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March 24, 2006

OOTW: Desmond T. Doss, Sr., Medal of Honor winner, dies at age 87

In an age in which the term "hero" is overused to the point of absurdity, this man was a true hero:

Desmond T. Doss, Sr., the only conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor during World War II, has died. He was 87 years old.

Mr. Doss never liked being called a conscientious objector. He preferred the term conscientious cooperator. Raised a Seventh-day Adventist, Mr. Doss did not believe in using a gun or killing because of the sixth commandment which states, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). Doss was a patriot, however, and believed in serving his country.

During World War II, instead of accepting a deferment, Mr. Doss voluntarily joined the Army as a conscientious objector. Assigned to the 307th Infantry Division as a company medic he was harassed and ridiculed for his beliefs, yet he served with distinction and ultimately received the Congressional Medal of Honor on Oct. 12, 1945 for his fearless acts of bravery.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, time after time, Mr. Doss’ fellow soldiers witnessed how unafraid he was for his own safety. He was always willing to go after a wounded fellow, no matter how great the danger. On one occasion in Okinawa, he refused to take cover from enemy fire as he rescued approximately 75 wounded soldiers, carrying them one-by-one and lowering them over the edge of the 400-foot Maeda Escarpment. He did not stop until he had brought everyone to safety nearly 12 hours later.

The story of Doss' life was truly amazing. While I personally do not believe in prayer, I began to wonder about that after reading about his experiences on Okinawa in May 1945. Here are some interesting links:

Hat tip to Taranto's Best of the Web Today.

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March 24, 2006 at 11:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Uncommon Sense

I have never thought much of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, but I must confess to have been gobsmacked by reading her OpEd in yesterday's LAT critiqueing the current administration's policy regarding Iran. Aside from the condescending tone ("The administration is now divided between those who understand this complexity and those who do not" ), I was astounded by the following example of how Sec. Albright apparently believe the world works:

. . . the Bush administration should disavow any plan for regime change in Iran — not because the regime should not be changed but because U.S. endorsement of that goal only makes it less likely. In today's warped political environment, nothing strengthens a radical government more than Washington's overt antagonism. It also is common sense to presume that Iran will be less willing to cooperate in Iraq and to compromise on nuclear issues if it is being threatened with destruction. As for Iran's choleric and anti-Semitic new president, he will be swallowed up by internal rivals if he is not unwittingly propped up by external foes. [Emphasis added]

Apparently, in Ms. Albright's universe, threatening people with destruction unless they discontinue a given course of action is counterproductive. But, on the other hand, two paragraphs later, she apparently endorses a policy of hard-headed realpolitik:

In the long term, the future of the Middle East may well be determined by those in the region dedicated to the hard work of building democracy. I certainly hope so. But hope is not a policy. In the short term, we must recognize that the region will be shaped primarily by fairly ruthless power politics in which the clash between good and evil will be swamped by differences between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Persian, Arab and Kurd, Kurd and Turk, Hashemite and Saudi, secular and religious and, of course, Arab and Jew.

I'm confused. She is in favor of abandoning support for democracy as an overarching policy in the middle east in favor of "ruthless power politics," but she opposes threatening the use of force as a means of persuading a hostile regime to stop certain behaviors (e.g. developing nuclear weapons, supporting terrorist groups in Lebanon and Palestine, providing weapons and financial support to groups attacking US and Iraqi government forces in Iraq). I suppose, in Sec. Albright's world, "ruthless power politics" consists of snubbing someone at an international conference. Maybe it was those formative years spent in New York City public schools, but where I come from, listening when someone tells you that they're going to kick your ass unless you stop doing something they don't like is common sense. I guess they play by different rules in Georgetown.

Also worth reading is Daniel McKivergan's criticisms of Albright's column based upon her own statements back when she was responsible for US foreign policy.

March 24, 2006 at 10:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

Bush Bounce?

I watched GWB's press conference the other day. I was actually quite impressed with his performance. He was pretty funny, engaged the press directly, and looked a lot more comfortable than he has in a while. Not much of it made the news broadcasts, except for his first question to the fifth estate's crazy aunt Helen Thomas and his comments about US troops remaining in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

If you have 50+ minutes to spend, you can watch the video or read the transcript here. I found it fairly encouraging and think the President should do more of this kind of thing. I know he hates doing it, but it can't hurt and might help his poll numbers.

I'm off to Greece, so light blogging for a while.

March 23, 2006 at 04:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2006

QOTD: Tony Blair on Why We Fight

This terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas - the poison that warps the minds of its adherents - are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core.

By this I don't mean telling them terrorism is wrong. I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd; their concept of governance pre-feudal; their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive.

And then, since only by Muslims can this be done: standing up for and supporting those within Islam who will tell them all of this but more - namely that the extremist view of Islam is not just theologically backward but completely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Koran.

But in order to do this, we must reject the thought that somehow we are the authors of our own distress; that if only we altered this decision or that, the extremism would fade away. The only way to win is to recognize this phenomenon is a global ideology; to see all areas, in which it operates, as linked; and to defeat it by values and ideas set in opposition to those of the terrorists.

Read the whole thing.

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March 22, 2006 at 07:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2006

Froggy News

There are a couple of interesting editorials today about the French demonstrations opposing the introduction of a new youth employment law that would make it easier for employers to fire (and therefore encourage them to hire) people under the age of 26.

The LAT's editors beat the already dead horse by arguing the economic case for liberalizing France's sclerotic labor laws. You've gotta love their headline, though: Liberté, egalité, stupidité.

IT'S SPRING, AND THE FRENCH are rioting again. This time, it's students and labor unions protesting a minor reform of the country's employment laws that was imposed to help solve the problems that spurred last fall's riots. If the protesters get what they want and the law is rescinded, the result will be continued high youth unemployment — which will doubtless spur more riots. And that, Simba, is the Circle of Life in French politics.

The WSJ's editors take a different tack, while of course endorsing this first step at labor market reform. (Non-subscriber link here.) They argue that the larger issue in France is the lack of a truly participatory democracy which allows fundamental policy questions to be calmly debated rather than be the target of violent demonstrations:

The right to assemble is a pillar of free society. But in France it's the only pillar its citizens seem to take seriously. So much so that any public debate of import gets conducted in the streets rather than through the ballot box or institutions of a purportedly mature democracy.

. . . Reasonable people could have had a spirited debate about this [new employment] policy. So why didn't they before the jobs contract became the law of the land? Parliaments and elections exist so complicated issues can be digested and decisions calmly taken. France went from little discussion to protests in central Paris, blockades at the Sorbonne and a rampage through a McDonald's restaurant. That's "civic discourse"?

The masses on the streets reply that this is the only way to fight a sclerotic political system, and the claim isn't without merit. MPs and the president face voters only every five years. The National Assembly is notoriously unresponsive to voter concerns, though the chicken-and-egg problem is that citizens don't bother even to try to sway their representatives. The jobs bill was pushed through using a special procedure that allowed for little debate or amendment.

If I were truly cynical, I would observe that people usually get the governments they deserve. For France's sake, I hope not.

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March 21, 2006 at 10:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2006

Avast Ye Dumbasses!

A group of clueless pirates operating off the Somalia coast opened fire on two US Navy ships yesterday, with predictable results. Twelve pirates were captured, including five who were wounded, and one was killed. (CNN has some Navy pictures here. They can also been seen in higher resolution at the Navy's website here, here, here and here.)

As an article by Steve Stone in the Virginian-Pilot aptly described:

Why the men opened fire is unclear, but their decision to take on Navy ships in a 30-foot fishing boat was "not too smart at all," said Cmdr. Jeff Breslau, a Fifth Fleet spokesman in Bahrain.

"If somebody shoots at us, they can pretty much expect to die because we will return fire," Breslau said by telephone.

The ships involved in this brief action were the Aegis-class crusier USS Cape St. George and Burke-class destroyer USS Gonzalez. No sailors were injured during the incident.

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March 19, 2006 at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2006

Sciatic Attack

Apologies for the light blogging of late. I hurt my back a couple of weeks ago either coming down hard on my backside while bouncing around on my Kubota tractor or while tossing newly-cut logs into piles for later splitting. Either way, the result has been painful inflammation of my sciatic nerve which makes it very painful for me to sit in one place for any length of time. While I can read perfectly well while lying flat, I find it hard to write. Please bear with me as I try to learn how to type with the keyboard lying on my stomach (or find better drugs, whichever comes first). . .

March 18, 2006 at 04:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 16, 2006

Why People Are Paid for Drug Trials

. . . Because sometimes things like this happen. More here and here.

I'm surprised that the US media has not picked up on this horrific story.

March 16, 2006 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More Flying Ferrari Follies

Let me get this straight: Dietrich is actually Trevor, and either Stefan or Trevor was actually videotaping as they attempting to explore their Ferrari Enzo's flight characteristics? Here's what the latest story from the LAT about the case has to say:

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's investigation into a mysterious crash that destroyed a rare $1-million Ferrari in Malibu last month is now focusing on a videotape that was purportedly shot from inside the vehicle at the time of the accident, according to sources close to the case.

The sources said that Ferrari owner Stefan Eriksson and the other man in the car, identified by authorities as Trevor Karney, had a video camera rolling as they raced on Pacific Coast Highway on the morning of Feb. 21 at speeds in excess of 162 mph.

Sounds like this lucky-to-be-alive pair may have been trying to pull a Lelouch when their Enzo embarked on its ill-fated flight. They should have done more homework; it now appears that the French film director may have used a garden variety Mercedes to make his legendary film:

According to recent claims by Claude Lelouch, he was driving his own Mercedes in the film, and later dubbed over the sound of a Ferrari 275GTB to give the impression of much higher speeds. Calculations made by several independent groups using the film show that the car never exceeds 140 km/h (85 mph), which seems to lend credence to his recent comments.

Here are some more links to information about Lelouch's film:

  • The Pjammer Chronicles has links to a 35 MB Quicktime movie of the film, which is pretty cool. The comments also have a good discussion of the film, concluding that the car with the camera was not a Ferrari and not going as fast as the soundtrack would suggest.

  • A page in the Physics Factbook containing some very elaborate (though flawed) student analysis of the film.

  • Getaway in Stockholm: a series of similar films inspired by Lalouch's movie. (And perhaps the inspiration for Stefan Eriksson -- who is Swedish -- to pull his stunt on the PCH? Maybe he was planning to make street racing films using his exotic car collection as his next entrepreneurial venture.)

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March 16, 2006 at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 15, 2006

Wishful Thinking Department

Today's NYT has a front page, above the fold story by Michael Slackman suggesting that Iran's leadership may be rethinking its defiant stance viz-a-viz the rest of the world regarding its nuclear program. Why am I skeptical about the NYT running another "why we shouldn't bomb Iran" story?

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March 15, 2006 at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack