The Bookworm Beat 1/19/16 — the speed round-up and open thread

Woman-writing-300x265Another day, another incredible collection of articles I think you’ll like, all of which I’ve tried to present in a way that’s both interesting and brief.

Yet another government lie. Is everything we think we know about the cost of living data false? And worse, is the actual cost of living increase we’re facing in the double digits in many cities? The Chapman Index says we’re the victims of a sustained lie hiding how much less our money buys.  In other words, inflation is much worse than you realize.

Rank and file Marines horrified by Obama orders. Actual Marines, not people who just pretend to be military experts for the sake of advancing the Obama administrations social re-engineering goals, are appalled by the demand that the Marines feminize everything, including the word “rifleman.” Incidentally, I found this link on the Facebook feed of a young Marine friend who raised in Progressive Marin. He noted that nothing can re-engineer the fact that, at a basic biological level, women aren’t as strong as men — and no amount of gender illusions will change that reality.

Conservative voters like Cruz. GOP establishment figures have always hated Ted Cruz, which I think is because he’s made them look like what they are — liars who told the voters one thing and then voted with Obama on just about everything. Now that the Republican primary is narrowing, the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” appears to be coming into play, and the GOP is starting to line up behind Trump (who has, like the GOP itself, a distinguished RINO record on many issues). It’s worth remembering, therefore, that ordinary people — voters, not players — like Cruz.

Thomas Sowell on elections.  Elections aren’t about revenge or anger or “making a statement.”  Instead, as Sowell says, “They are held to choose who shall hold in their hands the fate of hundreds of millions of Americans today and of generations yet unborn.”  My brain is always a better and smarter place after reading Thomas Sowell.  I wish more Americans, especially young Americans, would read him.  Sadly, it turns out that, thanks to 50 years of Leftist control over education, too many of America’s so-called best and brightest are a terribly ignorant group of people who know nothing about America’s history, constitution, or political structure.  (H/T Sadie)

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The Bookworm Beat 9-13-15 — the “good friend” edition and open thread *UPDATED*

Woman-writing-300x265My weekend got derailed because my mother is ill. She’s in a skilled nursing facility, but likes my company. I also am a fixed reference point when she gets delirious, so I can help re-orient her. Fortunately, my insistently anonymous friend knows what interests me and sent me a wonderful compendium of news stories:

She’s even incompetent at being a crook

Now, this is interesting.  According to Hillary’s tech company that took control of her server in 2013, it has never been wiped.  This story is just getting more bizarre by the minute.  And yet again, one has to wonder about the incredible gymnastics Hildabeast and her attorney have gone through not to answer questions about the server.  What is going on?  Inquiring minds really want to know.

You’d think Hillary and her team would understand the difference between a local hard drive and an off-site server, at least when it comes to deleting content.  Sheesh!

Certainly she has her supporters, though.  The Justice Dept. filed in a FOIA case a brief saying that Hildabeast had a right to unilaterally delete her emails without any review by a third party officer, as required by State Dept. regulations upon her end of service.  It would appear that we are indeed going to get treated to the world’s most blatant double legal standards and that DOJ is going to protect Hildabeast and State.

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The Bookworm Beat 4-26-15 — the “writer’s block” edition and open thread

Woman writingI know this is going to surprise those of you used to my usual output of posts, but I’m suffering from writer’s block. The last few weeks have been so chaotic, my opportunities to write so random and infrequent, and the news of the world so overwhelming that, now that I finally have time to sit down and write, I’m frozen. After sitting her for a while, I decided that the best thing to do would be to clear my spindle. I know some of the contents are outdated, but they may still be of interest, and getting through the backlog may help spark my dormant (I hope, rather than extinct) yen to write.

Obama fiddles with Iran while the Middle East burns and Israel is forced to go it alone

All eyes may be on Obama and his desperation to get a deal with Iran (despite the fact that, in a sane world, the smaller, weaker, poorer Iran would be desperate to get a deal with Obama), but the fact is that the entire Middle East is a flaming disaster thanks to Obama’s habit of alternately meddling in and abandoning Middle Eastern affairs.

