The Bookworm Beat 2-23-15 — Post-Vegas edition and Open Thread

Woman writingI do like Vegas. I love its manic energy, crazed corporate imagination, over-the-top shows, brilliant colors, and flashing lights. And then, after three days, I’m desperate to get away from the noise and smoke and, often, the desperation floating above the casino floors. In other words, I had a great trip there and then was glad to come home again. This time, coming home also meant going through about 800 backed-up emails (a lot of people got heartfelt apologies from me for delaying so long before responding to them), and finding some awesome things to share with you.

A glowing French eye-view of American troops

When we think of the French, we tend to think of hyper-critical people who look down upon Americans. That stereotype might be true on the Île-de-France, but it turns out to be untrue in the theater of war, at least as to one French soldier who served with American troops (Echo Company) in Afghanistan. If this doesn’t make you want to stand up and salute, I truly don’t know what will:

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The Bookworm Beat 2-19-15 — A few links for your reading pleasure

Woman writingI’m still away from my blog, so I’m not blogging in real time, but in un-real time. I lined up this post several days ago and, for all I know, world events shifted so dramatically, everything here is entirely obsolete. Still, FWIW, you may enjoy these stories:

Roger L. Simon has been on fire lately. I’ve always liked his writing, but lately I’ve loved his writing. His riff on the murders in Cophenhagen is a fine bit of snark aimed at people at home and abroad who deny Islam’s role in terrorism, not to mention antisemitism’s role in Islam.

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Run, don’t walk, to see American Sniper

308555id1i_TheJudge_FinalRated_27x40_1Sheet.inddUnusually for me, I saw a first-run movie tonight. It was, as you’ve already realized, American Sniper. Also unusually, the Century Cinema, which is Marin’s premiere movie theater, with a big screen and a George Lucas-installed sound system, had an almost completely packed house on the second weekend of a January movie. One expects packed houses for the first week or two of a Star Wars or Harry Potter franchise movie during the summer, but it just never happens for any other type of movie, especially in January. Never. And for the first time in my admittedly experience seeing a movie in Marin, about half the theater broke into applause when the movie ended. Marin’s conservatives are creeping out from undercover to see this one.

Not being a professional movie reviewer, I’m not quite sure where to begin with this one. You already know the story: Texas good ol’ boy Chris Kyle leaves the rodeo circuit, joins the Navy, becomes a SEAL, and heads off to Iraq, where he becomes a legend as the most successful sniper in American military history. After four tours of duty, he returns home and begins helping vets who suffered physical or emotional injuries during the war (or, of course, both). One of those vets, a Marine, murders both him and a neighbor, Chad Littlefield. Throughout it all, Kyle and his wife love and fight and love some more, and have two children who make both of them proud. It’s a simple story, really.

When Chris Kyle died, America mourned.  His funeral cortege and memorial service drew thousands of people, although his former Commander-in-Chief (and still current Commander-in-Chief of the American military) was never heard to mention Kyle’s name. I guess Kyle just didn’t look enough like the son Obama never had — although it seems that Hugo Chavez, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown did look like that son, at least if one is to judge by the encomiums Obama poured upon them and the representatives he sent to the hoodlums’, er sons’ funerals.

Unlike me, Clint Eastwood’s film is carefully apolitical. It keeps a very tight focus on one man and the people around him. Just as they were in Kyle’s autobiography, his family by blood and marriage vie for first place in his heart with his SEAL family. Kyle is enormously patriotic. He’s repulsed by the sadism and immorality he sees amongst the Iraqis he fights. He lives to protect his fellow servicemen. And he has troubles transitioning rapidly between war in Iraq and peace at home.

In this regard — the profound disconnect between wartime on Monday and peace on Tuesday — Kyle’s situation reminded me strongly of British WWI fighters who also made almost painfully rapid transitions between home and war. Just as Kyle talks on the phone with his wife while sniping on a rooftop, British troops sometimes received by the afternoon post the mail their loved ones had sent that morning. (For other interesting similarities and differences between the British experience in WWI and the American experience in Iraq, I recommend this book.

