Saturday, June 28, 2008

Let's hear it for America

From The Australian:

THERE is a certain familiarity to the concomitant series of actions and reactions when disaster strikes in the world. The US stands ready, willing and able to offer assistance. It is often the first country to send in millions of dollars, navy strike groups loaded with food and medical supplies, and transport planes, helicopters and floating hospitals to help those devastated by natural disaster.

Then, just as swift and with equal predictability, those wedded to the Great Satan view of the US begin to carp, drawing on a potent mixture of cynicism and conspiracy theories to criticise the last remaining superpower. When the US keeps doing so much of the heavy lifting to alleviate suffering, you'd figure that the anti-Americans might eventually revise their view of the US. But they never do. And coming under constant attack even when helping others, you'd figure that Americans would eventually draw the curtains on world crises. But they haven't. At least not yet.


There is a teenaged immaturity about the rest of the world's relationship with the US. Whenever a serious crisis erupts somewhere, our dependence on the US becomes obvious, and many hate the US because of it. That the hatred is irrational is beside the point.

We can denounce the Yanks for being Muslim-hating flouters of international law while demanding the US rescue Bosnian Muslims from Serbia without UN authority. We can be disgusted by crass American materialism and ridiculous stockpiling of worldly goods yet also be the first to demand material help from the US when disaster strikes.

The really unfortunate part about this adolescent love-hate relationship with the US is that, unlike most teenagers, many never seem to grow out of it. Within each new generation is a vicious strain of irrational anti-Americanism. But unlike a parent, the US could just get sick of it all and walk away.

The US has had isolationist periods in the past and it must be enormously tempted sometimes to have another one soon. The consequences of that possibility deserve some serious thought. If the neighbours worry about Russian bullying over oil and gas, just imagine a Russia unfettered by a US military presence in Europe. How long would South Korea, Israel or Taiwan last if the US decided it wanted to spend on itself the money it presently devotes to military spending in the Middle East and Asia?

None of this is to say the US does not deserve loud and frequent criticism. No country has as many or as strident critics - internally and externally - as the US. The US actually promotes such debate. But just occasionally we should moderate that criticism when circumstances demand a dose of fairness.

Indeed, why not break into a standing ovation every now and again? As more US C-130s and helicopters stand waiting on Burma's doorstep, desperate to help a shattered populace and stymied only by an appalling anti-US regime, this is one of those times.

Let's hear it for America.

H/T: TigerHawk

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Paying a soldier a visit

A couple of weeks ago, I had reason to be up in Killeen. I had a little bit of time before I had to head back towards home. I hadn't taken the time the other times I'd been in Killeen since last June to stop by, but I really wanted to pay Kile a visit. It was a quick stop, and I didn't bring anything for him.

I found myself up in Killeen again last week. This time, before I went to visit, I wanted to pick up some flowers. I decided on carnations, because I know they tend to last better than roses and such. When I saw the purple ones, thought they were perfect, all things considered.

I'll be up there again later this week, and hope to stop by again, with flowers again, if I can take the time to pick some up.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Morally depraved

There are just no words to describe the depth of my disgust with this man who may be President:

This brings us to Amanda Carpenter's excellent story about Barack Obama and the Born Alive Infants' Protection Act ("BAIPA"). For those who may not know, abortion is not always a "successful" procedure, insofar as "success" is defined as the killing of an unborn child. Most early term abortions involve the dismemberment of the child in utero and subsequent removal of the "pieces" of the uterus via suction. As you might imagine, this method does not leave many unborn children alive. However, most late-term abortions involve some combination of poisoning the unborn child and inducing the mother to deliver early. However, some of the unborn children in question are not as ready to die as their mothers are ready to... ah... "eliminate" them, and they are born alive. The Born Alive Infants' Protect Act requires, very simply, that if doctors are unsuccessful in killing the children through abortion, they may not kill them by refusing medical treatment, thus ensuring that they will die cold and alone on, say, an operating table. Or perhaps a toilet.

With this information given, Barack Obama's vote against [updated for accuracy - the IL version of] BAIPA really needs no further explanation. By way of contrast, BAIPA passed in the United States Senate unanimously, without even a dissent from Hillary Clinton or Ted Kennedy. The House passed the vote by a shocking 380-15 vote. NARAL was fine with BAIPA. I disagree strongly with this notion that we can draw an arbitrary line between small humans in utero and small humans ex utero wherein the former class may be legally killed but the latter may not. However, the latter proposition is not opposed by even the most committed merchant of death, with the exception of the proudly morally depraved like Peter Singer. And it is in this company that we find the alleged moderate and decent person Barack Obama.


The question I have for conservatives and moderates - and, what the heck? liberals - is this: what sort of man thinks it should be legal to allow living infants to drown in a toilet immediately after birth? The answer is very simple: a morally depraved one. And the next question that I have is this: do you want such a man making the most important decisions that will face this country over the next four years?

There are many things I don't like about Obama. But this just shows me how morally bankrupt he is, where before I just thought he was incredibly naive and misguided.

H/T: Jeff Emanuel via Jeff Emanuel

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Baseball fun: Round Rock to Help Fans Refuel

Logging on to see how the Express were doing tonight (they were up 2-0 in the 4th) since I didn't go to the game, I saw the headline "Round Rock to Help Fans Refuel". I had a feeling it had something to do with the astronomical rise in gas prices...

As gas prices soar to unprecedented highs at the pump, Round Rock is offering to help fans cool off their pocketbooks by covering the cost of a gallon of gas.

Round Rock will offer ticket discounts on July 1 and July 2 equivalent to the Central Texas average for the price of a gallon of regular gas. For fans, that means a $4 reduction in ALL ticket prices.

General Admission tickets will be sliced to just $2 and box seats to just $8 for those dates. That means a family of four can snag four general admission tickets for just $8.

So, if you're in the area (like Fort Hood...), this is a great opportunity to take the family out for a fun evening of baseball. As a regular out at the Dell Diamond, if you go for the general admission tickets, I highly recommend you bring a blanket to sit on - you'll be on the grass berm, with your choice of above right field and by the visiting bullpen or above left field and the Express bullpen. Right field will be in the sun until the sun goes down. Left field gets some shade early from the Home Run Porch. If you opt of box seats, I prefer sitting behind the screen, which runs from section 117 (3rd base line) to section 121 (1st base line). I would rather not have to dodge foul balls or flying bats, which has been known to happen... Also, as I'd mentioned in another post, the seating down the 3rd base line gets the shade first.

Now, to get this deal/the fine print:

To redeem this offer, fans must print this page and bring it to The Dell Diamond ticket office on or before the July 1 and July 2 games. This offer cannot be combined with any other Express discount.

As a side note, the Express' Independence Day fireworks display will be on July 3rd, since they are on the road on the 4th. It's always been a very night display, and you don't have to hassle with traffic and what-not like you'd get going down to see other displays in the area. I expect to be there.

2-1, top of the 7th...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

So You Want to Be President?

It seems somehow appropriate that I found So You Want to Be President? The Revised and Updated Edition, written by Judith St. George and illustrated by David Small, during a presidential election year. I'd seen it a few weeks ago and read it in the store, but I finally picked it up today. As you might notice from the cover image, it is a Caldecott Medal winner (in 2000; the Caldecott is awarded "to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.")

This revised and updated edition was released in 2004, and I realize it will be a little outdated come November, but it is still something to help young children think a little bit about the office and those who have held it.

There are pros and cons to being president, and some that might be of interest to kids are listed in the beginning: you get to live in the White House, you have your own swimming pool, bowling alley and movie theater; you have to be dressed up all the time, can't go anyplace by yourself and always have "lots of homework".

Much interesting trivia about our presidents is given: 6 James', 4 Johns and 4 Williams, 3 Georges and 2 Franklins; 8 presidents born in log cabins; the tallest, shortest, and biggest; the oldest and youngest; they have all had siblings; several are related to other presidents; all kinds of animals have lived in the White House; some were musicians and some were good dancers; most were honest and some were not.

But, I think the most important part of the book is in the last four pages:

It's said that people who run for President have swelled heads. It's said that people who run for President are greedy. They want power. They want fame.

But being President can be wanting to serve your country - like George Washington, who left the Virginia plantation he loved three times to lead the country he loved even more.

It can be looking towards the future like Thomas Jefferson, who bought the Louisiana Territory and then sent Lewis and Clark west to find a route to the Pacific. (They did!)

It can be wanting to turn lives around like Franklin Roosevelt, who provided soup and bread for the hungry, jobs for the jobless, and funds for the elderly to live on.

It can be wanting to make the world a better place like John Kennedy, who sent Peace Corps volunteers around the globe to teach and help others.

Every single President has taken this oath: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Only thirty-five words! But it's a big order when you're President of this country. Abraham Lincoln was tops at filling that order. "I know very well that many others might in this matter as in others, do better than I can," he said. "But...I am here. I must do the best I can, and bear the responsibility of taking the course which I feel I ought to take."

That's the bottom line. Tall, short, fat, thin, talkative, quiet, vain, humble, lawyer, teacher, or soldier - this is what most of our Presidents have tried to do, each in his own way. Some succeeded. Some failed. If you want to be President - a good President - pattern yourself after the best. Our best have asked more of themselves than they thought they could give. They have had the courage, spirit, and will to do what they knew was right. Most of all, their first priority has always been the people and the country they served.

At the back of the book, there is a listing of all the people shown in the illustrations: Presidents, mostly, and some significant people in their lives. Also, each of our Presidents is listed, along with the years of service and very basic biographical information, as well as noting that while there have been 43 presidencies so far, only 42 men have actually served.

I highly recommend sharing this book with your children or your students. It would probably be best for children 8 to 11 year old. It's a wonderful addition to any children's book library.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flag Day

Tomorrow is Flag Day. Last year, when Flag Day was coming up, I posted about What Freedom Means to Me: A Flag Day Story. If you have young children, consider giving it to them. I bought another children's book today, and I'll be posting about it as soon as I can.

Now, for tomorrow, Haole Wahine, emails about the Peace of Mind 5K taking place here in Austin tomorrow morning:

It's flag day, and the republic of TEXAS bikers are in town, so
they want people there waving flags. It oughta be good. They are having a big kick off for the runners, not just runners included. There will be a lot of bikers, and they are wanting a big turn-out for a great picture.

From the RunTex website:

Thousands of men and women have “borne the battle” of serving our country in the Global War on Terrorism and now struggle with the long-term consequences of traumatic brain injury (TBI). In an effort to increase public awareness and support for returning soldiers and their families and other loved-ones, a group of concerned Texans invite you to “pledge your allegiance” to helping the healing of those who have made significant sacrifices for our nation by sponsoring the first running event in the country aimed at specifically benefitting those who sustained combat-related TBI so that they and their families may have a better chance to resume a fulfilling life.

This Flag Day, show your support of these heroes by running in the Peace of Mind 5K.

Proceeds raised from this event will be distributed to education funds within Department Defense/VA Brain Injury Centers (DVBIC), Helping a Hero Organization, Brain Injury Association of Texas, and Easter Seals Central Texas. The common denominator is that all funds will go for a serviceperson or veteran who needs help as a result of their combat-related TBI.

It is set to start at 8am (wheelchair start, with the 5K start at 8:05) at 15th and Congress which is just north of the State Capitol. From when I went down to the National Heroes Tour stop at the Capitol back in March, I do know there is a parking garage just to the east of the Capitol, between 12th and 13th at Trinity (one-way northbound)/San Jacinto (one-way southbound).

I have a commitment to babysit tomorrow, but I'm not sure what time yet. I hope I can be one of many wavers of the American Flag down there tomorrow! Join in if you can!

If you would like to help out financially, there's a site set up for that, too. They have a goal of $50,000, and as of now, they're at 60% of that goal.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Update: JROTC needs help [Bumped]

Yes, it's about 3am. Don't ask ;-)

I was just checking in with all my blog reading before hitting the hay since I've not been home since about 8am Saturday morning until maybe 45 minutes ago. Good thing Saturdays are generally light on posting... Good news from CJ about the fundraiser I had posted about previously: As of May 31, $3307 has been raised towards sending to JROTC cadets to Drill & Ceremony camp. This is $193 shy of the original goal of $3500. Help put it over the top!

Update, 1:40pm: CJ informs me that the Air Force [6/2 - cross-stitch] isn't getting any love. Any Zoomie want to help correct that?

Update 6/8/08: YEAH! Our goal was reached, AND exceeded! Thank you to everyone who helped!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Update: Rick White's Trike for the Troops

Since I first posted about Rick White's troop support effort back in February, he's raised over $9000 more to benefit Soldier's Angels' Project Valour-IT. Since the original goal for this year's Trike for the Troops was $8000 to buy voice-activated laptops for 10 of our injured troops. Since he's now surpassed that goal ($9750 as of today), the goal of this year has been increased to $12000 to help 15 of our wounded. Since I last visited his site, he's added a video about this year's Bike to Work Day, which is coming up on June 25th, and this year's Trike for the Troops beneficiary. It's not too late to help out: to make a donation, just fill out the form at the bottom of the Trikes for Troops page.

Late for the prom...

First heard this story this morning before work, just found this report:

Fashionably Late: 84-Year-Old World War II Veteran Finally Makes it to High School Prom

Smith was drafted into military service 1943, before he could finish high school. He returned home after World War II but never got his high school diploma.
Smith said this prom wasn't just for him. He said it was also for all the other soldiers who couldn't make it to their own.

