Monday, June 27, 2005

Last Chance....

Please work!
Testing, Testing, and Testing

Hopefully this post works.
Blogger, Blogger, and Blogger

Problems with blogger. What else is new?
Becker, Chapman, and Diehl

Please join me in welcoming Last of Nine to the blogosphere. No, LON is not a Star Trek reference. I don't want to get started on the whole Borg thing. The title refers to birth order.

You've heard of medical marijuana? Well, the proprietor of LON introduced me to medical cocaine! No scandal here, it was used by an ER doc to stop a bloody nose that wouldn't quit. Who knew?

Check out the blog.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Guardsmen, Linemen, and Kl....

There is a funny side note to the long-overdue Mississippi prosecution of a Klansman for 40 year-old murders. Some reporters are referring to him as a "Klan member" rather than a "Klansman," so as not to be sexist. Let us not offend the women in sheets.

This reminds me of the criminal law professor who referred to his former student, Justice Alan Page, as a former "defensive linesperson" for the Minnesota Vikings. There is also a move to refer to National Guardsmen as "guard members." At least you can make an argument for the latter, as there are women in the Guard. Not so with the NFL. Too silly!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Books, Games, and Tag

I was tagged by Marty Andrade for the following exercise:

Total number of books owned, ever:

I am going to estimate 350. I will attribute 100 of those to the military, with another 100 for college and law school. The remainder are just from here and there. Does this make me illiterate?

Last book I bought:

Freakonomics. I read part of it for free on my fishing trip (see a couple of posts below) and I want to finish it. Very interesting.

Last book I read:

Dan Cohen, Anonymous Source. Be sure to read the companion book from Elliot Rothenberg. These are two Minnesota-boy-wins-at-the-Supreme-Court books. Beyond the Burning Cross (below) is another one.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

The Holy Bible
Judith Viorst, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Betty Biesterveld, Peter's Wagon
Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution
Ed Cleary, Beyond the Burning Cross

That's what I thought of. So sue me.

The following personnel should consider themselves tagged:

Bart Ashman (blogless, so comments section will do)
Derek Jensen
Captain Capitalism
Gene Allen

Please feel free to taunt them if they fail to accept the mission.


Additional tags:

Honorable G. Barry Anderson
Scott Johnson

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Civilians, Wounded, and Sick

Let's say that you have just finished producing a movie. You submit the movie to the rating board of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The rating board gives the movie an "R" rating. You are angry because this will limit the reach of your movie, particularly since the juvenile humor in the film is targeted toward, well, juveniles. In your anger, you complain that the MPAA has abandoned the rating system.

Would this be a valid complaint? Is it the case that the board has abandoned the G-PG-PG13-R-NC17 system? Or is it just that you disagree with the particular application of the rating system to your case?

Now consider the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention covers several categories of people: civilians, wounded, sick, regular armies, "irregular" forces, spies, unlawful combatants, etc. Each one of these categories dictates certain treatment under the various articles of the convention. To complicate matters, there are subcategories. For example, officers and senior enlisted ranks can not be required to perform manual labor as prisoners of war. This particular rule is a large part of the plot of Bridge on the River Kwai, which is based on a true story.

Lawful combatants are granted immunity for their warlike acts. A lawful combatant who kills another belligerent in an international armed conflict is not a murderer. Similarly, capturing and transporting an enemy belligerent is not kidnapping. Prisoner of war status is reserved for those belligerents who are deemed lawful combatants.

The immunity for warlike acts creates a problem for the current crop of complaints about Guantanamo Bay. Some have called for civilian trials for the detainees. Also, there is criticism of the military and the administration for not treating the detainees as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. If the detainees are, in fact, POWs, then the civilian trials would be illegitimate. They would have legal immunity for their warlike acts. And they would not need to be repatriated (sent home) until the end of the war. This drumbeat over the Geneva Convention leads to contradictory and absurd results -- being deemed a lawful combatant, but standing trial like a criminal; closing Gitmo and sending the detainees home today, but having to wait until the war is over.

Finally, as in the "R" rated example, above, there is a bizarre claim that the Bush Administration has abandoned the Geneva Convention. This is wrong. The Geneva Convention is being applied as it is written. Applying POW status where it is not indicated would not only create contradicatory and absurd results, it would reward unlawful combatants for their own violation of the Geneva Convention (fighting in civilian clothes, targeting civilians, and so on). Rewarding such behavior can only encourage more of it.

This is a depressing subject. It's enough to make one want to go see Porky's or some other "R" rated movie. Hey, maybe there is hope for your new film!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hawks, Doves, and "Chickenhams"

Al Franken has come up with a variation on his "chickenhawk" theme. According to Franken, those conservatives who support current military action, but did not serve in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, have no business talking about U.S. foreign policy. Liberals who did not serve in the military are not subject to similar criticism since their current beliefs and past actions (30 years ago) are seemingly consistent. Current liberals who are also veterans (McGovern, Kerry, etc.) are seen as uniquely heroic.

As memories of Vietnam fade, Franken has substituted USO tours for combat tours. Ann Coulter quips that Al Franken is the world's largest donor of mentions of his own USO involvement. That is to say, he brags a lot about his USO shows.

