessness and fear.

I mean from their own comrades -- the men.

I have talked to more than 20 female veterans of the Iraq war in the past few months, interviewing them for up to 10 hours each for a book I am writing on the topic, and every one of them said the danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognized in Iraq that their officers routinely told them not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection.

The female soldiers who were at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, for example, where U.S. troops go to demobilize, told me they were warned not to go out at night alone.

"They call Camp Arifjan 'generator city' because it's so loud with generators that even if a woman screams she can't be heard," said Abbie Pickett, 24, a specialist with the 229th Combat Support Engineering Company who spent 15 months in Iraq from 2004-05. Yet, she points out, this is a base, where soldiers are supposed to be safe.

Spc. Mickiela Montoya, 21, who was in Iraq with the National Guard in 2005, took to carrying a knife with her at all times. "The knife wasn't for the Iraqis," she told me. "It was for the guys on my own side."

Comprehensive statistics on the sexual assault of female soldiers in Iraq have not been collected, but early numbers revealed a problem so bad that former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered a task force in 2004 to investigate. As a result, the Defense Department put up a Web site in 2005 designed to clarify that sexual assault is illegal and to help women report it. It also initiated required classes on sexual assault and harassment. The military's definition of sexual assault includes "rape; nonconsensual sodomy; unwanted inappropriate sexual contact or fondling; or attempts to commit these acts."

I don't mean to say sexual assault and harrassment doesn't happen in the military, and don't want to minimize the events that have occured. It does happen. Is it as rampant as the Salon article studiously implies by avoiding all but anecdotal evidence? No.

Last year, Col. Janis Karpinski caused a stir by publicly reporting that in 2003, three female soldiers had died of dehydration in Iraq, which can get up to 126 degrees in the summer, because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being raped by male soldiers if they walked to the latrines after dark. The Army has called her charges unsubstantiated, but Karpinski told me she sticks by them.

It's awful that these women died, but it happens to men, too. I recall it happening to a couple of men in the 3rd ACR when the heat got up to the 130 degree mark and higher. Older soldiers and women are more sucseptible to heat injuries. As our good friend Paul Anka would say, "That's Just. The fucking. Way. It. Is!"

The leadership of the unit, right on down to the team leader level, must compensate by monitoring these soldiers more closely and enforcing hydration.

Plus, holy crap! This lady was the brigade commander! Didn't she do anything?

The latrines were far away and unlit, she explained, and male soldiers were jumping women who went to them at night, dragging them into the Port-a-Johns, and raping or abusing them.

Well, gee...if you really think that's a problem, you direct your sergeant major to post guards, and/or you get some generator powered lights for the port-o-johns. It's not that bloody hard, General.

"In that heat, if you don't hydrate for as many hours as you've been out on duty, day after day, you can die." She said the deaths were reported as non-hostile fatalities, with no further explanation.

Huh? "Were reported?" Why the passive construction? General Karpinski was the Brigade Commander. She had, or could appoint, her own Public Affairs Officer who worked for her, and if she had any command interest in reporting the deaths correctly, she could have done so, and done so directly to the home town newspapers.

She didn't. At least until she lost her job, when it became clear what a disaster area her command was. Doesn't she take responsibility for anything in her command?

I have yet to meet an Iraq war veteran of either sex who does not suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wow. That's quite a statement. Don't you think that tells you something about the sample population you're interviewing?

Are you even qualified to assign a disorder diagnosis?

Demond Mullins, 25, who served with the infantry in Iraq for a year, from 2004 to '05, told me that although there were no problems in his unit he heard from his commanders that there were rapes in other units in his camp. "One time a woman was taking a shower late, and guys went and held the door closed so she couldn't get out, while one guy went in to rape her," he said.

Wow. That information is at least fourthhand. Impressive.

Not saying it never happens. I'd bet it's more likely to happen stateside than overseas, though. Of course, a former Sergeant Major of the Army wasn't exactly setting a great example.

While commanders of some units are apparently less vigilant about policing rape, others engage in it themselves, a phenomenon known in the military as "command rape." Because the military is hierarchical, and because soldiers are trained to obey and never question their superiors, men of rank can assault their juniors with impunity.

Oh, now that's just bullshit. The military is heierarchical, of course, but it has dual channels all the way up to the Pentagon at every echelon above squad. Plus, every soldier who's been a specialist at least two years knows everything. Just ask them. Our soldiers are never trained never to question superiors, never trained to obey illegal orders, and all of them have sat through at least one briefing on sexual harrassment policy. Stateside every commander has a sexual harrassment policy hanging on the bulletin board, and every unit has an EEOC officer and EEOC NCO.

This reporter seriously needs to get around more.

Callie Wight, a psychosocial counselor in women veterans' health in Los Angeles, has been treating women who were sexually assaulted in the military for the past 11 years. In all that time, she told me, she has only seen a handful of cases where a woman reported an assault to her commander with any success in getting the assailant punished. "Most commanders dismiss it," she said. A nine-month study of military rape by the Denver Post in 2003 found that nearly 5,000 accused military sex offenders had avoided prosecution since 1992.