To the extent I notice a director’s touch, Eastwood’s was deft and sure.  Those two simple words count as high praise from me. I usually notice the director’s role in a movie when I hate the movie because of the director’s bizarre, irritating, or offensive decisions. Eastwood makes none of those mistakes. His style is smooth, professional and, when it comes to the fighting scenes, incredibly dynamic, while still being coherent enough to keep the audience engaged.

What really makes the movie, though, is Bradley Cooper’s incredible acting. “Acting” actually seems like the wrong word. Cooper doesn’t “act” Chris Kyle; he “is” Chris Kyle. Admittedly, I’ve never met Chris Kyle, so I’m taking a leap of faith by saying what I did. What I really mean is that Cooper inhabits his character’s skin so seamlessly that there is never, ever a sense that Cooper is acting at all. This is a fully realized character. One has no sense of the actor named Bradley Cooper positioning himself on the set and then, when he hears the word “action!” going through the motions of the character named Chris Kyle. There is no actor named Bradley Cooper.  There is just Chris Kyle.

One of the things that makes it clear just how extraordinarily Cooper fills the role is to watch the other actors. They’re all good . . . but you can see them acting. I have a vague memory of having seen Cooper in some other roles and not noticing him. He apparently was waiting for this role.

All in all, American Sniper is a movie that deserves its accolades and blockbuster revenue. Chris Kyle was one of those great, salt-if-the-earth Americans who emerges in times of war — not a man who loves killing for killing’s sake, which would make him no better than the enemy, but a true sheepdog who is willing to get dirty in the fight to protect his flock.  Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, and the rest of the American Sniper paid Kyle his due by creating this great movie.

Air Force Parachuters “Shake It Off” *UPDATED*

The dancing isn’t so great.  It’s the abandon with which they throw themselves off airplanes that had me mesmerized.  I get vertigo standing on a step-stool to change a light bulb, and these kids are gleefully hurling themselves out into nothing.

UPDATE: Caped Crusader sent me this WWII Paratrooper picture, which seems appropriate here:

Paratroopers

The Bookworm Beat 1/21/15 — “Post-SOTU” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingI didn’t watch the SOTU. Aside from finding Obama a boring, inelegant speaker, I was helping a client with trial prep. Today, the trial got continued for a few months so, before settling in for a nice 12 hour sleep (I wish!), I can blog — and share with you, among other things, a couple of my favorite SOTU analyses. I’ve got a lot to say, so I’ll just start saying….

My two favorite SOTU wrap-ups

As I admitted above, I did not watch the SOTU, so I can’t actually say if these wrap-ups are accurate. I can just say that I liked them.

From Neo-Neocon:

But Obama long ago concluded that the best defense is a good offense. He has never had to face the consequences of his failures. He has been able to fool most of the people most of the time, at least when it counted. He has skated past disaster after disaster, and gotten away with lie after lie. The biggest repercussion he’s been met with—the 2014 Democratic defeat in Congress—may not stop him. Republicans are somewhat toothless, in part because they are divided among themselves but also because Obama has veto power that will be difficult to override. He’s also got that phone and that pen, and the will to use them. He has successfully transformed the US into a second-rate power and allies into enemies (or at least, into abandoned and confused ex-allies). And he has turned enemies into, if not allies, then gloating and stronger forces in the world for whatever evil they’ve got in mind.

It’s actually worked out very well for Obama. So why not brag?

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“American Sniper” — a Rorschach test separating the wheat from the chaff

308555id1i_TheJudge_FinalRated_27x40_1Sheet.inddI haven’t yet seen the movie American Sniper, but I have read Chris Kyle’s autobiography, on which it is based. I therefore believe that I am qualified to write on the topic.

Although, come to think of it, I’m not really going to write about American Sniper at all. Instead, I’m going to write about some of the reactions to American Sniper, which function as a Rorschach test of American (and, dare I say, un-American?) values.

I have to begin with the fundamental premise, one that drives the Left nuts, which is that Clint Eastwood, with help from a superb Bradley Cooper, has directed an incredibly good movie, one that doesn’t shy away from war’s ugliness, but that acknowledges, not just the physical bravery of our men, but also their moral decency.  As I try endlessly to explain to anybody who can listen, both good guys and bad guys kill. After all, no one will deny that a woman has acted bravely and honorably if she shoots to death the man trying to kill her child. Likewise, only sadistic psychopaths will applaud the broken bodies of Christians, Jews, women, children, gays, blacks, and the “wrong” kind of Muslims that ISIS, Boko Haram, al Qaeda, and other Islamic Jihad organizations leave in their wake.

Let me fall back here on my already wordy poster, one that’s targeted at the buffoonish Seth Rogen, but that addresses the larger issue, which is that why one kills matters as much as the fact that one does kill:

Seth Rogen and history 1

(I also won’t waste time in this post correcting the innumerable personal slurs the Left is now hurling at Chris Kyle, most of which are based upon a failure either to see the movie or read the book. Ian Tuttle, thankfully, takes care of setting that record straight.)

Mentioning Seth Rogen, though, leads me nicely back to the point I want to make in this post, which is an observation I first made to my friends on the Watcher’s Council: namely, that American Sniper has been remarkably effective at flushing weasels out from under cover, proving that good art frequently has multiple virtues.  For example, one of my neighbors, a nice, but rather brittle, angry woman, whose life has not treated her with the generosity she was raised to expect, posted the following image on Facebook:

Stupid Leftists don't understand heroes

Doesn’t that ugly, mean-spirited poster sum up just about everything that’s wrong with the Leftist view of the world? The wrongness of it all begins with the terrible slur against Kyle and all the other American troops who have fought against the same type of men who are now crucifying, raping, beheading, and generally rampaging their way across the Middle East, with occasional detours into Europe.  I know those men.  My Dad was one.

Really, there’s no sugar-coating it.  For five years of his life, my Dad was a hate-filled killer.  He poured  his energy, brains, skill, and courage into slaughtering as many people as he possibly could.  If he could have killed more, he would have.

In case you’re wondering, Daddy wasn’t Dexter or Charles Manson or Stalin.  Instead, he was an ordinary foot soldier in WWII, fighting with the RAF and ANZAC in the Mediterranean theater.

During all those years of fighting, mostly in North Africa with detours into Greece and Crete, Daddy wasn’t glorying in slaughter for the thrill of it.  He didn’t kill to slake blood lust or because he was a racist.  In fact, quite the opposite.  He was killing because he understood the stakes, which was to stop the spread of genocidal racism:  If he didn’t do his bit to halt the Nazis in North Africa, those same Nazis would descend on Palestine, and with the help of the enthusiastic ancestors of today’s ISIS, have slaughtered where they stood every Jewish man, woman, and child in the British Mandate of Palestine.

Chris Kyle and his comrades, as Kyle made clear in his book, didn’t kill Iraqis because they took a sadistic glee in a human turkey shoot.  They killed specific Iraqis who were bound and determined to kill the Americans (which is ground enough to want to kill the Iraqis first) and, moreover, who were equally bound and determined to put into place precisely the ideological governance we now see in the Middle East with ISIS and in Nigeria with Boko Haram.

Ultimately, Kyle and his comrades were killing humans fatally infected with a deadly ideological disease.  These men understood (and, wherever they still fight, understand) that people infected with genocidal, imperialist, tyrannical values need to be exterminated just as surely as we kill a rabid dog or, 70 years ago, as we killed rabid Nazis.  Unfortunately, the reality of war is that, when we kill the guilty, we sometimes kill the innocent.  My Dad knew that, amongst the Nazis he was fighting were ordinary Germans who were forced by circumstances to fight for those same rabid Nazis.

Knowing that didn’t stop Daddy, or any of the other Allied troops.  They understood that this is how the world works.  (For more of my thoughts on that specific topic, you can check out my annual Passover post.)  As Daddy once said, you cannot fight a war if you don’t hate your enemy — by which he meant if you don’t hate the values your enemy seeks to advance.

So, clearly, one level of Leftist stupidity is its members’ complete inability to understand that soldiers can hate the ideology without doing the Leftist thing and turning everything into some agonized Greek tragedy about racism, sexism, homophobia, and third world victimization.  Smart people are able to winnow out good from bad, and they know in which directions to aim their guns.

But there’s a second level of stupidity at work in that ugly, mean-spirited poster, and that’s the stupidity that is unable to comprehend that, without the sheepdogs, the sheep aren’t able to go around sweetly and smugly ministering to the less fortunate among them.  Please believe me that I don’t intend to be snide about charity.  I think charity is a wonderful thing, provided that it’s not forced upon people through government coercion.  It’s one thing for me, while exercising my values, to donate my time, money, and labor to aid those less fortunate than I.  It’s another thing entirely when the government, with a gun aimed at my head, announces that I’ve volunteered to donate 50% of my annual income to help those that the government deems should be recipients of government beneficence.

Putting aside my irritation at a government that denies me the opportunity to redistribute my own wealth, let me get to the real issue and the real stupidity behind that poster:  There is no charity when there is no civil society.  Charity works when society is sufficiently stable, free, and predictable that people can actually earn and keep money — and then give it away if they want to.  A strong, infrastructure underlying a free, market-based society creates both extra time and extra wealth, not to mention a capacity for empathy that is utterly lacking when people are suffering under either complete anarchy or sadistic, malevolent totalitarian rule.

You, my dear, smug Leftists, are able to boast in self-aggrandizing tones about your ability to shake down hard-working citizens only because men like Chris Kyle are willing to do the dirty work of keeping both tyrants and anarchy at bay.  You’re like the person who dines in style on the steak, but sneeringly describes as a hillbilly the rancher who raised that cow and as a murderer the butcher who got that lovely filet mignon to your table.

Great art not only opens our minds, but it enable us to see with clarity those minds that cannot and will not open.  People who value freedom understand that there’s a price to pay for freedom’s blessings and we are appropriately and eternally grateful to those who are willing to do the dirty work that goes with paying that price.

Radical, jihadist, fundamentalist Islam (or whatever other nouns and adjectives you wish to apply to the 10% of the world’s Muslims who seek only to destroy) must be destroyed, lest we are all destroyed.  My problem is that I’m a tiny middle-aged Jewish woman, who is a great target, but a lousy fighter.  I live because Chris Kyle, and the SEALS, and the Marines, and the Navy, and the Army, and the Air Force put themselves in front of me, as a living barrier protecting me from the abyss.

I pity those people who don’t appreciate the gift they’ve been given, and do nothing more than set themselves up as the socialist twins to those murderous Islamists that the Kyle’s of this world fight.  Because, really, once you strip away those smug words about the personal virtues of government funded charity, you discover that the Left and the Islamists are pretty much the same people.  It’s just that the Islamists have gone further down the path necessary to achieve their ultimate ends:

Radical Islamists and Leftists have identical beliefs

An addendum to my post about the Navy commercial *UPDATED*

Marine capIn the immediately proceeding post, I highlighted the Navy’s newest commercial.  This afternoon, I saw a member of one of our other seafaring forces:  a Marine.  I don’t often see Marines here in Marin.  This young man, however, is the local Marine recruiter, and I happened to be at a Peet’s Coffee near a high school.  The recruiter was sitting at a table talking with two young men.

After the young men left, the Marine got up, gathered his papers, and left the table.  I didn’t see where he went.  I did notice, though, that he’d left his cap behind, so I assumed he’d gone to the restroom or out to his car.

A woman at another table, however, thought that the Marine had forgotten his cap.  She therefore picked it up, quite carefully, and handed it to the barristas, saying that they should keep it safely.

All three barristas were suddenly riveted by the cap.  Indeed, they seemed to attribute to it some totemic significance.  One young man made as if to put it on, but immediately halted the action before the cap got higher than his nose.  Another young man said, “If you do that, you’ll start doing push ups.”  To which the third young man added, “If he comes back and sees you do that, he’ll make you do push-ups.”

