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Saturday, May 15, 2004
Doogie Howser, PFC

Marine Corps Moms has the story of young genius in the Marines.

Television shows about child geniuses have captivated American people for decades: "Doogie Howser, M.D.," "Malcolm in the Middle" and even Cartoon Network's "Dexter's Laboratory" have captured hearts of nearly everyone that watches. One show, however, may never exist: "Pfc. Billy McCulloch, U.S. Marine."
McCulloch, 18, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry before he was old enough to vote.
Wonderful Email on Tillman from the Front Lines

From Blackfive:

I have been thinking a lot about Pat Tillman for the last few days.

We all heard about his death shortly after it happened. There was a tremendous ripple effect throughout all ranks that was quite sobering. A great American was lost. Such is a dying breed: A man whose honor and loyalty exceeded well beyond the façade of patriotism represented by rain-drenched American flags we all saw hanging in front of houses for the few short months following September 11, 2001; a man who acknowledged that his good fortune in life existed only through the sacrifice of generations before him; a man who awoke every morning thankful to be an American and recognizing the distinction between the rights protected by the Constitution and the privileges many Americans think we deserve.

Read it all.
Friday, May 14, 2004
Helping an Old Lady Cross the Street

Chris Carter from Watkinsville, Georgia:

The elderly woman got stuck in a haze of smoke and bullets as she tried to cross a bridge south of Baghdad.

Capt. Chris Carter did not hesitate. He ordered his Bradley armored vehicle onto the bridge while he and two men followed on foot.

Taking cover from Iraqi bullets behind the bridge's iron beams, Carter tossed a smoke grenade for cover and dashed toward the crying woman.

Then the 31-year-old company commander pointed his M-16 rifle and provided cover for his men to carry the wounded woman to the safety of an ambulance.
Special Delivery

Here's a nice one.

Sgt. Gary Hughes remembers it was a scorching day in southern Iraq when he noticed a woman cloaked in a black chador slumping to the floor, holding her stomach.

Taking a break from handing out water bottles, Hughes, 27, soon realized the young Muslim woman was pregnant. Worried she was losing the baby, he said he slung his rifle on his back and swooped her into his arms.

"It all happened so fast," said Hughes, the physical training instructor for Britain's 2nd Royal Tank Regiment. "I ran to the hospital as fast as I could -- about 200 meters."

About the Name of this Blog

I've mentioned this before, but that was when I had no site meter and probably was not getting any traffic at all. The Brainster name is not intended to be any kind of a boast. I used to debate politics on Usenet with the somewhat self-deprecating name of Brain Death. When I started chatting on IRC I used the same name (shortened to BrainDeth). But IRC asks you for a backup name, and I chose "Brainster", as in the original nickname, modified as that guy in the SNL skit would do--"Hey, it's the Brainster, Brainaroonius, BrainMeister." When I decided to try blogging, I found that was taken, so I just used my old backup name.
An Atrocity at Abu Ghraib You Won't Be Seeing On TV

Daniel Henninger at the WSJ has the story.

As perfect justice, the story in fact begins in Abu Ghraib prison, in 1995. With Iraq's economy in a tailspin, Saddam arrested nine Iraqi businessmen to scapegoat them as dollar traders. They got a 30-minute "trial," and were sentenced, after a year's imprisonment, to have their right hands surgically cut off at Abu Ghraib prison.

But a TV producer named Don North got an idea, and got some help from a Houston neurosurgeon named Dr Joe Agris.

Dr. Agris saw that the Abu Ghraib "surgeries" were a botch. They'd cut through the joining of the wrist's carpal bones, "like carving a Turkey leg." Saddam's doctors did nothing to repair the nerve endings, which left the men with constant real and "phantom" pain. Drs. Agris and Kestler had two preliminary tasks: Repair the nerves, and, alas, take another inch off the men's lower arms, to leave a smooth surface for attaching their new prosthetic "hands." They worked for two days operating on the seven men, who then took a week to recover before receiving their new hands.

Those devices were donated by the German-American prosthetic company Otto Bock, at a cost of $50,000 each. They are state-of-the-art electronic hands, with fingers, which respond to trained muscular movements. The rehabilitation and training is being donated by two other Houston companies, TIRR and Dynamic Orthotics. The Iraqi men are in Houston now, spending five hours a day learning to use their new right hands.