Well, there's the not-so-minor problem of evidence. It takes more to convict than testimony, which is why prosecuting rapes is so difficult, and so many rapists get away with it even stateside. That's a separate issue, though.

I can't imagine a commander dismissing a rape allegation if there were any hope of prosecuting. And even absent sufficient evidence to successfully prosecute, there are a number of other remedies available to the chain of command, as well.

The real attitude is this: If you tell, you are going to get punished. The assailant, meanwhile, will go free.


It happens, sometimes, if there is no corroborating evidence. But that is not "the attitude" of the Army, its chain of command, or its NCOs. There are bad actors, yes. Show me an institution where that's not true.

This author (Why doesn't it surprise me that she's a Columbia journalism professor), who is writing a book about women veterans who has somehow managed never to even meet a veteran who does not "suffer from" PTSD (yeah, we're all victims.) has a seriously distorted view of the Army.

Unfortunately, there are corners of it which are poorly led. Karpinsky's brigade comes immediately to mind.

Voters picking their candidates? 
How antiquated. Let's have candidates pick their voters!

For Guitar Players Only 
Tim Wallis!!!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"We're lawyers and lawyers in training. Of course we follow the law, not morals." 
Yet another reason not to trust lawyers - as if we needed one.

If our law firm hiring officials are too dumb to discount Internet bulletin board gossip, we need new ones. Stupid people hire other stupid people. We don't need stupid lawyers - we have plenty already.

If our lawyers and lawyers in training can't tell the difference between criminalizing speech and holding people civilly accountable for the legitimate damages that arise from the reckless speech of people who ought to be familiar enough with the law of torts to know better, then we need some new law professors, as well.

What kind of new law professors? The kind that will seed their students' minds with an appreciation of the importance of balance, ethics, and discernment first, and only then tackling the technicalities.

If you supported the impeachment of Bill Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice in the effort to cover up the affair with Monica Lewinsky, even though the offense occurred only in the investigation - there was no underlying crime in the first place, then you cannot then oppose the conviction of Scooter Libby on the grounds that there was no underlying crime, and the offense happened only as a result of the investigation.

Federal law is clear - you cannot make false statements to investigating federal officials, period. Many, many people have been prosecuted on that basis. (See, for example, the case histories involving exculpatory denial).

It applies to all of us, it applied to a sitting President, and it applies to Libby.

There are many reasons to criticize Libby's prosecution and conviction. This isn't one of them.

Splash, out


Lost my confidence 
That's what Bush's Attorney General is saying about those federal prosecutors who were recently let go, in an editorial in USA Today.

As any employer or manager knows, the handling of personnel matters — especially the termination of employees — is one of the most challenging tasks in any business. Personnel matters in the federal government are no exception.

To be clear, it was for reasons related to policy, priorities and management — what have been referred to broadly as "performance-related" reasons — that seven U.S. attorneys were asked to resign last December.

The Justice Department, out of respect for these individuals, would have preferred not to talk publicly about those reasons, but disclosures in the press and requests for information from Congress altered those best-laid plans. Although our reasons for their dismissal were appropriate, our failure to provide those reasons to these individual U.S. attorneys at the time they were asked to resign has only served to fuel wild and inaccurate speculation about our motives. That is very unfortunate because faith and confidence in our justice system are more important than any one individual.

We have never asked a U.S. attorney to resign in an effort to retaliate against him or her or to inappropriately interfere with a public corruption case (or any other type of case, for that matter). Indeed, during the last six years, the department has established an extremely strong record of rooting out public corruption, including prosecuting a number of very high-profile cases.

Like me, U.S. attorneys are political appointees, and we all serve at the pleasure of the president. If U.S. attorneys are not executing their responsibilities in a manner that furthers the management and policy goals of departmental leadership, it is appropriate that they be replaced. After all, the responsibility of the Department of Justice, and of the Congress, is to serve the people of the United States. While I am grateful for the public service of these seven U.S. attorneys, they simply lost my confidence. I hope that this episode ultimately will be recognized for what it is: an overblown personnel matter.

This is cheap.

It would have been better if Gonzalez had remained mum about it. This sheds no light on the Administration's decision. All it does is slime the fired attorneys.


The attorneys may have lost Gonzalez's confidence. With this op-ed, Gonzalez has lost a measure of mine.

Splash, out


Monday, March 05, 2007

The buck stops at those under my command 
Is it any wonder we had problems?

Joe Klein's Right-wing nutcase checklist is up 
...And his commenters are still stupid.

Geez, no wonder Time's a liberal rag now. Look at the sample of readers, judging by their commenters!

THey get a mix of moderate lefties an a mix of rabid moonbats, take the middle road between them, and from the safety of their midtown Manhattan office building, think they're centrist.

Splash, out


UPDATE: "Klein slanders people of faith."