This same “Marines are kind of scary cool” joshing continued for a minute or so.  Suddenly, a customer who had been there when I walked in (and was still there when I left), yelled out “You shouldn’t joke about those murderers.  There’s nothing funny about them because they kill women and children.”  The store instantly fell silent.  No one chimed in, but no one challenged him either.  My only thought was “It’s interesting that you didn’t say that while the Marine was here.”

And no, I didn’t say anything either.  It was clear looking at the speaker that there was something wrong with him.  His face and body were a bit dysmorphic, in a way that my San Francisco-tuned radar says often goes with unstable people.  My firm rule is “never argue with the crazy lady (or man).”  I figured that, if the guy kept it up, the Marine, when he returned for his cap (which he did, within 5 minutes), could handle it.  As it happened, the guy had nothing to say when the Marine came around.

When I told my kids this story, they instantly recognized the Marine I was speaking about, since he’s a regular at campuses all over Marin.  Their verdict:  He’s a very nice guy.

I’ll end this with my a compilation of Marines commercials, since I started it with a reference to the Navy:

What do you call an update to an addendum? Whatever it is, this is it: Marines run to the rescue of an elderly woman being robbed . . . outside a Marine recruiting station. Talk about a story with everything: brave Marines and dumb crooks. (Hat tip: Stately McDaniel Manor, who has some awfully nice things to say about yours truly, bless his heart.)

And here’s another update — I finally found my favorite Marines commercial:

The Navy’s newest commercial and the most peculiar lame duck presidency ever

Angry dog

The Navy’s most recent commercial is excellent (h/t Charles Martel):

Watching it, I could only hope that, in Obama’s America, our hyper-politicized, dysfunctionally PC Pentagon not only means it, but still has the will and ability to make it a reality. After all, we live in a time when one has to pause and seriously consider Roger Simon’s semi-facetious proposal that the White House is a sleeper cell, rather than just laughing merrily at the joke.

I believe that Obama’s decision not to show up in Paris is a harbinger of his “lame duck” years. He’s always had an affinity for Islam and a disdain for Western culture. Now that he’s a lame duck, he doesn’t care anymore who knows this about him. Indeed, we’re going to see that there are a lot of things Obama doesn’t care for. He’ll quickly make it obvious that he doesn’t care about the Constitution (something he’ll reveal in a blatant way he’s previously avoided); vox populi (his voice will be the only one that counts); and a sane, workable defense against jihadist Islam.

In other words, this is going to be the most peculiar lame duck period in American history. Past lame duck presidents have been quietly ineffectual. They’ve been the past, while the political machine and the people are already looking to the future. Obama, however, once untethered from the Constitution and from any concerns about the voice of the American people, isn’t really going to be a lame duck at all. He’s got a whole new future planned for us and there’s nary a lame duck in sight.

Fasten your seat belts, friends, because we’re in for President Rabid Dog over the next two long and dangerous years.

ACT NOW: Please sign an important petition to bring some sort of fairness to the way our troops are treated

The general walks away; the 1st Lt. spends 20 years in prison

The general walks away; the 1st Lt. spends 20 years in prison

Did Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance get a fair trial from the military for ordering the men under his command to open fire on three Afghanis on motorcycles heading towards the American troops, killing two of them? His supporters say he didn’t, including charging the Army with having withheld exculpatory evidence. In other words, the military scapegoated a soldier doing nothing more than his job — protecting his own guys while killing the bad ones. His detractors say he had a bad attitude and was looking for blood.

For those of us who weren’t on the ground with Lorance or at the trial, we really don’t know.  What we do know is that Lorance has been sentenced to spend 20 years of his life at Leavenworth. Lt. Col. Allen West thinks this is a terrible thing because the sentence is grossly in excess of the minor punishments (and big bucks) given to others who ran afoul of Army rules, but who either meshed well with the prevailing political ideology in the White House or were simply  placed so high in the military that they pretty much couldn’t be touched:

Of course I will help out, but here is what disturbs me. We are releasing Islamic terrorists from GITMO and yet we are holding a young American officer in prison for killing the enemy. And what is frightening and frankly disturbing, the Army withheld evidence in the court-martial of 1LT Lorance because the Army definitively knew about the terrorist actions of several of the Afghans involved. This is no different from the withholding of exculpatory evidence in the case of 1LT Michael Behenna — whom the Army finally released from prison.

What is happening in the U.S Army when we lock away Clint Lorance for 20 years while we dither and hide the whereabouts of deserter Bowe Bergdahl? And what a blatant slap in the face to Clint, that Bergdahl may end up with some $350,000 while Clint sits in the same facility as Nidal Hasan. Where is the outrage from the American people and our elected representatives?

[snip]

Lorance was on the front lines, making a split-second decision to protect his men. If you want to see how completely wrong this situation is, let me share how another army officer and paratrooper has been treated in what was a far more sordid and scandalous situation.

As reported by the Washington Post back in June of 2014, ” Disgraced Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair will retire as a lieutenant colonel, three months after he pleaded guilty to having a three-year romantic affair with a subordinate officer. The decision could be one of the final chapters in a sordid scandal that rocked the Army. Sinclair, 51 was accused of forcible sodomy, adultery and other charges, but struck a plea deal and avoided jail time. He was issued a reprimand that effectively ended his career and forced to pay a $20,000 fine.” However, he will still receive retirement benefits – albeit at lower level. Army Secretary John McHugh said “Sinclair displayed a pattern of inappropriate and at times illegal behavior both while serving as a Brigadier General and a Colonel.” Oh, you mean like forcible sodomy?

After his trial, Sinclair said “The system worked. I’ve always been proud of my Army. All I want to do now is go north and hug my kids and wife.” And then what, sir?

Sure, the system worked for BG Sinclair and he gets to go home and hug his wife and kids — while Anna Lorance laments over her son who honorably faced the enemy on the battlefield and killed them.

You can sign the petition here seeking clemency.  It still needs over 63,000 signatures by February 1 and that’s a lot of signatures.  Every person who signs helps.

Here’s my bet:  Absent about a million signatures, the same president who used the White House rose garden to celebrate Bowe Bergdahl’s release and refused for years to acknowledge that Nidal Hasan’s Fort Hood massacre wasn’t just “workplace violence” is not going to shed a single tear for a young man who made a decision in the heat of battle.  Knowing that Obama will make the morally wrong decision, however, is no excuse for us not to make the right one:  MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD. SIGN THE PETITION.

Book Review: C.G. Cooper’s Corps Justice novels are well-plotted, enjoyable thrillers

Carlos Cooper

C. G. Cooper, author of the Corps Justice series

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time about a thriller series that was fast and fun to read. I stumbled across C. G. Cooper’s Corps Justice series through BookBub’s daily email telling me about Amazon book deals. My practice is that, if a free book listed in BookBub looks even remotely interesting, I download it onto my Kindle. After all, since it’s free, no harm, no foul, right?

Of course, an awful lot of the time, free books are free because no one in their right mind could possibly want to buy the darn things. They’re horribly written, horribly plotted, or horribly proof-read — or sometimes a combination of all three.

However, sometimes a free book is a wonderful little marketing surprise. My assumption is that these books are marketed as free or very cheap (usually 99 cents) to function as loss leaders. After all, if you move enough books (even if you’re giving them away), you’ll still rise up in the all-important Amazon sales ranking chart.

Which gets me to C. G. Cooper’s Corps Justice novels, the first three books of which are currently available for free. The books are thrillers that feature veterans (mostly Marines) working together to foil dastardly plots against America. The two main characters are Cal Stokes, a former Marine whose father founded a hugely successful security company, and his friend Daniel Briggs, who is also a former Marine, and whose story is told here. The other recurring characters are mostly Marines, although there are vets from other branches of the service, as well as a resident computer genius.

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