Are we talking means or ends?

Hi, DQ here. Dagon posted a comment to another entry so interesting I thought I'd post a new entry on it. In response to my question as to what he would do, Dagon said:

[C]omplete independence from middle-east oil; a consistent foreign policy which advocates human rights everywhere and not just where it’s financially or politically expedient; a cessation of the subsizing of american companies which employ slave labor abroad in places like indonesia and malaysia; reppelation of the policy of preemption; and a mandate to secure our infrastructure via port security, border stability and immigration reform.

Let's take these one at a time:

Complete independence from middle-east oil — I doubt there is a reader of this blog, on the left or the right, who would disagree with this as an end goal. Dagon doesn't suggest a single method of accomplishing this (in a later post he does suggest ethanol, though he doesn't say where he thinks we'd get enough of it to power a truly large number of vehicles), but it set me to wondering why we don't set this as a serious goal. Rather than each side picking their favorite energy alternatives, why not do everything? Why not nuclear and solar? Wind and geothermal and shale and off-shore drilling and ethanol and hybrids and hydroelectric and coal and anything else we can think of to increase our energy supply? [Note: we should also work to reduce demand, but increasing supply is more practical and can be done with very little sacrifice.] Let's do it!

[A] consistent foreign policy which advocates human rights everywhere and not just where it’s financially or politically expedient – it's hard to imagine anyone disagreeing with this statement, either. The question is not whether we advocate human rights everywhere (we already do) but what tactics will best assure this outcome. For example, Dagon takes America to task for supporting the current regime in Saudi Arabia. I largely agreee, though I'm open to the suggestion that any conceivable alternative government in that country would be even worse than the current one. But this discussion is about means, not ends. It's not about who supports human right (we all do) but about how we get there from here. Let's remember that the next time we are tempted to start throwing stones at each other.

[A] cessation of the subsi[di]zing of american companies which employ slave labor abroad in places like indonesia and malaysia – Here again, one would be hard pressed to find a single soul who supports the use of slave labor. The problem here is in the definition of slave labor. Also, one needs to be careful not to impose an American view on the laborers. If an American company builds a plant and hires people for 50 cents an hour who would otherwise be starving to death, both the American company and that worker benefit, even if the wage is woefully low by American standards. By the way, this is one my father, one of the most conservative people I know, would agree with Dagon completely on, but as a way of protecting American jobs at high wages by eliminating the cheaper foreign competition.

[R]eppelation of the policy of preemption – Don't know what to make of this one. It looks like Dagon is saying we must be reactive, not pro-active, that we must always let the other guy have the first shot. I disagree, but I'm open to discussion if I've not got Dagon's idea right. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding the point entirely.

[A]nd a mandate to secure our infrastructure via port security, border stability and immigration reform – Again, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would disagree with any of these ends, and Dagon doesn't suggest any means for accomplishing them. Everyone wants secure borders, a secure infrastructure, port security and immigration reform. The question, as usual, is what means we use to accomplish these worthy ends.

Overall, I'm struck by how completely, or nearly so, Dagon's ends are unobjectionable. Yet he presents them as if they are somehow controversial. Let's have a dialogue that begins by recognizing that we agree on the above ends and discusses what means we use to get there. Seems to me that will be far more constructive than questioning each other's commitment to obviously proper ends.

Why is this news?

This is a terrible tragedy:

U.S. forces killed two Iraqi women — one of them about to give birth — when the troops shot at a car that failed to stop at an observation post in a city north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials and relatives said Wednesday. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, 35, was being raced to the maternity hospital in Samarra by her brother when the shooting occurred Tuesday.

My question, though, is why is this news? Is it appropriate to have war reporting governed by the same "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality that makes the average local newscast virtually unwatchable? My instinct is "no," but my fatigue level and the work load I've got to get through before I hit the sack tonight make it impossible for me to articulate why. Any takers on this question? As always, I'm open to hearing any viewpoints, so long as they are politely expressed. My preference, of course, is for argument, not invective.

UPDATE:  For the stories just from today about Iraq that don't involve blood and malfeasance, you can go here and here.  My thanks to those of you who left comments.  I think you're absolutely right.  I was just too tired last night to follow through on my initial thought.

Wondering about the whole story

I've been rather conspicuously silent about the whole Haditha thing. Until facts come out, rather than rumor, I don't really have anything to say. During times of war, even in the best regulated military, soldiers have been known to do some pretty awful things. You can't take young men, arm them, and drop them into territory where everyone is trying desperately to kill them, and then assume that nothing bad will ever happen.

