Monday, June 30, 2008

Letters, I get letters 
Reader Nate writes:

But the real idiot on this Court is Kennedy. Stevens is a consistent libtard, like Ginsberg. Kennedy can't make up his mind.

He's with the majority on Heller, striking down the DC gun ban on strict constructionist analysis of the text and historical meaning of the Second Amendment.

He's with the majority on Kennedy v. Louisana, striking down Louisana's death penalty for adults who rape a child under 12 years old, on an "emerging standards of decency" analysis of the Eighth Amendment.

Look, how do you know what a contract means? Does it mean what the people who wrote it intended it to mean? Or does it mean what the lawyers in court, reviewing it years later, think it should have meant?

Is your mortgage lender stuck with accepting 5% interest for 30 years, or can they raise the rate if they decide they don't like the deal anymore? Should your contract be strictly construed according to the understanding of the parties at the time they had a meeting of the minds, or should the deal be open to renegotiation at any time, in light of changing circumstances, like it or not?

Kennedy seems to say Yes both ways. Yes, the Second Amendment means what the framers intended 225 years ago; and Yes, the Eighth Amendment bans whatever we feel like calling "cruel and unusual" today. That's a huge problem for ordinary people hoping for guidance. If the law doesn't mean what it said when they wrote it, how can I know I'm following it?

Not worried about death penalties or guns? Okay, how about financial regulations? Oh, you thought you were in compliance? Ha, wrongo, we've reinterpreted it all and you're now a crook - you forfeit everything and go to jail, under an "emerging standards" theory that you should have known we would have adopted.

That's why appointing Strict Constructionist judges is critical. For Thomas, Scalia, Roberts and Alito - thank you, Bushs I and II.

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A very important self-portrait 
I thought this was very clever and moving.

As if ... 
As if I wasn't already crushing on her enough...she had to go and write about pie!


Wes Clark, Then and Now 
Wes Clark, fall of 2006:

I live by a simple rule. If you wore the uniform, if you served your nation with honor, and especially if you fought and were wounded in battle, then you have earned the right to be treated with respect.

Stop the Swift Boating -- contribute to Patrick, Leonard, Eric, and Charlie today!

That's why I am so outraged that the Republican party has systematically attacked the wartime service and patriotism of veterans who are running for office as Democrats. It is despicable -- the sign of a party more concerned about hanging onto power by any means possible than with giving veterans the respect they have earned.

Just sayin' y'all.

Splash, out


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I am soooo going to Hell for this... 
But the whole time I was reading this I couldn't keep from thinking "Dear Penthouse."

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Red on Red 
Libtards are still at each others' throats. Instapundit links to the pro-Hillary blog No Quarter, who compares Obama -- I shit thee not -- to a wife beater and a rapist.

And now seeing these articles and photographs of Senator Clinton and Senator Obama together, him with his hand on her back, just makes me cringe. Frankly, it makes me almost physically ill. See, I have done a lot of work in the Domestic Violence movement. And I have seen this cycle before: the man abuses, attacks, and lashes out at the woman. The woman makes excuses for, and accepts blame from, the man for his attacks. Not unlike Senator Clinton saying now that they are friends, respect each other, and support each other. I know what respect looks and feels like - Senator Obama has shown NONE for Senator Clinton. Senator McCain has, but Obama? No. Seeing these photos of her with him now reminds me of battered women wearing sunglasses to hide the bruises, and saying, “Oh, he didn’t really mean it. It was my fault, really, I shouldn’t have made him mad. He really does love me, in his own way, really! Don’t be mad at him!” Not only did Obama make sexist remarks about Senator Clinton, INCLUDING at the fundraiser the other night, but he reaped the benefit of the sexist and misogynistic remarks made by others, the veiled death threats (talking to YOU, Keith), the threats of violence, the degradation, not on her record, or on her speeches, but because she was a woman.

Dunno who Keith is. But here I was thinking all the unhinged morons in the Democratic party were OBAMA supporters!

Splash, out


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The orcs are out in force... 
The Obama orcs are shaking their spears at McCain's military record, doing their damnedest, as I wrote in the post below, to neutralize one of McCain's differentiators between himself and Obama, who couldn't be bothered to wear the uniform.

Specifically, John Aravosis, of AMERICAblog, who recently attacked the permanently disabled John McCain for collecting disability pay incident to the multiple broken limbs, beating, bayoneting, and torture he received in North Viet Nam (on top of having been wounded in the Forrestal fire when a bomb exploded on the carrier deck), is now pointing out that McCain did, in fact, make a propaganda video for the North Vietnamese after having been tortured within an inch of his life.

He jests at scars that never felt a wound.

It's not "nice" to ask the question, but it's actually a pretty good question. Yes, we all know that John McCain was captured and tortured in Vietnam (McCain won't let you forget). A lot of people don't know, however, that McCain made a propaganda video for the enemy while he was in captivity. Putting that bit of disloyalty aside, what exactly is McCain's military experience that prepares him for being commander in chief? It's not like McCain rose to the level of general or something. He's a vet. We get it. But simply being a vet, as laudable as it is, doesn't really tell you much about someone's qualifications for being commander in chief. If McCain is going to play the "I was tortured" card every five minutes as a justification for electing him president, then he shouldn't throw a hissy fit any time any one asks to know more about his military experience. Getting shot down, tortured, and then doing propaganda for the enemy is not command experience. Again, it's not nice to say say, but we're not running for class president here. We deserve real answers, not emotional outbursts designed to quell the questions.

Yes, McCain broke, at one point, and submitted to a propaganda project. I guess I'll bring that up anytime some self-congratulating libtard floats the unthinking lie that torture doesn't work.

Aravosis isn't fit to lick the polish off of John McCain's shoes, though. Let him wrestle for scum sucker honors with another oxygen thief and national embarrassment, Medea Benjamin, who attaches the smear not just to McCain, but all Vietnam veterans:

"I wouldn't characterize anybody who fought in Vietnam as a war hero," said Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the theatrical anti-war group Code Pink. "In 23 bombing sorties, there must have been civilians that were killed and there's no heroism to that."

Libtards hate troops. They have no respect for them whatsoever. Scratch the surface and you'll find roiling hatred of their betters and condescension toward the men and women in the ranks.

And then there's this.

Splash, out


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McCain doesn't know the current price of gas? 
Turns out that's a lie.

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Wesley Clark on the Warpath 
Wesley Clark levels his rhetorical guns at John McCain, stating that McCain lacks the executive experience needed to be president.

Presumably, McCain's post POW service as a capable squadron commander doesn't count, while the absolute hash Hillary made of HillaryCare in 1993 is just the ticket, as is Obama's decades of executive experience as... well, as a "community organizer."

At any rate, Clark looks at more than 25 years as a legislator and a distinguished career in the U.S. Navy, and finds McCain, in relation to Obama, "untested and untried."


"I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become President," says Clark, who endorsed the far less distinguished career of John F. Kerry and the non-existent military careers of John Edwards and Obama at various times. I wonder just what experiences Obama brings to the table as a (snicker) "community organizer" that McCain lacks that qualify Obama to become president.

For crying out loud, Clark has a tin ear. But get ready for more of this, as Obama sends his minion orcs to try to undercut a key McCain differentiator - his military career.

Neptunus Lex, himself a career Navy officer, has more.

For my take on Clark, click here.

My sense is that the top two retired four-star pro-Obama partisans, Clark and McPeak, are curious choices, because both of them do not appear to have been well-liked or respected in the ranks.

That's not as big a deal to me as one would think. A lot of fine officers were detested in the ranks. At least until they brought victories under their command. For example, Patton, Stonewall Jackson, Douglas MacArthur, etc. But it's curious to me that both of these guys seem to be cut from the same mold... more along the lines of Old Fuss & Feathers than Omar Bradley.

Splash, out


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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Phil Carter: Pro Censorship? 
I meant to get to this a while back...

Phil Carter, the proprietor of Intel Dump and a partisan Obama supporter, gets it dead wrong here in criticizing Stand To, a sort of news and opinion clearinghouse that the Army publishes, for the crime of linking to a blogger voice critical of Obama.

And more to the point, why is the Army's official in-house public affairs shop linking to this kind of stuff? Just a few weeks ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told all hands to stay out of politics: "As the nation prepares to elect a new president, we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times.... Keeping our politics private is a good first step." He added: "The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia."

Unfortunately, the message didn't get to through to the Army.

Let's be clear: It is okay for the services to have a message. Both the Early Bird and Stand To speak for the Pentagon and the Army as institutions, and that's okay. They generally support the troops, the military, the chain of command, and the current endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nothing wrong with that.

And I have no objections to what Mr. Hooah wrote, besides the fact that I think it's factually wrong. He has his opinion; I have mine.

But the Stand To page is different -- and Tuesday's edition crosses the line. This isn't some citizen's blog or website. It's the in-house public affairs digest of the United States Army. It should not be amplifying partisan political attacks, nor should it be airing them at all. This appears like yet another example of the unusually cozy relationship which has developed over the last generation or so between the military and the right wing of American politics -- an unhealthy development, to say the least.

