Watcher’s Council Winners for February 24, 2012

The Council has spoken — and it is good.  I’d like to add here that the Council just seems to be generating better stuff with every passing week.  The good part is that it makes for wonderful reading; the bad part is that voting is Hell, because there are way too many excellent choices:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

Drawing our enemy out to fight on our terms

Those who watch Hollywood movies think that fist fights last a long time, involve almost numberless hits, and take place standing up.  Those who have seen, or engaged in, real fights, know that, after a few punches, most fights quickly end up on the ground.  At that moment, it’s the ground fighter who has the advantage.  The problem for Hollywood is that watching two ground fighters is remarkably similar to, and just as thrilling as, watching dung beetles rolling around.  And so, decades of misinformation are born….

Gracie Brazilian Jui Jitsu, which the Gracie family of Brazil started several generations ago, is a form of ground fighting that begins with techniques to get the opponent down on the ground.  I’ve been amusing myself lately by watching videos in which the Gracies demonstrate how they defeat skilled martial artists from other disciplines by instantly bringing the fight to the ground, where the other martial artists have no tactics or defenses.  Here’s an example:

Watching this type of stuff naturally gets me thinking about the asymmetrical warfare in which our own troops are currently engaged. (And I’m positive that Obama’s election-strategy withdrawals, rather than decreasing the risks to our troops will, over the long haul, increase the risks.) Petraeus’ COIN strategy worked because he examined, not only our own strengths, but the enemy’s weaknesses. It’s been almost ten years since then, and it does seem as if the powers that be in the American military are locked into a big gun strategy that doesn’t necessarily work against an agile fighting force that is unbound by big weapons warfare or traditional rules of engagement. Too often, our troops our stand-up fighters who are engaged in a ground fight.

Do you see a way to change that dynamic?

Government dependency : humans versus animals

This one deserves to go viral:

The food stamp program, a US Government run program, announced it is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service, also part of the US Government, asks us to “please do not feed the animals” because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.

Three things I found interesting

I’m processing (that’s a euphemism for “paying”) bills, which is hogging a ridiculous amount of the space in my head.  Nevertheless, there are three things I wanted to bring to your attention.

First, you’ve probably heard already that Obama, as part of his proposal to cut military spending, is slashing military health benefits, even while leaving civilian health benefits untouched.  All the obvious stuff about his animus towards the military and his effort to steer military personnel into the ObamaCare scheme has already been said.  My thoughts headed in a different direction.  One of the things that happens every election is that the Secretaries of State in Democrat strongholds somehow can’t get their act together so as to get timely absentee ballots to the military.  When I read a report saying that the military is less monolithically Republican than everyone (including those Secretaries of State) had assumed, I wondered if that would speed up the absentee ballot process.  Now, I’m thinking that the military will be lucky if it gets its absentee ballots by 2013.

Wikileaks is now publishing Stratfor emails.  Stratfor is responding by suggesting that a lot of the material being published has been falsified, but is refusing to comment as to any of it.  I think this is a smart tactic, since it induces a note of doubt about the reliability of any of this stolen material.  As far as I know, Stratfor deals only with publicly available information, from which it draws its conclusions.  However, to the extent that its clients provide it with information in their requests for services, this is a devastating commercial blow, not just to Stratfor, but to corporations around the world.

AIDS isn’t a naturally occurring biological phenomenon.  AIDS also isn’t a product of historically anomalous rates of promiscuity and intravenous drug use that allowed it to spread throughout the Western world with unstoppable force in the early 1980s.  Nope.  AIDS is the fault of Western Colonialism.  But you knew that, didn’t you?

Please feel free to add in your comments anything you find interesting.

Licking my wounds, and dreaming of other, simpler, times *UPDATED*

This weekend was not a good weekend for reasons that included, but were not limited to, my initial take on Act of Valor.  I was right about the problem, but intemperate in my accusations.  I’m old enough to know better.  As you can imagine, I got some pushback, some of which was very hurtful.  I deserved some of the pushback but not all, and certainly not the more abusive ones.  My last word on the subject is to link to Roger Simon, who was not only kind enough to link to me, but also made the right point about the movie’s importance, which overrides its amateur qualities:

I would be remiss in not noting that some estimable writers on the right have criticized the film for a seemingly gratuitous bit of anti-Semitism. One of the two main villains turns out, in a moment of dialogue, to be Jewish, although he is in cahoots with the jihadist. This revelation did make me sit up straight for a second, but that part of the movie was by far the most banal and confused, so I kind of shrugged it off, hoping the film would get back to the SEALs quickly. (It did.) Nevertheless, it’s not one of the movie’s high points and another indication the filmmakers could use a little script help.

Had that been the only negative experience I had this weekend, my wounds would have taken just a lick or two to repair but, as I said, it wasn’t a nice weekend and I’m just glad it’s over.

I did end the weekend thinking about the challenges of living in the 21st Century.  I’ve never been entirely at ease in my own time.  I certainly love the trappings of the modern era:  the contact lenses, computers, washes, dryers, etc., and would be sad if they suddenly vanished from my life.  Of course, you only miss what you know and, had I lived in an earlier time, I wouldn’t have missed what didn’t exist.  I also benefit from many of our modern era’s attitudes towards women.  I got to get a graduate degree and have a career.  Although I’m pretty much over my career now, I have (sometimes) a good mind, and I’m lucky that I was able to exercise it.

But as I said, I’ve never really been comfortable in my own time.  I like, and have always liked, the pop culture of the past.  I prefer the movies, songs, clothes and, most importantly, the attitudes of the 1940s and 1950s.

Yes, I know that those were eras when blacks suffered serious discrimination, when women had limited options, and when gays were buried deep in closets.  But without ignoring those problems, those decades also offered a lot of positive things, my favorite of which are an absence of moral relativism and, the flip side, a clarity about traditional patriotism and values.

Americans knew that America wasn’t perfect, but they loved her still, and they did so without embarrassment.  Humans were humans and bad stuff happened, not at the macro level, as was the case during WWII, but at the micro, neighborhood level:  people had having affairs, unwed women got pregnant, men beat their wives, etc.  Nevertheless, people then had a moral clarity that helped them recognize that, while things happen, not all bad things should be excused away.  In those days, I think, people more clearly understood that one can hate the sin, but love, or at least, have some compassion for, the sinner.  Nowadays, nothing is sinful, anything goes, there are no boundaries, and too many people are hurt and adrift.

You’ll never believe what got me going on this nostalgia shtick.  It was an article on Whitney Houston’s early modeling career, when she was an incredibly fresh-faced 18 year old.  Not only was she pretty as a picture, but look at those swimsuits and outfits:  they’re wholesome.  She looks like a young girl, not a wannabe hooker.  No heavy make-up, no hyper-revealed flesh.  She’s not veiled and burqa-clad.  She’s at that happy medium where a blooming young woman gets to show of her beauty without demeaning herself.

I had fun in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but I still prefer doowop and Dior to my time.  Life was just easier when ones values choices were a little more limited.  This is not to say that I want to limit choices in America today.  The only way to do that is to have government censorship and control, and I deeply oppose that.  Recognizing that I can’t go back, though, not only to my own youth, but to other people’s youth, doesn’t mean that I can’t dream.

UPDATE:  Using much better writing and logic, in the first part of his post, James Taranto makes a point similar to mine.


Only in Marin will a community representative hasten to assure people that his community is lousy

Ross, a town in Marin County, is a great place.  The houses are gorgeous (I’ve been to a billionaire’s house there once and it was magnificent), the schools are superb, and the people take good care of themselves:  exercise, healthy diets, good medical care.  In a pre-Obama era, these are boast-worthy things.  Not see in Obama’s America, where prosperity is a dangerous attribute that might paint a target on your back:

R. Scot Hunter, a Ross town councilman and former mayor, cringed when his hometown came out on top of the human development index in the controversial “A Portrait of Marin” report commissioned by the Marin Community Foundation.

Essentially, the report said that people in Ross have more money, better educations and live longer than most of the rest of Marin, especially low-income neighborhoods such as the Canal in San Rafael or Hamilton in Novato.

“Ross sometimes, through no fault of its own, gets typecast,” he said, which makes it harder, he believes, for Ross residents to be taken seriously as agents for change in Marin.

Hunter, a real estate investor and developer, has lived in Ross for 30 years, raising three children with his wife, Mary Lee Rybar.

“You almost have to deny your heritage,” he said. “But we have all the problems everybody else has, only they’re hidden. I think 2008 hit a lot of people. There is divorce here. There are difficult things in everybody’s lives. We are not of the very wealthy of Ross. We’re just regular people.”

Hunter, incidentally, is not a crackpot.  The report is a political document, intended to phase out many of those attributes that make Marin a prosperous community:

Since “A Portrait of Marin” was released in January, the Independent Journal’s editorial page and letters to the editor have bristled with criticism of it. Columnist Dick Spotswood accused the report of “cherry-picking statistics” to justify the foundation’s “preordained position that Marin County housing is based on racially segregated communities.” He called it “a work of political advocacy rather than professional scholarship,” contending that it’s “a tool toward remaking the very nature of Marin.”

Responding to claims that the foundation is playing “social engineer,” Thomas Peters,
Ross councilman and former mayor Scot Hunter stands outside the post office in Ross, Calif. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. (IJ photo/Alan Dep) Alan Dep
the foundation’s president and CEO, wrote in a Marin Voice column: “For us, this ‘values’ issue couldn’t be clearer: Our vision for Marin is that it be known as much for its equity as for its prosperity, and as much for its efforts to help people succeed as for its reputation as an enclave for the highly successful.”

One of the most alarming parts of the study for many critics is the section that recommends “setting aside the county’s commitment to preserving open space, agriculture and low-density neighborhoods in order to provide more affordable housing to its workers.”

Hunter could have challenged the report.  Instead, he’s trying to assure people that Ross is just as pathetic as anywhere else.

If all women have them, why are they rare?

I know I’m being picayune here, but I found this paragraph funny:

For 60 years, doctors have believed women were born with all the eggs they’ll ever have. Now Harvard scientists are challenging that dogma, saying they’ve discovered the ovaries of young women harbor very rare stem cells capable of producing new eggs.

I’ll repeat the question in my post caption:  if all young women have these stem cells capable of producing new eggs, why are the stem cells rare?  They might be small in number per woman, or they might have a finite life span in any given woman, but that doesn’t make them rare, does it?  Wouldn’t they be rare only if a very small number of women out of the overall population had them?

Blame it on Jane (Austen, that is)

A great deal of literature thrives on conflict.  This is especially true for the romance genre.  You really don’t have much of a book if the entire plot is “boy meets girl, boy gets girl.”  To engage the reader, the plot has to be “boy meets girl” and then something happens for the middle part of the book that keeps boy and girl apart, until the end of the book when “boy gets girl.”

Since the time of Jane Austen, one of the most frequently used devices for filling the middle of the book is to create a plot in which the boy and the girl don’t like each other.  Jane set the template:  although he was a very good and honorable man, Mr. Darcy presented himself to the world, and to Elizabeth Bennett, as an unfeeling jerk.  Elizabeth also had her failings, insofar as she jumped to conclusions, but she was charming and personable from the get go.  Had Darcy not been a jerk, she would not have wandered off the path of fact and into the realm of assumptions.

And so the template was set:  jerky guys with hearts of gold.  In the almost two hundred years since Pride & Prejudice was published, movies and books are filled with jerky guys — arrogant guys, pushy guys, snotty guys, aggressive guys — who become charming princes thanks to the heroine’s incredible charm.  And really, it does make for fun reading or movie watching.  It’s enjoyable following characters as they finally get it right.

The problem, though, for real girls in the real world, is that jerky guys tend to be . . . well, jerks.  If you want a nice guy in this life, you should find someone who is nice from the start.  Life isn’t fiction, and if your jerky guy refuses to turn into a handsome, caring, kind Prince, you might find yourself in a world of hurt.

Anyway, that was my advice to my daughter, who loves to read and who, I am afraid, will fall into jerky guy syndrome based upon the plot-line of way too many enjoyable books, both quality and trash.