But... it doesn't contribute to destroying the Bush administration, so:

This crime deserves condemnation from international medical societies, such as the U.N.'s World Health Organization, or the Red Cross. And Don North's film indeed should be seen--but may not be. After two months of trying, no U.S. broadcast or cable network will take it. This is incredible. TV can run Abu Ghraib photos 24/7 but can't find 55 minutes for Saddam's crimes against humanity?
Interesting Site of the Day

You never know what will pop up when you do a Technorati search to see who's linked to your blog. I found a site named Wired Pig had linked to my post on Nick Berg's death. It's from a former cop (I would never use the word "pig" myself, but maybe it's like the "N" word--okay to use if you're in the group, not okay for outsiders), who's now a jail officer. Pretty interesting site from an interesting (and at times brutally honest) guy.
The Strange Case of Nick Berg--Regular Updates

The young man who was beheaded in that disgusting video turns out to be quite an enigma. His father is apparently a left-wing whacko:

Berg described the Patriot Act as a "coup d'etat." He added: "It's not the same America I grew up in."

I've discussed these attitudes before. The left wing can never quite come to terms with how it feels about America's past. Most of the time, they think it was awful--filled with racism, and sexism and exploitation of the workers. But mention the Patriot Act, and suddenly the tune becomes "They're changing my country!"

"My son died for the sins of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. This administration did this," Berg said in an interview with radio station KYW-AM.

Well, of course, blaming the people who actually committed the crime is not nuanced enough for Mr Berg.

In the interview from outside his home in West Chester, Pennsylvania, a seething Michael Berg also said his 26-year-old son, a civilian contractor, probably would have felt positive, even about his executioners, until the last minute.

"I am sure that he only saw the good in his captors until the last second of his life," Berg said. "They did not know what they were doing. They killed their best friend."

This betrays a simple misunderstanding of Arab terrorists. Nick Berg was a Jew and an American, ergo he was the enemy of the terrorists.

And what about this?

At one point during the bus ride, Berg said, the man sitting next to his son asked if he could use Nick's laptop computer.

"It turned out this guy was a terrorist and that he, you know, used my son's e-mail, amongst many other people's e-mail who he did the same thing to," Berg said.

Government sources said Berg gave the man his password, which was later used by Moussaoui, the sources said.

Update: How about this quote from the elder Mr. Berg:

"Nicholas Berg died for the sins of George Bush and (Defense Secretary) Donald Rumsfeld," Michael Berg, visibly upset, told ABC television.

"The al-Qaeda people are probably just as bad as they are, but this administration did this," he said.

AQ just as bad as Bush and Rumsfeld? CAIR will no doubt be protesting this hate speech soon!
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Dead Air America--Too Successful to Keep Sales Offices Open

That's the spin they're offering Reuters.

Air America has shut its sales offices in Los Angeles and Chicago and is recasting its business plan, the network's president said on Wednesday as troubles beset the liberal talk show network.

Rather, Sinton said Air America has found success with traditional affiliate relationships, under which it provides about 20 hours of programing per day in many cases in exchange for the ability to sell a certain number of minutes per hour of advertising.

"The business model has changed with our on-air success. The fact that we are moving the needle so quickly with affiliates has surprised us and negated the need for us to control our own stations," Sinton said.
More Heroes

Amy Ridenour has another good email from Iraq.

I ask that the American people be brave. Don't fall for the spin by the weak and timid amongst you that are portraying this battle as a disaster. Such people are always looking for our failure to justify and rescue their constant pessimism. They are raising false flags of defeat in the press and media. It just isn't true.

Read it all.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Email from A Hero

Blackfive has an email from the sandbox that should be required reading for everybody who's discouraged and downhearted about our efforts. Here's just a snippet, but read the whole thing.