Last time I checked, soldiers and civilian officials didn't swear an oath to either political party or to their current president. Rather, they swear their fidelity to the Constitution, and the ideals it embodies, including the subordination of the military to civil authority. Adm. Mullen is right: As we enter a contentious election year, where issues of national security are likely to dominate the debate, the military needs to stay on the sidelines.

Sorry, but Carter's just flat wrong here - in essence, he's confusing acknowledging and linking with an endorsement.

First of all, a bit of background: Not every military network allows unfettered access to blogs. There have been many times when I could not access Countercolumn, either to read it, or update it, from a military network, because of various net controls. (They also don't let you access Web email accounts, either, and I cannot check email to Countercolumn from many government connections).

Furthermore, because of the long hours many military people work, especially overseas, many of them simply do not have time to access a dozen different newspapers and read news and opinion sites from all over the world. Stand To is a valuable service, collecting Army related news and opinion from various news outlets and bloggers. (When I was in Iraq, I relied a lot on BuzzFlash).

Carter, however, is outright calling for the censorship of conservative or anti-Obama opinion on the Army's web portal.

In my view, he's wrong on three counts:

1.) Government officials in editorial positions have no duty to suppress any point of view whatsoever in their duties.
2.) Government officials in editorial positions, I would argue, have an affirmative duty to be inclusive of a broad spectrum of opinion.
3.) Linking does not equal endorsement.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of milblogs are pro success in Iraq. Now Carter, having picked up a sweet mainstream media bloggership at the Washington Post, would like to have the military insulate their members from the point of view of their own community. Because given the rightward slant of most milblogs (this one included, natch), if Carter has his way, the Army would have to put out a policy severely restricting the inclusion of milblogs from Stand To.

I've been a digest newsletter editor myself, for a mainstream media outlet (in my case, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Time, Inc.). As managing editor of a subscription newsletter called Investors Digest, I made it a point to represent a variety of market and investment perspectives, from bulls to bears to outright paranoid Ron Paul-worshipping goldbugs.

To assume that just because I included a Ron Paulian nutcase like The Mogambo Guru in my twice monthly roundups meant I supported or endorsed him is simply absurd. As editor of a Digest or roundup it was my duty to give my readers an entertaining sample of a full cross section of opinion.

If Carter has evidence that the Public Affairs guys responsible for Stand To and/or Early Bird are systematically excluding rational voices critical of the Administration, he doesn't bother to bring it up here. But such a deliberate exclusion in favor of pro-Administration voices would seem to be a neccessary component of his endorsement argument.

Carter, an Obama supporter himself, who already has a sweet deal with the Post, would like to restrict the milblogger reach into the military community. Or at least predicate their exposure to the military audience via Stand To on the condition that they refrain from criticizing Carter's favored candidate.

I think that is wrong.

Carter, consciously or unconsciously, is trying to "shape the battlefield" to limit the effects of milbloggers, and conservative bloggers, generally. All well and good. He's got his soapbox for his views, and they are pretty close to those who make up the ranks of the MSM. Only he's not nearly as ignorant as they are. But to those of us who take the long view of the Long War, and reject Obama's instinct for abandoning the field (though Carter denies that Obama wants to do so), seeking to expunge the largely partisan milblogging community from Stand To, and seeking to intimidate its editors into so doing is battlefield shaping just as surely as the Fairness Doctrine seeks to eliminate the impact of talk radio on the political scene, and consolidate the power of the pulpit in the hands of a few coastal media companies.

If military bloggers skew right, then so be it. If they skew left someday, then so be it as well. Let the Democrats make the case and convince the military bloggers of their point of view honestly.

It's always curious to me when those who you would think would support the notion of a free marketplace of ideas seek to suppress them when they become inconvenient.

The military should not endorse, nor be seen to endorse, one candidate over the other. I agree with that notion, as far as it goes. And when I'm on duty, working with troops, no one knows my views unless they happen to read Countercolumn. I'm a member of the Green party. Army Green.

But the military sure as shit should not be hostile to such expressions, either, nor should they have a policy of sheltering their readers from any part of the full gamut of American political opinion.

They should not endorse partisan speech, but they should not adopt a policy that is hostile to it either. Military readers deserve access to a full rainbow of opinion. And Stand To should continue to link to The Nation, The Free Republic, Michelle Malkin, Juan Cole, Phil Carter, BlackFive, Mudville Gazette, and everyone else their editor believes addresses military-related issues of interest to its readership in an engaging, informative or provocative way, be it left or right.

Splash, out


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Friday, June 27, 2008

The flip side 
So a 14-year old girl from Texas is being charged with "capital murder" for choking and drowning her newborn infant in a school toilet (though as a juvenile, so there is no possibility of the death penalty in her case.)

As someone who is, in personal sentiment, both anti-death penalty and pro-life, I've got a question for pro-choice, pro-death penalty readers.

Generally, social conservatives will argue that a minor should need a parental signature in order to receive an abortion. Most of the time, I'm in agreement with this view as well, as I am fundamentally distrustful of state attempts to usurp parental responsibility and authority. Many will also note the legal incongruity between a woman facing a capital murder charge for killing her infant seconds after its birth when she could have gotten an abortion that very morning, without legal consequence at all, and in the minds of many, without there being the slightest moral issue with it.

Assuming that was the case here, though, this girl, as a minor, could not have received an abortion on her own. Her first chance at abortion (obviously defined obscenely loosely here), was immediately after the birth. She had no opportunity to exercise any sort of reproductive choice prior to this, other than the choice to be sexually active in the first place (assuming it was a choice, and forcible rape was not a factor here).

That being the case, is this a mitigating argument for this girl, in pleading for leniency in sentencing?

And social conservatives: Is it possible, in your minds, that taking a hard line in favor of requiring parental consent for abortions would contribute to such an eventuality? Is it possible that denying access to abortion for minors absent parental consent will, predictably, create a few cases at the margins where infants who would otherwise have been aborted well before being carried to term will instead be murdered by their mothers after their birth?

If such is possible, how many cases would it take before one would say that the law of unintended consequences makes requiring parental consent a bad idea?

I don't have an answer. This was just on my mind after listening to a news report on the radio.

Splash, out


P.S., according to the report, school officials are also investigating what "school rules" she might have broken in the process. Good deal. As if a capital murder charge isn't plenty. Maybe these busy-body morons can get in on the act by getting her on giving birth without a fucking hall pass, too. Geniuses.

Robert A. Heinlein, you magnificent bastard, I read your BOOK! 
Would you like to know more?

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More on the Justice Stevens is an idiot meme: 
Apparently, in his dissent on the Heller decision, Stevens didn't bother to read Miller before citing it. And it's not the first time he and his libtard clerks have done that.

Incidentally, Gabriel Malor, the head law dawg at Ace of Spades, links to a very promising blog who lays it out clearly, arguing that Hamdan got the international character of the War on Terror wrong.

Splash, out


Thursday, June 26, 2008

180 Degrees 
Damn. It didn't take long after Obama had the libtard nomination in the bag for him to utterly reverse his position on the DC gun ban, did it?

I'll give it to him... he's got spine. Like a pretzel.


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David Ehrenstein Calls for Murder of Justice Scalia 
Here's David Ehrenstein, Hollywood writer and well-known libtard half-wit, commenting in Crooks & Liars:

"If fat Tony Scalia comes anywhere near your home, shoot the motherfucker."

You stay classy, David.

Splash, out


UPDATE: Ehrenstein's comment has been swept under the rug by Crooks and Liars. But Confederate Yankee has a screencap.

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Inside the mind of Liberal Supreme Court Justices 
1.) The framers had no intention of enshrining an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pay no attention to the plain language of that pesky amendment. But women have a constitutional right to abortion. Nevermind where we found it.

2.) Evolved standards of justice and a broad consensus preclude the use of the death penalty to punish those who rape young children - even to the point of separating the cervix from the vaginal wall in an assault so gruesome and sadistic it requires hours of emergency surgery to correct. No, really. There's a consensus. Nevermind what elected representatives responsible to their constituents vote on. Ask any father of a young daughter if he'd be willing to shoot anyone who did that to his child. He'll tell you. You'll see. Honestly.

3.) The right of habeus corpus does not apply to servicemen and women in military courts, nor do those fighting for our country overseas have the right to access to civilian courts. They are subject to military courts martial, even including, in cases of general courts martial, the death penalty. Private Eddie Slovik, for example, was shot for desertion, on General Eisenhower's order, in 1945. Despite being a uniformed soldier and an American citizen, he received no civilian court review, and had no right to a habeus corpus proceeding. No court outside of the military reviewed his case. But clearly, a procedure good enough to put an American soldier to death is not good enough for terrorists fighting American troops and murdering civilians on foreign soil. American fighting men are not entitled to such rights. But Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Benalshibh are.

It's that evolved standard of decency. Ask anyone.

Splash, out


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Jason Reads the Heller Decision (So You Don't Have To!) 
Well, you don't have to. But I recommend you do, because the majority decision, written by Justice Scalia, is rich with historical evidence and anecdote from the founding era.