Bret Stephens explains that, thanks to Obama’s policies, it is now impossible for Israel to walk back the way in which he’s abandoned and isolated it:

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If you want something done, ask a Marine *UPDATED*

Marine insigniaHere in Marin, it’s sometimes hard to get things done.  It’s not just because I’m a procrastinator.  It’s also because other people seem so inert.  I call the roofer; he never gets back to me.  I call the plumber; he never gets back to me.   I call the gardener; he never gets back to me.  I call Macy’s and, after going through automated answering hell, I finally get to voice mail, leave a message . . . and no one ever gets back to me.  And so it goes.  I reach out — usually offering money along with my attempted contact — and no one gets back to me.

Marines are different.

I’ve been looking for ways to push my son out of his comfort zone and get him more involved with the world in an active, engaged way.  One of the programs I stumbled across is the Marine Corps’ Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy.  It sounds like a great program, and I wish I was young enough to do it myself.  (You can read more about the program here and, once you learn about it, I bet you wish you could do it too.)

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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:

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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The Bookworm Beat 12/14/14 — Sunday round-up and Open Thread

Woman writingI’ve been going through my email, as well as through my “real me” Facebook today, and I find some interesting — and surprising — things. Here goes:

The Islamic hostage crisis in Sydney

My thoughts and prayers are with the hostages trapped in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney, Australia’s historic Martin Place. The main indication that the siege is Islamic in nature is the fact that the hostage taker has forced the hostages to hold in the window the Islamic Shahada statements, which contains the Koranic verse asserting Allah’s and Mohammed’s preeminence: “There is no god but Allah, Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

Despite the Shahada’s centrality to Islam (merely saying this credo is all that’s necessary to convert to Islam), Australia’s Muslims are professing complete bewilderment at the way in which some people around the world are saying that, given the Shahada’s role in the hostage crisis, the crisis is probably tied to Islam in some way:

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The Bookworm Beat 12/4/14 — Plumber days and party nights edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingI spent a large part of my day hanging around waiting for the plumber to come and, once he came, hanging around while he did his thing. Surprisingly (for me, at least), this is not a complaint. I’m fortunate enough to have found a wonderful plumber (Marin residents can email me separately for referral info), and I’m just so happy to have my pipes in trustworthy hands.

How trustworthy? This is the plumber who, even though in a position to get an $11,000 job re-piping the main sewer line, said “Don’t be ridiculous. All you need to do is preventive rootering once a year plus RootX once a year. Problem solved.” I love this man and his team.

As for the party night . . . one of my soccer dad friends, going way back to when my kids were small, turns out to be a conservative. Not only that, he’s just a totally great guy — intelligent, kind, thoughtful, and the whole megillah of other positive adjectives. He’s hosting a little get-together tonight for a few of Marin’s hidden conservatives. I’m so looking forward to being in a room in which I can debate issues, rather than being baited about issues.

But before I go, I’m trying to jam out a few links I think you’ll enjoy. Forgive typos, ’cause I’m really rushing this one:

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Marine and Navy Lieutenant Commander Montel Williams hasn’t forgotten Andrew Tahmooressi

This footage is a week old, but still worth watching, I think:

Obama’s latte salute is offensive because . . . death

The semper latte saluteAh, yes.  The infamous “latte salute.”  If you haven’t heard about it yet, Obama walked off a helicopter insouciantly clutching an environmentally-deadly Styrofoam latte cup in his right hand.  When the two Marines waiting at the base of steps offered him a smart salute, Obama, who seemed to avoid looking at them, vaguely pawed his forehead with the hand holding that cup and then walked on.  Here, see it for yourself:

People in the military and conservatives were outraged. Liberals have been outraged at the outrage. Here are a few of the comments I’ve culled from liberals on my “real me” Facebook page:

Obama isn’t military so he shouldn’t be expected to salute.

Reagan started the saluting trend, and there’s no reason to continue it.

Obama has the weight of the world on his shoulders, so it’s ridiculous to expect him to salute.

If you’re going to demand saluting, why not require all presidents to be ex-military. [Bookworm:  Not a bad idea, but the liberal who wrote that was obviously being sarcastic.]

We all do things like waving a “hi” while holding a coffee cup. He’s a good guy and sincere.

For military people, the honor of directly serving the president outweighs all other things.

Weak leaders like Reagan (who sold arms to terrorists) disguise their weakness by saluting.

Bush did worse, because he hugged a dog when saluting. [Bookworm:  What I see, given my bias, is that Bush found himself holding a dog, and struggled to construct the best salute possible under the circumstances.]

Bush salutes while holding dog

You get the idea. Progressives simply cannot understand why Obama’s failure to perform this silly, formulaic act should excite so much disgust amongst the president’s critics. Certainly, the Left is correct that, just as they viewed every eyebrow twitch on George Bush’s face as a sign of evil or stupidity, conservatives are watching Obama like a hawk for proof that he is indeed a far-Left ideologue, who is hostile to America’s core values and interests. In what is still a kind-of-free political system, this partisanship is natural.

Conservatives, however, are on to something deeper than mere politics or tradition when they look with disgust at Obama’s almost studied disrespect for the Marines. As I mentioned above, you need to look at his body language. It’s not just the limp, cup-in-hand salute he offers; it’s the way he rushes past the Marines, refusing to make any eye contact.

Obama, unlike Eisenhower (whom Leftists note was a general who did not salute the troops), is a wartime president. More than that, he is presiding over the longest war in American history and one, moreover, that appears to be heating up significantly on his watch, with an indefinite, probably far off, end-point.

It doesn’t matter that Obama is trying to distinguish himself from George Bush by promising that his latest war won’t be “boots on the ground” fight.  We know that this promise is as untrue as all of Obama’s other promises. After all, Bush also tried a no-boots-on-the-ground strategy, which rejoiced under the name “Shock & Awe.”  That strategy failed dismally until the boots-on-the-ground Surge turned the tide.

No boots on the ground in Iraq

The reality is that you can bomb battleships and military bases, but you cannot bomb disparate individuals who can instantly melt into the surrounding landscape and population. The only way to deal with that is hand-to-hand combat. That’s what the Israel did to win back Jerusalem in 1967 and to destroy Hamas’s tunnels in 2014; and it’s what the US did to destroy the Iraqi Islamic fanatics in places such as Fallujah.

Gunnery Sergeant Ryan P. Shane shot while trying to rescue fatally wounded Marine at Fallujah

Gunnery Sergeant Ryan P. Shane shot while trying to rescue fatally wounded Marine at Fallujah

The problem with boots-on-the-ground fighting is that people die. They die in especially large numbers during the first days of fighting, when the Commander-in-Chief is trying to convince the public in a republican democracy that a ground fight really is a good idea. Sure, these fights produce incredible tales of heroism that are still told around military campfires by modern-day bards, but at the end of the day, a culture that still values most life (more or less, depending on whether the life has already been born or isn’t yet aging its way to death) is left staring at a long list of names carved into a wall.

Marine 1st Sergeant Bradley Kasal

Marine 1st Sergeant Bradley Kasal in Fallujah.

Moreover, because our Constitution (possibly with an eye to our first president) designates any sitting president as Commander-in-Chief, the American way is for the president to command that all these young men be sent to potential death. This power over life and death is especially large if you’re a Commander-in-Chief who insists on ignoring the clear language in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution that “Congress shall have the Power . . . to declare War” and, instead, contends that he doesn’t need no stinkin’ Congress.  He’s the Obama and has the imperial power to declare war.

Not only has Obama given himself the sole power to send these men into battle, he’s doing so at a time when he’s shrinking our military to a size and readiness more consistent with an America right before World War I than with an America fighting a sadistic, hydra-headed enemy all over the world in a battle that has lasted for more than a decade and that promises at least another several years to come. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that more war with less military probably means more military deaths.

So what about that salute? From a lower rank to a higher rank, a salute is obviously a sign of deference. When returned by that higher rank to the lower rank, it’s a sign of respect. The higher ranking officer is recognizing the individual serviceman’s humanity, his training, and his willingness to go into battle. Never is this mutual respect more important than with a Commander-in-Chief who is in the actual process of making life-and-death decisions about these troops.

Given this relationship between America’s Commander-in-Chief and his troops, it’s stunning that Obama’s whole body language says “I don’t see you. You’re not there. You’re not worthy.” Perhaps that’s understandable.  It’s so much easier to send the invisible, unworthy ones into battle than to do so with real human beings. After all, as Stalin tellingly remarked to Churchill when the two met at Tehran, “When one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it’s statistics.”

In other words, when conservatives see a Leftist Commander-in-Chief — one who is uncomfortable with the military and who seeks to cut it down to size, even as he plans to send more troops into battle — rush past saluting Marines, avoiding eye contact, and making a bare pretense of a salute, they see a Commander-in-Chief who is saying “Eh, they’re just statistics. Why bother?”

Book Review — Bing West’s “One Million Steps : A Marine Platoon at War”

One Million StepsA new book went on sale today: Bing West’s One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War. I was fortunate enough to get a review copy and would like to share my impressions with you.

West, a Marine veteran who served in Vietnam, has now added a sixth book to his series about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In One Million Steps, he describes his experience when he was embedded with a Marine platoon in the Sangin distinct of Afghanistan during a six month period covering 2010 to 2011. As with all of West’s books, it is extremely well-written. West is a master of lyrical simplicity, something that fits very well with the way in which his book pulls us into the lives of the young Marines struggling to take back territory from the Taliban in the Sangin province of Afghanistan.

The Marines who fought these daily battles won’t be remembered in the same way as the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima or Guadalcanal.  This historical amnesia won’t arise because of any Marine failings, though.  As has been true for generations of Marines before them, the Marines in Battalion 3/5 sacrificed themselves mightily. Their battalion suffered the greatest losses of any unit in Afghanistan.  These sacrifices, however, will gain no traction in the public imagination because this is an unusual war.  While Marines fight to win, 21st century rules of engagement, combined with Obama’s political calculus, placed these Marines in an untenable situation, where winning was impossible.  Unlike previous wars, where even a lost battle, if fought with sufficient bravery, could imbue other fighters with the will to win, in Afghanistan victory was the true No Man’s Land.

As West ably explains, the Marines were ordered to an area of Afghanistan that Britain, which had previously tried to occupy it, had basically ceded to the Taliban. The British left the Americans a single fortified area surrounded by the Taliban; by farmers who were both victims of and collaborators with, the Taliban; and by thousands of IEDs buried in land that was an inhospitable combination of canals, marshes, primitive compounds, and small open fields surrounded by dense foliage. The correct way to have subdued this region, of course, would have to take every piece of modern land and air technology available and go in with guns blazing — perhaps preceded by Israeli-style warnings to non-combatants that they should vacate the land or prepare to die.

What happened instead were Sisyphean Rules of Engagement (“ROEs”) that prohibited Marines from firing offensively, instead limiting them to defensive fire after they’d already run the risk of casualties. Worse, if the Marines sought to engage in any more than a running skirmish in response to shots fired while they were out on patrol, a battalion, not of fellow warriors but of lawyers, had to review the proposed fight plan first to make sure that it didn’t violate the ROEs.  Even knowing about this bureaucratic, legalistic twist on warfare, reading about it in One Million Steps is still a shock.  It’s just mind-boggling that lawyers were calling the shots in a genuine ground war (as opposed to the lawyer’s usual field of battle — a courtroom). Wars are fluid, dynamic situations; lawyers are stolid, cautious, and risk-averse. To make fighters in the war dependent on lawyers is insane.

Even worse for the Marines in Sangin was that they were fighting under a Commander-in-Chief who was committed to defeat and retreat. That these young men willingly put themselves in the line of fire every day, day after day, under the most dreadful circumstances, all in service of a Commander who had already erased the word victory from his vocabulary, and who would soon spell out for the enemy the exact date and circumstances of the surrender is another mind-boggler.

