AMERICAblog armor

AMERICAblog & Body Armor:

The folks over at AMERICAblog have reported on a case which ought to be of real concern, if the facts are as presented:

The last time 1st Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV saw his body armor, he was lying on a stretcher in Iraq, his arm shattered and covered in blood.

A field medic tied a tourniquet around Rebrook's right arm to stanch the bleeding from shrapnel wounds. Soldiers yanked off his blood-soaked body armor. He never saw it again.

But last week, Rebrook was forced to pay $700 for that body armor, blown up by a roadside bomb more than a year ago.
Whether or not they have the facts right, I think it's important to note that AMERICAblog raised $5,000 to help the soldier. I told Sovay in comments to a recent post, "If you want to help, help." These guys did that, and they deserve credit for it.

But is this really the military's policy? An isolated case? So far there's not much in the way of news, except that the West Virginia Senators are looking into it -- and that the story contained no comment from the military.

I think we can have bipartisan agreement that, if these facts are straight, it's not acceptable. I think we can furthermore agree that, facts straight or not, AMERICAblog did the praiseworthy thing in this case by supporting the soldier. What I wonder is -- are the facts straight?

GN, M'am

Goodnight, Ma'am:

I finally found a proper eulogy for Virginia Puller, wife and widow of Lt. Gen. "Chesty" Puller. Thanks to Lisa for letting us know.

If it's possible you don't know who Chesty was, I encourage you to read the bio. You'll understand, then, what his wife must have endured. Grim's Hall salutes a brave lady.

AFA Censorship

The Western Way of Religious Criticism

Mark Steyn recently contrasted NBC's stance on Christian and Muslim sensitivities:

Thus, NBC is celebrating Easter this year with a special edition of the gay sitcom "Will & Grace," in which a Christian conservative cooking-show host, played by the popular singing slattern Britney Spears, offers seasonal recipes -- "Cruci-fixin's." On the other hand, the same network, in its coverage of the global riots over the Danish cartoons, has declined to show any of the offending artwork out of "respect" for the Muslim faith. Which means out of respect for their ability to locate the executive vice president's home in the suburbs and firebomb his garage.
I have an email today from the American Family Association -- how I got on their email list, I couldn't guess -- trumpeting the end of that episode.
Action by AFA Online supporters has cause NBC to pull the offensive segment scheduled for the April 6th episode of Will and Grace.

In an attempt to confuse the public, the network issued an intentionally misleading statement which left the impression that AFA had lied to our supporters. Here is the statement NBC sent to their affiliates for the affiliate to use in responding to emails and calls:
Some erroneous information was mistakenly included in a press release describing an upcoming episode of "Will & Grace" which, in fact, has yet to be written. The reference to "Cruci-fxins" will not be in the show and the storyline will not contain a Christian characterization at all.
NBC did not say that they (NBC) had issued the "erroneous information" but left the reader with the impression that AFA had issued the "erroneous information."

When NBC said that the script "has yet to be written," what they didn't tell you is that the "story board" had been completed and the offensive material was scheduled to be a part of the episode. The story board contains the outline of the program. That is the reason for the detailed description of the episode issued by NBC in their initial press release.

For a better understanding of this deception by NBC written by a third party, click here.

The bottom line is that the actions taken by AFA Online supporters like you caused them to rewrite the episode and remove the offensive segment!
Emphasis in the original.

Assuming that no one expects the AFA to firebomb anything, it would appear that NBC is still sensitive to Christian complaints as well, at least if they get enough of them that it appears poised to impact their market share.

Now, the question is this: is this kind of pressure a good thing, or a bad thing? It's nonviolent; people are exercising their own free speech by telling NBC what they think of the idea, and their freedom of association by warning that they will not associate themselves with NBC by watching its shows, thus impacting the network's revenue stream.

On the other hand, it succeeded in silencing NBC's "provocative" statement. While I don't think Western civilization will be in any way harmed by the absence of this particular joke on its television networks, it's plainly the case that the network has been intimidated into changing its mind. My question -- informed by the recent discussions -- is whether we should say, "Good" and leave it at that, or whether we should have mixed feelings about it.

There is a similarity here with the case of the Danish cartoons, but also a difference. I think we can agree that this method is vastly preferable to that of threatening beheadings or burning buildings. I think we would agree that AFA has every right to criticize NBC for what the AFA sees as blasphemy (and, in fairness, what NBC surely also saw as blasphemy -- blasphemy was the point).

Is it good or bad that religious folk use their influence to silence blasphemers, at least in the most public squares and the most revenue-centric networks? If we agree that the AFA didn't do anything wrong, does that mean that the effect is necessarily good? The speech in this case was intentionally disrespectful, and surely merited the condemnation of society. But was it good that this condemnation prevented the episode from airing as written? If the AFA didn't do wrong by protesting, being within its rights of free speech and free association, did NBC do wrong by caving in?

White Cross

Knights of the White Cross:

The Commissar thought he was being ironic.

Here now is the latest of the pro-Denmark images, a cause I am bound by my heart to support. The image is from The Dissident Frogman:

Did you know that the white cross on a red field is a symbol of particular import for the Crusades? This flag which has become the symbol of freedom of speech and conscience is not just the flag of Denmark. It was, and is, the flag of The Knights Hospitaller.

It won't be forever before the wrathful of the Muslim world notice this. Fate has brought us to where we thought we would not go: we now openly ride under a Crusader's flag.

Deus vult, must we not say? This was unplanned, and not even imagined: but here we are. There will be no going back from this.

I suggest you all prepare for what Fate has brought us. We remain free to choose what we will do with the legacy that this flag will bind to our cause. If we are to be Crusaders, let us take the Cross in righteousness. What does that mean? Forgiveness, mercy, humility, charity: and fearlessness in the face of the foe. All those things are the rightful heritage as I read it.

Like it or not, that heritage is now ours to bear. We no longer have the choice of casting it away. We have lifted this flag from the earth, and now it is ours to carry.

RV in AT

Russ Vaughn in The American Thinker:

An article by our poet on the recent poem, quoted below. He reminds us -- I never doubted it -- that his couplets on the joys of beating the crap out of Toles were "merely literary blows being rained upon this insensitive cartoonist and in no way was I endorsing actual retribution[.]"

He's got a few other things to say as well. You may wish to read it all.


Supporting the Troops:

Certain recent discussions have reminded me of a number of things we've done over the last few years. Grim's Hall has participated in various fundraisers and charity exercises; and I've also participated in several wagers with other members of the blogosphere, forfeits to be made to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

Yet I haven't made an effort to gather the links for this into one place. I'm starting a links section called "Support the Troops," on the sidebar. I've put a few of the folks we've supported there; but I suspect you know some others who haven't been part of our enterprise. If you'd like to suggest a link, add it in the comments. It needs to be (a) a charity, and (b) primarily oriented toward supporting the deployed troops themselves, the success of their mission, or the families of those injured or lost in the service.

We've been doing this on an ad-hoc basis all along. It is worthwhile to formalize it somewhat, and endorse organizations we know to be honorable and devoted to these good men and women who make up our military.

Criticism, Censorship, Context

Criticism, Censorship, Context:

There does seem to be a lot of confusion about the difference between the American cartoon case, and the Danish one. I suppose that's natural; both cases involve cartoons that offended people, and both have resulted in protests. That is where the similarity stops, however.

The key difference between criticism and censorship is whether the effect of the speech is to exchange ideas, or to silence opponents. In deciding which you are looking at, you have to look first and primarily at the context of the remarks.

Sovay mentions a similar case in Russia, to draw attention to what she views as the chilling effect of the JCS letter in protest to the Toles cartoon. The context for a letter from the Russian military expressing its displeasure is this: you might vanish in the night if you don't heed their friendly advice. No matter how gently worded, such a note is effectively censorship.

Similarly, the Muslim protests have involved threats of violence, and actual violence: bomb threats, rock attacks on the Danish embassy in Jakarta, threats of beheadings, flag burnings. The context for these remarks is the French riots, the Van Gogh murder, and a worldwide terrorist movement that cites Islam in justifying extraordinary violence in the name of Muhammed. All of this is censorship: an attempt to silence through threats.

The effect is real: a French editor who republished the cartoons was fired; the Danish newspaper remarks that no Dane (and indeed, no European in all likelihood) will draw Muhammed for a generation. The US State Department has even ruled that speech is unacceptable if it mocks Muhammed. Silence is enforced.

The context in the American case is completely dissimilar. Any observer should be able to tell the difference, which is this:

The effect of the JCS letter to Toles will be to increase Toles' wealth and importance as a speaker. Far from silencing him, it will raise his stature: he is now the only editorial cartoonist ever to receive a letter of protest from all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The book he publishes with this cartoon in it will almost certainly outsell any other he has ever produced. That is the way America works.

Cassandra had a post about this recently. She was remarking about the recent flame-war attacks on the Washington Post ombudsman. The attempt, here, was to silence the Post -- it did not work. The Post was able to simply pull its comments section and carry on printing. If anything, it won the Post some sympathy and support from bloggers normally not on their side.

In the comments to Cassandra's post, however, I noted this about the flame-war organizer:

I looked at the Fire Dog site too. (By the way, it's almost the Chinese New Year; and this will be the year of the Fire Dog).

What I noticed about it was the post where her site has suddenly rocketed to the very top of the Left blogosphere -- she's in company, according to that ranking, with Daily KOS, TPMCafe, and Atrios.

KOS himself, by far the most popular blog in the world, arrived at his fame as a result of the "Screw Them" comments. The thing that drove him to the top was, in other words, precisely his assault on the character of US veterans who had died attempting to aid their government in a time of war.

The market is what it is. As long as this is the way to rocket from nobody to THE BIGGEST THING EVER in a single day, we'll see more of it.
And that is true. The Muslim protestors and Fire Dog Lake are similar in that their anger and violent rhetoric have caused their status to rise. They are taken more seriously than their ideas merit be because they are able to channel and direct anger.

The criticism of the JCS, like the criticism directed at KOS and Fire Dog Lake, is actually a boon to the criticized. It raises their status, because serious people -- the Joint Chiefs! -- are willing to respond to them directly.

This is a result of the old truism that a gentleman duels only with equals. By replying to Toles, the JCS suggested that he was worthy of their notice and reply. They raised him to a status he did not previously have. Similarly, by being sternly critical of KOS' despicable statements and character, the entire right wing of the blogosphere declared that he was worthy of a response.

When exchanging ideas, it pays to be careful with whom you exchange them. This is why Grim's Hall never links to KOS or his ilk; I use them as examples, but I will not talk to them. They are unworthy of it.

It is also why I actually do practice a kind of criticism approaching censorship in my comments section, as (now) does the Washington Post. If you obey the rules, any idea you have to put forward is welcome. You won't be shouted down, because attempts to shout you down will be deleted. But you will have to argue your point based on reason, experience or evidence, so be prepared for that.

Your freedom of speech is not thereby compromised, however: you can go and publish your own blog, for free. As a result, even the deletion of comments is not censorship, because the context of it is that you are just as free as I am to express ideas. I'm simply refusing to allow my forum to be hijacked.

The American system results in raising some unworthy characters to the top of the pile on occasion, but it is still the better system. We will not be silenced, even the worst of us.


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:

Some days I wonder if Bush is everything (well, not everything) Sovay says he is. What genius decided on this?

The United States backed Muslims on Friday against European newspapers that printed caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in a move that could help America's battered image in the Islamic world.

Inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States sided with Muslims outraged that the publications put press freedom over respect for religion.

"These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question.

"We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable."
That is not an acceptable position. We'll say what we like, print what we like, and the diplomats of the world can be damned.


A Study in Contrast:

For the benefit of the readers, I would like to explore the difference between a courtly note of protest, and a communication designed to have a chilling effect on speech. Contrast, then, this excerpt from the JCS letter with Russ Vaughn's newest poem, "WaPo Weasels."

The JCS letter:

Editorial cartoons are often designed to exaggerate issues -- and your paper is obviously free to discuss any topic, including the state of readiness of today's Armed Forces. However, we believe you and Mr. Toles have done a disservice to your readers and your paper's reputation by using such a callous depiction of those who have volunteered to defend this nation, and as a result, have suffered traumatic and life-altering wounds.
Russ Vaughn, veteran of the 101st Airborne:
Wanna draw a soldier, Toles? Here I am,
Back with all four limbs from Vietnam.
You wanna draw pictures of fighting men?
Just tell me where and tell me when.
I’ll give you a pose to impress any viewer,
Your punk arty ass comatose in the sewer.
Like all of your kind you don’t have a clue
Who fightin’ men are and what fightin’ men do.