But if you are pressed for time, the Scalia's decision, for the 5-4 majority, can be encapsulated into four main points:

1.) The right to keep and bear arms is an individual, not a collective right.
2.) The right extends not just to service in a militia, but also for the purposes of self defense.
3.) The right applies to firearms in current common usage. The argument some raise that the 2nd Amendment protects only arms in existence in the 17th century "borders on the frivolous."
4.) Justice Stevens is an idiot.

Splash, out


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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

For musicians only 
Brilliant stuff from a fine Boston musician named John McGann

If you've ever played music for a living, or loved someone who does (thereby providing a home for him, or at least a sofa, you'll want to read this.

And so in the dark of night the Lord awoke Noah, and spoke to him. "Noah, awake and heed my words!" And Noah, being sore, afraid and disoriented, did cry out, "Who goeth there?" And the Lord did smite him upside the head, saying, "It is the Lord of all things, dummy!" And Noah did tremble, saying, "Lord, why hath thou wakened me?" And the Lord did say, "Noah, build me a Casual Band. "For the earth will be visited by a plague of Brides, followed by forty days of Trade Shows and forty nights of Awards Banquets." And Noah did say, "Command me, Lord." And the Lord did say, "First, thou must find me a Leader." And Noah replied, "But Lord, will I not be thy Leader?" And the Lord did smite him again, saying, "Fool, thou will be my Contractor. Ask not why!" And Noah did bow his head, saying, "Yes, my Lord. And what will this Leader play?" And the Lord said, "It mattereth little, whether he play or not, or whether he be proficient or not. For his job shall primarily be to talk to the Brides and their Mothers, and to deal with Clients, and to count off Tempos wrong, and to inquire as to whether Overtime will happen, and to try to segue tunes that should not be segued. If he playeth any instrument, thou must always have another player of that instrument on the band, just to be safe."

And Noah did say, "And what else shall this Leader do?" And the Lord replied, "It shall be his job to spread Bad Information and Confusion amongst the Sidemen, and to pit them one against the other, and to delay all payments. "Further shall it be his job, until we can afford a Soundman, to create Feedback, and to invent new Equalization Curves therefore." And Noah did shake his head in wonder, saying, "Lord, thy ways are Strange and mysterious. What more shall I do?" And the Lord said, "Next, find me a Rhythm Section. First, find me a Drummer. And ThreeThings above all must this Drummer possess." And Noah did ask, "What are these Three Things? Double Bass Drums? An Electronic Kit? Congas?" And the Lord did smite Noah again, saying "Second-guess me not, my servant. First, this Drummer must have slightly imperfect time, so that whenever he playeth a Fill (and he shall play many), he always emergeth at a different place, sometimes early and sometimes late, but thou may not guess which. And second, he must be Supremely Discontent, always hoping for the Big Break which will lead to him playing with Chick Corea or Madonna, so that he despiseth Jobbing. "And third, he must always be convinced of his Righteousness, in all things, including Time, Volume, Tempo and Feel, so that he argueth always with the Bass Player." And Noah did say, "As you command, Lord.

And what next?" And the Lord did say, "Thou art learning, Noah. Next shall be the Bass Player. And he shall be Bored. That is all." And Noah did say, "Of course. And next, my Lord?"

"Next shall be the Piano Player. And he shall play as if he has twenty fingers, and he shall ply Substitute upon Substitute, until no man may name the Chord, and he will not be helpful. Furthermore, he shall always be late. And he shall always be trying out New Gear, of which he has no knowledge." And Noah did wonder aloud, "Lord, Great is thy Wisdom!"

"Next shall be the Guitar Player. And he shall be a Rock Guitar Player. And he shall be Loud, and he shall sing 'Old Time Rock n' Roll'. Also shall he know not The Page, and so shall rely upon his Ears, which have been damaged by exposure to High Sound Pressure Levels. For the Guitarists who Read shall already be playing Shows, and will be making the Big Shekels. And his tux shall be the Rattiest." And Noah did say, "It shall be done."

And the Lord did say, "Next thou shall need Horns. First shall be the Saxophones. And they shall be Beboppers. And they shall play their Bird quotes in every song, yea, even the Celine Dion ballad. And they shall Get High on every break, and make the Long Faces all night long, but especially when 'In The Mood' is called. Next shall be the Trumpeters. And they shall every one attempt to take everything Up an Octave, and fail frequently. And of Changes they shall know nothing.

And finally shall be the Trombone Player. And many jokes will be made about him, for he will have a Beeper, as well as a Day Job, and he will be the first to be Cut from the Band." And Noah, taking many notes, did say, "Mighty is the Lord!"

"Next shall be the String Players. Find me Three Women, and attach Pickups to their Violins that are more ancient even than Myself, so that their instruments screecheth and causeth great pain. And their job shall be to dress in Evening Gowns, and to Fake Parts on all Ballads, and to occasionally Stroll, and to complain about the Volume, and the Intonation, and to impede the Swing."

And Noah did say, "What else can be left, Lord?" And the Lord did say, "Finally, find me the Singers. And they shall be Three, one a Male, and two Females. And the Male shall be a Strutting Peacock, with the Rock 'N Roll Hair,and he shall never have to wear The Tuxedo, and also shall he play The Harmonica. And of the Females, one shall be Black and one shall be White. And theBlack one shall ALWAYS sing the Aretha songs, and the Disco. And the White one shall ALWAYS sing the Power Ballads,and the Country Songs. But both shall share the Motown Medley, and shall sing Backup for the Male, and forget the Words, and be Late, and know nothing of Keys or Form. And they shall leave every gig immediately, having never touched a piece of Equipment. And they shall be paid many more shekels than the Sidemen. Ask not why."

And Noah did say, "As Thou sayest, my Lord." And the Lord did command him, "Search high and low for these, as not every musician can fulfill these requirements. And though we have No Work yet, a Commitment must be secured from All. And while you're at it, start looking for Subs." And Noah did say, "Lord, thy will be done." And it was.

Much more in this vein at the link.

And no, I hadn't read this when I wrote this.

Splash, out


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So what's in my iPod? 
Why should presidential candidates have all the fun?

Here are the artists, in my iPhone, in alphabetical order by first name...

Alexis Cole
Alison Brown
Anoushka Shankar
Bothy Band
Byron Berline, Dan Crary and John Hickman
Billy Kelly
Brad Paisley
Brothers Cazimero
Cathal Hayden
Cherish the Ladies
Con Curtin
Daithi Sproule, James Kelly and Paddy O'Brien
Danny Meehan
Deana Carter
Eamonn Dillon
Frankie Gavin and Alec Finn
Frankie Kennedy and Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Itzhak Perlman
James Kelly
John Doyle
John Williams (the concertina player, not the film scorer)
Kate Rusby
Kevin Burke
The Klezmatics
Klezmer Conservatory Band
Lara St. John
Led Zeppelin
Liz and Yvonne Kane
Liz Carroll
Liz Doherty
Ludwig van Beethoven
Mark O'Connor
Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio
Martin Byrnes
Martin Hayes
Mediaeval Baebes
Mike Oldfield
Niall and Cillian Vallely
Nickel Creek
Oisin McAuley
Paddy Keenan
Paddy Keenan/Tommy Peoples
Patrick Street
Peter Gabriel
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Roisin Dillon
Sean Tyrrell
Tommy Maguire
Tommy Peoples
Tuck Andress

This is a very different list from my CD collection, which is much, much more extensive. These are just the CDs I happened to have transferred or cuts I've happened to download.

Fire away.


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Friday, June 20, 2008

More on Yglesias and Iran 
I meant to get to this this morning when I wrote the first post on the Cesspool at the Atlantic, below:

Another mistake Yglesias makes commenters make - actually, a huge gaping maw in his argument, but it's a very common mistake on the left - is assuming that US power would necessarily neutralize an Iranian bomb because of our nuclear deterrent. Iran would not commit national suicide by actually using it. Here's Matt:

This aside, the idea that any Iranian leader would commit national suicide in order to harm Israel is ridiculous. Lots of “crazy” leaders -- Stalin, Mao, Kim Jong Il -- have had nuclear weapons and they've never done anything like that. What's more, if Iran wanted to start a war with Israel, kill a bunch of Jews, and get wiped out in the process they could do that with conventional weapons. But in more than 20 years in power, the Islamic Republic's never done any such thing. Indeed, just over the weekend Iran announced it would offer up a paltry $50 million in aid to the new Hamas-ified Palestinian Authority compared with many hundreds of millions in funding the PA lost from Europe and the United States. Just as they taught me in Hebrew school, the Islamic world's governments like to talk a big game about Israel, but don't actually give a rat's ass about the issue and never have.

They'll do anything to help the Palestinian cause unless it involves spending money, risking the stability of their own regimes, or deploying their military assets. Now we're supposed to believe that, suddenly, the Mullahs are willing to guarantee their own destruction in order to turn the holy city of Jerusalem into a radioactive wasteland. That's absurd.

That's naive.

Modern warfare is different from warfare just a few years ago. Iran, via Quds Force and Hezbollah, maintains a vast network of shadowy proxies more than willing to commit murder and genocide on Iran's behalf. Iran needn't put an obvious fingerprint on a WMD attack on Israel, or anyone else they choose. All they need is plausible deniability.

Yglesias fails to consider the nature of war by proxy. But the existence of nonstate terror networks, led by religious fanatics with a martyr complex, or at least led by those who can and do successfully recruit same, combined with nuclear proliferation, turn the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction on its head.

We've already seen the idea at work. The Taliban were perfectly willing to commit national suicide, at least as far as their regime was concerned, because of Al Qaeda.

Further, a limited nuclear strike need not level the whole city of Jerusalem. Just a few key blocks of it. If they strike while Knesset is in session, or if they just get lucky with the timing, they can actually go a long way toward decapitating the Israeli government. It's not all about 25 Megaton Warheads, Matt. We have tactical nuclear weapons, too, with much smaller yields, and they can be loaded onto vehicles as small as an artillery shell.

It's time to update your strategic thinking.

Splash, out


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Are we doing right by our women warriors? 
Now THIS is how to do journalism.

(I won't quote it, because the Asinine Press is run by mental midgets who bite the hand that feeds them. Just read the report.)

Takeaways: The VA health care system has not been able to keep up with the influx of women veterans, and has not upgraded its facilities with equipment for female health care needs, such as mammograms, along with those stirrup thingies, I guess. At one third of VA facilities, the quality of care offered women was not up to the standard offered men (though I don't know how they'd figure that. It seems that they would have equal care, except that certain OBGYN and breast care services and the like are not offered. (Although if a lot of clinics have a proctologist on staff but no access to OBGYN care, we'd have an equality of access problem.)

BUT... and here's an example of how the Asinine Press's editors will lie with a headline...

If you read the actual article, it's overall quite positive. The VA has made great strides in upgrading care for women already, and has demonstrated better surgical results and mortality than women who receive care privately or under the Medicare Advantage program. (I have statistical reservations about this...unless they controlled for age, which will skew much younger among female veterans, I'm not sure this is meaningful.)

Overall quality of care is good, according to the Asinine Press, when compared to commonly accepted medical standards. It would seem to me that making further improvements in the quality of care for our sisters would be a fairly simple matter of outreach to qualified staff, creative contracting arrangements with local specialists, and a modest investment in stirrups and whatever else those people use.

Splash, out


(Hat tip: Followed a link suggested by a CBS producer. The report he was pitching was too insipid to waste your time with. But this one was good. Eric, if you're reading this, more as well-researched and reported as this one, please! I'll link to them every time!)

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Cesspool at The Atlantic Monthly 
In a breathtaking display of just how far brain-addled libtards will deceive themselves in order to assume the good faith of the most vile reptiles slithering across the surface of the planet, Yglesias is actually seriously floating the notion that Ahmadinejad can be negotiated with. Why? Because even though the man has repeatedly called for the destruction of the Zionist entity, he is not known, in public, to have called for the wholesale slaughter of the Jewish people.

In doing so, Yglesias amazingly cites the disappearance of Poland in the 18th Century under Catherine the Great of Russia and its partition between Russia, Prussia and Austria as an example in which a country was eliminated from the face of the planet without a slaughter of the inhabitants (the fact that Hitler and Stalin partitioned Poland in 1939-1945 and slaughtered millions of Poles, Jewish and otherwise, between them somehow escapes his analysis).

Yglesias is further hobbled by his naivete in calling for the absence of a coercive element in American diplomacy. In the absence of coercion, there is simply no reason for Ahmadinejad to acquiesce to a single Western objective. Instead, he will continue to develop his nuclear program until such a time as Ahmadinejad can turn the tables of coercion, except now armed with one or more nuclear weapons and a shadowy network of terrorists to deploy them - thus sharply limiting western options for response.

But let us assume that Yglesias, and his Jew-hating mentors Mearsheimer is correct. Let's assume that Ahmadinejad is simply calling for a transfer of state power over Israeli land, and harbors no ill will toward the Jewish people. Well, to whom would one transfer such power? The Palestinian Authority? in other words, Hamas? But Hamas's spokesman, Dr. Ismael Radwan, has publicly called for the slaughter of Jews. No, not their transfer to political minority status in a representative government. Not their enslavement. Their slaughter.

Yglesias uses the term "in good faith" as if he knows what he's talking about. But can any westerner, Israeli or otherwise, acting in good faith with his or her family, entrust the fate of Jewish children to Hamas?

Let's go further: Hamas is not a fringe movement in Palestine. It is mainstream. It is the democratically elected majority government of Palestine. Its genocidal rhetoric and terrorist actions are a direct mandate of the wishes of the Palestinian people. If Hamas authority should weaken, one has to reckon with the possibility that into the power vacuum would swarm a howling, genocidal mob. It happened throughout Eastern Europe throughout the middle ages and into the 20th century. It happened in Nazi-occupied Europe, leveraged by the advances of rail technology and industrialization. It happened in Rwanda in the 1990s and it can certainly happen again in post-2000 Israel and Palestine.

It is not a neccessity. It is not a foregone conclusion. But it is, however, a distinct and substantial probability that represents a gamble the Israelis cannot afford to lose.

By eliminating the coercive element of American diplomacy vis. Iran, Yglesias removes any urgency for an early settlement on the part of Iran, and would only render the neccessity of a direct war between Israel and Iran more likely, not less ... and moves the time frame of the conflict back to a time when Iran will be a much stronger and more potent threat than it is now.

This policy, espoused by Yglesias, would not prevent American involvement in a war. It would escalate it, and the only advantage to America would be that we could perhaps complete the current phase of the Iraq war so that we would not have to fight the Iranians astride our key supply lines into Iraq.

The greatest stupidity in Yglesias's essay, though, comes in these words:

you could draw a distinction between the idea of destroying Israel as a political entity and the idea of destroying its population.

No, you usefully cannot, because both ideas are wholly, completely unacceptable - at least to freedom-loving people. I guess libtards no longer qualify. What Yglesias is doing is laying the intellectual groundwork for selling out a free people into slavery and fear. To free men, and New Hampshire residents, such a tradeoff is unthinkable. To a libtard, it's just one more card on the table. But actually leveraging military power in defense of freedom, of course, is off the table.

Natch, in floating this repulsive construction, he's germinated the seeds of libtardism, allowing the latent anti-semitic, Jew-baiting tendencies therein to become florid. Read the comments.

Splash, out


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Monday, June 16, 2008

Where are the good insurance writers? 
I still haven't found a mass market book on insurance planning that's worth a damn. Even great investment types routinely and totally blow it when discussing insurance. Or, more commonly, they'll devote 15 chapters to the finer points of ekeing out an extra 50 basis points on an investment portfolio and one chapter on insurance planning. Or they'll write as if we live in a tax vacuum, all small closely-held businesses have ready buyers upon the owners' death, nobody pays income taxes on pensions, nobody will pay an estate tax, and all investors who buy term and invest the difference will actually realize the 10% return projected in mutual funds (HA!). Or they'll write as if the taxation of insurance proceeds is subject to legislative risk while capital gains taxation of mutual funds and income taxation of assets drawn from retirement accounts are not.

More on this, to come ...at least while I can still write freely about this stuff.

Splash, out


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Investment and Finance Books 
From time to time, I get a request for my favorite investment and finance books, which I usually answer via email.

I'm always afraid to post this list publicly, because as my own understanding evolves, my list of favorites changes, and some books that were my early favorites would not make the list now.

Nevertheless, here goes. It will be interesting to me to look back at this list some years hence and compare and contrast it.

For mass consumers

The Millionaire Next Door - I give this as a gift to young people just starting out. Essentially, the authors interviewed thousands of wealthy people to find out how they got that way. The results aren't what many would think.

Eric Tyson's Financial Planning for Dummies. Nothing fancy, and I haven't read it in years. But well-presented, basic stuff to get you started.

For investing enthusiasts

The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham. Written in the 1970s. Get the updated version, edited by Jason Zweig, who illustrates Graham's timeless principles with recent examples.

Common Sense on Mutual Funds, by John C. Bogle. The founder of the Vanguard group, and the guy who brought index funds to the world, fills you in on why mutual funds, in the aggregate, must fail to beat their indexes over time by the amount of their costs. The solution: Cut expenses, using index funds! For years I was a dedicated Boglehead. Not so much now... I can see a place for active management and active manager selection, and I've written as much here on this blog from time to time. But I think before playing the active game, I think everyone should first have a firm grasp of the beauty and logic of passive management.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street - by Burton Malkiel. An efficient markets guy, Malkiel continues Bogle's thesis and introduces you to the math and logic behind it.

The Superinvestors of Graham and Doddsville. Not a book, but a speech by Warren Buffett.