Rendering the Inappropriate Courtesy 
A journalist had his claim for unemployment benefits denied today. That's what happens when you show up to cover a soldier's funeral, piss on or near a monument, and have another journalist capture the moment on film (streaming video?) and send it to your boss.

The administrative law judge who heard Edwards' appeal for unemployment benefits said the act of urinating at the cemetery was disrespectful, unprofessional and offensive.

Edwards testified at a recent hearing that he was unable to leave the cemetery to urinate for fear of missing the funeral procession.

"I was leaned on to get that shot," Edwards testified.

Hell, I'd fire his stoopid ass just for making such a statement in the passive voice!

Splash, out


P.S. Betcha his lawyer told him to "shake it off."

The treatment of our wounded ... 
Now that the Washington Post uncovered the mess that was going on in Walter Reed, all sorts of tales of squalor and woe are coming out of the woodwork.

Across the country, some military quarters for wounded outpatients are in bad shape, according to interviews, Government Accountability Office reports and transcripts of congressional testimony. The mold, mice and rot of Walter Reed's Building 18 compose a familiar scenario for many soldiers back from Iraq or Afghanistan who were shipped to their home posts for treatment. Nearly 4,000 outpatients are currently in the military's Medical Holding or Medical Holdover companies, which oversee the wounded. Soldiers and veterans report bureaucratic disarray similar to Walter Reed's: indifferent, untrained staff; lost paperwork; medical appointments that drop from the computers; and long waits for consultations.

Sandy Karen was horrified when her 21-year-old son was discharged from the Naval Medical Center in San Diego a few months ago and told to report to the outpatient barracks, only to find the room swarming with fruit flies, trash overflowing and a syringe on the table. "The staff sergeant says, 'Here are your linens' to my son, who can't even stand up," said Karen, of Brookeville, Md. "This kid has an open wound, and I'm going to put him in a room with fruit flies?" She took her son to a hotel instead.

"My concern is for the others, who don't have a parent or someone to fight for them," Karen said. "These are just kids. Who would have ever looked in on my son?"

Capt. Leslie Haines was sent to Fort Knox in Kentucky for treatment in 2004 after being flown out of Iraq. "The living conditions were the worst I'd ever seen for soldiers," he said. "Paint peeling, mold, windows that didn't work. I went to the hospital chaplain to get them to issue blankets and linens. There were no nurses. You had wounded and injured leading the troops."

Hundreds of soldiers contacted The Washington Post through telephone calls and e-mails, many of them describing their bleak existence in Medhold.

From Fort Campbell in Kentucky: "There were yellow signs on the door stating our barracks had asbestos."

From Fort Bragg in North Carolina: "They are on my [expletive] like a diaper. . . . there are people getting chewed up everyday."

From Fort Dix in New Jersey: "Scare tactics are used against soldiers who will write sworn statement to assist fellow soldiers for their medical needs."

From Fort Irwin in California: "Most of us have had to sign waivers where we understand that the housing we were in failed to meet minimal government standards."

The problem? Well, part of the f*cking problem all along has been that when the Army wanted to close some bases so they could redirect resources into modernizing facilities, Congresscreeps of BOTH parties fought them tooth and nail, and that goes back to 1989.

So why are outpatients living in substandard billeting? Because in some cases, that's what they have left - old buildings and squathouses and converted barracks designed to hold troops for two weeks of annual training that were built in the 1960s.

The Army has been telling soldiers to suck it up and drive on for years. And soldiers do. And they're used to it. It's part of the job. But you can't keep that up forever. Tommy ain't a bleedin' fool - you bet that Tommy sees!

The Army knew this was a problem. There's no way they didn't. If they didn't have a clue, then United Press International whacked them over the head with a clue bat back in 2003.

Hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait -- sometimes for months -- to see doctors.

The National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers' living conditions are so substandard, and the medical care so poor, that many of them believe the Army is trying push them out with reduced benefits for their ailments. One document shown to UPI states that no more doctor appointments are available from Oct. 14 through Nov. 11 -- Veterans Day.

"I have loved the Army. I have served the Army faithfully and I have done everything the Army has asked me to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Willie Buckels, a truck master with the 296th Transportation Company. Buckels served in the Army Reserves for 27 years, including Operation Iraqi Freedom and the first Gulf War. "Now my whole idea about the U.S. Army has changed. I am treated like a third-class citizen."

Since getting back from Iraq in May, Buckels, 52, has been trying to get doctors to find out why he has intense pain in the side of his abdomen since doubling over in pain there.

After waiting since May for a diagnosis, Buckels has accepted 20 percent of his benefits for bad knees and is going home to his family in Mississippi. "They have not found out what my side is doing yet, but they are still trying," Buckels said.

One month after President Bush greeted soldiers at Fort Stewart -- home of the famed Third Infantry Division -- as heroes on their return from Iraq, approximately 600 sick or injured members of the Army Reserves and National Guard are warehoused in rows of spare, steamy and dark cement barracks in a sandy field, waiting for doctors to treat their wounds or illnesses.