We're reading that everyone back home is starting to lose faith in our efforts in Iraq. The last CBS poll put the numbers under 50% for the first time. I know that doesn't mean a loss in support for the troops, but supporting "the troops" while not supporting the mission doesn't do much for us. If we're over here for nothing then vague "support the troops" statements carry little weight.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
More Heroes

Blackfive has a whole series of posts on people we should know.
Another Hero

Marine Captain Brian R. Chontosh

Captain Ed points out this story of heroism in Iraq:

While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, [Marine Capt. Brian R.] Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalitions tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.

He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advanced directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.

When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.

Chontosh was awarded the Navy Cross.

To earn a Navy Cross the act to be commended must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk and must be performed in such a manner as to render the individual highly conspicuous among others of equal grade, rate, experience, or position of responsibility.
Let's Hope CBS Got Good Ratings

Because they have this to answer for:

A video posted Tuesday on an Islamic militant Web site appeared to show a group affiliated with al-Qaida beheading an American in Iraq (news - web sites), saying the death was revenge for the prisoner-abuse scandal.

The video showed five men wearing headscarves and black ski masks, standing over a bound man in an orange jumpsuit who identified himself as an American from Philadelphia.

After reading a statement, the men were seen pulling the man to his side and cutting off his head with a large knife. They then held the head out before the camera.

I'd hate to think he died for nothing. Here's hoping that CBS sold a lot of laundry detergent during their 60 Minutes II feature.

Hat Tip: Captain's Quarters.
The Less Remarked Photos of Iraqis and US Soldiers

As Drudge points out, you won't see this one on 60 Minutes:

Monday, May 10, 2004
Book Report: Director's Cut by Roger L. Simon

I have been a regular reader of Roger L. Simon's blog and occasional contributor to the always challenging discussions that follow his posts. I remember seeing the late 1970s movie "The Big Fix", which was written by Roger and featured Richard Dreyfuss, who had recently won a Best Actor Oscar for his role in "The Goodbye Girl". I loved the way the movie brought back memories of the 1960s, an era that I had barely missed being old enough to really enjoy, as I turned 15 the year it ended.

Anyway, I have a readers' group that meets monthly and this time it was my turn to pick a book or series of books (we're pretty serious readers, so if the books are fairly short, as Roger's are, we'll commonly read 2-3 of them each, trying to hit on one or two that everybody reads, but also overlapping a bit so that everybody has a little extra to bring to the conversation).

I decided to start my reading of the Moses Wine series with the most recent entry, Director's Cut. At first, I had a hard time keeping from smiling as I read, because Wine is clearly closely based on Roger himself. It was amusing to read of the one-time 1960s radical who now "found myself nodding approvingly at the utterances of our Attorney General [John Ashcroft]...." Exactly the way Roger might describe himself. Wine is also a Lakers' fan (as is Roger) and the book contains lots of internet references. Indeed, I expect in the next instalment of Wine's adventures to find him looking for assistance via his blog.

Plot synopsis: Moses Wine is hired to provide security for a film being shot in Prague that is apparently the target of terrorists intent on shutting it down. Through a series of circumstances, he also becomes responsible for directing the film. Can he figure out why the movie is under attack before a major disaster hits Hollywood?

The Good: The story is excellent, with lots of local color, and a sprinkling of the inside-Hollywood stuff that an experienced screenwriter can provide. The climax is exciting and vivid. There is a running gag throughout the book that kept cracking me up whenever it returned. The terrorist angle makes the book compelling.

The Bad: Miles remarks at one point that the insurance firm which hired him to protect its completion bond on the movie will go bankrupt if shooting isn't completed on time. That's not very good insurance, even if it is good motivation.

The Bottom Line: A very entertaining and fast-paced read. Although the politics are what drew me to Roger's writing in the first place, he doesn't hit you over the head with it. There is a saying that the first chapter sells this book and the last chapter sells the next; Roger has clearly sold his next book with the thrilling (and, dare I say it--relevant) ending.
Rich Johnston writes in CBR that DC is assigning a new writer to the upcoming Vigilante series. He assumes that Micah Wright was bounced because he was found to have lied about being an Army Ranger, but does point to earlier qualms by DC about the project:

The book had the central character eschewing taking down street criminals or organized crime, but blowing away what he saw as corporate criminals. Vigilante was to have been acting as a lethal enforcer against the most heinous thieves of all - those in the suits and ties.

Sounds like great fun, eh? Reminds me of that crappy character Anarky who popped up in the Batman stories for awhile. He was opposed to "corporate criminals" too. Although Anarky was quite evil, there were regular murmurings from the supporting characters about "however much we might support his goals, his means are deplorable".

The Iraqi Prison Story

I confess to finding the whole thing a little less than compelling. The latest "outrage" is that the guards used dogs to intimidate the prisoners, and that one of the prisoners was even bit by a dog.

Elsewhere in the report it became clear what Kimbro would not do: American soldiers, Taguba said, used "military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee."

Funny, I had always heard that one of the first things a reporter learns is that "Dog Bites Man" is not a story. Except when it can be used against President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, I suppose.

John Moore has quite a good post on the whole situation over at his blog.
Sunday, May 09, 2004
Why You Shouldn't Pay Attention to Baseball Statistics in May

Just took a look at this season's combined American League statistics. I looked at every team's runs scored and runs allowed to date, and discovered something I thought was interesting. First of all, the simple calculation of Runs Scored/Runs Allowed correlates very well to winning percentage--88.5% correlation so far this year. Using the Pythagorean Theorum of Bill James, we can calculate an expected winning percentage for every team. For the season, this correlates slightly better with the actual won/lost percentage, at 89.9%.

So then I subtracted the actual wins from the expected wins via the Pythagorean Theorum. As might be expected, the best teams in the league have won a few more than their run ratio would indicate, while the worst teams have done poorer. The luckiest team in the American League are the California Angels, with 2.5 more wins than they would be expected to have, while the unluckiest team are the Royals, with 3.3 fewer wins than would be anticipated. Not by coincidence, the Angels have the best record in the AL, while the Royals have the worst.

For awhile I labored to figure out a good name for the extra wins/losses, and I figured why not call it lucky wins--wins above expected is rather dry. Then I got the brilliant idea of comparing luck to the team's won/lost percentage so far this year. The correlation was 78.7%. In other words, there is a strong and positive correlation between "lucky wins" and overall winning percentage at this point in the season.

Team R RA Exp W% W L Act W% Lucky W
Angels 170 141 58.5% 20 10 66.7% 2.5
Athletics 137 146 47.1% 14 15 48.3% 0.3
Blue Jays 137 147 46.8% 11 18 37.9% (2.6)
Devil Rays 94 136 33.7% 9 19 32.1% (0.4)
Indians 142 163 43.7% 12 16 42.9% (0.2)
Mariners 120 141 42.7% 12 17 41.4% (0.4)
Orioles 144 127 55.7% 14 12 53.8% (0.5)
Rangers 167 123 63.6% 18 11 62.1% (0.5)
Red Sox 140 112 60.1% 18 11 62.1% 0.6
Royals 135 162 41.7% 8 19 29.6% (3.3)
Tigers 167 174 48.1% 14 15 48.3% 0.0
Twins 152 143 52.8% 16 12 57.1% 1.2
White Sox 145 139 51.9% 17 11 60.7% 2.5
Yankees 140 136 51.3% 16 13 55.2% 1.1

Correl W/Act W% 68.7% -51.6% 89.9% 98.9% -98.9% 100.0% 78.3%


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Brainster in the Media

Howard Kurtz's Media Notes: May 27, 2005

Slate Today's Blogs:

March 16, 2005

May 9, 2005

June 3, 2005

Cited for Breaking the Christmas in Cambodia story (at Kerry Haters):

Hugh Hewitt: KerryHaters was on this story a long time ago. How could the elite media not have asked these questions before now?

Ankle-Biting Pundits: Our friends Pat and Kitty at Kerry Haters deserve the blog equivalent of a Pulitzer for their coverage of Kerry's intricate web of lies regarding Vietnam.

The Weekly Standard

Les Kinsolving

Greatest Hits

What If the Rest of the Fantastic Four Were Peaceniks?

Lefty Bloggers on Gay Witchhunt (linked by 16 blogs including Instapundit)

Kitty Myers Breaks Christmas in Cambodia

Brainster Shows Brinkley Says No Christmas in Cambodia

Explanation of the Blog's Name

Power Ratings Explained

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