The Warren Buffett Way - by Robert C. Hagstrom. There are a lot of books on Buffett, and I've actually read most of them. Short of plowing your way through Security Analysis (see below) and the Chairman's Letters from Berkshire Hathaway themselves, this one is the best I've seen at actually cracking open the fundamentals of the companies that Buffett has chosen in the past (note: in the past), and exploring why Buffett may have selected them. The others are much better at portraying Buffett's character. But for the individual who's asking himself "well, how do I actually apply these ideas?" Hagstrom does a pretty good job, I'd say.

For advanced readers and people with a serious interest in finance and economics (but not serious enough to read the trade journals)

Security Analysis, by Benjamin Graham and Chris Dodd. 1934 edition. It takes discipline to read, but it's pure gold. A great next step after reading The Intelligent Investor. Learn about the investing approach that made Warren Buffett famous and many others wealthy. The Internet bubble, technology, the mortgage crisis, junk bonds...Graham and Dodd forsaw everything in 1934 and described it to a T. Brilliant. Drop the cash and keep it on your book shelf. The Intelligent Investor also belongs in this list. Just because it's relatively accessible doesn't mean it isn't brilliant!

The Intelligent Asset Allocator. William Bernstein. Explores the math behind diversification! Surf the efficient frontier by mixing asset classes with low correlation coefficients. Is there a such thing as a "free lunch" after all?

The New Financial Order, by Robert Shiller. Rather than investing, Shiller places his focus on risk management - and completely turned around my thinking from an investment/mutual funds focused writer to an insurance and risk management focus. Shiller explores ways that the individual and family and small business, with next to no capacity to absorb financial and economic shocks without disaster, can transfer risk to the capital markets, which can absorb those risks.

People I would NOT recommend: Kiyosaki. Dave Ramsey for anything other than people on a debt reduction plan and budgeting advice. Suze Ormond, for serious thinkers, though I have gifted her book to young women just starting out, on the theory that the mediocre book that gets read is better than the perfect book that doesn't.

My favorite columnists:

Jason Zweig, Jean Chatsky, Eric Joffe, and Sandra Block. Mark Hulbert. Alan Ableson. Stanley Bing is very good. Greg Carlson at Morningstar (a good friend, former colleague, and straight up guy - and a devoted mutual fund analyst.) And Nancy Opiela at the Journal of Financial Planning.

Hope this helps get you started!

Splash, out


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The Spirit of the Internet 
By way of defending the Associated Press's dumbass decision to threaten to sue the Drudge Retort over their excerpting of AP material, AP Vice President and Strategy Director spoke to the New York Times:

Mr. Kennedy said that the organization has not withdrawn its request that Drudge Retort remove the seven items. And he said that he still believes that it is more appropriate for blogs to use short summaries of A.P. articles rather than direct quotations, even short ones.

“Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see,” he said. “It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context.”

Short summaries? What planet is this dork living on?

Bloggers have always quoted, not "summarized."


And he wants to expound on the "spirit of the Internet?"

Spare me.

Splash, out


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Scottish Roots In African-American Music? 
This was astonishing.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

So another mewling little runt decided he's too good to serve out his military obligation, which will of course result in another better man (or woman) than he is going in his place.

I would like to draw attention to the lies the left have filled this bitch's head with, though. He's regurgitating everything that you'd hear from the undereducated mocha sniffers at cafes all over the Pacific Northwest and warmed over 60s retreads who understand nothing. It's just lie after lie:

The war, having been authorized by Congress, is illegal and unconstitutional.
The IRR is a backdoor draft...
He's giving voice to the warriors of this country by deserting his comrades.

All that recycled shit that libtards tell each other in their own mutual admiration society but that falls apart upon a moment's consideration.

So when this easily led little turd winds up rotting in prison and loses all kinds of veterans benefits as a result of believing this anti-intellectual crap, the libtards who poisoned his brain should know they bear a lot of responsibility for ruining his life. That goes for his halfwit rocket-scientist father, too.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Splash, out

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More on the latest Supreme Court Stupidity 
In issuing their outrageous Bomediene decision, the Supreme Court not only trashed the legal and proper intent of both elected branches of government, which provided for the status of these prisoners, but also flew directly in the face not only of established practice, but legal precedent established, quite firmly, by the Supreme Court as well.

So much for stare decesis.

Writing in 1950, Justice Jackson rightly perceived the idiocy of granting habeas corpus rights to illegal combatants held abroad in military custody:

A basic consideration in habeas corpus practice is that the prisoner will be produced before the court. This is the crux of the statutory scheme established by the Congress; 9 indeed, it is inherent in the very term "habeas corpus." 10 And though production of the prisoner may be dispensed with where it appears on the face of the application that no cause for granting the writ exists, Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 284 , we have consistently adhered to and recognized the general rule. Ahrens v. Clark, 335 U.S. 188, 190 -191. To grant the [339 U.S. 763, 779] writ to these prisoners might mean that our army must transport them across the seas for hearing. This would require allocation of shipping space, guarding personnel, billeting and rations. It might also require transportation for whatever witnesses the prisoners desired to call as well as transportation for those necessary to defend legality of the sentence. The writ, since it is held to be a matter of right, would be equally available to enemies during active hostilities as in the present twilight between war and peace. Such trials would hamper the war effort and bring aid and comfort to the enemy. They would diminish the prestige of our commanders, not only with enemies but with wavering neutrals. It would be difficult to devise more effective fettering of a field commander than to allow the very enemies he is ordered to reduce to submission to call him to account in his own civil courts and divert his efforts and attention from the military offensive abroad to the legal defensive at home. Nor is it unlikely that the result of such enemy litigiousness would be a conflict between judicial and military opinion highly comforting to enemies of the United States.

Jackson further goes on to note exactly what I noted at first blush - that by granting the right to a writ of habeas corpus to foreign illegal combatants, we grant terrorists greater legal protection under the Constitution than to our own soldiers who are fighting and dying to defend it:

If this Amendment invests enemy aliens in unlawful hostile action against us with immunity from military trial, it puts them in a more protected position than our own soldiers. American citizens conscripted into the military service are thereby stripped of their Fifth Amendment rights and as members of the military establishment are subject to its discipline, including military trials for offenses against aliens or Americans. Cf. Humphrey v. Smith, 336 U.S. 695 ; Wade v. Hunter, 336 U.S. 684 . Can there be any doubt that our foes would also have been excepted, but for the assumption "any person" would never be read to include those in arms against us? It would be a paradox indeed if what the Amendment denied to Americans it guaranteed to enemies. And, of course, it cannot be claimed that such shelter is due them as a matter of comity for any reciprocal rights conferred by enemy governments on American soldiers. 11 [339 U.S. 763, 784]

The decision below would extend coverage of our Constitution to nonresident alien enemies denied to resident alien enemies. The latter are entitled only to judicial hearing to determine what the petition of these prisoners admits: that they are really alien enemies. When that appears, those resident here may be deprived of liberty by Executive action without hearing. Ludecke v. Watkins, 335 U.S. 160 . While this is preventive rather than punitive detention, no reason is apparent why an alien enemy charged with having committed a crime should have greater immunities from Executive action than one who it is only feared might at some future time commit a hostile act.

The US Supreme Court's decision was an outrage against our elected representatives, against our Executive in his role as Commander in Chief, against the wisdom of prior Supreme Courts, and against our own fighting men and women.

Splash, out


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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The New York Times... 
...Actively rooting AGAINST U.S. interests in Iraq.

These scumbags would just cream themselves if there were no deal by the end of the UN mandate, wouldn't they?

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One Perfect Op 
Damn. My hat's off to them for this one.

U.S. and NATO troops aided Afghan forces with reconnaissance in a hunt Saturday for 870 inmates who escaped prison after a sophisticated Taliban assault that even NATO conceded was a success for the militants....

...Afghanistan's deputy interior minister, Munid Mangal, said about 1,000 prisoners were housed in Kandahar's Sarposa Prison when dozens of militants on motorbikes attacked the facility late Friday. Seven police and several prisoners died in the assault, he said.

One suicide bomber detonated a tanker truck full of explosives at the prison gate while a second bomber blasted another escape route through a back wall. Rockets fired from inside the prison's courtyard collapsed an upper floor.

The police chief of Kandahar province, Sayed Agha Saqib, said 390 Taliban prisoners were among the 870 inmates who escaped. NATO's International Security Assistance Force first said Saturday that 1,100 prisoners had escaped but later revised the figure to around 900.

And our own PR team looks pretty stupid with this one:

The NATO force's chief spokesman, Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco, conceded that the militants pulled off a "very successful operation."

"We admit it," Branco said. "Their guys did the job properly in that sense, but it does not have a strategic impact. We should not draw any conclusion about the deterioration of the military operations in the area. We should not draw any conclusion about the strength of the Taliban."

You sure as shit CAN draw some conclusions from that op!

1.) The Taliban is strong enough to storm a prison in Kandahar, and breach its gates.
2.) The government was not strong enough to defend it effectively.
3.) Taliban strength in the Kandahar area just grew by at least 390 men.

If that's not a "deterioration," what is?

Splash, out


Friday, June 13, 2008

In Memoriam: Tim Russert 
I am shocked and saddened to learn of the death of NBC's Tim Russert from a sudden heart attack.

He was a real pro, and a class act. I will miss him very much.

