Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Moveon[.org] all the way to Britain

Recognize this from TV?

"A hundred and fifty thousand American men and women are stuck in Iraq,"

goes the voice-over in the Moveon ad, which features empty chairs at the Thanksgiving table and crying widows.

There's a tiny problem with this picture, though, and we're grateful to James Taranto at for alerting us to it. He heard from an Army captain, home from his third deployment to Iraq, and violently digusted by this ad, especially because:
"As they pretend to argue on my behalf, they show a group of soldiers standing around a table in the Middle East... These are not your normal everyday U.S. soldiers though. If you look at the frame they are actually British soldiers. One is in shorts (we don't have shorts as a normal combat uniform) and the others are all clearly wearing British pattern fatigues. So, my point is that these [turkeys] pretend to argue on my behalf and bash the president in the name of my crying wife, and they don't even know what an American soldier looks like! Anyway, it really [ticked] me off."

["Turkeys" and "ticked" are, of course, euphemisms for the language the captain actually used. The rest of the letter was equally salty.]
We're glad that the left-wing extremists claim to support our troops. We just hope they can tell them from the UPS guy and the Maytag repair man. Not holding my breath.
John F. Kerry-- a politician with the courage of his estimates

This just in: Only moments ago Senator John F. Kerry (the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Senator who, by the way, can kiss my purple heart), responded to President Bush's latest speech on Iraq (by all reports, an astoundingly lacklustre affair, especially considering it was given to a military audience, but these days the President excels at nothing so much as being lacklustre).

He claimed that the President created a straw man in denouncing Democratic calls for a scheduled withdrawal from Iraq. "On the Democratic side, we called for an estimated timetable for success."

Senator Kerry retains his status as one of the great political comedians of the modern age.

Monday, November 28, 2005

R.I.P. -- John Muggeridge, T.N.M. (Truly Nice Man) 1933-2005

John Muggeridge knew the burden of having a famous father. I never talked to him specifically about that, but it's such a universal experience among children of famous parents, with a zillion different faces to it, that I think it's a fair assumption about the late Honourable Mr. M.

"Burden" is probably too mild a word-- "curse," perhaps, for those of weaker character and less conviction than this nice man. Having a famous father means, among other things, that no matter how long you live, it is unlikely that the name you share with him will ever be treated as if it is your own. In John's case, it was a really, really famous name of a father who (unlike many in this category) genuinely merited being famous because he had accomplished things of great worth.

For some portion of the time he was famous, this father (Malcolm) was also infamous, for a host of quite dubious achievements, which undoubtedly made being his son just that little bit harder-- though my one conversation with John about his childhood revealed that, as for most young children, parental infamy is much less a problem than parental instability ("stability" applied most pointedly in the monastic sense, as in "attached to one place," which the Muggeridge family was decidedly NOT.) Perhaps, insofar as John put down roots in one place and made it his real life's work to become patriarch-in-residence to an extensive clan, he could be classed a "rebel."

It is no small irony that Malcolm, who spent a considerable number of years having a hellish effect on his family, came to be the one affectionately dubbed "St. Mugg" by those who knew him (and therefore knew this was a stretch)-- putting yet another wrinkle in the famous-father-fardel for a son who, I suspect, would have both deserved the title more and enjoyed it less. In recent times John has been more quietly dubbed "Lord Muggs," with the accompanying "Honourables" etc. that the title implies. (When we reach the point that a word like "honourable" has been too beggared of meaning to communicate anything to a world of the lip-pierced and ear-drum challenged, a photo of our gentleman will suffice to define it-- "click on the icon...")

If you want to know about the famous Malcolm Muggeridge, Google him and go crazy. I know who he was, I've seen him on television, I've read him (not extensively); I never met him, though I think we were in Ontario at the same time-- the closest I came to brushing his greatness was that the obstetrician who delivered my three kids is a formidable Jewish spinster who became his very good friend out of a shared love for small people temporarily confined to wombs.

In that, John and his father were of one mind. John was a tireless champion of life, not least by living it with such grace, but also by wielding a hefty pen in the crusade against its cheapening.

In one respect (at the very least) John outpaced his famous father in perceptiveness, and that was that he preceded him into the waiting arms of the Catholic Church. I know none of the details, but I suspect in John's case this had something to do with presenting himself into the waiting arms of his wife, Anne (Cassandra?) Roche, a formidable writer, prophetess, mom, and Newfie in her own right. After the publication of her book The Desolate City: The Catholic Church in Ruins (1986) there was a nomenclature shift, which I suspect tickled all concerned: John became "Anne Roche Muggeridge's husband", and Anne became "Malcolm Muggeridge's daughter-in-law."

I have never met Anne, and even if I were to be introduced now I could not really meet her, since she has been imprisoned by something in the Alzheimer family for several years. John's good friend Danielle Crittenden sees in the loss of the husband the final goodbye to the wife, whom he kept alive through memory and anecdote. It would be one of God's great mercies if Anne were to be less than fully aware that her most faithful daily visitor comes no more.

It was through the community, or perhaps more accurately, the "web" of our Catholic parish that I met John Muggeridge. We both have had the privilege of holding several regular spots within the purview of the two parishes run by the Toronto house of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. I had previously met one of John's sons, Chas, through pro-life activities, and met another, Matt, when he took a job with a good friend of ours, who lives and works out of the rented rectory next to our church, St. Vincent de Paul (the priests all living next to their other one, Holy Family). Matt's then-new wife joined our choir, a fecund little schola where all sopranos younger than me soon become pregnant. As John was gradually leaving this world, Matt and Eve were welcoming their third daughter into it. (It's a tight and comprehensive little web, the wonder of entomologists and the envy of spiders everywhere...)

John and I were among the "usual suspects" who attended the same lectures, courses, and liturgical celebrations for which the Oratorians are justly famous. But more recently our link was the weekly celebration of the Tridentine Mass. When the Oratorians were granted permission for one Old Mass per Sunday (my hands do a little spasm in typing those absurd words-- permission! It came to this!) John was among the small crowd who sought out there a relief from those qualities of post-1970's ritual which have never, in all these decades, ceased to grate in some way, even at their best as carried out by people with good liturgical sense (like the Oratorians). Early on I gave it a couple of tries, to see if it was the Mass of my long-ago memory. But it wasn't. For one thing, there was no music, and it was "lower" than the lowest Low Mass of my childhood. (As in: almost totally silent.) I couldn't really see the point, except it did remind me of what it was like to be left in peace to pray.

But about a year ago, when the Oratorians decided it was time to up the ante on the attractions of the Tridentine and make it a sung Mass, I leapt at the chance not just to enjoy from the pew this return to past glories, but to do something I had never done back in the Good Old Days: to sing the whole thing myself. So I joined the little schola, and learned how to chant.

[Just for the record!-- do not let me give the impression that we weren't singing along with an awful lot of it when I was a kid. People say about the pre-Conciliar Church that everyone was a spectator in a clericalist world. That's a HUGE LIE, not to put too fine a point on it.]

John Muggeridge was among those happy few whose thirst for the dignity and peace of the Tridentine Mass was satisfied a thousand-fold by the introduction of the sacred music. (And the happy few took little time to double in number once the sung Mass was instituted.)

I can't say I knew John well, or shared too many lengthy conversations with him. But it was always a pleasure to see his perpetually smiling face at these events which formed the cultural core of most everyone in attendance. To the degree that I have assisted in buffing and refitting and showing off for glory the treasured relic of the chanted Mass, so that it gave spiritual pleasure and comfort, and deepened that smile, seen radiating over the coffee and cookies in St. Vincent's hall, then I guess I was a friend-- and his regular spot in the pews (on the left, sort of front-ish but never the first row-- he was a good Catholic after all!) will seem unaccountably empty. Requiescat in pace.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


The New York Times calls itself "The Newspaper of Record" but the folks in the editorial aerie may live to regret that anyone is keeping a record of anything they say.

They've been caught in full pants-down mode by American Future which presents an instructive little log of the ever-shifting editorial opinions about the Iraq Question from 1993 to 2005. Let's see now-- 1993 was when George W. Bush was starting the first of his four terms as President-- no, WAIT! SOMEONE ELSE WAS PRESIDENT when this whole mess started! That explains why the Times now takes a position 180 degrees from where they used to stand! Back in the good old days, according to the Times, Iraq had WMD, Clinton was weak-kneed in not going after Saddam, Hans Blix was a dork-- and that's only in the first of three instalments!

Hats off to Demarche and Schulman, with a tip of the hat to Instapundit for pointing it all out, as well as linking a great post on Urban Legends about the Iraq War over at American Enterprise Online. Money quote:

Urban Legend: Helping democracy take root in Iraq was a postwar rationalization by the Bush administration; it was an argument that was not made prior to going to war. In the words of a November 13, 2003 New York Times editorial, “The White House recently began shifting its case for the Iraq war from the embarrassing unconventional weapons issue to the lofty vision of creating an exemplary democracy in Iraq.”

Reality: The President argued the importance of democracy taking root in Iraq before the war began. A February 27, 2003 New York Times editorial shatters the very myth the paper was perpetrating just nine months later: “President Bush sketched an expansive vision last night [in an American Enterprise Institute speech] of what he expects to accomplish by a war in Iraq. Instead of focusing on eliminating weapons of mass destruction, or reducing the threat of terror to the United States, Mr. Bush talked about establishing a ‘free and peaceful Iraq’ that would serve as a ‘dramatic and inspiring example’ to the entire Arab and Muslim world, provide a stabilizing influence in the Middle East, and even help end the Arab-Israeli conflict. The idea of turning Iraq into a model democracy in the Arab world is one some members of the administration have been discussing for a long time.” President Bush’s 2002 State of the Union made the same case…

Like most everything else, the Bush administration and the Republicans have failed to take full advantage of the fact that people who do 180-degree turns in their opinions can't really get away with it in the era of instant communications. The turncoats among the federal Democrats are completely exposed, and can come up with no better explanation than that they weren't adult enough to make an informed decision about sending soldiers to die. (And of course that's someone else's fault, despite the fact that only SIX senators bothered to read the National Intelligence Estimate before voting to go to war-- one of whom was NOT minority leader Harry Reid.)

Clearly, when they were passing out the intelligence some people were AWOL.

Yay for me! My hit counter shows 1000 total visits as of today! Look out, Daily Kos, I'm gainin' on ya.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Thanks for the snow, Mr. Weatherman-- it's kind of cute. Arctic wind? Not so cute.

There are many things to be thankful for today, though not among them is the fact that I live in Canada and am at present too far from family to celebrate American Thanksgiving as we once did (Canadian Thanksgiving having passed last Columbus Day). I am looking forward to having a daughter-in-law inviting us down for dinner next year....

Most days I wake up being thankful that neither Al Gore nor John Kerry is or ever was President, but I would be even more thankful for an opportunity to carry out a fairly rough "intervention" on the current President, who needs a slap upside the head and then a couple of hours to bring him up to speed on what's in the newspapers he's too busy to read. It's painful to think that Ronald Reagan is the only President in the past forty years for whom the word "squandered" should not appear in the first paragraph of his biography.

At the end of the day (which we hope will not also represent the end of the future for the Middle East, and thus, basically, for the rest of us if we give it long enough), will history write that more damage was done by the Pathological Liars' Party or the "Compassionate" Weiners' Party?

Anyway, The Truth Is Out There (thank you, Mulder), and it is fascinating. Do not pass "GO", do not collect your $200, but go directly to the
Brookings Institute Iraq Index compiled by Michael O'Hanlon. It will knock your socks off. More to the point, it will knock every other sentence out of the mouth of that sad old man, John Murtha (who, if he had any real friends, would have been quietly sedated and planted in front of Monday Night Football re-runs by now to keep him from further hurting his own reputation, having opened his mouth and relieved all doubt, as the saying goes).

Pay particular attention to where the casualty spikes were, both killed and wounded, for American troops, coalition troops, and Iraqi civilians. (Hint: The only people for whom the situation has been getting increasingly dangerous in the past YEAR are Iraqi policemen.) Readers will not be pleased with all the data (opinion surveys of Iraqis about the impact of troop presence are a little discouraging) but it tells a much different story than most of what one hears from politicians and media hacks. Biggest day-to-day concern for ordinary Iraqis, by a huge margin: Security? No. Electricity. Also, nearly 20% of American fatalities are non-hostile. It's a dangerous job.

Mudville Gazette
also sticks it to Murtha pretty good, with actual figures instead of foggy generalizations-- interesting stats on the wounded (about 55% are back in combat in 72 hours, only 18% require evacuation, amputees make up about .03%). None of this is easy or positive, but it puts things in perspective.

Gateway Pundit traces Murtha's history of similar bloviations
Had we only known he was a serial bloviator, we could have gotten him some therapy.

Letter from the front via: Marine Mom

And a comment about the military's increasing hate-hate relationship with the media-- this is the only way that Iraq is genuinely, indisputably, and thoroughly like Vietnam, except that back then the media succeeded in making at least some veterans hate themselves too-- but mostly they just hated the media and how it turned the people against their soldiers. Not this time. The soldiers have met the enemy and they know who he is-- and they know who's on his side back home.

Anyhow, I'm thankful that all sorts of people I've never met are taking care of all my kids on Thanksgiving Day-- they'll have more fun than I will, and will eat better too! Thankful for the freedom to read, to write, to bounce around the world, to vote the bastards out, to sing Gregorian chant. I can't complain, really-- but I'll find a way.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


I was so horrified, so disgusted, so stunned, so totally appalled by the grandstanding pronouncements of Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha-- that the Iraq war "cannot be won militarily", that our troops have "done all they can", that "our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency" -- I resolved to write him immediately and tell him off. then I went to his website and did a closer inspection of what is pompously referred to on the home page as "Important Speech on the War in IRAQ" (italics as found), and I realised that, among other things, these are the meandering bloviations of an ill-educated and incoherent old man whose stylistic atrocities would be mocked by the elites of his party if he were not now so useful to them.

There are so many factual errors and fatuous mischaracterizations of the military reality that a careful "Fisking" would be quite lengthy-- something for a later day, if I fell there's anything left to say about it. But by far one of the most offensive statements he made in his speech on the floor was just a few sentences from the end. "Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters [sic] into battle, it is our responsibility, our OBLIGATION, to speak for them. That's why I am speaking out."

No, Congressman Murtha, you do NOT have an obligation, or any right at all, to claim to speak for the adult members of our volunteer military. Your being a decorated veteran does not give you that right, nor does it give you the "absolute moral authority" once claimed for Cindy Sheehan during her fifteen minutes of exploitation by the radical left. Such moral authority as you might have does not outweigh that of Senator John McCain, who opposes your position in every respect. (And if you had hoped to achieve his level of authority and prestige, don't waste your breath. At the very least, he can put an intelligent sentence together.)

And here, Congressman Murtha, is another Marine you do not speak for-- my kid, who has a pretty good weblog, and this is what he thinks of you and your fellow anti-war Democrats and weak-kneed Republicans:

...what I see right now is incredibly disappointing. I see Democrats using every roadside bombing as a bat to smash in the administration's face, every death as a statistic to score political points because they know the war has made the president bleed, and they like the smell of his blood. I see Republicans using every criticism of the war as a big index finger to point back at the Democrats and say, "those quibbling bastards, they're not patriotic and they don't support our troops when they ask why we don't have enough body armor and why every speech the president makes on the subject sounds exactly the same."

What I don't see is our leaders in D.C. coming together, turning to that 18-year old lance corporal who's tens of thousands of miles away from his home and scared shitless, and saying, "No matter what, kid, we got your back." Nope, that kid has become a knife our "representatives" are slipping between each other's ribs in the hopes that one really good deep thrust will hit the other guy's heart...

...I do not claim to speak for my colleagues or the Navy/Marine Corps team. I'm speaking for myself. And I'm disgusted with politics in general right now. It's one thing to listen to different newspapers and media outlets wrangle back and forth about how we should be there, how we shouldn't, how we're winning, how we're losing, how we're beating terrorism, how we're creating more of it. They're not in charge. They can afford to be whiny, judgmental, narrow-minded and hypocritical because their editors aren't the ones who say, "Kid, I'm going to send you to a foreign country where you may very well die or be crippled for life." At the end of the day, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal can act like schoolchildren; our political leaders can't.

But they're not stepping up to the plate. They're not saying, "Kid, I got your back." I can tell you right now who I think's got my back. My family; my friends; my fellow students here, who once we're all winged will become my copilots and wingmen in combat; my instructors, who I know are giving me the best training they can to increase my chances of coming home in one piece; our commanders, who have the huge responsibility of thousands of lives in their hands; and God.

All those other folks bitching back and forth in the Beltway, seeing who can scream louder, come up with the most outrageous rhetoric, and impact the poll numbers the hardest: you disgust me. You discourage me. You disgrace this country. You're so lost in clouds of your own noise that you don't hear the grunt on the Syrian border saying: "Honorable Mr/Ms/Mrs So-and-So, I gotta turn my back on you so that I can point my rifle forward to cover my squadmates and kill the enemy. Will you cover me?" None of you have an answer for him. You'd better come up with one, because right now, he's worth more to this country alive than you are.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


[Take a deep breath. Start again.... Despite having had my hands on a computer for several years now, what I know about the beasts could fit into a thimble, with room to spare. So periodically the dog eats my homework. (See Friday’s post.) It’s called a SAVE button—I’m told they’re very useful.]

So Veterans’ Day (called Remembrance Day in Britain and Canada, which has a nice ring) was two days ago, and most of what’s worth saying about it has probably already been said.

My own cyber-vaporized remarks included some development of my ongoing frustration with President Bush—but apparently he got wind of my disapproval and addressed my complaints in his speech to military personnel in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania. It’s a ten-pager, if you print it out—quite a mouthful. I guess that’s what comes of trying to do about two years’ worth of damage control in one afternoon.