The Reserve and National Guard soldiers are on what the Army calls "medical hold," while the Army decides how sick or disabled they are and what benefits -- if any -- they should get as a result.

Some of the soldiers said they have waited six hours a day for an appointment without seeing a doctor. Others described waiting weeks or months without getting a diagnosis or proper treatment.

The soldiers said professional active duty personnel are getting better treatment while troops who serve in the National Guard or Army Reserve are left to wallow in medical hold.

"It is not an Army of One. It is the Army of two -- Army and Reserves," said one soldier who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which she developed a serious heart condition and strange skin ailment.

A half-dozen calls by UPI seeking comment from Fort Stewart public affairs officials and U.S. Forces Command in Atlanta were not returned.

So it's not like this is a scoop.

Apparently, it didn't get through the first time, so heads are rolling now.

Splash, out


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Chaz on Liberal Self Denial 
Remember those laughable commenters over at Joe Klein's?

Mind in the Qatar tears their guts out.

Hey, Jason -- Aren't You Going to write anything about Ann Coulter? 
Yes: I, for one, welcome our new faggot overlords!

Q and O Eviscerates Mona Brooks 
Read it here.

I'd also venture to say that this concerted attempt by the left to brand the SBVT as deceitful, a "hit squad" and smear merchants, is an obvious attempt to compromise a group that was very effective won't work. Oh, it'll be accepted by those already inclined to believe they were lying about Kerry. But anyone who took the time to check their claims by independent research came away feeling much more inclined to accept their version than the Kerry version.

The desperation of the left to compromise the SBVT, however, is sickeningly evident when you see columnists like Brooks stoop to calling Medal of Honor winners "goons" because they disagree politically.

She should be ashamed.

And this, from a commenter at Q and O.,

I knew 10 Vietnam Vets well enough to really have had a decent conversation with them about the 2000 campaign prior to the SBVT coming out (My Dad, 4 Uncles, and an assortment of family friends, cops, & MPs for the rest). What I found so significant was, out of this group of 10 politically-mixed individuals, all 10 not only knew who the junior Senator from Massachusetts was, but they all despised him for exactly the same reason.

Yet, there he was, saluting, reporting for duty, and finding a reason to bring Vietnam up every three breaths, seemingly totally oblivious to the fact that to a significant number of Vietnam Vets to who each mention of the war by him felt like he was grinding salt in a dry tooth socket.

Further, a bit of due diligence on QandO's readers' part finds that the organization Brooks serves as special counsel, the Open Society Institute, was founded by George Soros - of the MoveOn.org people.

The Los Angeles Times, of course, cannot be bothered to alert its readers of that affiliation.

You'd think those idiots would have learned about the dangers of undisclosed conflicts via the Staples Center fiasco of some years ago, but I guess not.

Splash, out


While the Networks Were Hawking All Anna Nicole, All The Time ... 
...A major operation has been unfolding in Afghanistan.

So next time some journo looks at you over a whiskey sour and tells you "we provide a valuable gate keeper function," reach right over the table and give him a walloping bitchslap.

Splash, out


Mario Gabelli 
Someone asked in a comment last week what I thought of investing with Mario Gabelli in a fund that pays a cash dividend of 10% per year in cash dividends, regardless of the performance of the underlying investment.

I don't like it. Let me count the ways.

1.) It's gimmicky. I don't like that right off the bat.

2.) If asset prices fall, but Gabelli hasn't sold them off, then they'd better be buying opportunities. If Gabelli still believes in his assets, then why would he promise a cash dividend of 10%? Wouldn't investors be better off taking that dividend and buying more? Of course, investors can do that themselves in this fund. But not before getting bitch-slapped with capital gains taxes on that portion of the check that represents return of capital. It's a tax efficiency nightmare. If you're gonna do it, you'd better do it in an IRA.

3.) Gabelli's expense ratios are too high.

4.) As a fund manager, Gabelli has a ton of conflicts. Mutual fund managers should not be allowed to run hedge funds. What will happen is that the more lucrative hedge fund accounts will front-run the mutual fund transactions, harming mutual fund investors while the hedge fund investors get a free ride -- and Mario gets 20% of that gain.

5.) Gabelli, last I checked, runs a public company, Lynch Interactive, for which he takes a salary of over a million bucks a year. I assume if he's taking in that kind of cash, he's got to show up for work once in a while. That's time NOT spent looking after his mutual funds. I don't care how good a stock picker he is - he's not so good he can compensate for moonlighting AND Mario-type expense ratios.

6.) He's been involved in some ethics flaps lately. I don't send money to people I don't trust. I trust Buffett. I trust Bogle and the firm he created, Vanguard. I trust TIAA-CREF. I trust American Funds (mostly) and Longleaf Partners. I trust DFA and Bob Rodriguez at First Pacific Advisors. I trust Peter Lynch, but he doesn't run money anymore, to my knowledge. I trust Bill Gross at PIMCO but not PIMCO. I trust Harbor Bond, though. For expensive active managers I trust Bill Miller at Legg Mason. I trust the gang at T. Rowe Price.