Rest in peace, and thank you for your years of journalism.

UPDATE: There's a Jossip story about Russert that goes like this: Russert and David Gregory were out dining in a Washington DC eatery one day when the waitress got their order wrong. Gregory proceeded to heap abuse upon her. Russert, according to Jossip's witness, clenched his teeth and warned Gregory "never behave like that in front of me again."

UPDATE II: Remember the question about illegal immigrants and drivers licenses? Turns out the Hildebeests are still pissed at him.

UPDATE III: Andrea Mitchell's moving on-air tribute.

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So Illegal Combatants Have Habeas Corpus Rights? 
In a breathtakingly stupid piece of legal reasoning only a libtard could possibly justify, the Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 that illegal combatants captured on the battlefield have the legal right to appeal their imprisonment to a civilian court.

Let's put this in perspective: Our own soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, overseas putting their very lives on the line to protect our constitutional freedoms, do not have that right, when confined under an article 15 or court martial, for reasons that I would have heretofore thought obvious: The civilian courts have no competence to weigh mission accomplishment needs against the need to maintain order and discipline in the ranks, they have no competence to establish practical and useable rules of evidence collection and gathering on the battlefield, they have no competence to sit in judgement of warriors who are accused of crimes in the heat of a firefight, and they have no administrative capacity to extend judicial oversight over thousands of miles for thousands of cases.

Yet liberals have granted the precious right of habeas corpus to terrorists.

Never, to my knowledge, in the history of warfare, has any nation ever granted the right of judicial review to prisoners of war. Indeed, it is an extremely dangerous precedent to do so, because aside from illegal combatants, international law and custom does not assume that prisoners of war have committed a crime. The criminal model is wholly inappropriate for use in the context of the routine detention of prisoners of war - a concept which the mental midgets on the left, for some reason, seem to have a hard time processing.

But let us put it another way: Would the United States accept the legitimacy of any foreign criminal court passing judgement on the professional conduct of our own military members? Would we find it an acceptable judicial process if our soldiers and marines were, say, captured by Iraqi soldiers during the normal course of their duties, stood up on charges in an Iraqi court, convicted of trespassing, and then subject to whatever draconian punishment an Islamic nation's criminal system may prescribe?

Would we accept the legitimacy of a Saudi court trying one of our female service members for the proper wear of her duty uniform - which does not contain a veil - and sentencing her to prison or flogging?


Neither of them have committed crimes, and should not be subject to the treatment normally given to criminals. If they are captured in the course of armed hostilities, their status is wholly separate from criminals, and their status as uniformed service members is sufficient to detain them for the duration of the conflict.

This is proper and necessary. If their status as hostiles weren't sufficient to detain them, they would simply be killed.

And therein lies the rub. Because any nation immediately recognizes the right to detain uniformed, legal combatants for the duration of an armed conflict without the neccessity of judicial review, our bleeding-heart, half-wit libtards on the bench have granted illegal combatants greater rights in detention than would be afforded a legal combatant.

When fighting Americans, then, there is simply precious little reason any more to abide by the laws of war. Indeed, assuming that US fighting men still give quarter to those attempting to surrender (as we are ourselves required to do under the law of land warfare), and barring the practice of summary execution, the enemy has zero incentive to comport themselves in accordance with the Geneva and Hague conventions on the law of war.

By remaining illegal, they can gain all the advantages of being a terrorist, with none of the legal downside.

Absent a legislative remedy (and given how stupid the court's libtards are now, even such a legislative remedy may be struck down as unconstitutional), a likely outcome of their abortion of a ruling is that prisoners will not be detained by Americans, but that custody will be transferred to host nations forthwith - and our bleeding-heart justices may console themselves with the knowledge that their precious charges are being left to the tender mercies of Iraq's Shia-led Interior department and Afghanistan's security forces.

So tell me how that is in the human rights interest of our detainees?

This ruling is an assault on reason, it is an assault on the constitutional power of the President to execute his duties as commander in chief, it is an assault on the law of land warfare, and by putting these animals on a higher legal plane than even our own military are entitled to in the event of court martial, it is a slap in the face to our soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen.

Splash, out


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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This is your Army on drugs 
Remember back in January of 2007 - a year and a half ago - when I wrote that I always thought someone should do a story on the use of Prozac and other anti-anxiety meds in the ranks?

Well, someone finally did. This week's cover story at Time Magazine.

While the headline-grabbing weapons in this war have been high-tech wonders, like unmanned drones that drop Hellfire missiles on the enemy below, troops like LeJeune are going into battle with a different kind of weapon, one so stealthy that few Americans even know of its deployment. For the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The medicines are intended not only to help troops keep their cool but also to enable the already strapped Army to preserve its most precious resource: soldiers on the front lines. Data contained in the Army's fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicate that, according to an anonymous survey of U.S. troops taken last fall, about 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. Escalating violence in Afghanistan and the more isolated mission have driven troops to rely more on medication there than in Iraq, military officials say.

It's an important and interesting story, I think. Few civilians will ever have an appreciation of what it feels like to pull the lever on the slot machine every time you roll out of the gate - while rolling out of the gate several times per day in many cases.

While many people from all walks of life have experienced close calls - with criminals, accidents, dangerous jobs, etc., few can appreciate how that anxiety is cumulative over a tour. How it builds and builds, without anything like a weekend, without a 'mental health day,' without vacation, etc., in a combat zone. Combine the relentless effect of the daily stressors of the battlefield with the reality of close friends - closer than brothers - having been severely wounded or killed before your very eyes, and - and you can't underestimate this - the helplessness in the face of family problems at home, and the stress is an order of magnitude greater and longer lasting and more relentless than those faced by all but a few civilians.

I think anyone who's been deployed to a combat zone will back me up on this - particularly those who've had to suit up and roll out the gate on a daily or near daily basis for weeks or months at a time.

I knew there was some anti-anxiety meds being prescribed...and having had the benefit of a few years working as a behavioral health technician (read, a glorified psych-ward orderly), I had zero problem with it. If it helps a few guys cope without blowing up, and doesn't degrade their mission effectiveness, well, let me help you open that cap, soldier! (Oh, shit! It's lieutenant-proof!)

That said, Time's condescending and ignorant cover copy pissed me off.

"Is this any way to fight a war?"

Just what the f--- do you know, Time? Does the side that takes the least Prozac win, or something? Is someone keeping score?

Get your heads out of your asses.

Time's cover stupidity, though, shouldn't detract from the story itself - which is pretty good, and even-handed and balanced.

The reporter briefly surveys the medical literature, which establishes the effectiveness of Prozac and other anti-anxiety and anti-depressants in the civilian context - and like any reporter should, gives voice to those airing concerns:

Which means that any drug that keeps a soldier deployed and fighting also saves money on training and deploying replacements. But there is a downside: the number of soldiers requiring long-term mental-health services soars with repeated deployments and lengthy combat tours. If troops do not get sufficient time away from combat — both while in theater and during the "dwell time" at home before they go back to war — it's possible that antidepressants and sleeping aids will be used to stretch an already taut force even tighter. "This is what happens when you try to fight a long war with an army that wasn't designed for a long war," says Lawrence Korb, Pentagon personnel chief during the Reagan Administration.
Military families wonder about the change, according to Joyce Raezer of the private National Military Family Association. "Boy, it's really nice to have these drugs," she recalls a military doctor saying, "so we can keep people deployed." And professionals have their doubts. "Are we trying to bandage up what is essentially an insufficient fighting force?" asks Dr. Frank Ochberg, a veteran psychiatrist and founding board member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

Well, it IS nice that we have these drugs, both in military and civilian contexts. But let me offer a reality check: These drugs were available and prescribed by military doctors in Iraq during OIF I and OIF II as well - when the relentless rotations were not a factor, and before many (stupid) people even realized a lengthy, sustained effort of 130,000+ troops would be necessary over a period of over five years and counting.

They aren't being prescribed to stretch an army beyond its capacity. They are being prescribed, one soldier at a time, to help that soldier make it through the mission, day, month, week, year.

Or, as one of the critics of the use of these drugs, Harvard psychiatry professor Dr. Joseph Glenmullin, puts it: says Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, who teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "And there's no question they're using them to prop people up in difficult circumstances."\

Gee, Doc! It took a Harvard prof to figure that out? Give that man a f-cking medal! You're a g-d d-mned genius, Gump!

Unfortunately, I won't be able to sort through the garbage statistics at this sitting. Maybe someone else will be able to. But let's take a look at the fact that some 40% of military suicides of late have involved soldiers taking pyschiatric drugs. This is a classic case of confusing correlation with causality, with disastrous results as far as the article's conclusions are concerned. Consider this: The more efficient the Army is at identifying soldiers with serious deppressive or anxiety disorders that could potentially lead to suicide, and getting help to these soldiers, the higher that correlation is going to be. And the leadership of the military, both the medical docs and the green tabbers, ought to be striving to get that number to close to 100%. After if 100% of soldiers who commit suicide are on prescription psychiatric drugs, or under the care of a psychiatrist, that means that the Army is getting some form of help to all of them. So a high percentage here is GOOD, not bad, if you accept that the military doctors are going to be prescribing the latest and best treatments available. (Hint: These would include the newer SSRIs.)