Despite the adversity pressing down on them, the Marines in Battalion 3/5 never lost their commitment to the Marine ethos. Whatever the job demanded of them, no matter how pointless, quixotic, or dangerous, they would do their best to get the job done. Using a combination of brute strength, craftiness, and moral and physical courage, all under the umbrella of masterful leadership that encouraged both team playing and personal responsibility, they went out every single day through hostile Sangin territory and killed the Taliban in a perpetual game of whack-a-mole .  .  . only in this game, the mole was doing its best to whack back.

One of the strengths of West’s writing is his own service as a Marine forty-years before. West has a visceral understanding of what faces a grunt fighting an often chimerical enemy who observes no rules of war; who has the entire untouchable civilian community under his thumb; and who has had years to prepare the ground for war in the enemies’ favor. Although West’s language never becomes heated or bombastic, his descriptions of the Marines’ circumstances are vivid, realistic, and manifestly accurate. West is manifestly not a desk jockey suddenly playing with the big boys.

West also conveys admirably the strong connection between the individual Marines, all of whom are stuck in the middle of nowhere, seeing their comrades fall in often fatal and always devastating welters of blood, and putting their lives on the line every day. While these young men’s peers are at college, or holding down jobs, or just slacking off, these men, all of whom are volunteers, are living by the rules their much-admired Sargeant Matt Abbate wrote on a piece of plywood that he then hammered onto a wall:

1) Young warriors die
2) You cannot change Rule #1
3) Someone must walk the point (where you are sure to die)
4) Nothing matters more than thy brethren . . . thou shalt protect no matter what
5) Going out in a hail of gunfire . . . pop dem nugs until they body runs dry of blood . . . AND LOOK HELLASICK

Another great virtue of West’s writing is that each of the young men he mentions, even if only briefly, is a real person. West is not a Marxist who sees soldiers as cogs, units, victims, representatives of their race or class, statistics, or any other socialist group designation. To him, each is an individual with a name and a story. Moreover, to the extent too many of these young men died, each is a person who deserves the dignity of being remembered once more as the person he was, someone with hopes, family, and plans for a future that was never realized.

One Million Steps often makes for painful reading because we are seeing a tragedy play out in real-time. At the national level, the Marines were contending with two administrations that were, and have continued to be, terrified of the prospect of fighting a full-blooded war.  Worse, the second of these two administrations was frightened even of the possibility of victory. Serving on the ground under this schizophrenic, neurotic, diffident, sclerotic bureaucracy were men who, for whatever reason (a thirst for adventure, a fear of boredom, a craving for the camaraderie that only military services brings), chose to fight in an army governed by fear, constrained by counter-productive rules, and opposed to victory. There is no way this could end well.

Nevertheless, uncomfortable reading or not, Bing West’s One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War is a book that deserves to be read. We need to read it to understand the nature of our enemy, even if our political class continues to turn a blind eye. We need to read it to appreciate that this country is still capable of producing men of high-caliber, discipline, commitment and bravery. And lastly, we need to read it because young men, tucked away in a forgotten corner of an unpopular war, deserve to be recognized for their courage and sacrifice.

The Bookworm Beat — September 5 picture and video edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingAs I noted in the preceding post, I’ll be offline for a while as my go-to guy for my computer tries to figure out why it’s not working right. In the meantime, I’ve got wonderful pictures and an excellent video.  Please check in soon, because I am lining up more stuff to enliven your morning:

Allen West and the Marine Corps

Obama's idea of leadership

Real apartheid

Allen West on cultural degradation

Andrew Tahmooresi and Obama

Gutfeld on Obama's enemy list

And here’s the video, complete with a language warning, for some of the usual conversational obscenities that everyone seems to rely upon these days. What I love about this video is that when the usual micro-managing media crowd tries to impose its version of political correctness and high moral authority on the comic book world, someone in the comic book world is willing to push back (and has almost 500,000 people viewing that push back: