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Friday, July 27, 2007
After Kook Street

I haven't been paying much attention to the Left/Right battles these days, so I may just be behind the curve on this story. After Downing Street, a website that sprang up after the famous Downing Street Memo, has always been pretty far left, but I wasn't aware that they had gotten into the complete crackpot stuff as illustrated by this hyperventilating article written by David Lindorff:

Put this together with the wholly secret construction now under way--courtesy of a $385-million grant by the US Army Corps of Engineers to Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc--of detention camps reportedly capable of confining as many as 400,000 people, and a recent report that the Pentagon has a document, dated June 1, 2007, classified Top Secret, which declares there to be a developing “insurgency” within the U.S, and which lays out a whole martial law counterinsurgency campaign against legal dissent, and you have all the ingredients for a military takeover of the United States.

The wholly secret? It's such a secret that the Houston Business Journal has an article about it, dated 1/24/06. And the article makes it clear that these detention camps are not intended for Americans:

The contract provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the United States, or to support the rapid development of new programs.

So there's a pretty simple reason for it. Now I know the paranoid fringe will always see these immigration and detention camps as having potential to be used against US citizens, but what does David really propose in the event this happens:

As we go about our daily lives--our shopping, our escapist movie watching, and even our protesting and political organizing—we need to be aware that there is a real risk that it could all blow up, and that we could find ourselves facing armed, uniformed troops at our doors.

Have the jackbooted thugs become the nightmare of the paranoid left?

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If Only Franklin Foer Had Been Editing the New Republic in 1969

Cambodia Diarist, by Johnny Forbes

It was a dark and stormy Christmas Eve on the Mekong. We had left Sa Dec a few hours earlier, and were still exhilarated over the adventure of the drawbridge. As we came out of the town we realized that even with the drawbridge up all the way, we'd have very little clearance. But we decided to gun it rather than wait for low tide and made it through with about an inch to spare. The villagers who had come to watch us smash up applauded politely.

We were in that nebulous area between Cambodia and South Vietnam. The CIA spook was applying lampblack to his face. The hat was lying on the table between us. It was big and floppy and camo and I lusted after it.

The CIA man grunted. He was featureless like all spooks; after 4-5 missions they all started to look the same. But his voice was pure Southern farmboy.

"Y'all want the hat?" Before he could withdraw the offer I snatched it up and put it on my head a jaunty angle. He smiled, but it was a cold smile. "Y'all gotta swap one of yours."

I hesitated. The only hat besides my regulation Navy equipment was my old Red Sox cap, autographed by Eddie Yost himself. I liked to think of it as my lucky cap. But it wasn't camo, and it wasn't the hat of a real CIA man. So I handed over the baseball cap.

This was one of those unofficial missions that I chafed at. "Surely Nixon can't be running the government already," I had complained to Elliot when receiving my orders. "He's not the President yet!"

Commander Elliot had winked. "This has been Nixon's war all along, you know that as well as I do."

Gardner poked his head in the door. "Couple PBJs--err, PBRs coming up, Skippy--err, Skipper." I could see him surpressing a grin and wondered why, then cursed and whipped off the camo hat. Later that night I would have to put it in the secret compartment of my attache case. Otherwise Gardner and the other guys would undoubtedly visit indignities on it, which would probably lead to mildew.

I groaned at the news of the PBRs. The f'ing Navy couldn't do anything right. Elliot had assured me this area would be clear. But as the craft approached us, a mortar whistled overhead. "What was that?" I yelled. The second one hit the water only a few yards away.

The PBRs took off and we darted into Cambodia. Again, but not for the last time.

(Note: This was written by me in 2004.)
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The Continuing Saga of Scott Thomas

I have to admit feeling just a bit of schadenfreude at this one. The New York Times covers TNR's Baghdad Diarist story.

The magazine granted anonymity to the writer to keep him from being punished by his military superiors and to allow him to write candidly, Mr. Foer said. He said that he had met the writer and that he knows with “near certainty” that he is, in fact, a soldier.

Of course, Foer must have known how weak that sounds, so he revised his claim upwards to "absolute" certainty at the website.

Michael Goldfarb has much more from military people in the position to know.