I gave myself a surprise one night last week when I was watching the news— Bush came on, giving an unrehearsed response to the news of some terrorist incident or other, and before he got ten words out, I grabbed the remote and switched the television off. The response was so quick and deliberate that it could only remind me of what had become my habit between 1993 and 2001, hitting the kill-switch every time the face of William Jefferson Clinton appeared.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate— for one thing, I still tend to switch him off to this very day; also,the reflex didn’t really kick in until 1995. Whereas the need to look away from Bush is born mostly of sheer exasperation (combined with that reluctance we all have to watch someone invite public scorn— like when we lower our eyes when an untalented child, drunken uncle, or manifestly unqualified Supreme Court candidate mounts the stage) -- my Clinton reflex is born of profound visceral disgust, and I can name the day and place it began: June 6, 1995, Normandy, France.

There was never any question that President Clinton must attend the ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of D-day. This was compulsory, by virtue of his office, and his personal suitability was not an issue. Too bad nobody told him that. It is testimony to the monumental self-absorption which he has never ceased to exhibit, that he managed to make the D-day commemorations all about him, never missing an opportunity for the well-rehearsed lip-tremble to be captured in the endless photo-op.

Never did he show a milli-second’s acquaintance with the humility which would have been appropriate to a man, raised to the world’s most powerful position, who had evaded serving his country in Vietnam by sending written supplications to influential people who shared his professed loathing of the military. Never could we detect that the heroes of D-day— ordinary Americans who sacrificed their lives in acts of extraordinary courage— inspired in Bill Clinton one instant’s blush of much-deserved shame.

The pinnacle of this revolting display was Clinton’s “solitary” stroll down a section of the broad beach dubbed “Omaha” – followed at a discreet distance, of course, by the cameras. At one point the president squatted down and fiddled in the sand, leaving behind, for the benefit of the paparazzi, a small cross made of pebbles— his spiritual meditation on this historic place.

Later the word went out that this was all a set-up, arranged by his advance-men, because there are no pebbles on Omaha Beach— an accusation so extreme it was hard to imagine it being made if there were no substance behind it. But that assumption is what the authors of smear-jobs always rely on (the “Bush lied” mantra being the prime current example), so I reserved judgment at the time. (It is also alleged that presidential staffers knocked over gravestones near the D-day beaches so Clinton could be seen re-erecting them.) The whole D-day pageant had afforded quite enough to be disgusted about without worrying over pebbles on a beach. I was moved to write a short poem on the subject, a parody of T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.”

Eight years later I walked Omaha Beach—lots of it. I can confirm: you’d have to go for miles out on the sands (where Mr. Clinton and his micro-cairn were photographed) before you found enough pebbles to put into a line. His Kodak moment had been a fraud.

While we're on the subject of that particular beach: public ignorance of just about anything to do with history is abysmal and frightening-- everybody knows that. No doubt there are millions of Americans whose total understanding of the events of D-day has been derived from Saving Private Ryan-- and frankly, that's not half bad. The film as a whole was founded on a stupid, very 1990's premise, but the first 25 minutes are so good that I think Spielberg ought to have gotten some kind of medal for it.

However, they are no substitute for a trip to the site itself. And no trip to the Normandy Beaches is complete without visits to (a) the American cemetery, and (b) every museum you can find, large and small (with the possible exception of the new Canadian one at Juno Beach, which is AWFUL-- Canadians are remembered in several other museums much much better than they are memorialized at their own-- it's a scandal).

Our trip there was a graduation gift to our eldest son, before he officially joined up with the Marines. He wanted to see major sites for both World Wars, so we travelled to Normandy, Belgium, and the Marne, especially Belleau Wood, where the Marines came into their own in 1918 holding off the advance that got within a few miles of Paris, and further forging their reputation as the Kick-ass Few and Proud.

This was June of 2003-- just a few months after the invasion of Iraq, when Americans were (ahem) not too popular in France. (There had even been some grave desecration.) We went there with some trepidation, prepared to be met coolly if not with hostility. We were not prepared for the greeting we got.

To this day I can't tell anyone about it without choking up-- the American and Allied flags, not just in "official" locations (we arrived on June 8, and there had been the annual ceremonies) but still hanging on the balconies of private homes; the permanent sign, in English, painted on a restaurant window: "We welcome our liberators"; the 20-something museum guide who, when thanked for his presentation by several American vets (probably of Korea), looked them square in the eyes and said, "No-- thank YOU." Apparently in France, at least in Normandy, parents still tell their children the important facts of their history.

Here are some of those important facts:

American casualties, June 1 - September 14, 1945: 30,000 dead - 110,000 wounded (minimum)

French civilian casualties (over roughly the same period): 15-20,000 killed or missing

Apparently there are French people who think it was worth it.

Those of us who grew up during the Vietnam war, and were in high school while class-mates were still being drafted for it, had a pretty clear notion of what it meant to have headed for the National Guard, and I have no illusions about George Bush’s or Dan Quayle’s motives for pursuing that option. (May I refer anyone who is still confused about Mr. Bush’s service record to the definitive chronologies, here and here.) But regardless of where or why or for how long you carry it out, it takes gonads of steel to fly a fighter jet, and Mr. Bush did it well.

It also took steel gonads for Bush to do what the previous president and his partisans in Congress had balked at doing: to acknowledge that war had been declared against the United States (August 1996) and certainly by September 11, 2001,it was time to make answer. There is a case to be made that it takes steel gonads to persevere with a war that is increasingly unpopular, especially when that unpopularity is due to selective, manipulative, biased, and occasionally treasonous reporting, in the media and in the halls of government.

Unfortunately it seems to be the president’s view that remaining mute in the face of outrageous abuse and slander from America’s elected representatives, and their “527” accomplices, is also an exercise in flexing those gonads. If that's what he thinks, he is dead wrong.

It’s the gonads of steel that are truly AWOL now—and have been for months, maybe years. What Bush has been exhibiting is a fatally misplaced sense of purity, that makes him reluctant to dignify the slanders with a response and to get down in the dirty trenches of political warfare to defend his vision. He did have one. Some of us remember what it was, and still believe in it. But let it be clearly understood—it has never been about believing in him.