Garbage statistic point number 2:

If the surveys are right, many U.S. soldiers experience a common but haunting mismatch in combat life: while nearly two-thirds of the soldiers surveyed in Iraq in 2006 knew someone who had been killed or wounded, fewer than 15% knew for certain that they had actually killed a member of the enemy in return.

Well, again, no shit, sherlock! That's because every fobbit KNOWS a fighter - and fobbits are occasionally the unlucky victims of mortar shells and RPG attacks - only a small fraction of those deployed at any one time are professional trigger-pullers in trigger-pulling slots (that is, other than drivers, RTOs, pistol-wielding company commanders, and the like.)

But consider this: if 15% of every soldier deployed had scored a personal kill on a known insurgent, then with 120,000 soldiers deployed over five years, we've killed 90,000 confirmed moojies with small-arms fire alone.

Sorry. If you believe that I've got some beach front property in Najaf to sell you.

The article concludes on a favorable note, listing a number of success stories and positive initial data. But then here are some more dumbass statistics:

About a third of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq say they can't see a mental-health professional when they need to. When the number of troops in Iraq surged by 30,000 last year, the number of Army mental-health workers remained the same — about 200 — making counseling and care even tougher to get.

Well, yeah. That's because it's not an Army of fobbits, hunkering inside the wire on large bases. The more we adopt effective counterinsurgent tactics, the more we will be pushing small units - battalions, companies, platoons, squads - into combat outposts, separate from the larger units. If we're doing our jobs right, that number will go UP, not down. It's a wholly inappropriate statistic for use in a combat zone. In the short run, combat stress for soldiers in these isolated units will go UP, not down - and the need for effective anti-anxiety meds increases. Readers should bear in mind that there are no Battalion surgeons at many of these posts. It's the green tabbers, and it's the guys platoon leader, platoon sergeant, First Sergeant and CO monitoring the soldier and his or her work load and stress levels. Many of them are superb counselors in any setting. But there are few alternative courses of treatment. Green tab leaders are not qualified to put soldiers through an extensive and time-consuming cognitive therapy process. There's a war on. That leaves meds, or medical evacuation.

In a world in which you need every man, and when someone gets medically evaced for combat stress, anxiety or depression, someone else needs to cover that shift, and take on ALL that stress. And some people have a problem with deploying SSRIs?


Here's another one:

And just as more troops are taking these drugs, there are new doubts about the drugs' effectiveness. A pair of recent reports from Rand and the federal Institute of Medicine (iom) raise doubts about just how much the new medicines can do to alleviate PTSD. The Rand study, released in April, says the "overall effects for SSRIs, even in the largest clinical trials, are modest." Last October the iom concluded, "The evidence is inadequate to determine the efficacy of SSRIs in the treatment of PTSD."

Well, they're referring to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But that's not the immediate concern on the battlefield, most of the time. When you've got a mission coming up in an hour, and two more that day beyond that, and three more tomorrow, and 21 this week, we're not talking about post-traumatic stress. It's PRE-traumatic stress. And that's a totally different treatment milieu than most Stateside clinicians can comprehend. And if anti-anxiety meds works, and help soldiers make it through the day, without negative side effects, I'm all for it.

Splash, out


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Are you a vet in some mortgage trouble? 
If so, your friendly neighborhood VA counselor would like to talk to you.

With thousands of service members and veterans having lost homes or facing foreclosure as the mortgage crisis continues, lawmakers are pushing legislation to raise VA loan ceilings, lower VA funding fees and expand the VA's ability to help veterans to refinance loans they can't afford.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, meanwhil
e, is encouraging military members, veterans and surviving widows with at-risk loans to seek advice from VA loan counselors even if their loans are not VA-guaranteed.

VA loan experts lack authority to restructure or renegotiate loans not backed by VA. But they can advise veterans on their options and on how they might negotiate with mortgage holders to avoid default.

VA's effort to reach mortgage holders in distress now includes a toll free number (1-877-827-3702) that automatically directs callers the nearest of nine VA regional loan centers. VA loan counselors have helped 74,000 homeowners since 2000, including half of all VA loans in serious default last year, thus saving the government nearly $1.5 billion, officials contend.

The VA Loan Guaranty program avoided the subprime loan debacle. While delinquency rates have climbed over the past five years for subprime, FHA and prime mortgages, delinquencies have fallen for VA-backed loans.

Unfortunately, VA won't refinance anything greater than their now archaic refi limit of $144,000, with a 10% equity requirement. Also, acording to the article, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) has a bill that would raise the VA loan cap to $730,000 as does Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA). That would bring it into line with other federal loan prgrams. VA itself opposes the measure. (It does seem pretty high to me, and I live in an expensive market.)

Splash, out


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Whither banking regulation? 
McArdle nails it:

The housing bubble created a powerful illusion: that low income lenders with bad credit were actually quite profitable to lend to. That's because the rising housing prices allowed borrowers in trouble to refinance rather than default. There's no reason to think that the originators were any less deluded about the credit risks than the investors. The no-doc, option and negative amortization ARMS were not a secret; everyone knew what was going on. People bought mortgage bonds anyway in what now looks like a stunning piece of idiocy.

When I try to get people to specify, beyond those four rather anodyne suggestions, we should do, there's a lot of hemming and hawing. Even the left-wing think tankers sort of look at their shoes and whisper "We need a better regulator". At which point even the left-wing journalists in the audience start asking "Where are we going to find regulators who understand this better than the guys at Goldman Sachs--and are willing to work for, say, a GS-13 salary?" The only people who confidently state that they have a surefire master plan to fix the problem are, not to put too fine a point on it, morons with very limited understanding of financial markets. These people generally start by talking about how the Bear Stearns crisis can really be traced back to the repeal of Glass-Steagall, then almost immediately reveal that they know nothing of Glass-Steagall other than its name.

Preach it, sister!

The problem isn't the lack of regulation. Federal Reserve member banks and commercial banks are already heavily regulated. And the people who do the dirty work of regulation are NOT going to be smarter than, or have a superior understanding of markets, than the people who actually run places like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and Wachovia and Wells Fargo and Countrywide, to name a few KINDS of financial institutions caught up in the craze to varying degrees.

The argument for regulation is never that the government is smarter. The more I look at regulation and compliance issues, first as a compliance copywriter for a variety of financial institutions and now as a budding insurance agent, the more I marvel at how stupid regulators are, and how companies bend themselves into absurd contortions in in order to anticipate the idiocy of the dumbest regulators.

Instead, the argument for regulation is that the government provides a hedge against the profit motives of these institutions and their brokers.

But government can ONLY provide such a hedge if the political will exists to do it. Perhaps we could have contained the damage the housing bubble wreaked, for example, on minority communities (obviously favorite markets of subprime mortgage brokers), by repealing red-lining laws and allowing banks more freedom NOT TO LEND.

Yeah. THAT'S going to fly in Congress.

If the Bush Administration had actually pushed to implement regulatory measures that MIGHT have contained the damage, the Demtards in Congress would be SCREAMING.

Or perhaps we could have contained the damage to the nation's dumbest homeowners by prohibiting interest-only mortgages, or balloon loans, or 1% mortgages... thus depriving the lower-middle class family their God-Given Right To Infinitely Expanding House Prices.

But the problem is that each of these products makes a lot of sense for certain buyers. They are not bad products at all. An interest-only loan might be entirely appropriate for someone with a lot of other assets that he expects to earn a superior return on his investment compared to house price appreciation. Zero down might make a lot of sense for someone with the assets to move in a pinch, but who does not wish to incur a capital gains hit on appreciated assets he'd have to sell to reach the down payment.

Someone in a profession that is frequently targeted in lawsuits - say, obstetricians - may have a need for such products from an asset protection point of view and may wish to encumber his house as much as possible to ward off litigants.

The danger now is that politicians will push the Fed and Treasury Departments into ill-advised 'feel-good' regulatory stupidity, out of desperation to be seen doing something. Look to economic and financial chuckleheads like Barney Frank, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to lead the charge. But in so doing, stupid regulation will have the opposite effect intended, further restricting liquidity just as we need it most.

Splash, out


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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Anti-Semitism on Barack Obama's Official Web site 
And not the kind that only hypersensitive people detect, but vile, rank Jew-baiting of the worst kind.

And...following a link to which the Obama site linked:

Kiss Florida goodbye, Senator.

The Obama minions have since airbrushed the link. And rather than put a post up condemning the original language, they just vanished it, like the little cryptofascists they are. But you can see the cached version of one of the blog posts here:

Illinois libtards. I hate Illinois libtards.

Splash, out


UPDATE: Edited for clarity

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Obama Flip-Flops on Iran 
That didn't take long. Hillary's corpse isn't even cold yet and Obama's already reversed himself rushing pell-mell towards the center.

Does an empty suit make a noise when it turns itself inside out?

Splash, out

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Students barred from graduation for bringing Confederate flag to school. 
Well, technically, it looks like the Confederate naval ensign. But you get the idea.