There are lots of good companies out there. There are too many other good options for me to look too closely at Gabelli.

7.) The only way to reliably ensure that this fund can continue to generate a 10% per annum div is to grow the fund. I don't expect 10% out of any asset classes out there today. Too pyramid-like.

That's my take.

If income is important, how about a nice bond ladder, juiced with a couple of income properties - starter homes in decent neighborhoods in low-priced areas (away from the coasts!) I'm not a big fan of preferred stocks, generally, but if you believe the Fed will ease interest rates later this year, they might make some sense.

Splash, out


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Translated from the Greg Mankiw 
Economics made easy by the Stand-Up Economist:

Courtesy of Business Opinions

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Living With Snipers 
Pat Dollard posts a terrific video from the Government Center of Ramadi.

I have been there dozens of times, but I was never part of the garrison.

You can see the wall surrounding the compound a few times, in the parking lot out front. The first major attack on the center I know of happened about June of 2003. They sent children out to throw grenades. Men were handing hand grenades to children and encouraging them to throw them over the wall. Our soldiers held their fire in that direction, but killed two or three insurgents on another part of the battlefield.

Note especially the Marine lieutenant's take on the reporting of the Economist.

Anyone who says that kind of reporting has no effect on morale has his head up his ass. Of course it does. John F. Kerry was saying it was back when he said no one wants to be the last man to die for a mistake. (All of a sudden that logic no longer applies when you turn it against the Democrats in media critism)

You can see the tactical difficulties in maintaining security at a garrison like that, in the middle of a populous city.

I'm not sure we needed to post video that tells insurgents that their snipers aren't penetrating the ballistic windows. I'd much rather they continued exposing their snipers with ineffective shots. But the cat's out of the bag.

I would encourage Dollard to edit that bit out, before some Moojie sees this and they begin to take corrective measures.

Splash, out


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Fall In, Wounded Soldier 

Singer/Songwriter Melanie Dekker, together with her record label, Zabit records, have pledged $1 dollar each from the proceeds of the first 1 million CDs sold through CDBaby.com to the National Wounded Soldier Foundation.

CDBaby.com has pledged to match their contribution, dollar for dollar, for a total potential of $2 million.

Here's the CD Baby link. You have to use CDBaby to get the max contribution.

If you enjoy the music, please lay down some supporting fire by purchasing the record. Not only will soldiers benefit, but we encourage similar promotions in the future.

Splash, out


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Signs, signs, everwhere there's signs 
So I got up from blogging this evening and went down to Fort Lauderdale Beach for an hour-long run. I was battling a headache all day and thought about not going, but I went anyway - and was rewarded for my efforts with a front-row seat at a spectacular lunar eclipse over the Atlantic Ocean, all during the workout.

Thank you, Lord, for thinking of me. I'm alive, and doing fine. :)


One Pissed Off Vet on Bud Day 
Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Farnsworth!!!!

Our good buddy George Bud (aka "The Liar", aka "Brain Damaged from NVA Torture") Day is again in the forefront of this movement, as is one US Rep Sam Johnson of Texas, who made a speech just the other day basically calling any attempt to curtail funding for the Iraq war "treason".

Apparently ole Sam just plumb forgot that he was one of the "traitors" of the right who supported withholding Bosnia funds in 1995. Yeah, he's a BIG supporter of "the troops", all right. Like I've said before, it all depends on who's yer preznit.

Fuck these assholes. They are beneath contempt, but the sad thing is that they are luring many of my fellow veterans into their snare, just like they did in 2004 and the Kerry smear campaign of lies.

Christ, can you imagine having to be married to this viper?

Oh, but he supports the troops.

Splash, out


Freedom costs a buck-oh-five 
...and apparently, the markets are pricing love at a little more than eleven dollars.

Which answers the Biblical query - if a man has everything - the whole world - but has not love, then what has he?

The answer: Everything. Except eleven dollars.


Splash, out


Contemporary Press Reports of Spitting Unearthed 
...and there's a big, green loogie glob dripping from the noses of Professor Lembcke and One Pissed Off Vet.

(scroll down the page into the bulletin board.)

So much for the 'urban legend starting around 1980' hypothesis. Look especially at page 2.

Let's watch the lefties ignore this new information and push the meme.

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Left-wing extremist checklist 
Time's Joe Klein posts a checklist.

The comments are a riot.

The stock market 
This week's correction didn't come as a huge surprise for me. Over the past few months, I had been thinking that equities had gotten ahead of themselves. Yes, I think the economy's on pretty good footing. The problem is that when the whole universe of investors thinks the economy's on pretty good footing, they bid stocks up to prices that can only be sustained when the economy's on GREAT footing.

So here's what I wrote on December 22nd:

...The expansion seems to be getting a little long in the tooth. I'm not bearish, but I think the economy will not continue to expand at the pace it has. I have moved some money from the Vanguard Total Stock Market index into a large-cap growth and income fund -- effectively selling a modest number of small- and mid-caps, which are more sensitive to slowing economies, as well as selling a few no-dividend large-cap growth stocks.

The bet I'm effectively making is that if the economy slows, dividends will play a comparatively greater role in future returns - as compared to earnings growth - than they had previously.

I'm also building a small margin of safety, as I see potential short-term losses in equities as greater than my expectations for economic growth this year.

P/E's seem fairly reasonable to me, still. Not cheap, but not psycho crazy, either.

Fair weather ahead, with a few scattered squalls.

Unloaded some REIT ballast, with foreclosures peaking up in key markets.

Trimming sails slightly.

I'd enjoy hearing your best guesses.

My track record, like most, is mixed. I called the boom in emerging stocks accurately and rode it with real money in 2003 and 2004. But I left emerging markets too soon, and left a lot of gains on the table.

Lightened up on small-caps a year too soon as well, and counting. But I'd rather be too cautious than too crazy.

No, I did not buy bonds. Indeed, I had redeemed some short-term bonds I had bought through a Vanguard fund at the end of the year in order to harvest some tax losses (which I can write off against ordinary income, so long as I didn't buy the same thing back within 30 days).

Actually, I didn't have any brilliant ideas on where to go with new investment money. Bond yields are not terribly attractive to me right now, although short-term yields are improving (which was why I could redeem some of them at a loss, alas).

Oil and gas seems awash in dumb money. Still some dumb money running around in real estate, though it's better than it was.

My own money is still mostly indexed, all long equities (I will be snapping up some bonds very soon just a bit, because I don't want to be THIS long on equities), and with a substantial tilt towards value approaches.

I had managed to sidestep the most severe pummelings, but still lost a few points overall - just less than the S&P 500 lost, and certainly less than I would have lost had I stayed as long in international stocks as I had been.

In other news, I've been reading Benjamin Graham's "The Intelligent Investor" lately.

I am suspicious of investing guru books, because the vast majority of them suck ass. But if you do read one, read the updated edition, with the commentary by Jason Zweig.

The prose is a bit dry and understated, but the ideas are incisive and brilliant.

I like general personal finance books a little bit better - they provide useful information on tax vehicles and retirement planning and college planning, that's a separate issue from security and fund selection.

In my opinion, most lay investors should confine themselves to just a few books on investing:

The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham
Intelligent Asset Allocation, by William Bernstein
Common Sense on Mutual Funds, by John C. Bogle (whom I've actually met. Good man.)
A Random Walk Down Wall Street, by Burton Malkiel.

ONLY THEN would I consider someone in a position to reasonably assess the spate of investment books written by people like Jim Cramer (whom I like but wouldn't invest with), Laura Langemeier, Robert Kiyosaki, etc.

Indeed, I think Langemeier's a twit who's confused brains with a bull market in Oil and Gas and real estate.

Case in point -- I flipped open her book the other day and read a passage on how Roth IRAs let you invest money tax deferred. No they don't. Money in a Roth IRA has already been taxed!!!!

(Not true for deployed servicemen and women. If you get the chance to invest in an IRA with tax-free combat zone money, you have reached the acme of investing. Nirvana, baby!!!)

By the way, if anyone has any tales of investment advisors putting deployed servicemen into traditional IRAs rather than Roths, I'd love to hear the specifics!

Splash, out


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We Support The Troops 
...by calling them "war criminals" and inciting mutiny.

Los Angeles Times Smears Medal of Honor Winner 
An ignorant hack.

That's all I can think of to say about the author of this Los Angeles Times column, The Lunatic Right Returns, excoriating conservatives for adhering to "discredited swift-boaters" like George "Bud" Day.

Remember Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the right-wing goon squad whose defamatory insinuations helped sink John Kerry's presidential campaign? They're back! This afternoon, key Swift boaters George "Bud" Day, Mary Jane McManus and Carlton Sherwood are holding a little reunion, in the guise of a panel discussion at the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference. The panel topic? "The Left's Repeated Campaign Against the American Soldier."

Amazing. Here's the Los Angeles Times' vaunted layers of vetting and fact-checking at work for you: Bud Day's not even a swift boater*

Of course, the Los Angeles Times can't be bothered to tell the reader who Bud Day is, and what he's actually done.

So I will.

Via the U.S. Air Force:

George E. "Bud" Day is the nation’s most highly decorated soldier since General Douglas MacArthur. In a military career spanning 34 years and 3 wars, Day received nearly 70 decorations and awards of which more than 50 are for combat. Most notable of his decorations is our nation’s highest military honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor, presented to him by President Gerald Ford.

Day was born 24 February 1925 in Sioux City, Iowa, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1942, and served 30 months in the South Pacific during World War II. Returning home, he entered law school and passed the Bar exam in 1949. The following year he was commissioned in the Iowa National Guard. In 1951 he was called to active duty to enter pilot training from which he served two tours as a fighter-bomber pilot during the Korean War flying the Republic F-84 Thunderjet.

