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:: Friday, August 20, 2004 ::

A few questions..

I keep hearing Unfit for Command is the number one seller at Amazon. So I go check it out, and sure enough it's listed as "Number One" under "Top Sellers->Books". (Second is the 9/11 Report).

But I notice a few things. First, the book takes "Five to Seven weeks" to ship. Why so long? Every other book on the list ships within 24 hours.

Second, and more interestingly: Unfit for Command doesn't show up on the top 25 list on any of the categories. It's not under "Nonfiction", it's not under "History", it's not "Biography"...it's nowhere. Under "Non-Fiction", the 9/11 report is listed at the top. I can't find Unfit for Command listed anywhere under a subject heading. Every other book on the list is also ranked by category (sometimes multiple categories). Unfit for Command is not.

Perhaps someone more familiar with how Amazon lists books can explain...
:: Morat 11:38 AM :: ::

Amusing lies

Another interesting bit from the Times article:
Several veterans insist that Mr. Kerry wrote his own reports, pointing to the initials K. J. W. on one of the reports and saying they are Mr. Kerry's. "What's the W for, I cannot answer," said Larry Thurlow, who said his boat was 50 to 60 yards from Mr. Kerry's. Mr. Kerry's middle initial is F, and a Navy official said the initials refer to the person who had received the report at headquarters, not the author.
Does anyone else get the feeling that Thurlow either doesn't know the procedures and regulations for his own branch of the service, or never expected anyone to check up on his story? I'm not sure how you can see "KJW" and imagine those are Kerry's initials. Maybe some of your sailors and soldiers out there can help me: Do you normally initial paperwork with "Last Name, First Name, Middle Initial"? Is that a military thing?
:: Morat 9:01 AM :: ::

Friendly Fire: The Birth of an Anti-Kerry Ad

The New York Times has a rather devastating article on the Swifties (I note the Houston Chronicle had it front page today, although below the fold).
After weeks of taking fire over veterans' accusations that he had lied about his Vietnam service record to win medals and build a political career, Senator John Kerry shot back yesterday, calling those statements categorically false and branding the people behind them tools of the Bush campaign.

His decision to take on the group directly was a measure of how the group that calls itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has catapulted itself to the forefront of the presidential campaign. It has advanced its cause in a book, in a television advertisement and on cable news and talk radio shows, all in an attempt to discredit Mr. Kerry's war record, a pillar of his campaign.

How the group came into existence is a story of how veterans with longstanding anger about Mr. Kerry's antiwar statements in the early 1970's allied themselves with Texas Republicans.

Mr. Kerry called them "a front for the Bush campaign" - a charge the campaign denied.
A series of interviews and a review of documents show a web of connections to the Bush family, high-profile Texas political figures and President Bush's chief political aide, Karl Rove.
Naughty, naughty. Bush released this little bomb too soon. You're supposed to drop smears like this the day before the election, so the media never has the chance to run down inconvenient facts.

Those poll numbers must have the White House frantic. They're dropping their nukes way too early.

Update: The Grey Lady had a lovely graph with the story, showing the nice web of connections...as well as some of the Swifties contradictions. Click the link and check it out. I'm pretty sure I saw it in the Houston Chronicle too...
:: Morat 8:44 AM :: ::

I was wondering...

Does it not occur to the right-wingers just how stupid the "Kerry was collecting Medals in 'Nam for his future runs for office" and the "Kerry was trying get Purple Hearts to get out of 'Nam" route is?

On the second, the simple matter that Kerry requested Swift Boat service as his second tour (he had already served eight months on the Gridley) should be enough. Swift Boats weren't yet running the rivers of Vietnam, but they were running the coasts, a hell of a lot closer than destroyers got.

But mostly it's the sheer stupidity of it. Who the hell tries to get Purple Hearts? Shrapnel, even small pieces, can kill...or leave you in pain for the rest of your life. There were far easier ways for Kerry to get out of Vietnam (such as, you know, not requesting to be transferred to Swift Boats, and not requesting to go to Vietnam.) He was in the Navy, for the love of Pete. Those boys weren't exactly roaming the jungle. He could have spent a year or two playing "Hunt the Russians" in the Atlantic or Pacific.

No one -- not even a gung-ho 20 year old -- is going to try for three Purple Hearts just so that, ten or twenty years later, he can use it when he runs for the Senate. People who go hunting for that award tend to receive it posthumously.

:: Morat 8:35 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, August 19, 2004 ::

Just an update on the SBVT

I thought I'd point something out. First, a little background. Check Thurlow's Bronze Star citation (pdf file). Note the "V" or "Valor" device, which Wikipedia helpfully notes is given to those who earned their decoration as a result of direct enemy fire, or in direct support of operations against an enemy force.

