Finest Americans

This post from Marty has been bobbing around at the back of my mind for some time, so I figured I should just blog it and move on. The bit that really struck me, beyond the general disagreement I’d have with it, is this line:

We have an outstanding military force comprised of the finest Americans this country has seen in generations.

Now I think that the idea of comparing generations of people is rather silly. Of course there are generalizations that can be made – Gen Y is more confident than the equivalent group from the Great Depression, for example, and probably has higher expectations that can appear (rightly or wrongly) to be selfishness – but to say that one generation is ‘better’ than another when they’ve lived in such different worlds is ‘a hiding to nothing’ as my grandmother would mysteriously say.

But just for the sake of argument, let’s look at this assertion. Note first, these aren’t some of the finest Americans, these aren’t heroes that would rank alongside the greatest we’ve seen; these are the finest.

So let’s go back 3 generations (the minimum I think ‘generations’ would cover). That gets us to the end of the Second World War, and men like Beauford T Anderson, who threw mortar shells at advancing Japanese forces to successfully hold his position single-handedly. Men like Thomas A Baker who, too wounded to continue after a night filled with heroism, asked to be propped against a tree with a pistol containing 8 rounds. The following morning he was found dead, still seated and with 8 dead Japanese soldiers in front of him. Or men like Charles Joseph Berry, who threw himself an a hand grenade to save his comrades.

Skipping forwards we have Tibor Rubin, who during the Korean war held a hill without support for 24 hours against overwhelming enemy force (and that was only one of three reasons given in his Medal of Honor citation). William G. Windrich died as a result of injuries received and the cold, having repeatedly declined treatment so that he could fight with and direct his men in battle.

In Vietnam, among many heroes, James Anderson Jr, Richard A Anderson, John P Baca, Jedh C Barker, Peter S Connor, Michael J Fitzmaurice, Robert H Jenkins Jr, David P Nash, Laszlo Rabel, Hecto Santiago-Colon, and Russell A Steindam were just some of the men who threw themselves on grenades to protect the men around them.

In 1993 Gary I Gordon and Randall D Shughart volunteered to walk into the chaos of Magadishu to protect a downed aircrew, and paid the ultimate price.

The men and women who serve today are ordinary people who have it within themselves to rise to extraordinary heights. I unhesitatingly admire them for their service, regardless of my views on the war they fight. But the men I listed here, amongst thousands of others, stood tall in Hell. To suggest that they aren’t the equal of today’s soldiers is as grave an insult as I can imagine.

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Google Earth

Something new (to me at least) from Google Earth – they’ve wrapped the earth in a series of old maps, such as Tokyo in 1680, New York in 1836 or the world in 1790 (below). Zooming and all the other functions of Google Earth seem to work fine, though obviously the maps aren’t necessarily perfect as they only had steam-powered GPS back then.

Earth, 1790

To view the maps go to the palette bar thingy on the left of Google Earth, then under ‘Layers’ choose ‘Featured Content’, ‘Rumsey Historical Maps’ and take your pick. As you’re zooming around be patient – the progress indicator at the bottom of the app seems to say 100% some time before the maps show their full detail.

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Wherein Marty demonstrates how the Right gets it wrong, twice

Marty has posted a summary of a couple of arguments I’ve seen made a lot by those on the Right, one specific to the case of the Republican pervert Mark Foley, the other a more general case. First the specific:

Now suppose they had thrown Foley, a gay representitive, under the bus at that time with no evidence of a crime. The lefties would have been all over “those Homophobic Republicans.” Now, a year later, as soon as evidence of a crime appears Foley is confronted and resigns. The cry is, “They were hiding it until after the election! Hastert should resign!”

No, Hastert did his job correctly. The scandal casts Foley in a bad light.

Partially correct. If Hastert had proceeded by saying “Look at Foley, he’s a big sweaty gay come to corrupt our children, can’t you see the gay dripping from him?” I think the Left would have protested. If, on the other hand, he’d made discrete inquiries about the issue, perhaps speaking to some former Pages who may have felt able to speak freely about what happened, I don’t think there would have been an outcry. Even if he had gone public, announcing that accusations had been made that were serious enough to warrant a full investigation, though he remained firmly supportive of his good friend Rep. Foley, I think there would have been little basis for complaint. But instead, as Marty phrases it, “he told Foley to knock it off.” I’m no expert, but “Please don’t be a pedophile” doesn’t strike me as being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.

Now for the more general critique, where Marty quotes from RealClearPolitics:

“Scandal? Disgrace? I think not. Foley and others could only be so labeled if popular culture condemned, rather than promoted, immorality. Oh, sorry, there I go again, appealing to a discarded standard.”

This is based on the Christian (and some other religion’s) argument that morality is meaningless without reference to (a) God; that there is no action you can describe that can be said to be moral or otherwise without first understanding what (a) God would teach on that action. I don’t wish to debate this point – you either agree with it or you don’t, and my attempts to highlight its strengths or flaws won’t change that. But it simply does not apply here. Immorality isn’t a single entity, so popular culture cannot be said to promote or condemn it. Certainly there are things that Christians find immoral that popular culture promotes (such as casual sex), and things that I find immoral (such as the subjugation of women, which certain forms of Christianity also promote, ah the irony). But neither popular culture nor society as a whole support the idea of a 50-something man having sex with children, and to suggest otherwise is so ridiculous as to suggest some kind of brain damage.

Don’t take my word for it – ask around your place of work and try to find anyone who thinks it’s OK. Whether you work at the 7/11 or a Hollywood studio the answer will be the same. The only exception would be if I have readers who work at the execrable ManBoyLove organization, which I doubt (I’m not sure that’s its correct title, but I’m damn sure I’m not googling for it.) And they only further my point, because they’re about as far from popular culture or societal norms as it is possible to get.

All of us are, of course, free to follow a group morality or our very own invention. The choice will certainly have consequences in this world, and depending on your faith may in the next world too. Foley’s consequences now include disgrace and humiliation. Hastert and several others in the Republican leadership who appear to think that investigating credible evidence of a pedophile in your midst isn’t worth the trouble deserve nothing less.


Addendum: I could quote approvingly from pretty much this entire piece at WorldNetDaily, which I can’t imagine being able to say about anything else they’ve ever published. Worth a read to see a sane view from the far Right.


Update: Looks like it might be the fault of all those nasty horrible gays after all. Of course.

Shun me, I am beneath contempt

Cycling in to work today, with a gentle mist falling and a gale force wind trying to blow me back home, I was party to an abomination the like of which I have not known since the horrible Ladybird Slaughter of ’76. I hang my head in shame, yet feel the need to unburden myself. You see, this morning I committed wormicide.

Hundreds of worms had arranged themselves like discarded g-strings along the bike path, and using the little-known law of cycling physics known as ‘sucking’, my wheels were, shamingly, drawn to almost all of them. In my defence it wasn’t all my fault; many of the bewildered Lumbricidae, driven insane by the seemingly endless tarmac (crawl across, across, not along!) hurled themselves into my path like strands of segmented pasta abandoning a baby’s fork. Yet the guilt, it weighs heavy upon me, and so I must sneak into the office Mother’s Room for a quick lie down. I shall return.

Side note: I salute the author of the following snippet:

It is a commonly held belief that if you chop a worm in half you will end up with two live worms. This is not true. If you chop a worm in half it is possible that one half may recover and heal but you are most likely to end up with two halves of a dead worm.