It is one of Bush’s critical flaws—one that has probably always been characteristic of him (and might make him underqualified to be president) is the degree to which his method of operation is deeply personal. This was an asset to a governor of Texas (the least powerful governorship in the 50 States). But it makes for scales on the eyes of a president.

There is nothing unusual about a president bringing his inner circle with him to Washington Clinton brought half of Arkansas. But Clinton’s people were there because they shared his keen and ruthless political instincts (except for Vince Foster, apparently— whatever the facts are on that mystery, he was clearly a fish out of water in Washington). By contrast, Bush’s inner circle got there mostly on loyalty. They are not without talent, but they seem to get jobs unrelated to the talents they have.

Oh Scott McClellan. The Anchoress called him a “milquetoast.” She is entirely too kind. One hears many different things about Ari Fleischer, not all of them flattering, but as the guy facing the wolverines in the Washington press corps every day, he was a master. It was distressing to learn that he was leaving, and when McClellan stepped in I was convinced this had to be a temporary measure until a grown-up could be hired. From day one McClellan has struck me as the worst possible choice for his job, with the look of a sweaty, dough-faced prep-school prefect living in perpetual fear of being wedgied in the boys’ john and stuffed in a locker.

He’s supposed to be the president’s goalie, for cripes sake—the guy sent out with mammoth pads, huge gloves, a giant stick (way bigger than everyone else’s), and a helmet/mask decorated with the fangs of some wild animal. Scott McClellan stands in the goal-crease wearing mittens and wet pants. But some of this mystery was cleared up recently— I found out he’s an old hand from Texas. Spare us another unqualified crony.

All the real evidence suggests that George Bush in not unintelligent or incapable. But I think David Frum (former Bush speech-writer, who basically admires him) was right on the money in his 2003 book The Right Man, to see Bush as “impatient, quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic, often uncurious, and as a result ill-informed . . .” — and we can now add to that excessively reliant on instinct, personal ties and loyalty rather than dispassionate rational judgment.

Frum went on in the above-quoted sentence to say that “outweighing the faults are his virtues: decency, honesty, rectitude, courage, and tenacity," and Frum stands by that assessment (or at least he did prior to the Harriet Miers debacle, against which Frum led the most organized revolt). Well, he knows better than I do— but the well-founded charges of cronyism, coupled with Bush's personal tardiness in responding to Hurricane Katrina and his breathtaking tardiness in responding to the Democrats’ slanders of both his administration and our armed forces in the field, speak to me of a kind of mental laziness, which is just inexcusable.

We’re all grateful that the president went on the much-belated attack on Veterans’ Day against the tsunami of lies which has threatened to sweep away all that remains of his moral authority (which was once quite considerable, and well-deserved). I for one am tired of making excuses for the inexcusable, and of the painful prospect of watching him bumble through another press conference regarding issues and events about which any fully engaged person should have one or two good rhetorical punches always to hand. The idea that the Bush administration is in some way inherently evil continues to be one of the stupidest things any left-wing partisan could believe in—evil is so much more clever than any of these people.

Though Veterans' Day may be past, the season is still ripe for paying tribute to our men and women in uniform. They deserve vocal support, and not just from my Iraqi and Iranian house-painters!

And there's a certain Frenchman who could put many Americans to shame-- I'm thinking of our guide at Belleau Wood, Gilles Lagin, a young family man, mechanic by day, who spends every spare moment (and no small amount of cash) studying and preserving the legacy of the Marines who fought for the soil on which he was raised.

We spent seven (!) fascinating hours in his company, covering the battles from every angle, walking amid the trenches on the pivotal hill-top (where Marines had dug in 85 years to the day before we got there), and pausing at the beautiful cemetery and awe-inspring chapel in the valley below. Gilles has built his own museum of period military artefacts (and often contacted the descendants of the missing whose dog-tags or other identifiable items he has found), and has cultivated an ardent admiration for the United States Marine Corps since he was 9 years old.

What's French for OO-RAH?

Once you’ve finished Mac Owens’ salute to his fellow Marines and their 230th birthday, have a closer look at the Corps from here:

Marines home page
Leatherneck Magazine
From the Hall to the Shores -- milblog
Scuttlebutt and Small Chow-- a great history of the Corps, and one of the most beautifully designed websites you'll ever lay eyes on

From the parents:
Marine parents, Moms, and more Moms
And even though they're Army, take a look at Some soldier's Mom and Keep My Soldier Safe

Want to know the TRUTH about what's going on in the Big Sandbox? Check here:

Arthur Chrenkoff-- Blog has now ceased, but he's the pioneer in Good News From Iraq/Afghanistan (scroll down to "The Rest of the Best"). Until you read this, you have no business even having an opinion about the war, much less expressing one.

Chrenkoff's mantle taken up by Good News from Iraq (good sounds too)

Michael Yon -- self-embedded reporter (you can support his work through pay-pal)-- gritty, on the ground, this is the REAL THING

The late (murdered by terrorists in Iraq) Steven Vincent reported from In the Red Zone (also his book title)

U.S. Central Command

Military History and a keen eye to the present from Victor Davis Hanson

Military weblogs (active and retired):
Lance in Iraq
Mudville Gazetter
The guys at the
Fourth Rail

Civilan Support Groups (GIVE! GIVE! GIVE!):
- California businessman Jim Hake got the ball rolling with
Spirit of America-- building the future of Iraq, winning hearts and minds
- Film and TV star Gary Sinise co-founded Operation Iraqi Children, which he supports through his Lt. Dan Band -- he doesn't just write the checks, he's been there
Valour IT gets lap-tops for disabled veterans
- Make contact and provide needed stuff to troops in the field by being a
Soldiers' Angel
- Reading material for troops at
Books for Soldiers and Books for Baghdad
- Snacks and personal need items through
Treats for Troops
Homes for disabled vets -- help build a new Fisher House for military families to be near their wounded soldier's hospital
- Get special gifts to a
wounded soldier

America Supports You is a Department of Defense initiative, but civilian-driven

Friday, November 11, 2005

I just spent five hours writing a fantastic Remembrance Day post with dozens of links to things military, and lots of hugely insightful thoughts about the last two presidents, AND MY COMPUTER ATE IT.

I feel like I've been shot.

If I have the heart I'll reconstruct it. Meanwhile, Happy Birthday Marine Corps (230 years) as celebrated by Mac Owens at NRO.

And we'll give the annual nod to Major John McRae with the least heeded words of his poem:

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

There's a whole lot of "breaking faith" happening now among American leftists who would gladly throw away the lives of their military and of hundreds of thousands of victims of jihadist oppressors, if it meant they could administer the fatal blow to George W. Bush's regime. Fortunately, whether they believe in it or not, there is an afterlife and a final judgement. Not that we should have to wait that long for them to be dealt with.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Jarhead on "JARHEAD"

Sometimes my baby boy still does what I tell him.

He's the one in Marine flight school (just about to get "winged," having just passed his big instrumentation test) and I told him he had to get out and see Jarhead ASAP so I could hear what real Marines had to say about it. Apparently they made up about 90% of the audience in attendance down there in Pensacola-land. His general comment was "thumbs sideways" sporting a fashionable khaki "neutral"-- he puts it best
in his own words (I keep telling him to be a military journalist).

Money quotes (PETA discretion advised):
The training scenes (apparently borrowing the formula of Full Metal Jacket) were reminiscent of my own experience at TBS ...I don't know if I buy the machine gun shooting live rounds right over the Marines' heads. On the other hand, we participated in several live-fire exercises at TBS which, despite all our safeguards, are inherently dangerous. As for the paintball-guns: we used those. (And they're the most fun you can have without setting a small animal on fire).
But what about the soul of the story? What was it trying to tell us? I was never sure... Was it trying to tell us of the monotony of warfare? That's nothing new: Roman legionaries could have told us the same thing... Though when it comes to Marines being deadly, brutal, and somewhat insane, I'll let you all in on a little secret: true or not, we cultivate that image because when it comes time to go into battle and Abu Musab Whoever learns that he's got Marines charging toward him, he's already half-terrified. And if he's scared, we've already beaten his mind, which makes beating his body that much easier and much less costly for us.
Ooh-rah. (And, no, they don't say it every other sentence.) And that business about "already half-terrified"? Oh yes-- confirmed from many sources, over many wars.

Duly noted: My other baby boys occasionally do what I tell them too. All this is pretty amazing, since it's a very long-distance affair, receiving their Canadian-based orders, as they do, in:



Inner Mongolia


The first place-name reported as the fires erupted in suburban Paris was "St. Denis", a name which means only one thing to me: the birthplace of what we now call "Gothic" architectural style.

The abbey church th
ere, today sadly marooned among warehouses and other inglorious structures, was once home to a Benedictine monastic community whose 12th-century Abbot, Suger, masterminded the overhaul of the existing Romanesque church to embody his new theology of the meaning and power of light as an image God, by incoporating all the latest ideas and construction technologies of his age. Under his supervision (really his micro-management, it's fair to say) St. Denis became the model for architectural innovation all over Europe, its style transported almost immediately to Canterbury, England, among other places.

Ironically (it now seems), St. Denis was the first building in Christian Europe to fully exploit the structural possibilities of the pointed arch -- a feature borrowed from the architectural wonders of Moorish (Islamic) Spain.

So I think about St. Denis, and the Jihad-fuelled rage now literally inflaming the Muslim ghettos around it, and in cities across France-- and I whisper through clenched teeth, "Don't you dare. Don't even think about it."

Rose Window

Saturday, November 05, 2005

KRISTALLTAG in Argentina

Slap me on the head and call me stupid, but I wish someone would explain to me how the smashing of shop-windows and burning of a telephone booth on the streets of Mar Del Plata, Argentina, constitutes anything resembling a statement about the imagined evils and lies of George W. Bush, much less something resembling action taken to bring the evils to an end.

From my armchair it looked like a bunch of wild animals, too well-dressed to be residents of a local barrio, wreaking mindless destruction upon a fairly upscale urban shopping area-- an act that can have only one consequence, which is to drain the local economy (apparently in some distress already) even further by the cost of compensation and reconstruction for business owners who are not, as best I can tell, George W. Bush or any of his relatives or employees.

There was a time when many people (especially in the western press) were prepared to believe that this kind of madness was founded in genuine complaints about specific issues. But even the media are beginning to notice a difference between the peaceful assembly of anti-war demonstrators (who themselves are comically dissipated into a thousand wacko causes for which peace demo's are magnets now) and the violent rioting-for-fun of itinerant professional anti-globalist anarchists.

The impotence of the Argentinian police in the face of these savages was particularly sad. You would think we've seen enough of this now for local authorities to plan a way to capture the offenders-- like forming anti-riot barricades, of the sort seen in the news video from Mar Del Plata, but placing them at various streets on the perimeter of the action, and then marching them towards each other until the maximum number of rioters are boxed in-- at which point they are fire-hosed and then extracted one by one into waiting police vans. There isn't a single one of them who should be allowed to escape arrest for being accessories, if not perpetrators, of vandalism and assault on a grand scale.
There were any number of media people on the rioters' side of the barricade, who, in my view, were also accessories and probably stimulated the rioters into "performing" before the cameras. They should also be swept up in the arrests, with their fate dependent upon their willingness to contribute, through film and testimony, to the prosecution of the vandals.

People on the political left tend to enjoy indulging in setting up "moral equivalencies" between things that aren't even in the same universe (like Abu Ghraib and Auschwitz), so I'll borrow a page from them and set up at least a theoretical parallel between the automatic-reflex rage and impotent demonstra-stunt of the anti-globalist rent-a-mob, and the invoking of Rule 21 by the Senate Democratic leadership.

Both represent a wildly flailing tantrum by people seriously detached from reality. There are ways to make political change, and the battles can be waged aggressively, with even the occasional whack below the belt-- but it helps to actually be punching at your opponent, using gloves and the muscle you've built from disciiplined training. With their obsessive fantasy that Bush is evil incarnate, that the White House is packed with his satanic familiars, and that Karl Rove carries the One Ring that Rules Them All, the Democrats continue to punch at shadows and waste their energy on mindless verbal vandalism, too absorbed in indulging their emotions to ever marshal their troops or their arguments into marching toward a goal, a program, something, anything!

At what point does quadruple jeopardy kick in? How many times will they investigate the same information in hopes of reaching their desired conclusion about the use or misuse of intelligence, and finding that one scribbled note among the hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper which will send Karl Rove to the electric chair? This is NOT an exaggeration of the state of the Democratic partisan mind at this moment in history. Someone, please, circulate Einstein's definition of insanity -- "doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results" -- among the Senate Democrats and tell them to look in the mirror for further clarification.

And to what end is all this insanity? There is no undoing of what has transpired, there is NO responsible argument to be made for pulling out of Iraq, and out of the wider world which is now exploding in Jihadist wrath (the sole and undiminished rationale for our military interventions) in places where national policy has been consistently friendly to (and profited from) Arab/Islamic interests. And no matter how highly place your position in government, you cannot make it a crime to be surprised by history. It's actually kind of unfortunate that, even with a majority in both houses of congress, most state governments, and the voting public, Republicans cannot make it a crime for Democrats to demoralize and slander our American military in the field. If they could, most of the Senate leadership would be wearing orange jumpsuits.

I had one eye to the television the other night as I was washing some dishes, and tuned in to the last half-hour of the first episode of
"Band of Brothers"-- the brilliant 2001 mini-series that follows the path of Easy Company of the Army's 101st Airborne Division, from their training in England to the Normandy landing in 1944, through the Battle of the Bulge to the capture of Hitler's mountain retreat in 1945. At the end of episode one, a somewhat rag-tag collection of citizen soldiers, drawn from every walk of life, mostly draftees, some barely old enough to shave every day, are boosted into a rattling airplane and fly off to save the world.

Well, what could I do but burst into tears? Partly in the knowledge that thousands-- that's THOUSANDS-- would die in a single day. Partly in the knowledge that they achieved their goal-- they did save the world, each and every one playing his part, even if he didn't survive June 6. (I've walked the cemetery above Omaha Beach -- it is devastating to see how many crosses bear that date.)

But part of what brought me to tears was the knowledge that these men get to be heroes-- these men who were dropped in the wrong place, often to be slaughtered before they hit ground, or smashed up when their canvas-and-toothpicks gliders slid into the fortified bocage hedges that no one had bothered to study and plan for-- these men who signalled each other in the dark with a child's toy, the tin "cricket" clicker-- these men who were sent like a tsunami to wash over enemy territory into they-knew-not-what, for who-knew-how-long and at what cost--
these men get to be heroes. And well they should.

But our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen today -- the most educated, fit, highly trained and disciplined, most flexible, most humanitarian fighting force in human history-- they get to be compared to Nazis;
they get to be embodied in Lynndie England; they get to star (posthumously, and without consent) in a slick tv ad now being run by Operation Truth, dressed only in their anonymous, flag-draped coffins. There are roughly 150,000 troops in Iraq at any given time, with tens of thousands more who have been there and are rotated out. Membership in Operation Truth is about 600 veterans (not all of OIF). Who speaks for our soldiers?

Worst of all, our troops in Iraq get to be commanded by a Secretary of Defense, under a Commander-in-Chief, who both seem completely incapable, and not overly interested, in informing the American public, in any specific and measurable way, that our troops have given their all, and some their lives, for what history will show is a monumental victory on every level. The impotent railing in the mainstream network and print news (the "old Europe" of the information industry), in the streets, and in the Senate, will not win the war against the truth, no matter how much assistance they get from the Bush administration!

Now please go somewhere quiet and read Psalm 90/91 for all our military around the world.

BONUS: Time on your hands? Take the Abu Ghraib quiz.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

RIP: Theo van Gogh, Rosa Parks

Francis Fukuyama reminds us at OpinionJournal that Theo van Gogh, Dutch filmmaker with impressive artistic bloodlines ("radical libertarian, ... television producer, talk show host, newspaper columnist, and all-around mischief-maker," as described by Daniel Pipes) was executed one year ago yesterday for the "crime" of making a controversial documentary exposé about the difficult life of a Muslim woman in Europe.

The execution was not state-sanctioned, of course-- it was a cold-blooded daylight murder on the streets of Amsterdam, which left no ambiguities about its motive, since the Morroccan/Dutch jihadist who killed Van Gogh left a five-page raving screed pinned to the victim's chest with one of his knives (the other having been used to perform the near-decapitation that followed repeated bullet-wounds, inflicted as Van Gogh pleaded for his life). One of the most notable aspects of this murder is how the Hollywood Left-- those freedom fighters for tolerance and the right to speak our minds-- met the news with a massive collective yawn.

Kathy Shaidle (who also has a short piece on Van Gogh) once boiled down that special brand of Hollywood hypocrisy to this unforgettable one-liner: "If George Bush is Hitler, why isn't Bill Maher a lampshade?"

That was in reference to Maher's recent outrageous throw-away line comparing Laura Bush's love for her husband to Hitler being loved by his dog. But for Maher's name in the above question, read in Michael Moore (speaking of all-round mischief-makers), Barbra Streisand, Cindy Sheehan, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Juan Cole, Markos Moulitsas, Jimmy Carter, and Senators Kennedy, Leahy, Durbin, Pelosi, Boxer, Byrd, Rangel, Reid, blah, blah, blah-- and countless others who would be easy candidates for an obscure shallow grave if George Bush were really the fanatical dictator of the fascist state that the extreme left has painted in their common rhetorical excess.

If Bush is more dangerous than Hitler (as an unbelievably large chorus of voices would have it), where are the ovens? Where are the death trains? If he's really more of a threat to the world than Saddam ever was, where are the mass graves? Where are the parched marshlands and the burning oil wells? Why are CBS and CNN and the New York Times still in business? Why is Michael Moore not lying on a Manhattan street with Project for a New American Century memos stabbed into his chest? (PNAC is a nefarious neo-con plot so secret that it has a massive website where every position paper is published in full.)

Why? Because the "Bush-is-Hitler/no-better-than-Saddam" accusation is, not to put too fine a point on it, INSANE. And it could only be made by people who are benefitting from the fact that it is a LIE. The Hollywood Left and the traditional megaliths of the press would be well-advised on this particular day to figure out where the real enemy to their freedom is, and to update the famous retrospective of Pastor Martin Niemöller: "First they came for Theo van Gogh, and I didn't give a damn..."

Maybe we know who Rosa Parks is because of one of those strange accidents of history. You see, she's not the first black woman in the 50's to have refused to get out of a "whites only" seat on a bus.

That may have been Martha White of Baton Rouge, Louisianna, in June 1953, whose manhandling by a bus driver when she tried to make use of a hard-won provision of a city council ordinance (allowing blacks to take front seats if they weren't being used) touched off a bus boycott in Baton Rouge. The boycott lasted less than two weeks, probably because it had been preceded by effective leadership (Rev. T. J. Jemison of Mt. Zion Baptist Church) working the system for months, to change local laws and restore reasonable bus-fares, and it took place within a municipality that was clearly less committed to institutional racism than was Montgomery, Alabama.

And in Montgomery itself, young Claudette Colvin had endured the same indignity as Rosa Parks would nine months later, being arrested when she refused to surrender her seat. But Colvin was a somewhat foul-mouthed teenager, pregnant by a married man, and not the ideal choice for a community icon.

But in Rosa Parks, Montgomery and the nascent civil rights movement found the inspiration it needed-- a dignified working woman "of a certain age" who radiated something more than mere beauty (though she certainly had that, and retained it through the decades). There are those who say that Parks was consciously pariticipating in a "test case" which had been pre-arranged to push the movement into high gear. That doesn't make what she did any less courageous, or the way she did it any less inspiring. She had no way of knowing whether she would survive the arrest with even her life, much less her well-being and her principles intact, or the birth of a new freedom to her credit.

The turmoil of the civil rights movement-- marches and fire-hoses and burning churches-- was a pageant of the strange for those of us who observed it from the distance of a white suburb in the peaceable kingdom of the American Pacific northwest. I remember at a very young age asking my parents who Martin Luther King was and what he was up to. The reply was rather unforgettable: "He's a man who broke the law." Whatever the merits of his arguments may have been, his association with civil unrest was very disturbing to people like us, especially my parents who had come from the midwest and mingled with all races on the buses of south Chicago. They just couldn't see how it had come to this. As a young woman my mother had been offered bus seats by old black ladies and refused them-- it would have violated the natural order of things to do otherwise.

On the other hand, my mother often told the story-- mindboggling to me now (I was there, but too young to remember) -- of how when we lived in north Florida in the late 50's, there were two Catholic churches in our community of Fernandina Beach: one for the whites (where blacks could sit in the back), and one for the blacks (where such whites as there might chance to be were expected to self-segregate to the back as well).

In an effort to be fair (!) the Mass times alternated: one week it was 9:00 a.m. at the black church and 11:00 at the white one, and vice versa the next week. Well, our family never was much for early rising, so on the weeks where Mass at our church was at 9:00 we might very well be late. If my mother had one principle about Mass attendance all her life, it was that when you're late you don't parade down the aisle to the front and create a distraction-- you take seats at the back without disturbing anybody. That's what we did-- the race of our pew neighbours was of no concern to our family (of damn Yankees, I suppose).

My mother remembers a white usher coming up to our pew at the back and placing his hand on her shoulder. As he leaned over and whispered, "Wouldn't rather sit up front?" he deftly attempted to more or less re-arrange her rotator cuff muscles with his well-placed fingers. She replied in no uncertain terms, "No, I would not!"

When we lived in Florida my mother employed the only domestic help she ever had in her life-- it was cheap, and everybody did it. My parents paid the minimum wage-- 50¢ an hour-- and we ate lunch in the kitchen with the cleaning lady. Nobody did either of those things. Big faux pas.

Some people would call my parents' behavior heroic, and maybe the same people would call my parents' attitude deplorable. (My sister's long-ago attempt to date a black guy did not succeed-- "these things take time..."-- and they still grouse about Martin Luther King getting his own holiday). I suspect that many Americans whom the extreme left would characterize as complicit in "systemic racism" are just people like my family, growing up within our traditional communities, acting pretty much with justice and charity on a person-to-person basis but struggling to understand or justify the sometimes violent collision of movements and collective identities.

For better or for worse, there have been many figures in the civil rights movement over the decades who have staked a claim upon the collective identity, and the voice, of American racial minorities. Rosa Parks has always stood a little apart from all that-- her voice was seldom raised, and we know her as an individual, while the collective swirled about her. She remained a woman of faith and exemplary character. She survived being attacked and robbed in her own home, at age 80, by a black youth who recognized her face, and then struck it-- an incident from which she drew no wrathful conclusions and exhibited no bitterness. These qualities are part of why we know who Rosa Parks is, and it's hard to imagine that this was an accident.

For my part, I heartily endorsed Martin Luther King getting a calendar holiday (though I think Washington and Lincoln should still each get one too)-- we need reminding of how he prayed that race would stop being the measure of all things. And when I heard that Rosa would lie in state in Washington, like the presidents and selected heroes before her, I thought that was great news too-- it would have violated the natural order of things to do otherwise.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Memo to Prince Charles:
Latest newsflash from peaceful and civilized Islamic state

Here's what happens to 8-year-olds who steal bread in Iran.

[as seen on Bareknucklepolitics, via the Anchoress]

Not for the faint of heart, weak of stomach, or anyone under 14.
But highly advisable viewing for Idiotarian Moonbats with bleeding hearts, and Itinerant Heirs to Once-Great Monarchies (especially Heirs who are also Idiotarian Moonbats).