According to the radio report this morning, his wife was his date ;-)

Monday, June 2, 2008

"...the larger truth..."

Yesterday before I left for the ballgame, I was in the kitchen and picked up the sports section my dad had left on the table - I wanted to skim through the article about the Texas baseball team. When I did so, a large (9x7) negative of the infamous image of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner jumped out on the front of the "Insight" section of the Sunday Austin American-Statesman.

In a piece titled "Seen, Unseen", Statesman staff writer Jody Seaborn writes about a new film by Errol Morris, Standard Operating Procedure. Morris is a documentary filmmaker who also blogs about photography for the New York Times. This movie, which apparently opens here in Austin (and elsewhere?) on Friday, "seeks to determine whether the abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib were merely the work of a few 'bad apples', as the military and the Bush administration publicly maintained, or the result of policies sanctioned and encouraged by civilian and military leaders."

I would hardly call the article "objective journalism," even for an editorial piece (not when the sub-head reads "For filmmaker Errol Morris, the Abu Ghraib photos concealed as much as they revealed, and helped cover up the larger truth."):

For two years, Morris interviewed soldiers, interrogators and investigators, and examined letters, depositions, memos, and military and government reports to find the larger truth behind the infamous photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib. As he writes in his director's statement for the film, "The story of Abu Ghraib is still shrouded in moral ambiguity, but it is clear what happened there."

And what happened, Morris says, is that the seven military police soldiers convicted of abuses at Abu Ghraib — Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick, Sgt. Javal Davis, Cpl. Charles Graner, Spc. Sabrina Harman, Spc. Megan Ambuhl, Spc. Jeremy Sivits and Pfc. Lynndie England — were doing what they thought their superiors wanted done.


In investigating Abu Ghraib, Morris collected more material than one movie can possibly hold. An excellent companion book, also titled "Standard Operating Procedure" and written by New Yorker staff writer Philip Gourevitch, uses the information that Morris gathered to further explore the story of Abu Ghraib. "There was no excuse" for Abu Ghraib, Gourevitch writes, "and there was nothing to show for it either, no great score of useful intelligence, no ends to justify the means. Nobody has ever even bothered to pretend otherwise. The horror ... was entirely gratuitous."

I won't excuse what those soldiers did. But one thing is sure - as Michael Yon explains in Moment of Truth in Iraq - we lost the moral high-ground because of Abu Ghraib, and that likely cost us the lives of countless American service men and women.

I have a problem with is Morris' conclusion, which it seems Seaborn accepts without question (Seaborn helpfully includes an "About Abu Ghraib" "fact list", as well as "additional information" pointing the reader to an article from Morris and Gourevitch in a March issue of The New Yorker, Morris' recent essay (on his NYT blog) about the photo of SPC Harman grinning over the body of a prisoner who it was later determined had been killed during CIA interrogation,'s "archive of 279 photographs and 19 videos from Abu Ghraib" and another documentary, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, that how these soldiers behaved is what was expected of American soldiers in Iraq:

The story of Abu Ghraib feels incomplete. We have a few so-called bad apples who were punished, but the officials responsible for the box where these apples rotted remain unpunished. It's an unsatisfying ending.

I don't know what the ending is yet. The ending is yet to be written by America and by Americans.

I've been asked, I don't know how many times, what about the smoking gun? Have you found the smoking gun?

What's the smoking gun supposed to be?

Well, I used to joke about it. I would say, what do you think you're going to find? Are you going to find the video conference call where Donald Rumsfeld tells Chuck Graner: "You ever think of piling them in a pyramid?" I don't think that exists!

But I think there are hundreds of smoking guns that we've seen. They're all around us. They're everywhere. How many torture memos does an administration have to promulgate before you get the idea that they're promulgating torture? How much stuff do you need to see?

Every time that we somehow just leave things be and accept the fact that lowly soldiers take the fall and the big shots run away and never are confronted by what they've done, I think we all lose, ultimately. It affects us all. And not for the good.

I just cannot accept that premise. I've known too many people in the military who would NEVER accept that as SOP. It just bothers me that others want to keep Abu Ghraib front and center, implying all our soldiers and Marines would do something like this without questioning the legality of these "orders". No mention is made in the article in regard to the fact that the military was already investigating what happened at Abu Ghraib prior to it becoming a headlining story for newspapers and TV news programs. Just as "Morris explores in Zoom [ed. - his NYT blog] - that it is necessary to understand what a photograph doesn't show us to understand what it does", there is more to the Abu Ghraib story that is shared in his "documentary".