Day entered the Vietnam War when he was assigned to the 31st Tactical Fighter Wing at Tuy Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, in April 1967. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Phu Cat Air Base where he organized and became the commander of the 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the first "Misty Super FAC" unit flying the North American F-100 Super Sabre. On 26 August 1967, Day’s accumulation of over 5000 flying hours came to an abrupt halt when he was shot down over North Vietnam and immediately captured by the North Vietnamese following his ejection. Despite serious injury, he managed to escape and evade across the Demilitarized Zone back into South Vietnam, earning the distinction of being the only prisoner to escape from North Vietnam.

Within two miles of freedom and after two weeks of evading, he was re-captured by the Viet Cong. Thus began his 67-month imprisonment that would end only upon his release on 14 March 1973. Three days later Day was reunited with his wife and four children at March AFB, California. After a short recuperative period, Day was returned to active flying status. Colonel Day retired from active duty in 1977.

Following his retirement, Day wrote an autobiography, Return with Honor, detailing his suffering as a captive in Vietnam.

Day graduated the University of South Dakota Law School in 1949 and currently has a thriving law firm in Fort Walton Beach. On 14 March 1997, the new Survival School Building at Fairchild AFB was named in his honor. Day’s most recent accomplishment came in February 2001 when he won a major victory for World War II and Korean retirees in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. The court acknowledged the government had breached its contract to provide retirees and their spouses free lifetime medical care. Day lives with his wife Doris in Shalimar, Florida.

This is the man who LA Times columnist Rosa Brooks calls an "unprincipled, right-wing extremist."

The willful blindness, the failure to conduct due diligence, or the sheer ignorance required to write this entire article without once mentioning Bud Day's military record is nothing short of astounding.

Is this the level of reporting chops it takes to get hired on as a columnist at the LA Times, these days?


It's not hard to visualize the right-wing talking points that will emerge from this. The Swift boaters will be dusting off their 2004 scripts and reaching back still further to dredge up their Vietnam-era notes. Expect to see all the old myths revived: The antiwar left spits on returning troops and gives aid and comfort to the enemy. Oh, John Murtha, why do you hate our brave troops?

Again, this lazy-assed nonthinker doesn't bother to buttress her reckless assertions with facts. For example, the attempt by the left to cover up spitting incidents and dismiss them as 'urban legend' has already been quite handily dispatched.

But hey, kids...don't worry if you flunk out of freshman composition class - you can just get hired as a columnist by the LA Times!!!

Oh, and I can't say that John Murtha hates our troops. He just wants them to lose, by stripping them of needed funding in the heat of battle - funding which translates to such minor items as equipment, ammunition, reinforcements, reserves, and food.

Rosa Brooks is nothing but a small-minded runt of a writer, who, in the process of disparaging a panel entitled "The Left's Repeated Campaign Against the American Soldier" manages to serve up - drumroll, please - an ignorant smear campaign against America's most decorated living serviceman.

And shame on the editorial page directors who let this tripe slip by.

The Los Angeles Times should publish a retraction and apology to Bud Day.

Splash, out


*This is not a huge factual error, as Day DID appear in a Swift Boat ad during the 2004 election. Day also heads an organization called The Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation that a lot of the swiftboaters joined. They didn't join because not because Day was a lunatic, though. They joined because he's Bud Day.

You won't find anyone more respected among veterans - real veterans - and advocates for veterans, than Bud Day. Anywhere.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Countercolumn News Ticker ... 
Airline Industry Surprised By 103rd Consecutive Onset of Winter ...

Musharraf Captures Senior Taliban Leader, Fucks Self ...

McCain Campaign Haunted by Washcloth Veterans for Truth Charges ...

Bush Resigns, Liberals Decry Scapegoating ...

Stock Market Predicted Nine of Last Five Recessions, Historian Says ...

UPS Cancels 10 Airbus Orders;
France Surrenders to Germany ...

Area Man Dies Peacefully in His Sleep; Passengers in his car in critical condition ...

Lynddie England To Command Walter Reed ...

Draft Questions Plague Giuliani; "Welcome to Running In The Big Leagues," Say Red State Voters ...

Area Scientists Achieve Consensus on Pizza Order ...

Stocks Plummet to levels not seen in months ...

Stock Market Ends Unprecedented 45 Week Streak Without a 2% Drop ...
Joe Dimaggio, Pete Rose unavailable for comment ...
Bush to blame ...

23 Stocks Found Dead in Baghdad ...
Bearing Signs of Torture ...
Radical REITs Suspected of Strike ...

SEC Chair Vows Crackdown on Derivative Death Squads ...

Developing ...

How to deal with bigoted professors 

Back to basics 
From Crotchety Old Bastard...

# A 5.56mm bullet will not stop a vehicle. A SAW is a great weapon but not for vehicle avenues of approach.
# Rules of Engagement must be include the following, by priority:

1. Most efficient way of killing the enemy
2. Exposes our forces to the minimum risk possible
3. Does not overtly violate the Law of Land warfare (WWII Edition)

# Squad Leaders make better judges of threat intent than JAG officers.
# A beret does not make you “Special”, (Goodbye black berets).
# Soldiers should not pay taxes, taxes should pay soldiers.

Note: Servicemen and women deployed overseas in combat zones do not normally pay income tax.

Secretary of the Army Resigns 
Very commendable. Very commendable.

More at Black Five.

Setting the Guardian Straight 
"Today’s Guardian article (“Military Chiefs Give US Six Months to Win Iraq War”) misrepresents the Baghdad advisers. So much so, it makes me doubt the reliability of the single, unidentified source responsible for much of the article’s reporting."

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I'm with Carter. 
Phillip Carter, that is.

Walter Reed's problems also illustrate just how bad the Army has gotten at passing information—particularly negative information—up and down its chain of command. Typically, subordinate units submit reports on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to their headquarters. At each level of command, these reports get filtered, collated, combined, and resynthesized. Like the children's game of telephone, the message frequently changes in transmission. The result can be a terribly distorted picture of reality at the higher echelons of command...

Military bureaucracies (and their civilian brethren like the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency) also do a terrible job of reacting to crises. Large bureaucracies like the Army provide a systematic, uniform, mediocre response to chronic problems. But where time is of the essence, bureaucracies often fail spectacularly. On the NewsHour With Jim Lehrer last week, Kiley tried to deflect blame by calling the mess at Walter Reed "a very large, complex process," which required a nuanced approach to bureaucratic, medical, and contractual problems. But such a bureaucratic response misses the point when the bureaucracy itself is the enemy, as it is for the soldiers in Building 18. Bureaucracies evolve into micro-societies over time and become incapable of evaluating fundamental problems within their own ranks. Instead of receiving negative information and fixing the root problem, bureaucracies find and apply incrementalist solutions that fit their existing way of doing business. In MBA-jargon, bureaucracies rarely think or act "outside of the box." Whether the context is the Vietnam War, the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina, or the current mess at Walter Reed, the problem is the same. Only decisive leadership—picture Gen. George Patton with his revolver, shooting a jackass to clear a bridge so his convoy can pass—can overcome bureaucratic inertia to fix the problem.

But, of course, there are few Pattons left in today's Army, partly because the military has moved away from the tradition of "command responsibility" toward a model of bureaucratic performance. As a lieutenant, I learned that commanders were responsible for all their unit did or failed to do, period. In peacetime, this meant I could lose my job if some soldiers got in a drunken bar fight one weekend or if a sergeant lost too much gear, because I had ultimate responsibility for my unit. In wartime, command responsibility ties in with accomplishing missions: Generals like Patton and Creighton Abrams earned their stars by winning battles, because that is the military's raison d'être.

Besides ... to paraphrase Patton, there's nothing like relieving a flag officer to cause a much needed round of promotions in the Army.

I'm still not trusting all the reporting on Walter Reed, but there doesn't seem to be any doubt that there was a failure of command there.

Splash, out


Leadership Lessons from the Movies 
If the Army gives you a field grade rank, it's because they expect you to use it once in a while.

Matthew Broderick shows us what SHOULD have been happening at Walter Reed.

Watch the whole thing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Walter Reed Commander Relieved 
The Washington Post has the dope:

The head of the U.S. Army's top hospital was removed from his post on Thursday after troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were found to be living in shoddy conditions and struggling with a complex bureaucracy.

An Army statement said top officials had lost confidence in Maj. Gen. George Weightman's ability "to address needed solutions for soldier outpatient care" at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

"The care and welfare of our wounded men and women in uniform demand the highest standard of excellence and commitment that we can muster as a government," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.

"When this standard is not met, I will insist on swift and direct corrective action and, where appropriate, accountability up the chain of command," he said in a statement.

This might explain the inept handling of the affair on the part of the Pentagon: There may have been a debate raging over whether General Weightman should be relieved of command, and the Pentagon press office was playing for time for the Secretary of the Army and the SECDEF to conduct their own inquiries, gather the appropriate facts, and make a decision.

Still, the Army looks bad.

The Army is temporarily tapping the current head of medical for the post - who himself is a former Walter Reed commander. According to MSNBC, he himself may have been part of the problem, though.

Don't know how long he was in command there, though.

The challenge for the new guy is going to be in dividing his time and attention between putting command emphasis on fixing Walter Reed while simultaneously being proactive and aggressive in resourcing medical efforts forward. Tough spot, and a lot will depend on CENTCOM's J-1 and their own medical experts.

Fortunately, our doctors, medical platoon leaders and platoon sergeants, and PAs are incredibly resourceful in solving problems forward.

I have more faith in them, for example, then in a Medical Command that at various points, assigned my light infantry battalion, then engaged in combat in Ramadi a gynecologist and a psychiatrist as our battalion surgeons.

Just sayin'.

Splash, out


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