Scott Johnson has posted a review of the recent Franken-fundraiser (sounds like something an evil scientist would create in a lab) in Minneapolis. The Saturday Night Live alum chided Rush Limbaugh and other conservative celebrities for failing to perform in USO shows. Chickenhawks have now become chickenhams.

Let me say that this is a positive development. If A-list celebrities -- both liberal and conservative -- are dueling to see who can entertain the most troops, that is wonderful. In my heart, every entertainer who performs in a show for the military here or overseas is A-list. But it is also true that my personal A-list is not always in sync with the box office and billboard charts. Bob Hope was no longer the number one star of radio, television, and film when he went to Vietnam. This may have been a normal career progression, or a situation where his popularity in a divided country was hurt by his support for the war. Personal gain was not Hope's motive. He did not travel to the South Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, or Iraq because it would help his career, or because it would give him bragging rights over a political rival.

David Letterman is the model of a selfless entertainer who raises the morale of our military. During a hiatus in his late night show, he quietly slips off to Afghanistan. No fanfare, no rant about how great he is.

In the case of Rush Limbaugh, he criticized the USO as being liberal (I do not have enough information to evaluate this claim), and met with troops in Afghanistan courtesy of the State Department. I guess that Franken has problems with what Limbaugh said to the troops, which shows that you can't win with this charter member of the Formerly Funny Club.

I seem to recall that, during the First Gulf War, troops requested Morton Downey Jr. (the Model-T version of Rush Limbaugh) to entertain them, but the Defense Department balked. Most entertainers are not brought into deployed areas by the USO, a private charity, but by the military itself through the MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) program. The USO, Red Cross, and other groups provide a much needed boost to morale, but it is not the case that they are the only conduit of entertainment for servicemembers.

There was also a controversy over troop requests for Rush Limbaugh on Armed Forces Radio and Television during President Clinton's administration. If memory serves, the White House claimed that only two percent (or some small number) of troops wanted to hear the conservative commentator on Armed Forces Radio. But this figure came from a multiple choice survey in which the participants could add comments. Without being asked, two percent of the respondents wrote in comments asking for the Rush Limbaugh radio show. If that many servicemembers requested it, sua sponte, then there really was an audience among the overseas military and their families. During the controversy, Limbaugh offered to package his show in any length the military wanted, from 30 minutes to the full three hours.

All of this points out that 1) entertainers are not always able to decide when and where they entertain troops, and 2) Limbaugh has not turned a deaf ear (so to speak) to military morale.

Turning back to Al Franken, I wonder whether his behavior has been consistent over the years. The chickenhawk argument posits that a person can not mature or have a change of heart over the course of 30 years. Any seemingly inconsistent behavior and rhetoric, decades apart, is fair game for the charge of hypocrisy and cowardice. As Franken's fame grew in the mid-1970s, there were probably no large USO shows for the remaining troops in Vietnam. But he could have entertained the stateside draftees who were finishing their military obligation. Or the hundreds of thousands of troops in Europe and Korea. And what about the veterans recovering from their wounds in VA hospitals? Something tells me that a visit from a hip writer/performer on the hottest variety show would have boosted morale.

Franken's ability to separate the warrior from the war is quite selective. His "support the troops" mantra apparently does not cover Vietnam veterans. Consider this passage from ther book Live From New York, by Shales and Miller:

One day [shortly after the Vietnam War] Henry Kissinger calls up," 'Saturday Night Live' writer Tom Davis recalled years later, "and the call is picked up at an NBC page's desk. And the page goes, 'Henry Kissinger's on the phone. He wants tickets for his son.' And Al [Franken] grabs the phone and yells into it, 'You know, if it hadn't been for the Christmas bombing in Cambodia, you could've had your f---ing tickets!

OK. So Kissinger does not exactly qualify as one of the troops. But Franken's outburst does seem to perpetuate the myth of our military being "baby killers." For a more succinct example of his feelings about Vietnam veterans, check out this transcript from a November 2000 broadcast of Politically Incorrect, where Franken says that we weren't the good guys in that war.

Although Franken is not a chickenham, neither are some of the people he criticizes. Moreover, he lacks the moral authority to accuse other entertainers of hypocrisy, given his own conduct over the years. Bottom line is that Al Franken should continue to do USO tours, but he should keep his mouth shut about it.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Delicious Bass Posted by Hello

Before takeoff Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Damon, Damon, and Diamond

In October, I reviewed Michael Moore Hates America and its portrayal of former Sergeant Pete Damon. Damon is the double amputee Iraq veteran whose NBC interview about new painkillers was distorted by Michael Moore. Damon was asked about the feeling before the new painkillers, but Moore made it seem like he was a hapless victim of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The war hero is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at today's Red Sox game. How cool is that? Not quite as cool as pushing his son on a swingset, but close.

One footnote is that my earlier post mistakenly stated that he was pushing his daughter on a swingset. In the film, he was putting together a puzzle with his daughter, but pushing his son on a swing. Unlike Michael Moore, we acknowledge and regret our errors.