Now, onto the red meat. Here's Thurlow's backpedal:
"It's like a Hollywood presentation here, which wasn't the case," Thurlow said last night after being read the full text of his Bronze Star citation. "My personal feeling was always that I got the award for coming to the rescue of the boat that was mined. This casts doubt on anybody's awards. It is sickening and disgusting."
Thurlow said he would consider his award "fraudulent" if coming under enemy fire was the basis for it. "I am here to state that we weren't under fire," he said. He speculated that Kerry could have been the source of at least some of the language used in the citation.
I'd like to call "Bullshit" twice. First, even if Thurlow didn't read his citation, and drifted off when it was presented to him, the Valor device would have told him. I've yet to meet a soldier who isn't intimately familiar with the awards and decorations of his service.

Thurlow knew the moment he saw the medal that it was awarded for bravery under enemy fire.

Secondly, Thurlow was the senior officer. As such, he would have written the report....and even if, for some reason, didn't, he would have been required to sign off on it. He was the senior officer present, after all. Part of the job, so to speak...

In short: Thurlow's a lying fuck.

:: Morat 4:54 PM :: ::

Sen. Kennedy's 'No-Fly' Nightmare

I can't imagine this was a mistake.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard Thursday morning from one of its own about some of the problems with airline "no fly" watch lists. Massachusetts Democrat Ted Kennedy says he had a close encounter with the lists when trying to take the US Airways shuttle out of Washington to Boston. The ticket agent would not let him on the plane because Kennedy's name was on the no-fly list — in error. After a flurry of phone calls, Kennedy was able to fly home, but then the same thing happened coming back to Washington. Kennedy says it took three calls to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to get his name stricken from the list. The process took several weeks, in all.
I find it hard to believe that a sitting Senator (especially one with as high a profile as Kennedy's) would end up on the "no-fly" list by error.

And, of course, if it took Kennedy three weeks (a man who can personally chew Tom Ridge out) to get off the list, how long do you think it'd take you? I suggest that -- should you find yourself on the list -- you might as well learn to love the bus, because you sure as hell aren't flying for awhile.

:: Morat 1:08 PM :: ::

Kerry defends Vietnam War record, challenges Bush

Kerry defends Vietnam War record, challenges Bush:
Democratic Senator John Kerry (news - web sites) launched an all-out counterattack on fellow Vietnam war veterans who say he embellished his combat record, a key part of his bid for the White House.

Kerry charged that those critics, who go by "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," were "a front" for US President George W. Bush and demanded that the incumbent heed calls to repudiate the group's accusations.

"The fact that the president won't denounce what they're up to tells you everything you need to know: He wants them to do his dirty work," the lawmaker told a firefighters' union that was the first major labor group to endorse him.

"The president keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: Bring it on!" he said, to approving roars from the crowd.
Sweet, sweet political timing. (Full speech here). He let Bush's failure to denounce the ad (Bush chose, instead, to denounce 527s) simmer for a week, then when MoveOn's ad came out, Kerry responded immediately to McCain's request to denounce it.

In short? Bush got tarred with the negative ad (something he avoided) and Kerry's going to float above the fray...while getting in some serious hits. (And all this right after new reports surface slamming SBVT's credibility).

I still like Dean's style and his issues more, but I'm not sure the good Doctor will ever have this level of political skill.

:: Morat 10:57 AM :: ::

And another story falls apart

Nice to see the mainstream press picked up on this. (Since it appears the two week lag was the result of actually getting Thurlow's records, I won't snark about how the blogs had it first. Again.)
Newly obtained military records of one of Sen. John F. Kerry's most vocal critics, who has accused the Democratic presidential candidate of lying about his wartime record to win medals, contradict his own version of events.

In newspaper interviews and a best-selling book, Larry Thurlow, who commanded a Navy Swift boat alongside Kerry in Vietnam, has strongly disputed Kerry's claim that the Massachusetts Democrat's boat came under fire during a mission in Viet Cong-controlled territory on March 13, 1969. Kerry won a Bronze Star for his actions that day.

But Thurlow's military records, portions of which were released yesterday to The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, contain several references to "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire" directed at "all units" of the five-boat flotilla. Thurlow won his own Bronze Star that day, and the citation praises him for providing assistance to a damaged Swift boat "despite enemy bullets flying about him."
Seriously, the best part is yet to come:
In a telephone interview Tuesday evening after he attended a Swift Boat Veterans strategy session in an Arlington hotel, Thurlow said he lost his Bronze Star citation more than 20 years ago. He said he was unwilling to authorize release of his military records because he feared attempts by the Kerry campaign to discredit him and other anti-Kerry veterans.
I'm not sure what part to snark over. The fact that he feared Kerry would "discredit him" (using the truth, apparently) or the likely content of that "strategy" session. So far, the "push-back" by the comment trolls (I still use Political Animal as my main site for that) has been the occasional "liberal bias" but mostly "CAMBODIA! CAMBODIA!".

They say history doesn't repeat itself, but I can't help but be reminded of Clinton....who left his impeachment more popular than he was before it. The problem with slime attacks and attacks is you can easily cross from "Effective" to "counter-productive".

:: Morat 10:06 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, August 18, 2004 ::

Posted without comment.



An unidentified supporter of President Bush tries to silence protester Kendra Lloyd-Knox (right) outside Southridge High School in Beaverton during Bush's August 13th visit. Source: PortlandTribune.com

:: Morat 8:29 PM :: ::

:: Tuesday, August 17, 2004 ::

Weddings...

Having stumbled across -- and read in horrified fascination -- the tales at Etiquette Hell, I have only one thing to say: I am so glad I got married in Vegas. SO GLAD. (Admittedly, I wasn't smart enough to do that the first time....).

We had a lovely ceremony, the preparations were handled very efficiently by the nice folks at the Paris (lovely place. I heartily recommend it!) , so pretty much my only concern was to be "on time" and remember to shave.

Oh, and my wife? Looked lovely. Absolutely stunning.

:: Morat 3:19 PM :: ::

The Washington Monthly

Kevin over at Political Animal points out that, according to the US Education Department, charter schools did really badly this year.
The first national comparison of test scores among children in charter schools and regular public schools shows charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools.

The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration.

The data shows fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools.

Because charter schools are concentrated in cities, often in poor neighborhoods, the researchers also compared urban charters to traditional schools in cities. They looked at low-income children in both settings, and broke down the results by race and ethnicity as well. In virtually all instances, the charter students did worse than their counterparts in regular public schools.
Kevin's mostly snarky about how Bush -- King of Education -- sorta forgot to mention this.

Me, I just wonder how anyone can support charter schools, at least as they're currently implemented. I mean, hell, it's straight out of As Good as it Gets. "How do you run a charter school? First, think of a public school. Then remove reason and accountability". Too many charter schools operate "outside" the stringent requirements of public schools.

The "free-market schools" folks, undeterred, blame the problem on the kids poor education prior to entering the charter schools, and valiantly proclaim the free market will eventually deliver well-educated kids, who'll get to ride unicorns at graduation.

In short, though, it appears that the public trough -- combined with the notorious lack of oversight for charter schools -- seems a bit too tempting. In the end, I'm guessing charter schools (should they survive) will end up as nothing more than privately run schools with selective enrollment, subject to the exact same standards and requirements as public schools. And I'm sure their owners will tout their high scores, and fail to mention that those lovely scores are natural when you happily exclude the bottom 50%.

Of course, in the long run, the only thing that will fix our schools (which aren't as bad as people claim) is legislators grasping a simple fact: They're not educators, and they don't know jack shit about anything related to learning. I'd be shocked if my local State Rep even knew, for instance, that some kids are visual learners, and others auditory....yet he's qualified to muck with the way teachers teach.

There are few other fields (biology, perhaps. At least evolution) where non-experts feel -- for reasons unknown -- that they are better qualified to make decisions on the topic than the experts. (Perhaps it's lingering sexism. Teaching was, traditionally, a woman's job...perhaps some still think it doesn't require a great deal of training and intelligence to do....)

Here's a hint to those laymen: Those degrees teacher's have? They didn't spend four or five years learning fifth grade math. Perhaps you might find it useful to find out what they did learn.

:: Morat 9:53 AM :: ::

:: Monday, August 16, 2004 ::

Bush Announces Plan for Troop Realignment

Ten bucks says that at least half these boys -- probably most of them end up in Iraq within the next year.
President Bush on Monday announced plans to shift as many as 70,000 U.S. troops who are now stationed in Western Europe and Asia in one of the largest realignments since the end of the Cold War.

Some of the troops would be moved to posts in Eastern Europe while others would be based in the United States, available for deployment overseas, White House officials said. It remained unclear if the overall number of U.S. troops stationed overseas would drop.
I hope Bush isn't counting on this to solidify the military vote. Most soldiers I know are cynical as hell. Their new mailing address might be in the USA, but their butts will be in Iraq.

:: Morat 10:25 AM :: ::

Troll Musings Part III

As I've noted before (here and here) that I've been paying more attention to the trolls. Not here, as I don't get any, but on blogs like Political Animal. They've been out in force, screaming about Kerry's Vietnam service, with a nasty edge that is -- if anything -- worse than what I remember of the Clinton years.

I'm starting to pick up a few key threads in the trolling (not the obvious stuff, like the mutual leap onto the Cambodian thing) but the underlying rationale, the reason they're so angry about Kerry, so angry about liberals, so angry in general. (And why the Libertarians haven't broken with Bush like one would expect, given his fiscal record...)

They're still fighting the Reds. I kid you not. They're still fighting the Socialists. It's 2004, and I'm still hearing talk about Marxist philosophy and classrooms and how the liberals want to create a Socialist society. I'm not sure how widespread it is "in the real world"....

Maybe the Cold War lingers. Maybe the conservatives are fighting Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and part of them never left the 50s. Communists and atheists behind every bush, plotting and scheming to turn America into some socialist paradise....

Whatever their reasons, their beliefs, it does explain the fury and hatred the Swifties send John Kerry's way, and their quick embrace by the quackier elements of the right. Kerry's post-Vietnam activities make him, after all, a communist sympathizer and appeaser.

Because, as we all know, the only reason to be against the Vietnam War was a love of communism.

:: Morat 9:56 AM :: ::

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