Losing someone who made the world a better place

I couldn’t let Rose Mattus’ death pass unnoticed. Who is she, you ask? Only one of the people who made the world or, at least, my world, a much, much better place:

Rose Mattus, who launched Haagen-Dazs ice cream with her husband, peddling the super-premium treat in grocery stores, has died. She was 90.

Mattus died Tuesday, according to Gutterman-Musicant Funeral Directors in Hackensack.

Mattus, who lived in Cresskill, N.J., had been the controller of Haagen-Dazs Inc. Her husband, Reuben Mattus, died in 1994.

The company was formed around 1960, having morphed from her husband’s family’s decades-old business in New York City’s Bronx borough. Reuben Mattus concocted the nonsensical name Haagen-Dazs, which means nothing in any language, for the brand that became famous for its super-rich recipes.

During the company’s early years, Rose Mattus would offer samples in grocery stores.

You can read the rest here.

UPDATE:  I corrected the post title, replacing “bless” with the intended “place.”  Never write posts when you’re in a hurry (which is most of the time for me).

More on the Associated (with Terrorists) Press

I’ve got actual work I have to do today (how dull), so blogging will be light. However, before I sign off to help support my family, I urge you to take some time to check out Michelle Malkin’s comprehensive summary about what’s going on in the fight between AP and CENTCOM over the legitimacy of AP sources. Most of her post is taken up with CENTCOM’s most recent announcement and with links to other stories analyzing the situation. It will be interesting to see what AP’s next step is now that, once again, the news purveyors have themselves become the news.

(By the way, the wordplay in my post title isn’t original to me.  I first saw it at LGF, liked it, and borrowed it.)

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There’s one person Big Brother Jesse won’t be watching

In the wake of the Michael Richards scandal, Jesse Jackson has thoughtfully stepped forward to announce a new addition to the Orwellian NewSpeak pantheon: the deletion of a word from the English language (and you know which word I mean).

I wasn’t really paying attention to this whole thing because (a) I’m bored by now with media conniptions about the stupid things Hollywood types do (they’re Hollywood types, for goodness sakes, not an army of Miss Manners); and (b) because, being a polite person myself, I don’t use rude language, especially racially insulting rude language. Since I don’t use that kind of language, I really didn’t stop and think about the larger implications of Jesse’s ukase. John Ridley, however, writing an LA Times op-ed, did think about it, though, and he doesn’t like what he sees:

WHEN EMBATTLED, uh, comedian Michael Richards sat down with the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Monday, the big news wasn’t his repeating, for the 1,000th time, that he had no idea where all that “nigger” stuff came from, didn’t mean to hurt anybody, feels terrible about the whole thing … yada, yada, yada.

The big news coming out of this meeting of minds is that Jackson, as supreme leader of all things black, has launched Operation N-word Freedom, a campaign to liberate the nation (finally!) from the dreaded N-word. Jesse now challenges all black people everywhere to “give our ancestors a present.” No, not the gift of elevation though education and hard work. Jesse wants us to stop using hurtful words.

Jesse wants this?

Jesse Jackson, the same cat who once referred to Jews as “hymies” and New York as “Hymietown”? This same guy who denied it when the statement was made public, kept up the denial after the journalist who reported his slur had his life threatened, and only under immense pressure finally admitted that, well, perhaps he’d made a slip of the tongue? Twice?

And he wants to lecture us regarding the usage of hurtful words?

I am all for having open and intelligent discourse on the word “nigger.” What I am wholly against are hypocrites who sling hate in private, then smile to us while they lie, telling the rest of us that intellectual debate is closed.

Sorry, Mr. Jackson, but the America I support through paying taxes in my over-inflated bracket allows me not to bow down automatically to your linguistic fatwas. Not all of us quake and quiver before mere words.

Ridley’s absolutely right, of course, a point he makes patently clear in another eight amusing and well-reasoned paragraphs. Don’t miss it.

Hat tip: Kevin. (Thanks!)

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More education “r” us

My child came home yesterday with yet another spelling worksheet that contained a misspelling. But that’s not why I’m writing. She also came home with a math worksheet containing complicated problems she’d gotten wrong, and it was clear that the teacher had never bothered to enlighten her about the isues in that worksheet (I did), but that’s not why I’m writing.

I’m writing because of what I though was an amusing math problem in the Houghton Mifflin math worksheet. As you know, HM is very, very, very committed to textbooks that reflect an America that the school boards want to see. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure that the core material in these worksheets has remained unchanged for decades. So I’m equally certain that one of the problems, as originally written, read “Tony’s Deli prepared 52 sandwiches. The sandwiches were either ham or turkey.” Then, someone at HM thought, “Goodness, that stereotypes Italians as deli owners, and it doesn’t represent the rich multicultural fabric that is America. Either will prevent us from selling textbooks to California, Texas and New York. We’d better change it.”

So, as this moment in time, the problem begins “Yusif’s Deli prepared 52 sandwiches. The sandwiches were either ham or turkey.” Now, it is possible, of course, that Yusif is a Christian Arab, but do you really think that’s what the HM editor had in mind? No, I think in the editor’s mind, the vast multi-culti panorama was meant to include a Muslim. And the editor was completely ignorant of the fact that the likelihood of a Muslim even looking at a pig product package is so unlikely that the question as written becomes a huge multi-culti joke.

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What dogs hear and what cats hear about Gitmo

Do you remember a duo of Gary Larson Far Side cartoons that took on the different way dogs and cats hear? The first cartoon published was entitled (I think) “What dogs hear.” The top panel showed what people say. With a speech balloon coming out of the person’s mouth, it was something along the lines of “That’s a good dog, Ginger. You’re daddy’s little baby, aren’t you, Ginger? Ginger is just my favorite dog.” The bottom panel, which had a thought balloon coming out of the dog’s head, showed what dogs hear: “Blah, blah, blah, Ginger. Blah, blah, blah, Ginger. Ginger, blah, blah, blah.” Pretty damn funny and accurate, I always thought.

Some time later, Larson came out with the companion cartoon, which was about what cats hear. The first panel was the same, with the speech balloon coming out of the person’s mouth: “That’s a good cat, Ginger. You’re daddy’s little baby, aren’t you, Ginger? Ginger is just my favorite cat.” In the second panel, we got to see what the cat actually heard. As with the dog, it too had a thought balloon coming out of its head except this time the thought balloon was absolutely empty. I thought then, and still think now, that this was a brilliant cartoon setup.

In any event, the idea of cartoons and the idea of two groups understanding things very differently all came together for me with a recent New Yorker. This was the annual cartoon edition, and there were a few, although a very few, funny ones in it.

What captured my interest was the cartoon/article entitled “I don’t get it.” Unsurprisingly, the magazine periodically publishes cartoons where the jokes just go over the readers’ heads. The New Yorker stated that, “To make amends, we hereby endeavor to explain a few cartoons that have caused widespread consternation. We don’t want to make things too easy, though, so for each cartoon we have thrown in three red herrings.” The presentation looks like a picture, with four mutiple choice answers next to it.

One of the cartoons takes place in that familiar cartoon staple, a dungeon. A prisoner is shown hanging by the wrists from the ceiling. The guard escorts four mimes in. My guess about the meaning, based on my own feelings, is that mimes, multiple mimes yet, are the ultimate form of torture. One of the choices says pretty much the same thing: “While mimes don’t talk, they have ways of making you talk.” Okay. I can live with that.

I was pretty taken aback, however, by one of the red herring choices: “This cartoon reflects the opinion that the international monitors who visited Guantanamo Bay were little better than mimes at reporting the outrages they witnesses.” Wow!

I’m sure the New Yorker employee who wrote this snide little throwaway line wasn’t thinking of the prison guards regularly attacked, with the attacks accompanied by urine, semen and feces assaults. And I’m sure the employee wasn’t thinking of the more subtle torture that apparently takes place when prisoners get glove handled Korans; abundant, specially prepared menus to meet their religious requirements and help stave off boredom; high level health care; and access to hundreds of lawyers. Probably, the author didn’t care that these battlefield detainees — willing warriors who fought for foreign nations or causes against the United States — receive better prison care than the average American prisoner.

All of these factors are meaningless when weighed against the horrors of fake menstrual blood. Heck, that’s even worse than mimes.

I’m perfectly willing to admit (a) that Gitmo is not a nice place to be and (b) that prison guards are often brutal to those under their care. That’s the nature of prisons. I suspect, though, that guard cruelty happens with less, rather than more frequency in Gitmo than in regular prisons for two reasons: First, Gitmo is more tightly monitored than the average American prison, making abuse more difficult to sustain. Second, hiring practices have to affect outcomes. Let me explain:

American prison guards are individuals who choose to be prison guards. Out of that population, I’d bet that there are a significant number who make that choice because there is a sadistic vein in their nature and they do enjoy the idea of being able to exercise power over a captive population. The same does not hold true for the guards at Gitmo, who have chosen to be soldiers and ended up assigned as guards. Sure, there are going to be the sadistic ones mixed in there too — as there are in every population and job — but that’s random luck, not a considered career choice.

In any event, I’ve bloviated long enough here. My point is that, like dogs and cats, those on different sides of the political spectrum hear entirely different things when the noises are coming out of Gitmo, and, to the extent they hear the same things, the spin is pretty different.

I think something has to be changed at Gitmo, not because of dubious claims of prisoner abuse (where the press always believes the prisoners claims over the statements of our own American troops), but because, in a long war, holding facilities such as Gitmo become untenable. American should either try these men and formally convict them, or do something else with them. Just leaving them there is not a viable answer — but my saying that certainly shouldn’t be understood to mean that I believe Gitmo is the Marquis de Sade’s dream playhouse.

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I am woman, hear me whine

There’s an article in today’s New York Times exposing (again) one of the problems with affirmative action — it elevates nice, ordinary people to situations where they’re bound to fail. This time the focus is on the nation’s top law firms, where African-Americans consistently fail to last:

Thanks to vigorous recruiting and pressure from corporate clients, black lawyers are well represented now among new associates at the nation’s most prestigious law firms. But they remain far less likely to stay at the firms or to make partner than their white counterparts.

A recent study says grades help explain the gap. To ensure diversity among new associates, the study found, elite law firms hire minority lawyers with, on average, much lower grades than white ones. That may, the study says, set them up to fail.

The study, of course, is being vigorously challenged. You can read about the whole debate here.

I’m actually inclined to agree with the study’s conclusion based upon my own years at big law firms. So many of these firms hired minorities solely so that they could boast about their progressive ethnic balance. This meant that they weren’t always so picky about their new hires’ qualifications. These kids were window dressing, and the firms never really committed to having them for the long haul.

However, based on my twenty-years out-of-date information, let me throw out one more reason that minorities aren’t lasting at the big firms — their sense of entitlement prevents them from working as hard as they ought to. In this regard, I speak from personal experience. I was one of a big crew of women and minorities that a large urban law firm hired so that it could boast about its diversity, something that was becoming very important in the legal marketplace. All of us were academically qualified and could have been hired without regard to our sex or race, but we still felt very special — we were the vanguard of the new lawyer. Away with the “white boys,” and in with the women, the Hispanics and the African Americans.

Of course, because we were so special, we felt pretty sure we were entitled to special treatment. It just wasn’t fair to make us work so hard, and why in the world weren’t they holding our hands constantly? Those ugly, old, white men seemed to expect us to be self-propelled, aggressive, and to stand on our own two feet. We were women and minorities, though, and we weren’t about to do that. We wanted mentoring! As it happened, mentoring wasn’t going to be in the cards at that old-line firm, with the result that those of us who didn’t leave under our own steam were swiftly “downsized.”

At the time, I was absolutely certain that all blame for the debacle that was my incoming year of associates was the firm’s fault. I’m less and less sure now. The fact is, while the firm made no effort to accommodate the new culture of incoming lawyers they’d hired, we made no effort to fit into the firm’s culture. In our youthful arrogance, and cloaked in our victim status, we believed that it was the firm that should completely change its decades old culture in our favor. Looking back, I’m quite sure that, if I hadn’t been so caught up in my special status as a touchy-feely, sensitive, needy woman lawyer, I would have been better equipped to handle the hard work and hard knocks that come with a big firm. A big firm is a dynamo, and nothing is going to shape it into the type of small, personal firm with which I routinely work now. That’s simply not the nature of the big firm beast.

(By the way, my memory says that Asian men had no problem adjusting to big firm culture. While Asian women had bought into feeling just as needy as Caucasian women, Asian men were simply hard workers who eschewed victim status.)

In any event, I realize that my observations are outdated and that there is a small number of big firms out there that has been able to handle the new breed of non-white, non-male attorney. For the most part, though, I do wonder whether a large part of the problem doesn’t lie with the various law firms’ arrogance, but with the arrogant sense of entitlement that characterizes the new breed of female and/or minority lawyer.

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The news outlet that cried “Wolf.”

Here’s a quick chronology, followed by my comments.

First, during this summer’s Israeli/Hezbollah War, AP, along with several other news outlets, was shown to have relied upon doctored and staged photographs, and false and/or misleading stories fed to them by local stringers sympathetic to Hezbollah. (You can read all about it here, at LGF.)

Second, for some time in the Iraq War, major news outlets have been caught relying on information, some true and some false, that they received from local “reporters” whose manifest sympathies lie with the insurgents. Many of these stories and photos have been nothing more than propaganda for the insurgents. I don’t know offhand whether AP has been caught in this propaganda net, but I suspect a little research would show that it has.

Third, this weekend, AP reported that Shiia militia burned six Sunni men alive.

Fourth, Curt, at Flopping Aces, dug into the story and discovered (a) that the source the AP cites is probably an imposter and (b) that the US Army has no knowledge of the alleged event — which is pretty surprising, because it was reported as a huge deal. Curt found a whole bunch of other stuff, which you should read at the source, but all of which points to problems, big problems with the AP story.

Fifth, the AP just fired back with the following story, which I read at Michelle Malkin. Please note the language I’ve highlighted:

By Steven R. Hurst, Associated Press BAGHDAD — The attack on the small Mustafa Sunni mosque began as worshippers were finishing Friday midday prayers. About 50 unarmed men, many in black uniforms and some wearing ski masks, walked through the district chanting “We are the Mahdi Army, shield of the Shiites.”

Fifteen minutes later, two white pickups, a black BMW and a black Opel drove up to the marchers. The suspected Shiite militiamen took automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers from the vehicles. They then blasted open the front of the mosque, dragged six worshippers outside, doused them with kerosene and set them on fire.

This account of one of the most horrific alleged attacks of Iraq’s sectarian war emerged Tuesday in separate interviews with residents of a Sunni enclave in the largely Shiite Hurriyah district of Baghdad.

The Associated Press first reported on Friday’s incident that evening, based on the account of police Capt. Jamil Hussein and Imad al-Hashimi, a Sunni elder in Hurriyah, who told Al-Arabiya television he saw people who were soaked in kerosene, then set afire, burning before his eyes.

AP Television News also took video of the Mustafa mosque showing a large portion of the front wall around the door blown away. The interior of the mosque appeared to be badly damaged and there were signs of fire.

However, the U.S. military said in a letter to the AP late Monday, three days after the incident, that it had checked with the Iraqi Interior Ministry and was told that no one by the name of Jamil Hussein works for the ministry or as a Baghdad police officer. Lt. Michael B. Dean, a public affairs officer of the U.S. Navy Multi-National Corps-Iraq Joint Operations Center, signed the letter, a text of which was published subsequently on several Internet blogs. The letter also reiterated an earlier statement from the U.S. military that it had been unable to confirm the report of immolation…

…The U.S. military said that neither police nor coalition forces had reports of such an incident.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry later said that al-Hashimi, the Sunni elder in Hurriyah, had recanted his account of the attack after being visited by a representative of the defense minister…

…Seeking further information about Friday’s attack, an AP reporter contacted Hussein for a third time about the incident to confirm there was no error. The captain has been a regular source of police information for two years and had been visited by the AP reporter in his office at the police station on several occasions. The captain, who gave his full name as Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, said six people were indeed set on fire.

On Tuesday, two AP reporters also went back to the Hurriyah neighborhood around the Mustafa mosque and found three witnesses who independently gave accounts of the attack. Others in the neighborhood said they were afraid to talk about what happened.

Those who would talk said the assault began about 2:15 p.m., and they believed the attackers were from the Mahdi Army militia loyal to radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. He and the Shiite militia are deeply rooted in and control the Sadr City enclave in northeastern Baghdad where suspected Sunni insurgents attacked with a series of car bombs and mortar shells, killing at least 215 people a day before.

The witnesses refused to allow the use of their names because they feared retribution either from the original attackers or the police, whose ranks are infiltrated by Mahdi Army members or its associated death squads.

Two of the witnesses — a 45-year-old bookshop owner and a 48-year-old neighborhood grocery owner — gave nearly identical accounts of what happened. A third, a physician, said he saw the attack on the mosque from his home, saw it burning and heard people in the streets screaming that people had been set on fire. All three men are Sunni Muslims…

That’s the rundown. Here’s my comment about the language I highlighted in the above “news” report:

Who are these two unidentified AP reporters? If these are the same types of stringers who have been filing false reports and shilling photos during both the Iraq War and the Israeli/Hezbollah War, why should we believe these further assertions? Frankly, AP doesn’t have any credibility with me. I’d like some independent corroboration. I’d be a whole lot more interested in this alleged proof if the AP would name the reporters who went back to the neighborhood to update their witness list.

I’m also sorry to say that, by this time, I’m unlikely to believe any local witnesses, and would accept only forensic evidence from the site itself. Because the story has legs, and because the insurgents’ favorite news outlet has been challenged, I think any witness who comes forward now is tainted. It’s just as likely that these purported eyewitnesses are plants who have been carefully groomed to give “nearly identical” and possibly false accounts of something that may or may not have happened.

AP has only itself to blame for this, even if the story is in fact true. Having blown its credibility with a series of demonstrably false stories in the past several year, why should I trust it now?

UPDATE: Read about CENTCOM’s response to the AP’s latest salvo in the War against the American Military. By the way, I love Charles Johnson’s new name for AP — Associated (with terrorists) Press.

UPDATE II:  You can see Michelle Malkin’s clear rundown of the whole sequences of events here, at Hot Air.

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I can so totally believe these accusations

Many years ago, when I was a naive college student, I got a job in an institution where the head of my department was a lesbian. She was a very nice woman, but I made sure I was never alone in a room with her. She never crossed a line, but she came awfully, awfully close to doing so by pushing physical proximity to the point of discomfort. Other female friends of mine have also complained that lesbian bosses and colleagues, while subtle, put out definite feelers that were inappropriate for the workplace.

I’ve also for the last several years had the opportunity to observe an organization where the gay former department head consistently chose as his seconds in command the gay and lesbian members of his team. I don’t think this was a deliberate policy. I think his choices reflected the fact that the people he felt closest too — and those whom he believed he could trust most to be his departmental allies (an erroneous belief, as it turned out) — where those who lived on his side of the sexual spectrum.

My own anecdotal evidence — and I recognize that it is entirely anecdotal, with all the limited weight associated with that kind of evidence — makes it easy for me to believe the accusations in this news report:

Bonnie Bleskachek, the nation’s first openly lesbian big-city fire chief, has agreed to step down in the wake of firefighter lawsuits accusing her of harassment and discrimination, her attorney and the mayor said.

Mayor R.T. Rybak announced the agreement in a letter to the city’s executive council in which he wrote that he no longer had confidence in Bleskachek as chief. The executive council was to discuss the agreement Tuesday, and the full City Council could consider it as early as Friday.

Bleskachek, 43, was hailed as a trailblazer when she was promoted to the top job two years ago, but her tenure has been troubled.

Three female firefighters have sued, alleging various acts of discrimination and sexual harassment. Two of the lawsuits were settled, but earlier this month, a male firefighter brought another lawsuit alleging he was denied advancement because he is male and not gay.

You can read this rest here.

By the way, I don’t believe that gays are any more likely than straights to engage in workplace harassment. I just think it’s interesting that a group that is proud of its sexual sensitivity, that worries constantly about its sexual vulnerability, and that allies itself politically with those who claim victim status in this country is itself not immune to the temptation to engage in sexual harassment and sexual politics.  How very human.

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Some good news out of Washington

Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, impeached as a federal judge in 1989 on corruption charges, dropped his bid under pressure on Tuesday to chair a congressional panel designed to help protect America’s security, a party aide said.Hastings took the action after being told by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, in line to head the U.S. House of Representatives when the new Congress convenes in January, that she would not give him the coveted job, the aide said.

Read the rest here.

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Secret societies in San Francisco

You know how zealously I guard my identity, living as I do in the Bay Area, where conservatives are not welcome. Here’s an example of just how loony these things get.

Let’s start with “The Wall,” a moderated internet site set up to be a bulletin board for San Franciscans who wish to comment about the City (” The Wall is a place where you can discuss what is wrong (or right) with San Francisco Politics, society, and civic culture.”). It’s small place, boasting only 479 members. Apparently some (or maybe all) of the people who registered comment from a conservative perspective. And as is so often the case with any of these bulletin board sites, they’ve used nom de cybers, rather than their real names. Apparently that’s a bad thing.

How do I know it’s a bad thing? Because I read this:

Fog City Journal columnist h Brown today sent out a missive exposing members of the secret society of anonymous posters at the right leaning SFWALL.net.

Posters SFSweetie, Marcel Deste and Chuck Revisited are among the exposed.

San Francisco’s Court Jester [another name for h Brown] will be interviewed by Arthur Bruzzone – a recipient of Brown’s blasts – on this very subject and may include anonymous poster exposure by name.

Look for Bruzzone and Brown to generate high viewership ratings, especially if Brown takes off the gloves on Matt Gonzalez.

So, an ordinary bulletin board with posts from people who engage in the ordinary practice of using cybernames is suddenly transformed into a “secret society” of anonymous posters. I can’t wait until we start outing the people blogging at the Democratic Underground or at the Daily Kos’ various diaries. The Wall’s “residents” are sanguine about the snarky nastiness of this whole thing. Here’s a sampling of responses to the news:

If I’m not on his list, I’m going to feel my self-esteem drop and no one in SF wants to see that.

***

This is science fiction. The big liberal monster is out the stamp out the last remaining morsels of “the right wing” or what? This is hillarious.

I just went to the link thing and see that Im mentioned frankly IM amazed that I apparently am considered a writer or poster who strikes fear into somebody that I need to be singled out.

Secret society of right wing posters??? How did the guy ever find out that I ran Opus Dei for 20 years and was the consultant for The Davinci Code? And I hope he doesnt EVER reveal what the secret society does at the autumn equinox with its crisco and baseball cards and home recorded at live events Anne Coulter tapes. Or the secret handshake.

***

Is SF really so small that someone like H Brown can get media attention by outing some people on a single anonymous political chat board (Right leaning!) ?
I mean, I dont even know anyone else who knows about this board. What are the chances that the average San Franciscan would know – or even care.

***

I guess I’m missing the significance of this, so feel free to fill me in. He’s outing people because…..

Aside from the sheer meanness in exposing people who are not holding themselves out to the public as anything more than private citizens using an anonymous cyber bulletin board, I find it disturbing that this kind of thing is apparently being considered a new weapon in political wars. I should point out that, in America, there is an old an honored tradition of anonymous political writer, with such stellar practioners as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. While their intimates may have known who they were, their point was to let their writing stand on its own, without interference from their public identities.

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NPR is at it again when it comes to the Iraq War

An NPR story has noted that the Iraq War has now gone on longer than World War II. That’s a fact and an interesting one. Even more interesting, of course, is how NPR spins the story:

Monday, Nov. 27, marks the day when the Iraq war becomes longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II. Retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales notes that he is surprised that the U.S. military has held out this long, considering that it is an all-volunteer service. A veteran of Vietnam, Scales credits the country’s sergeants for holding things together.

Of sergeants, Scales says, “They are the soul of our army, the glue that bonds fighting units together. They bring young soldiers along, inure them to the frightfulness they are about to witness, and teach them the practical things that keep them alive in the heat of battle.”

Scales says that today’s sergeants’ willingness to stay in the service contrasts to 1972, when many of the NCOs left the service, dissatisfied with the war in Vietnam.

Cause and effect seems to be something that eludes the NPR-niks completely. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the military’s resolute stance isn’t despite the absence of draftees, but because of their absence. The military is no longer made up of reluctant, ill-trained conscripts. Instead, it’s a tightly trained force whose members are there because they want to be there, whether because they’re natural warriors who need an outlet, because they see it as good professional training, because they were bored, or for any other of a thousand possible reasons. With all due credit to sergeants (and I have a lot of respect for them), it’s utterly fatuous to denigrate the troops in this way by saying that it’s the sergeants who hold together America’s entire military enterprise.

This whole line of thinking reminds me of those reporters who constantly express surprise at the fact that, even as the prison population rises, crime actually drops. Who’d ‘a thunk it? I guess you need an Ivy League degree to avoid the primitive man’s mistake of making rational connections between cause and effect. (For a nice take on this point, read the first story in yesterday’s Best of the Web.)

By the way, the same NPR story has a nice little chart at the bottom pointing out how long various American wars lasted. I thought it would be useful to augment that chart with casualty statistics (in red) for those wars as compared to the current war:

As of Monday, U.S. troops have been in Iraq for 3 years and 8 months. A comparison to other wars:

The Revolutionary War lasted for 8 years and 2 months. (4,435 died, out of a population of 3.5 million.)

The American Civil War lasted 4 years, ending on April 9, 1865. (558,000 died, more than half from disease, out of a population of 34.3 million.)

The Spanish-American War began on February 15, 1898, and ended in the same year, on July 17. (2,446 died, almost all from disease, during a six week long war, out of a population of 74.6 million.)

World War I lasted 4 years and just under 5 months. (116,700 died, out of a population of 102.8 million.)

The U.S. role in World War II started in December of 1941; it ended with the Japanese surrender in 1945. (407,300 died, out of a population of 133.5 million.)

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam lasted well over a decade, until Saigon fell to North Vietnam on April 30, 1975. (58,000 died, out of a population of 204.9 million.)

For more information on the rate at which American’s participated in her wars, the numbers of wounded and dead in each war, and the relative value of each casualty to the total population, check out this fascinating website, which is where I got the numbers I used above. Just to put everything in perspective, 2,883 military men and women have given their lives in Iraq out of a population of 300 million. Each loss is a tragedy but, for Americans, this is a low-casualty conflict, which may also account for military resolve.

UPDATEJonah Goldberg tackles the same topic, only with more information and a much better point.

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An inspiring Christmas show for Sacramento area residents

I got this from a friend, and pass it on to those of you in the Sacramento area.  It sounds wonderful:

From: Cristo Rey High School & The Concerts of All Hallows

Re: “Amahl and the Night Visitors”

To: All Parishes of the Diocese

Cristo Rey High School and the Concerts of All Hallows invite you to performances of

“Amahl and the Night Visitors”
on Dec 15 at 10 am, 11:30 and 1 pm, and December 16, at 7 pm and 8:30 pm, part of

All Hallows’ and Cristo Rey’s “Christmas Concert Weekend.”

“Amahl and the Night Visitors” will be presented by The All Hallows Concert Orchestra, a collaboration of university, community and parish artists, under the direction of Pete Nowlen (Associate Professor, UCD and CSUS), and Cristo Rey High School. Performances are on Friday, December 15 at 10 am, 11 and 1 pm ($5 student and $15 general), and Saturday, December 16, 2006 at 7 pm and 8:30 pm ($15 general and $50 preferred). Tickets are available at All Hallows, Cristo Rey High School, Easter’s Catholic Books, The Catholic Store, and on the web at www.ticketweb.com (venue All Hallows; courtesy fee applies). The All Hallows Concerts are now in their fourth year, and the sole purpose of the Concerts is to bring musical excellence to the region. This will also mark the debut performances of students from the Diocese’s newest high school: Cristo Rey High School, located on the St. Peter campus of All Hallows – St. Peter Parish. All performances take place at All Hallows Church.

The All Hallows Concert Orchestra presents “Amahl” with full theatrical staging and lighting. Composed by Gian Carlo Menotti in 1952, it is now part of the Christmas cultural landscape. Amahl” tells the heartwarming story of an impoverished young boy who experiences a miracle due to his generosity to the Three Wise Men as they travel to Bethlehem seeking the Newborn King. An Audience sing-along of Adeste Fidelis will immediately follow the main performance, with verses sung in Latin, English and Spanish, accompanied by the full orchestra and Amahl cast. Program length is just over one hour, and there will no intermission. The Concerts are highly organized and artistically excellent. Groups have the option of “buying a pew” for the performance: seating for 8 people at a total price of $120 for all.

For more information, including to claim your two complimentary tickets, please contact Cristo Rey Board Member and All Hallows Concerts Chair Chris Bakes: 916 456 7206.

Education, San Francisco style

There is no doubt that the poor live in bad neighborhoods. If they weren’t poor, they’d move someplace nicer. Neighborhoods that smell bad, are unsafe, have falling down houses and are near industry are invariably going to be more affordable than some nice suburban green stretch. This isn’t some evil capitalist plot against poor people, its economic fact, and has been true for all time in all places.

Sadly, economic logic is has never been something taught in San Francisco schools (a fact to which I can personally attest). Instead, class and race warfare is alive and well:

When it comes to walking tours of San Francisco, energetic tourists can choose among dozens. They can take a literary tour of North Beach, stroll past the famous Victorian mansions on Alamo Square, view murals in the Mission or wander through the colorful alleys of Chinatown.

But one walking tour is different. It’s in Hunters Point, a part of town largely ignored by publishers of tourist guides. And it’s not centered on art, architecture or food. It’s all about the pollutants and chemicals that contribute to what local public health authorities consider a neighborhood health crisis of major proportion.

It’s the Toxic Tour — and if it doesn’t sound like fun, that’s the point. It’s intended to show participants — mostly school groups — what happens when a largely poor, minority population lives on a swath of land containing 325 toxic sites.

“It’s an equation that doesn’t start to make that much sense health-wise,” explained Rachel Pomerantz, 29, who leads the tours on behalf of the Hunters Point nonprofit Literacy for Environmental Justice.

On a recent morning, she huddled in the fog just outside the Hunters Point Shipyard with a group of teenagers from Downtown High.

She told them that more than 90 percent of residents of the broader Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood are minorities and that many of them live in poverty. She added that the neighborhood’s residents, who make up about 5 percent of San Francisco’s population, contend with a third of the city’s industry and 30 percent of its hazardous waste sites.

“Is that a coincidence?” she asked them. “Have you guys ever heard of the term environmental racism before?”

“Does that still go on?” a boy asked her.

“What do you think?” she responded. (Emphasis mine.)

The news story’s author has the intelligence to point out that “claims of environmental racism are controversial and debatable.” However, the captive audience of students receiving this Marxist, race-based cant aren’t reading the paper — they’re getting nonsense right from the horse’ mouth.

Please don’t read this and come away believing that I think it’s okay for people to live in toxic waste dumps. I think this is a problem of poverty that a humane society should try to addresss. However, I don’t the problem has its roots in racism or class warfare. Instead, it’s simple economic reality, and affects all poor people in all societies, regardless of their racial make-up as compared to the richer people in their community.

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That old gang o’ mine

I was walking with my kids to the bus stop this morning.  Suddenly, a whole group of kids took off down the hill, and my older child vanished with them.  My younger child didn’t pick up his pace.

“Hey, big guy,” I said.  “Everyone’s going to beat you down the hill.”

“Mommy, I don’t hang with the pack,” he replied, as he took my hand.  “I hang with you.”

Awwww.

How the media loses the war

My friend Curt, who blogs at Flopping Aces, has made a couple of major news discovery: First, the story about Shiite men burning Sunni men alive is almost certainly untrue. Second, the man the MSM identifies as the source for this story has identified himself as an Iraqi Captain is not who he claims to be — which means that he exists for the sole purpose of feeding false stories to a credulous anti-War press, staffed by people who will swallow any story that suits their biases.

It’s a staggering story of media incompetence (which is the nicest thing I can think to say about it) and about the effect that incompetence has on the US’s ability to win this war. You’ll want to read it all here, at Curt’s back-up site, which he set up to handling the overwhelming traffic flowing in from LGF, Michelle Malkin, Captain’s Quarters, Lucienne, and longtail bloggers — that is, the rest of us out there.

By the way, as you read this whole story — and I hope you broadcast it widely — keep in mind what Michael Novak wrote in the Weekly Standard before this story broke:

If I were an Islamist, a terrorist, a sworn foe of democracy, here is what I think I would have learned from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is what I would write down in my hard-earned manual of instruction.


BY THE WILL OF ALLAH, in all wars to come, may it prepare our brave martyrs for combat operations!Today, the purpose of war is sharply political, not military; psychological, not physical. The main purpose of war is to dominate the way the enemy imagines and thinks about the war. Warfare is not, these days, won on a grand field of battle. Nor is it won by the force that wins series after series of military victories. Nor is triumph assured by killing far higher numbers of the enemy. The physical side of warfare no longer holds precedence.The primary battlefield today lies in the minds of opposing publics.The main strategic aim of war today is to dominate the mind of the enemy’s public, and then ultimately to dominate the mind of that public’s leaders.***What we have discovered in Iraq is the weakest link in the ability of the United States to sustain military operations overseas. That link is the U.S. media. They are Islamists’ best friends.Experience shows that the mainstream press of the United States is alienated from the U.S. military. In addition, the American press is extremely vulnerable to anti-U.S. propaganda. Thus, the American public will be fed nearly everything that foreign adversaries–our band of brothers–wish to feed it about the war. Therefore, I write: Maxim # 1: To defeat America, impose upon the imagination of its media your own storyline.

I’ll reiterate what I said above: Please, broadcast, broadcast, broadcast, whether through your blog or in emails you send to friends. Either the MSM will not correct itself, which means it’s up to the bloggers to spread the truth, or, if sufficient bloggers agitate, maybe the MSM will get the story that, once again, it is the story.

One more thing: whenever you come across this story on the internet, be sure to click the del.icio.us or digg it, or any other social networking icon available on a given post, in order to give this story greater blog strength. You’ll see, for example, that Curt has a whole number of social networking links you can use.
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Another thing to be thankful for

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful, serious and kind comments on God (see the comments to my Thanksgiving post below).  You’ve given me a lot to think about and once again shown the civility and constructive spirit of visitors to the Bookwormroom.   I deeply appreciate you all.

P.S.  The doctor tells me the knee surgery went very well and I’ll be completely healed in six to twelve weeks.   Thank you to all of you for your best wishes.

Popal will be tried

Omeed Aziz Popal, the Fremont, California, man who went on a car fueled rampage in August, during which he killed one man and injured 18 others (including one woman who ended up paralyzed from the neck down) will be tried:

Omeed Aziz Popal, 29, faces 18 counts of attempted murder for the Aug. 29 rampage. Judge Mary Morgan of San Francisco Superior Court found that he was competent to be tried after reviewing a nine-page report from a court-appointed doctor.

The doctor wrote that Popal, who has been confined to the psychiatric ward of San Francisco General Hospital, had reacted well to a recent change in medication.

The trial should be interesting. Many people (myself included) suspected that this was a “driving while Muslim” crime. We were quickly assured by the PC police (and by the real police) that it wasn’t. The trial should be helpful in providing a little more information.

I feel that, even if Popal isn’t altogether there (and I think there’s a very good possibility that this is the case), that doesn’t necessarily mean that his religion wasn’t a motive. As I’ve often pointed out, when people are truly insane, their insanity still tends to reflect their societal belief systems. In the old days, insane people believed they were witches (or that witches were acting against them). In the 1950s to the present, Western schizophrenics often have space alien obsessions. It therefore wouldn’t surprise me if Popal, whether clinically insane or not, had an anti-Western or anti-Jewish obsession.

Another thing that should prove interesting about the trial will be the media coverage itself. As I noted, in the wake of Popal’s attack, everyone in the media and the SF Administration was swift to assure us that Islam had nothing to do with it. That wasn’t the case two months later when, tragically, a mother of six in the same community was gunned down. As Don Quixote pointed out, the very first supposition was that she was killed because of her religion.

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Tracking the Muslim moderates

My host during the Thanksgiving break introduced me to a newspaper called Muslim World Today. It’s editor-in-chief is Tashbih Sayyed, who is also the president of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance, which sponsors the paper. The CDT is a grassroots organization which has as its unabashed goal the dethroning of radicalized Islam as part of an ecumenical vision.

Using a mix of news stories and editorials, this weekly paper has comprehensive information about Muslims worldwide. This week’s issue, for example, has stories about the probable civil war in Lebanon, an extract from a British book about a spy inside Al Qaeda, and an op-ed about the increasingly moribund Israeli/Egyptian peace treaty. Everything is an interesting read.

What’s rather sad about this publication, though, is the paucity of Muslim-authored stories and op-eds. As I page through the November 17 edition, what I see are articles that are mostly written by Jews, with a few non-Jewish authors thrown in for good measure. Thus, Daniel Mandel writes that “Israel Still Has No Genuine Peace Partner;” Daniel Pipes opines that “Europe Is Finished, Predicts Mark Steyn;” Frederick Forsythe writes about the “Blatant Hypocrisy” that characterizes about the disproportionate aggression accusation hurled at Israel during the recent war; Gerald A. Honigman talks about the “Conflict of Interest” that James Baker has with Israeli policy; and Alon Ben-Meir questions whether the Iraq War is “The Last War for Oil?” — and that’s just in the papers first five pages. The same pattern continues throughout the paper.

The only Arab authored stories (and I can’t tell if the writers are Christian or Muslim) are about the Abaya, the full covering that ensures that Muslim women are kept invisible and subjugated; and about Palestinian groups that plan to target the U.S. Maha Al-Hujailan wrote the first story, and Ali Waked wrote the second. There’s also an editorial by Mohammed Shaker Abdallah, but I think it was written for the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, and not for the Muslim World Today.

I think Muslim World Today definitely falls into the weekly must read category, simply as a clearinghouse for information about a group that will have more impact on the world in the near future (if only demographically) than any other single group. However, to the extent that Mr. Sayyed obviously cannot find moderate Muslim voices to fill his paper, and has to rely on the same Jews the Muslims hate with such ferocity, I have my doubts about whether the paper can itself make headway towards its goal of harnessing radical Islam. In any event, I admire tremendously Mr. Sayyed’s bravery and integrity, and I wish him all the luck in the world.

By the way, if you’d like to subscribe to the paper’s hard copy, and help support Mr. Sayyed’s laudable goal, you can do so here.

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It’s not just about military intelligence

I missed the original hoo-ha about Rangel’s new remarks attacking the military. Most commentators are appropriately likening it to Kerry’s recent “joke” about military intelligence. I think there’s more there, though, than just an attack on the intellectual abilities of the average mil guy or gal. Here’s the money quote:

I want to make it abundantly clear: if there’s anyone who believes that these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment. If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq.

I don’t know why, but when I read Rangel’s quotation, the subtext to me was that real men don’t fight. Only uneducated louts fight.

In other words, I saw a metrosexual peeking out from under his quotation. You remember metrosexuals, don’t you? They’re feminized young men who nevertheless claim that their actual sexual orientation is heterosexual. They’re just giving free rein to their feminine side. (You can read more about this breed here.) When I read Rangel saying “If a young fella has an option of having a decent career or joining the army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq,” I see it, not just as a comment about “only stupid people join the military,” but also as a demasculization of men. In Rangel’s world, real men aren’t warriors, they’re desk jockies. This is an entirely new phenomenon.

There have, of course, been other times in history when men dressed in a feminized way. Just go back to the ancient Minoan civilization, to see men with long hair and tightly bound waists. Beginning in the late seventeenth century, and lasting right up until the French Revolution, European and British upper class men had long hair, wore high heels, and had elaborate floral patterns embroidered on their clothes. Those styles, though, had more to do with displaying class difference than with downplaying masculinity. A man who could afford silk embroidery, who could wear his hair long, and who tottered about in high heels was boasting about the fact that he did not need to work. These same men, however, valued their warrior status. They practiced sword fighting, rode hard, hunted animals, dueled and, if they were late 18th/early 19th century Brits, boxed.

Rangel’s comment, however, implies that this innate masculinity has no place in today’s world. Now, I’m perfectly willing to agree with him — up to a point. As a mother, I spend an enormous amount of time working with my children to teach them to control their aggression. I view as uncivilized the Muslim populations that invariably greet words with violence. Civilization demands a balance. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that men have always been warriors and that all cultures have had a warrior class. This is the first time in history, I think, that the warrior class, rather than being regarded as a protector, or a sign of masculinity, however, is viewed as a type of cretinism. Considering who our enemies our, I don’t think this world view bodes well for our future.

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Be it ever so humble….

We returned late last night from a trip that saw us surrounded by interesting people, and staying in the gorgeous home of gracious hosts. And yet I’m just so glad to be back. I’m a complete homebody — I like my bed, and my kitchen and my computer. It was also a great relief to be home after nine hours on the road, which was hard on the grown-ups and really hard on the kids.  They handled it well, thanks to the miracle of car DVDs, but they weren’t happy.

Although there were newspapers and computers around where we were staying, I didn’t interact much with either.  There was just too much going on and, to be honest, I needed a bit of break.  I’ll get back in the groove this morning.  I also brought back all sorts of interesting print material that my host gave me, and I bet I’ll be blogging about that once I’ve had the chance to review it.

So, in about three hours from now, consider this blog back in business!

So now what for Israel?

So Israel has reached a truce in the Gaza without ever getting its soldier back.  Five months of “war” was apparently inadequate to either find and release that soldier or persuade the Palestinians to give him up.  Looks like Israel, like the United States, has gotten into the bad habit of entering “limited” wars and then pulling out without achieving its objective.  This strikes me as a bad thing, but I do not have the expertise in thise area that Bookworm or her readers do.  What do all of you think Israel should do now?

California’s dishonest bonds

In California we have a variety of bond types, but for purposes of this note, we can talk about just two types — local and state-wide.  Local bonds are presented honestly.  A voter who approves a local bond is also explicitly approving a special tax to raise money to repay the bond.  The voter knows who is going to pay for the bond, roughly how much they are going to pay and over what period of time.     

State bonds, on the other hand, are simply ways for the politicians to get around the requirement that the state balance its budget.  Here’s how the scam works: the politicians figure out what’s most important to the voters (schools, road, prisons, whatever) and twice a year place multi-billion dollar bonds on the ballot, supposedly to raise money to pay for these things.  But, unlike local bonds, state bonds are not tied to any revenue source.   They are repaid (with huge amounts of interest, of course) out of general revenues. 

For example, the most recent November ballot included some $50 billion in bonds, all sold as a package with the advertising slogan “buy now, pay over time, with no new taxes.”  It’s a slick and appealing campaign and every one of the bonds passed.  Heck, even Bookworm voted for one of them.  But does anyone really believe that in future years there will be $100 billion of unneeded general fund dollars lying around just waiting to be used to pay off these bonds and their interest?  Of course not! 

At some point down the line when the bill comes due for all these bonds the state will have another ”fiscal crisis” and the money will have to be raised, either by cutting other programs, raising taxes or (most likely) passing another round of even bigger bonds.

I don’t know where this all ends, any more than I know where the massive federal debt spiral or the massive trade deficit increases end, but I can’t imagine it ending well.   Understand, I am not against bonds.  I’ve been one of the leaders in the successful efforts to pass two school bonds in my community over the years.  But I am in favor of telling the voters the truth.  If the state is going to go into debt, it should say so and the voters should approve a special tax to repay that debt, just as they do at the local level.   Not only is this more honest, it will avoid the raiding of the general fund and the periodic fiscal crises that are the inevitable outcome of the current dishonest system.     

A few things I’m thankful for

Bookworm is off to spend her holiday with family and my family will be coming to my house for the usual turkey dinner.   But I do want to take a moment to share a few things for which I’m thankful.

I’m thankful that I have the best wife in the world, who has brought me more joy that any man deserves for over 32 years.

I’m thankful for my two sons who didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned (never quite took the interest in education I’d hoped) but who have turned out to be fine young men even so.  They are honest and decent and hardworking.  One little example — both sons had to borrow my second car recently and both, without ever being asked, filled the gas tank before returning the car.  They’ve turned out all right.

I’m thankful I live in a country with the world’s best health care system, one which I’ll be using next Monday when I have arthroscopic surgery on my knee.  Wish me luck!

I’m thankful I live in the finest country in the world.  We may not always live up to our own ideals, but I treasure that we have those ideals and honestly aspire to reach them.   I fear sometimes we criticize ourselves too much and give our nation too little credit, both for its accomplishments and for its dreams.  I’m proud to be an American.

I know it’s selfish and sad, but I’m thankful I’m here in relative safety and not with our brave young men and women in Iraq.  I don’t believe in God, but I hope I’m wrong and I hope He keeps them safe.

I’m thankful I live in a society in which I can say I don’t believe without endangering myself and my family.

I’m thankful for the common decency and courtesy people show each other every day.  My son commented the other day how amazing it was that every day at rush hour we put our faith in the total strangers driving the cars flying by all around us.  He’s right.  We look out for each other and cooperate with each other in ways we never even think about.

I’m thankful for Bookworm, as fine a friend as I’ve ever known.  I’m thankful she allows me the privilege of sharing her forum here from time to time.  I’m thankful so many of you think enough of Bookworm to come and visit here from time to time.   

I hope each of you spends your holiday surrounded by your loved ones and I hope you, and they, will take a moment to share with each other what you are thankful for.   And, if you’d like also to share your thoughts with the other readers in the Bookwormroom, all the better. 

Happy Thanksgiving!       

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m hitting the road for the holiday weekend, so my blogging will be intermittent at best.  Don Quixote has hinted, though, that he will do some posts, and those are always some of the most popular reads here.  So, if you’re near a computer, don’t forget to visit occasionally this weekend.

And — Happy Thanksgiving!