They say they're just "good ol' boys" who, like the song goes, were "never meaning no harm." But three Bloomington Kennedy seniors were not allowed to attend their commencement Wednesday night after bringing a Confederate flag to school on Tuesday.

"We're all big fans of the Dukes of Hazard," said Dan Fredin, who was suspended, along with Joe Snyder and Justin Thompson. "It's just us showing we have our own style and we aren't going to conform to whatever anyone else thinks."

School officials say at least one of the students waved and carried the flag in the parking lot.

The boys argue they never took the flags off their trucks, but they admit they brought them to the school.

Officials asked the students to remove the flags. Eventually, all three students were suspended for three days -- which, in this case, included graduation.

Officials say a Student Code of Conduct prohibits behavior that may provoke or offend other students.

The ACLU ain't touching it, the pussies, arguing that ""If the authorities can make the claim that the presence of the flag can reasonably disrupt the educational process than they can censor it."

It seems to me that Tinker vs. Des Moines pretty much settled this issue.

Ironically, it was the ACLU that filed the case on behalf of three public school students - arguing precisely the opposite - and winning.

From Justice Abe Fortas, delivering the majority opinion of the Supreme Court:

The problem posed by the present case does not relate to regulation of the length of skirts or the type of clothing, [393 U.S. 503, 508] to hair style, or deportment. Cf. Ferrell v. Dallas Independent School District, 392 F.2d 697 (1968); Pugsley v. Sellmeyer, 158 Ark. 247, 250 S. W. 538 (1923). It does not concern aggressive, disruptive action or even group demonstrations. Our problem involves direct, primary First Amendment rights akin to "pure speech."
The school officials banned and sought to punish petitioners for a silent, passive expression of opinion, unaccompanied by any disorder or disturbance on the part of petitioners. There is here no evidence whatever of petitioners' interference, actual or nascent, with the schools' work or of collision with the rights of other students to be secure and to be let alone. Accordingly, this case does not concern speech or action that intrudes upon the work of the schools or the rights of other students.

Only a few of the 18,000 students in the school system wore the black armbands. Only five students were suspended for wearing them. There is no indication that the work of the schools or any class was disrupted. Outside the classrooms, a few students made hostile remarks to the children wearing armbands, but there were no threats or acts of violence on school premises.

The District Court concluded that the action of the school authorities was reasonable because it was based upon their fear of a disturbance from the wearing of the armbands. But, in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression. Any departure from absolute regimentation may cause trouble. Any variation from the majority's opinion may inspire fear. Any word spoken, in class, in the lunchroom, or on the campus, that deviates from the views of another person may start an argument or cause a disturbance. But our Constitution says we must take this risk, Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949); and our history says that it is this sort of hazardous freedom - this kind of openness - that is [393 U.S. 503, 509] the basis of our national strength and of the independence and vigor of Americans who grow up and live in this relatively permissive, often disputatious, society.

Is there any evidence that the mere presence of confederate symbology on or near school grounds actually caused a disturbance? There is none presented in the article.

Even if there were a disturbance, do we want to cede the right to civilized, symbolic discourse for the sake of catering to the most hysterical and uncivilized wing of the population? After all, the school board acknowledges that such a howling, hysterical mob exists. Their existence and potential for violence and disruptivity is central to their argument. Without the a priori belief in the existence of this mob, neither the position of the school nor that of the ACLU makes a lick of sense.

Therefore, the Edutards and the ACLU have, de facto, taken the position that the imbiciles that make up this throng of pitchfork-wielders deserve to walk the line at graduation, but not these two young men.

I congratulate these two young men on finishing high school. They won't have to answer to those half-educated ninnies any more, and they're better off.

The ACLU. They'll defend hippies and nazis. But good ol' boys with plans to enter our nation's military need not apply for contstitutional protection.

Splash, out


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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

So I quit my job last week. 
Ha ha ha ha ha. HA HA HA HA HA HA.

No, seriously... it's time for a change. I was doing marketing writing, business development, media planning, and wearing a bunch of hats in a small agency.

I find myself hurtling headlong however toward the financial services industry once again. (Longtime readers will recall that Edward Jones, a national brokerage firm and I were playing serious footsie a while ago).

Well, after a brief 2 year detour back in the marketing/PR industry I'm very pleased to be the newest as-yet-unlicensed garden variety door-knocker for New York Life.


Well, let's boil that question down some:

Why financial services?

Well, thinking ahead a few years, I expect to become, by default, the primary support for my mother, who has already had a broken hip, and has no savings of her own. Looking ahead a decade or two (and hopefully longer than that!) her retirement and elderly care is very much on my mind. Meanwhile, I need to be able to get ahead. But in South Florida, it is very difficult to do on one income. Single family home prices are still out of reach of anything I'll be able to do working for someone else as a writer/PR account manager/media buyer or anything else I'm likely to do. I enjoy writing and I'm good at it, but in the long run, that is not going to accomplish my goals. I also realized last spring I wasn't going to be able to grow that particular business.

Furthermore, although I max out a Roth IRA each year and contribute 15% to a SIMPLE or 401(k) depending on where I am, it's not going to be enough to fund a retirement. Remember...interest rates are low, and outside of certain sectors, stocks are not a screaming bargain, either. Dividends are still a fraction of their historical averages. Long term trends are inflationary, I believe. And while there are still mutual fund hawkers out there telling people to expect 10% on their equities (I even heard a Primarica representative project 12% last month, I think they are on crack. I need to up my game, and so do a lot of other people.

Boiled down: People who WRITE about financial services make $X. People who actually DO it, successfully, over a career, make $Y.

Why insurance?

Because I can make a decent living and build a good practice as an insurance agent with regular working stiffs, and work my natural market of musicians (who need health and disability insurance, anyway.... Tendonitis and arthritis can be career enders!). On the investment side, the broker winds up making just a few cents for each dollar he brings in house (or even less), which forces them all to target the same richest 5% of the population.

Further, residual income is significant - and insurance compensation rewards long-term relationships. Further, because life insurance becomes more expensive with age, as time goes by, there is a substantial competitive moat built around your clients, as your insurance becomes impossible to replace for the same premium or less.

Moreover, I don't want to have to apologize to clients and friends for losing their money - which happens to every advisor, sooner or later. You wind up having to pull them out of investments at precisely the wrong time, or you lose them to some other idiot advisor who will put them in the HOT STOCK of the day or some other stupidity.

I can also work where my family is...in Hawai'i, California and/or Oregon, plus my own home here in Florida. I'd have the freedom to spend more time with my family. I HATE having to count vacation days. But I can build a business anywhere I'm licensed.

Lastly, because I honestly believe that most families are terribly underinsured, for a variety of risks, including disability and life. I am a huge fan of transferring risks which would be devastating to a family to the financial markets which can price them efficiently and take them as a matter of course. Reading Robert Shiller's The New Financial Order a few years ago convinced me of that.

So why New York Life?

A combination of things... I knew I wanted to represent a mutually-owned company, rather than a stock company, and I wanted nothing less than a AAA rating. That narrows the field substantially to just a few carriers.

I also wanted a company that I could grow with, with access to a lot of expert help. I didn't want to become an independent, because I don't want to reinvent the business wheel (even though short term commission payouts can be better). I also wanted a company that invests in a first-class training program. There's no end to the stuff you need to know, once you start wading into business succession and estate planning issues.

And finally, I wanted a strong office local to me where I could find some very solid people to learn the trade from. Put them all together, and it turns out New York Life and I were looking for each other.

Next stop: Seeing my family for a bit, and getting my license!

Splash, out


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Hitchens compares the Feith and McClellan books 
...and of course, has a few things to say about the pathetic coverage afforded to the former by our high-status libtard media centers, compared to McClellan's book.

If you want to read a serious book about the origins and consequences of the intervention in Iraq in 2003, you owe it to yourself to get hold of a copy of Douglas Feith's War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. As undersecretary of defense for policy, Feith was one of those most intimately involved in the argument about whether to and, if so, how to put an end to the regime of Saddam Hussein. His book contains notes made in real time at the National Security Council, a trove of declassified documentation, and a thoroughly well-organized catalog of sources and papers and memos. Feith has also done us the service of establishing a Web site where you can go and follow up all his sources and check them for yourself against his analysis and explanation. There is more of value in any chapter of this archive than in any of the ramblings of McClellan. As I write this on the first day of June, about a book that was published in the first week of April, the books pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe have not seen fit to give Feith a review. An article on his book, written by the excellent James Risen for the news pages of the New York Times, has not run. This all might seem less questionable if it were not for the still-ballooning acreage awarded to Scott McClellan.

That oxygen thief, McClellan, is a walking argument against political appointments and patronage.

Rather than being a thoughtful and articulate spokesperson for the Administration, McClellan was content to be a punching bag for the White House press corps. Even worse, he probably thought it was his JOB to be a punching bag, the poor pathetic twit.

I look forward to reading Feith's book. As for McClellan, I can't imagine any writer more likely to be a waste of time.

Splash, out


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