The correct approach, in my mind, is what's happening here: the Marines are conducting a full investigation and, if the Marines involved committed atrocities (which I devoutly hope they didn't), they'll be punished to the full extent of military law. End of story, unless you're an anti-War activist and want to flog this to death for the benefit of those who repeatedly voice and act upon their wish to kill us all . . . but that's another story.

I did read one thing today, though, that reminded me, right off the bat, that there could be another way to understand the story of dead women and children:

The father of a U.S. Marine killed by a roadside bomb in western Iraq in November believes his son's comrades did nothing wrong despite a criminal investigation into events that left more than 20 Iraqi civilians dead, including women and children.

"It's very hard for me, I don't even listen to the news," Martin Terrazas said of reports of the mass killings in Haditha, in Iraq's Anbar province. "The insurgents were hiding in there with the kids." [Emphasis mine.]

As has been repeatedly demonstrated in Gaza, the Arab/Jihadist/Muslim/Insurgent (whatever you what to call 'em) fighters like to integrate with the civil population. One can readily imagine a scenario in which Marines, going on the attack following an IED bombing, ended up engaged with Jihadists who had surrounded themselves, for tactical reasons, with a defenseless civilian population of women and children. If this scenario were true, the blame for the deaths of these innocents rests with the Jihadists, and not with the Marines.

I'm not, of course, saying the above scenario is true. As I noted at the beginning, we have no facts. I'm just noting before everyone rushes to convict the Marines involved, that there are more ways than one (certainly more ways than Murtha's) to imagine this story.

UPDATE:  Michelle Malkin also addresses the possibility that the children may have been combatants, which is a terrible thought, or at least used as tools by the fighters, an equally terrible thought.

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What we owe our children

In the West, courtesy of modern birth control, when most of us have children, it's because we want them.  They, after all, didn't ask to be born.  To me, this means that we have obligations to them far beyond the material ones of food, shelter and clothing, and even beyond the less tangible one of "love."  I think we owe our children a certain amount of sacrifice.  That is, if a marginal, or even significant, diminution in our happiness is necessary to the child's well-being, we don't "follow our bliss," we make that sacrifice.  That's what Elizabeth Vargas did.  She's the co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight who left her job because, with a three year old and an almost wrapped-up pregnancy, she wants to give her attention to her children and not her employer:

‘For now, for this year, I need to be a good mother,’ she said in an interview on Friday, a few hours before anchoring her last newscast….

It sounds like a fine decision to me.  I certainly don't advocate women abandoning their jobs automatically for children.  Often, having a job is the right decision, whether economically or because there's a certain virtue in the mother and child spending a little less time together.  However, Vargas clearly decided that her children, who didn't ask to be born, need her more than ABC does.

This should be obvious, so you're probably asking why I'm making such a big deal of this.  I'm making a big deal because NOW is shocked:

‘It seems unlikely to me, having survived and thrived through her first pregnancy, that she would logically give up the top job in TV a few months out, anticipating she couldn’t handle it,’ said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. ‘It just doesn’t strike me as a logical explanation. I don’t think there are too many men who would be happy to be removed from the anchor chair.’

Gandy added that ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., ‘doesn’t look like a very woman-friendly or family-friendly workplace.’

The sentiment underlying Gandy's statement, of course, is that women should never, never put their children's interests ahead of their own.  This goes beyond merely saying that children should not be spoiled, nor is it healthy for them to believe they are the center of the universe (a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree).  Instead, it is saying that children have no needs independent of the mother's.  They're sort of like a fashion-statement, nothing more.  NOW's antipathy toward's children becomes ever more aggressive.  No wonder most American women deny being feminists.

Hat tip:  Independent Women's Forum 

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A totally unfair fight

Four against one is a totally unfair fight, especially if those on the four side are armed with guns, while the loner is armed only with a pocketknife.  Oh!  Did I mention that the lone fighter is an ex-Marine?  With those facts, the fight's outcome is a foregone conclusion:  Ex-Marine — one bruise and a small cut; Assailants — one dead, one seriously wounded, two in custody.  Gotta love the Marines.

Idle thought

Gotta run, and this is it for the day, but I leave with some thoughts for those in the Left-ward side of the world:  Why is it that, the more the jihadists kill or maim us, the more you get apologetic, not angry?  Aren't we the victims here? 

I thought of that in connection with poor Kimberley Dozier (whom I wish a speedy recovery).  The press should be outraged at what happened to one of their own, especially because two of her crew were killed outright.  But there's just silence on the subject.  It seems like a pretty masochistic — and life-defeating — way to live.

Sliding down the slippery slope

The following is from a Reuters news article. Here's a paragraph from about two-thirds into the article:

The Netherlands, which already has liberal policies on soft drugs, prostitution and gay marriage, was shocked by the plan.

Here's the issue that so shocked the Dutch:

Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations to 12 from 16 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals, sparking widespread outrage.

I freely admit that the slippery slope argument is a bit silly because just about anything that is appropriate can also be taken to illogical extremes. That is, the threat of a slippery slope is seldom a justification, on its on, to stop a proposed policy. However, some slopes are anticipatable (is that a word?) and I'm not surprised at the latest extreme in Holland.

UPDATE:  Here's an article about the slippery slope from the point of view of polygamy and its damaging effects on a functioning democracy. 

Destroying the anti-Zionist euphemism

People bound and determined to hasten the destruction of Israel will always say "I'm not anti-Semitic; just anti-Zionist." Dennis Prager exposes this lie for what it is. This is just one strand of the argument:

Judaism has always consisted of three components: God, Torah and Israel, roughly translated as faith, practice and peoplehood. And this Jewish people was conceived of as living in the Jewish country called Israel. One can argue that the modern state of Israel was founded at the expense of Arabs living in the geographic area known as Palestine (there was never a country or a nation called Palestine); but that in no way negates the indisputable fact that Zionism is an integral part of Judaism. Nor does the fact that some Jews who have abandoned Judaism are opposed to Zionism, nor that a tiny sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews (Neturei Karta) believe that only the Messiah can found a Jewish state in Israel.

When anti-Israel Muslim students demonstrate on campus chanting, "Yes to Judaism, No to Zionism," they are inventing a new Judaism out of their hatred for Israel. It would be as if anti-Muslims marched around chanting, "Yes to Allah, No to the Quran." Just as Allah, Muhammad and the Quran are inextricable components of Islam, so God, Torah and Israel are of Judaism.

You can read the whole argument here. It puts anend to the dishonest wordplay in the Muslim world and on the Left.

Learning by horrible examples

Laer, of Cheat-Seeking Missiles, took May off to work with his wife to help promote her campaign against illegal drug use.  One of the fruits of this labor is a new website called The Drug Report.  It's a compilation of drug-related news, with a lot of stories about people who serve as horrible examples.  Thus, the most recent story concerns a woman who completely destroyed her life using meth.  It's a good and important website, so I urge you both to check it out and to blogroll it.

Racism . . . or not?

Don Quixote, with his usual politeness, kindness and razor intelligence, disagreed with my saying that Harry Reid was himself being racist when he called racist the "English is the official American language" initiative. For one thing, DQ pointed out, rightly, that there's no mileage in throwing the phrase "racist" around with the same abandon as Reid. But that was just a style thing. What he really challenged me on was whether "racist" is the right phrase at all.

If you read my original post, you'll see that I thought Reid was demeaning Hispanics by implying that they were incapable of mastering another language — something I considered racist. DQ thought that a different impulse motivated Reid's statement — the fact that we (that is, English speaking Americans) are imposing ourselves on Hispanics, something that is inherently wrong. DQ says that Reid isn't saying Hispanics are incapable of mastering English; he's saying that, in his world view, we in America have no business imposing our values on anyone else.
Feeling myself trapped in an argument with a master of logic, I turned my attention to the way the liberals view African-Americans which, again, I consider a form of racism. To explain this, let me explain what I mean by racism. To me, racism means the belief that another race is inferior to your own. You can have the malevolent racism of the Nazi, which says this race is inferior and must be destroyed, or what I view as the benevolent racism of the liberals, which says this race is inferior and must be protected.

My example to DQ was how Damian Williams, one of the young black men who savaged Reginald Denny during the Rodney King riots, explained that he was "caught up in the rapture." The jury acquitted him of most charges (although I don't recall whether he testified about his rapture, or whether that was an ex post facto statement). I believe that, had the speaker been a white man who killed gays or blacks, that statement would have been held up by the liberal establishment as the most disgusting, horrific, vile statement ever. As it was, my memory (and I'm open to correction here) was that the media piled on with a bunch of stories about young men, and black rage, and mob identity, etc. In other words, being caught up in the rapture was a pretty acceptable excuse for trying to beat a man's head in because he was the wrong color, in the wrong place.