That you, your kind, you effete panty waists,
With Hollywood morals, metrosexual tastes,
Would taunt a brave warrior’s fight for life,
Mock his loss, his pain, deride his strife;
And use his sorrow to support your screed,
With no concern for the warrior’s need,
Tells me you are clueless of the facts of war,
You’re a cut ‘n run, spineless, media whore.

Go to Walter Reed hospital, smug Mr. Toles,
To see those you’ve mocked, grave injured souls
View wounded warriors with bodies so broken
And think again of the message you’ve spoken,
So abysmally ignorant, so smug condescending
That even most liberals won’t waste time defending.
So Toles it’s a fact that your most famous work
Will proclaim you forever as a pitiless jerk.

And Washington Post you’re as bad as this weasel
You gave him the forum, provided his easel.
I print this purely for educational purposes, you understand. My devotion to free speech and the free press compels me to reject the beating of journalists out of hand, although I happened to find that series of couplets rather clever.

Well, a poet has free speech too -- right?

24 Star

The Joint Chiefs Blast the Washington Post:

I've seen a PDF version of this letter. This is roughly a slap across the face of certain whiny journalists, from the top-level of the military that is run by the military, rather than by Presidential appointees. Peter Pace is not happy.

Buy Danish

Buy Danish:

Although a bit late as often is the case, I'd like to join in supporting the "Defend Denmark" campaign. Gaijin Biker has his page here, Michelle Malkin has hers here. Ms. Malkin's has some useful links for places where you can actually, easily buy Danish goods.

I'd just like to remind everyone that one of Denmark's principle exports is lager beer. Carlsberg is fairly all right -- oddly enough, it's a beer that is readily available in parts of China, where I first encountered it. You can probably find it at beer specialists -- maybe not at your local grocery, although some places may have it even there. If you live somewhere where it's easy to get unusual imports, here is an article on other good Danish beers.

Of course, I doubt Carlsberg is suffering much from the Muslim boycott. The point, though, is to express support for the concept of freedom of speech, alliance with fellow Men of the West. I noted Lilek's war cry of yesterday: "Men of the West! We Stand Today for Glory and Freedom and Mead!"

Sounds good to me. Also beer.

Chili Cookies

Good Gracious:

I think I haven't linked to the Cotillion since their last Independence Day celebration. I did glance at it this week, however, following Casserole's link.

I must say, Chili Chocolate Chip Cookies? That sounds good... I don't think it ever would have occurred to me otherwise, but cayenne pepper and chocolate do seem made for each other, now that I think about it.

Catholic Blog Awards

Catholic Blog Awards:

"Feddie" Dillard of Southern Appeal writes to ask for support in the Catholic Blog Awards. Although not a Catholic myself, I'm happy to oblige his request that I send interested parties his way. SA is a very useful blog (or blawg, in this case), and I'm glad to see it prosper.

State of the Union

State of the Union:
(also posted here)

Last night, the President gave a speech to Congress, in accordance with a Constitutional requirement that "[The President] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient..."

I was not able to see much of the speech. However, according to various summations I've seen, the President said that the State of Union is rather good.

Usually, I can depend on Cap'n Ed to give a clear, concise statement of a big event like this. He came through again, with a live-blog of the President's speech. Ed's summation is nice:
This speech seemed to emphasize a particular theme, of moving forward to engage the world rather than waiting for the world to engage us. That theme ran across all of his subjects, from terrorism to the economy to energy reform.
Sounds like a man who wants to lead--and a man I'd be willing to follow. We may have disagreements, or differences of emphasis. (For one, I'd love to have heard the comments about budgets full of pork in his first State of the Union address...or the second, or the third...) But he's a leader, and he is doing his job.

We, the citizens of the United States, should do our part. Among those things, our part includes activities occasionally promoted by the Geek: love his wife, work hard, raise his kids, save the Republic.

(Yes, parts of that list only applies to men who have wives/ I can't quite take part in that. But it is still a good idea.)