First: I have never seen a woman on the FOB that was disfigured. FOB Falcon is full of combat Soldiers (men). There are very few female Soldiers on the FOB. After being here a year surrounded by men, I can tell you what every woman on this FOB looks like. IF there had been a woman with burns covering her face, and IF some undisciplined Soldier(s) had done something like described in this guys story, he would have been dealt with swiftly and harshly. The dining facility here is small and usually crowded. Any NCO or officer that had heard or seen someone committing this type behavior would have immediately approached that group and reacted to that situation. Those Soldiers would have had UCMJ actions taken against them. No one I know, NCO, officer, or even lower enlisted, would have tolerated this.

Read it all.

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Monday, July 23, 2007
Editors, Beware of Confirmation Bias

The New Republic looks to have gotten stung again. Back in the 1990s, Stephen Glass wrote a series of highly amusing and highly dubious articles for the New Republic. The articles confirmed the biases of the editors, and so they got published even though there were red flags all over the place.

For example, Glass wrote a book about a group of Republicans who worshipped George H.W. Bush. Well, to the editors of TNR, Republicans are sort of a cult anyway, so it sounded reasonable to them. He also wrote a story about a third-grader who was a computer hacker who became the object of a bidding war between high-tech firms. To the editors of TNR, business has always seemed illogical anyway, so it's possible that an eight-year-old would be coveted by industry.

The current story involves how evil our military personnel are, and hoo-boy, that's a meme that sells well to liberal editors everywhere. The individual anecdotes have been picked apart quite well over at the standard, but this is the one that has a flashing neon sign:

The first episode puts "Thomas"'s unit at a "chow hall" at an unnamed base. A woman eating there is wearing "an unrecognizable tan uniform, so I couldn’t really tell whether she was a soldier or a civilian contractor." The woman's face is described as having been "more or less melted, along with all the hair on that side of her head," by an IED. She sits down for lunch next to the men. Here's how "Thomas" describes what happens next:

We were already halfway through our meals when she arrived. After a minute or two of eating in silence, one of my friends stabbed his spoon violently into his pile of mashed potatoes and left it there.
“Man, I can’t eat like this,” he said.
“Like what?” I said. “Chow hall food getting to you?”
“No—with that fucking freak behind us!” he exclaimed, loud enough for not only her to hear us, but everyone at the surrounding tables. I looked over at the woman, and she was intently staring into each forkful of food before it entered her half-melted mouth.
“Are you kidding? I think she’s fucking hot!” I blurted out.
“What?” said my friend, half-smiling.
“Yeah man,” I continued. “I love chicks that have been intimate—with IEDs. It really turns me on—melted skin, missing limbs, plastic noses . . . .”
“You’re crazy, man!” my friend said, doubling over with laughter. I took it as my cue to continue.
“In fact, I was thinking of getting some girls together and doing a photo shoot. Maybe for a calendar? ‘IED Babes.’ We could have them pose in thongs and bikinis on top of the hoods of their blown-up vehicles.”
My friend was practically falling out of his chair laughing. The disfigured woman slammed her cup down and ran out of the chow hall, her half-finished tray of food nearly falling to the ground.

Now, note particularly that the "I" character is our New Republic writer. Now I suppose it is quite likely that the writer goes on to make some point about how if even he, a sensitive writer-type guy, could behave so atrociously, it makes some sort of point about what being in Iraq does to our troops. But is anybody so self-aware and yet so callous? It just doesn't fit.

According to Howard Kurtz, TNR is circling the wagons:

As the criticism mounts, Foer says he sees an ideological agenda.

"A lot of the questions raised by the conservative blogosphere boil down to, would American soldiers be capable of doing things like the things described in the diarist. The practical jokes are exceptionally mild compared to things that have been documented by the U.S. military. Conservative bloggers make a bit of a living denying any bad news that emanates from Iraq."

Hey guys, the coverup is always worse than the crime!


The Perils of Standing In Front of Signs

Is illustrated by Mitt Romney, who stood in front of (and held up) a sign saying "No to Osama, Obama, and Hillary's Mama". Cute little rhyme, but I agree with the guy in the video that no American should be compared to Osama.




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