DQ argued that his theory still covers the Damian Williams scenario. He felt that, in viewing the liberal position about blacks, I was forgetting the race-warfare theory that underpins so much of the view from the Left. This view, which John McWhorter discusses in his wonderful Winning the Race : Beyond the Crisis in Black America,is that blacks have been at the receiving end of systemic white racism for so long that their only response can be anger. (It's sort of a Sister Souljah thing.) Because rage is an entirely legitimate response, then acting on that rage is entirely legitimate. That is, we're not simply excusing African-Americans for engaging in behavior that is not consistent with what we'd expect from whites — which would be racist. Instead, we're saying that anyone under those same conditions would act the same way and, in this case, it's blacks laboring under those conditions.

DQ's same theory fits in perfectly with the MSM's approach to Representative William Jefferson, the African-American Congressman from New Orleans who was caught on tape collecting $100,000 in bribes — $90,000 of which later turned up in his freezer. Within less than a week, the New York Times came out with a glowing, sympathetic portrayal of his poverty-stricken youth. I don't remember equally sympathetic portrayals of Ward Connerly, who also arose from poverty. The thing is, he didn't use that background as an excuse for criminal conduct. Instead, he argued that affirmative action is destroying African-Americans. Indeed, if I remember correctly, the MSM kept trying to portray him as essentially middle-class, his poverty-stricken youth notwithstanding. (And, interestingly, a group that describes itself as passionately committed to opposing him is working vigorously to show that he's a crook.)

Presumably, in the NY Times view, black poverty equals anger which equals entirely justifiable corruption. It's not racism to think this, it's logic. And, to carry the logic further, there's no doubt that the more vile the criminal in the dock, the more sympathy he gets from whites (as long as a white is the victim of his crime). There are no bad people, just bad environments.

Though it pains me to admit it, I think that DQ may well be right. Going back to Reid, it wasn't racism motivating his statement; it was a profound belief that we as Americans have no business expecting immigrants to conform to our cultural norms, including our language. Likewise, white Americans have no business expecting people carrying justifiable rage to control that rage. In other words, it's all about us having ruined the world, and not about "them" (whoever "them "is in any given context) being held to a lower standard. I'll therefore be careful with that "racist" word in future.

Having said that, I still think there's something profoundly wrong with the liberal view, and that it is damaging for a community (the African-American community) to be perpetually cast as the victim, rather than a group capable of controlling its own destiny. I also think that some of the more extreme liberal groups have managed to engage in classic racist conduct, not just this kind of race-warfare thing, when their target is a black Republican. (See here, here and here for examples.) I'm also very interested in what any of you have to say on this subject (provided, as always, that you're as polite as DQ was to me).

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Gardening in wartime

I wrote here about my Dad's Italian POWs in North Africa, and how charming they were.  One of the things he found especially memorably was how they coaxed gardens out of the desert.  Since it's Memorial Day, it's probably no coincidence that I found this NPR story, complete with amazing pictures, about people (soliders, civilians, prisoners) during times of war, growing gardens as an act of normalcy and strength.

Public steps

American Thinker has a funny post about the fact that workers employed by multi-millionaire Dianne Feinstein, when doing landscaping work outside of her new home in San Francisco, inadvertently stripped to dirt a beautiful garden that was part of a public staircase.  As Thomas Lifson points out

Public stairs running up hillsides are common in both San Francisco and Berkeley. Typically, owners of adjacent properties are charged with maintaining the steps and landscaping the adjacent properties.

That reminded me that, in a quiet neighborhood in San Francisco, which has many hideously ugly cement stairways climbing up the hillsides, someone did something beautiful.  It is a reminder, again, of the power of individual ideas. 

Memorial Day

I won't be blogging today — family and all that — but I haven't forgotten that today is Memorial Day.  Wishing all of you a happy one, and one where we appreciate how, since the start of this Nation, there is so much our military has done for us.  I should add, too, that it is truly amazing that our military has always remained subordinate to our Democracy, rather than attempting to take over, as happens so often in other countries.

 

Nooooooo!!!!

I'm petite. Shopping has always been a problem for me, something that hasn't been helped by the fact that, style-wise, most petite departments seem to stock clothes for 80 year old grandmothers. Apparently I won't even have to worry any more about that insult to my sensibilities. Stores are phasing out their petite clothes altogether. And where, I ask you, does that leave me?

UPDATE:  It seems I'm not the only one with this problem.  Neo-Neocon is also bemoaning the increasingly narrow range of options for those of us who go by the old-fashioned name of pocket Venus. 

Mixed blessings

Go here for very good news about the Pope, and very bad news about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Poland.  What makes it so bad on a continent that's been wallowing in resurgent anti-Semitism?  This time, it seems to come, not from the Left and the growing Muslim factions that characterize the new European anti-Semitism, but from the conservative religious side in Poland.  It means that there will be no haven for Jews on that increasingly benighted continent.

Movie review

I'd earlier vowed not to see Munich because I can't abide Steven Spielberg movies. My husband, however, had ordered it from Netflix and, when he begged me to watch it with him, I yielded. I managed to last for an hour an a half (just a little more than half the movie). Sitting down to watch the movie, I knew all about the reviews pointing out the myriad historical inaccuracies. What none of them prepared me for, though, was that the movie, qua movies, is really, really bad.

Tony Kushner may be an award winning playwright, but all I could think from the very first minutes of watching was that either standards are lower on Broadway, or he really slipped up here. His dialogue was appalling — wooden, banal, hackneyed, trite, vague, polemical, leaden and boring. Every Jewish character sounded like a bad send-up of a cheap movie about Jewish characters from Brooklyn. What this meant was that the "balanced" point of view he was trying to achieve ended up being merely laughable as the characters vanished beneath the burden of dialogue a high-schooler would be embarrassed to own up to.

Speaking of characters, blech. For me, the movie jumped the shark at about the 15 minute point when the film introduced Avner, the leader of the Israeli team assigned to hunt down the terrorists whom the world had moved beyond Israeli jurisdiction. While it would make perfect sense for Israel to chose someone nondescript (James Bond is a bit too visible), it was inconceivable that Israel would choose a neurotic schlemiel for this important mission. It became even more ridiculous when we met his "team," a collection of itches, twitches, and (with one laughable Australian exception) bad Yiddish accents. I suspect Kushner was trying to show these men's humanity, but they just looked like cowards and idiots who, by mere happenstance, managed always to get their man (and their man, terrorist though he was, was always a monument to sophisticated kindness and bravery). Aside from my ideological problems with these characterizations, it made for an unusually stupid and unbelievable movie.

The filmmaking technique also irritated me. It had a peculiar rhythm. Every time a "hit" was about to take place, a drumbeat would start, and the camera would movie, first, to the ground and point upward, then to the ceiling and point downward, and then to the side for an oblique shot. There was no tension at all — just busy camera work and that damn drum. If a movie is tense, I'm the one clutching my husband wildly, with my hands sweating and my heart beating. Watching this was like watching bread dough rise. There's a certain attenuated fascination, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a thrilling, interesting, enjoyable or moving activity.

Another of the movie's many failings was that Spielberg didn't bring anything out of the actors. I have to assume it was Spielberg's fault, by the way, because I refuse to believe that every single one of those actors could be so lacking in talent. No, what I have to imagine is Spielberg speaking to them at some top-secret movie meeting: "Look, this is a serious movie. In order to impress everyone with how serious it is, it is extremely important that you mumble, speak very slowly, have no affect and, if possible, make your accents (whether real or fake), sound like a Yiddish parody. That will show our audience what a great, serious filmmaker I've become."

Incidentally, to end a little credibility to my scathing disdain for this movie, let me add that my husband, a huge Spielberg fan, who stuck it out for the entire almost three hours told me I was wise to walk out on it: "It was a bad movie. I'm going to give it only two stars," he said.

Take my advice: if you've been planning on renting or buying the DVD, don't. No one should waste that much time out of their life on something this poorly made.

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The illegal immigration travesty continues in Congress

I can't resist including here, in its entirety, Mark Steyn's comment on The Corner about the more insane aspects of the immigration law Congress is trying to foist on us:

But how about some of you natives piling on [he was responding to comments by The Corner's British ex-pats]? I assumed NR's transplanted British Empire wallahs were steamed about this because we were foolish enough to check the wrong box and come here as legal immigrants – which, believe me, is a mistake I wouldn't make again. But this bill moves not just legal immigrants but U.S. citizens to the back of the bus.

The undocumented guys only have to pay taxes for any three out of the last five years? How come Americans can't get a deal like that? Meanwhile, any attempt to enforce the border requires "consultation" with Mexico. Vicente Fox has just got his own permanent Security Council veto in the Department of Homeland Security.

I think it's very hard for conservatives to support a Congress that would pass such a bill. Aside from the entitlement explosion and the national security issues, this bill is a cynical corruption of the integrity of US sovereignty and citizenship.

My wife and the kids had their Green Cards stolen the other day. Cost of replacement of legal permanent resident cards: $1,040. Fine for 20 years of law-breaking within the United States: $2,000, less Social Security and EITC entitlements. Hmm.

I told the missus to hold off filling in the form for the replacement card. Having been rendered inadvertently undocumented, she may at last be in the winning category.

The First Neo-Con/Crypto-Con Carnival

[Another bumped reminder about the carnival.]

Working through Blog Carnival, I've decided to go crazy and have a carnival of my own. The goal of this first edition to have people submit posts describing their political conversion to conservatism. You can also submit articles to me, and I'll create a blogsite to house them for the carnival. And because I personally am a crypto-conservative, I'd love to include posts from those of you who, as I did, elected to keep quiet about your political epiphany.

I'm hoping to run the Carnival on July 4, so am requesting that submissions come in by June 25. You can find a submission form here. If you think this carnival has interesting potential, even if you won't personally be submitting anything, please use your blog to let people know about it.

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In the old days, you’d just get fined

It's not uncommon to liken the world envisioned by Islamic fundamentalists to a medieval world, where women are shrouded in heavy draperies and are second class citizens; where beheading and torture are the punishments of choice; and where there is supposed to be one universal religion (with Jews as the universal scapegoat). Just recently, though, in Iraq, the fundamentalists outdid even the medieval world. They killed people for wearing the wrong clothes:

The coach of Iraq's tennis team and two players were shot dead in Baghdad on Thursday, said Iraqi Olympic officials.

Coach Hussein Ahmed Rashid and players Nasser Ali Hatem and Wissam Adel Auda were killed in the al-Saidiya district of the capital.

Witnesses said the three were dressed in shorts and were killed days after militants issued a warning forbidding the wearing of shorts.

Other Iraqi athletes have been targeted in recent incidents.

In this case, according to accounts, the men dropped off laundry and were then stopped in their vehicle by gunmen.

Two of the athletes stepped out of the car and were shot in the head, said one witness. The third was shot dead in the vehicle.

"The gunman took the body out of the car and threw it on top of the other two bodies before stealing the car," said the witness, who requested anonymity.

He said leaflets had been recently distributed in the area warning residents not to wear shorts.

In the Middle Ages, sumptuary laws, which were enacted to ensure that people wore the right clothes (although for social status, not religious reasons) were punished by fines, not death.

Traveling down my Daddy’s memory lane

The Opinion Journal's Best of the Web found this great obituary in London's Daily Telegraph:

Lieutenant-Commander John Wellham, who has died aged 87, was the last surviving pilot of the Fleet Air Arm raid on the Italian fleet at Taranto. . . .

Wellham remembered meeting a barrage balloon at 4,000 ft and thinking that it must have broken off its moorings. As he manoeuvred violently around it he was hit by flak, and had the control stick wrested from his hands. Then, slamming it hard to right and left while opening and closing the throttle, he suddenly realised that he was heading vertically for the city's rooftops.

Levelling out with difficulty 100 ft above the sea, he glimpsed a battleship on his right, and instinctively swung his tail from side to side to reduce speed and keep the aircraft at the correct dropping height.

Most of the tracer passed overhead, but, after dropping its torpedo, the Swordfish rose into the stream of fire. Zigzagging wildly at low level, it crossed the breakwater and began climbing into the night sky.

Lieutenant Pat Humphries, the observer, shouted at Wellham through their voice tube: "That was a bit exciting. I think that you've bent the plane somewhat. Do you think she'll get us home?" "It wasn't my fault," Wellham replied indignantly. "It was those bloody Eyeties!" . . .

The attack by 21 Swordfish torpedo bombers left Taranto in chaos. The Italian battleships Conte di Cavour, Littorio and Caio Duilio had been sunk, the seaplane depot set ablaze and a cruiser damaged, all for the loss of two aircraft and their crews. The battle sounded the death knell not just for the Italian fleet but for all battleships.

It's both a fascinating vignette in its own right, and it sparked in me a memory of one of my Dad's stories about WWII. During the War, my Dad served in the RAF, which had him all over Southern Europe and North Africa.  It was in North Africa, I believe, that my Dad's unit ended up guarding a group of Italian POWs.  My Dad loved those POWs.  He said that they were delightful men, relieved both to be out of the fighting and out of Mussolini's hands.  He also said that they cooked marvelously and that, in the middle of the desert, they struggled to make flowers bloom.

[For more on the British/Italian battles in North Africa, go here.] 

Remember all the heroes in Iraq

This Memorial Day, the MSM, as usual, will focus vigorously on the ones who didn't make it, or who barely made it. I will say a prayer for them too, but, as does the WSJ, I'll also remember the ones who do make it, and who every day display their courage, competence and patriotism:

Here's a Memorial Day quiz:

1. Who is Jessica Lynch?

Correct. She's the Army private captured, and later rescued, in the early days of the war.

2. Who is Leigh Ann Hester?

Come on. The Kentucky National Guard vehicle commander was awarded a Silver Star last year for fighting off an insurgent attack on a convoy in Iraq. The first woman to receive a Silver Star since World War II, and the first woman ever to receive one for close combat.

If you don't recognize Sergeant Hester's name, that's not surprising. While Private Lynch's ordeal appears in some 12,992 newspaper and broadcast reports on the Factiva news service, Sergeant Hester and her decoration for extraordinary valor show up in only 162.

One difference: Sergeant Hester is a victor, while Private Lynch can be seen as a victim. And when it comes to media reports about the military these days, victimology is all the rage. For every story about someone who served out of conviction and resolutely went on with his civilian life, there are many more articles about a soldier's failure or a veteran's floundering.

It's a sign of some progress that the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are not spit upon and shunned as Vietnam vets were. Yet there may be something more pernicious about mouthing "Support Our Troops" while also asserting that many of them are poor, uneducated dupes who were cannon fodder overseas and have come home as basket cases, plagued by a range of mental, emotional and financial problems.

The vast majority of vets don't fit that description. Many, like one returned Army guardsman we talked to, chalk up this portrayal to the media's fascination with bad news in general. As for his combat in Iraq, both "going to war and coming home is very overwhelming," he says. "But you make choices in life . . . and through inner strength and support, I am making a choice that I want to be healthy."

In some cases, the depiction of military personnel as damaged goods serves the antiwar agenda. Yet retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Tom Linn sees more basic impulses at work. "I honestly believe it is guilt" and even resentment, he says. The military type as misfit "is a stereotype that a lot of people from the Vietnam era have held on to." Then, as now, "they saw men and women who did more than they did . . . and they'd compensate by casting those folks in an inferior status."

By the way, you can read about Sgt. Hester, as well as a few more of the 170 Silver Star winners in Iraq, here.  And, in case you're wondering, these are real, contemporaneous Silver Star winners, not the weird, ex post facto John Kerry kind of winners.

Wasting my time

Sorry for the blog silence.  True to my bookworm credentials, I spent the last seven hours (4 last night; 3 this morning) devouring a nine hundred page novel, The Bronze Horseman.  I'll recommend it, although with the strong caveat that it's a girl book.  It's about the Siege of Leningrad, but told, not from a military perspective, but through a love story.  (By the way, if you check out the Amazon site that's included in my link, you'll see that the reviewer says it's not only good, but also overlong and overwrought — which is true.)  I am now, of course, wracked with guilt for having wasted time so shamefully, and will work with vigor at paying stuff for the next several hours.

Tony Snow has a verbal facility I envy

Steve Inskeep interviewed Tony Snow on NPR.  It was an interesting display of style.  Inskeep was on the attack:  You deflect questions by actually focusing on what reporters say, rather than what they mean.  (Implicit was the "How dare you?")  Are you hiding information from us?  Will you hide information from us?  Why won't you answer our questions? 

In the perpetually tense relationship between a press corp and a White House press secretary, some of Inskeep's pre-emptive hostility might well have been merited.  I don't presume to judge.  What fascinated me was how adroitly Snow handled Inskeep.  Essentially, he kept him honest, by pointing out poorly phrased questions and redundant questions (what we lawyers call "asked and answered").  He listened well, kept his answers to the point, and displayed an impressive wit and humility.  I envy that kind of verbal facility. You should listen to the interview and see what you think.