Why the Military Is Cut Off From Our Political Elite


Banning the Reserve Officers Training Corps (R.O.T.C) in the Sixties had an unintended consequence--it cut off our political elites from having another connection to the uniformed military:



THIS is the 40th anniversary of the antiwar protests that led to the ban of R.O.T.C. at some of the nation’s most elite universities — Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Stanford, the University of Chicago, Tufts. And yet, the attitude on these campuses today is hardly antimilitary. There are numerous signs of genuine respect for the soldiers who serve. An editorial last May in the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, which for decades attacked R.O.T.C., praised classmates who had joined the program. “They demonstrate a commitment to service that should be admired and followed by the rest of the student body,” The Crimson said. The Yale, Columbia and Brown student papers have all published editorials in the recent past calling for the return of R.O.T.C. to their campuses.


R.O.T.C. members interviewed at Harvard, M.I.T. and Yale said they rarely if ever heard negative comments around campus, and a few said they had experienced the opposite problem.


“People stop me and thank me for serving,” said Gregory Wellman, an Army R.O.T.C. cadet at M.I.T. “It’s a little awkward because at this point I’m just a student and haven’t done anything.”


Last spring, the Republican club at Harvard sent e-mail messages asking all undergraduates about the ban on R.O.T.C. Of the 1,700 students who answered, 62 percent favored returning it to campus.


At Harvard, the attitude toward the military began to shift after the 9/11 attacks, which was about the time that Lawrence Summers became president. That November, as part of the university’s Veterans Daycommemoration, he had letters hand-delivered to all students in the R.O.T.C. program, thanking them for their “commitment to national service.” For years, students could not list R.O.T.C. as an activity in the yearbook because it wasn’t an official program, but that changed after Dr. Summers met with the yearbook staff.


By 2008, under President Faust, Harvard was allowing the Army to land two Black Hawk helicopters on campus to transport Army R.O.T.C. members to Fort Devens, Mass., for weekend training.



Do you think the undercurrent of tension that the civilian leadership currently has with the uniformed military right now over policy has a connection to the fact that those campuses threw the R.O.T.C. under the bus? It was a ridiculous decision then, and the current separation of the uniformed military from the rest of America (yes, it is a sub-culture) has led to what we have now--a political elite that thinks nothing of permanent war.

Kudos to the NCAA


Although I don't think this goes far enough, at least someone is paying attention:
Kentucky point guard John Wall has been cleared to play by the NCAA.

The school announced Friday that the 6-foot-4 freshman must sit out two games and repay almost $800 in expenses incurred during unofficial visits to schools during his junior year at Word of God Christian Academy.

Wall's status had been up in the air as the NCAA investigated the relationship between Wall and Brian Clifton, his former AAU coach. Clifton was a certified agent for a period during Wall's recruitment, and the NCAA looked into whether Wall accepted any illegal benefits from Clifton during that time.

Wall will miss an exhibition game against Campbellsville on Monday and the season-opener against Morehead State on Nov. 13.

Two regular-season games, please. Exhibitions don't count.

Thank you for paying attention, NCAA. Now, please keep everyone as honest as you can.

Anything Goes at Kentucky


I'll let Sports by Brooks do the talking:
Well, for once it wasn’t a Twitter post that started a huge controversy with an athlete. It was just the little ol’ lead of this LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER story on Kentucky basketball, in which Wildcats beat reporter Jerry Tipton noted that forward Patrick Patterson drove to Wednesday’s Blue-White game in a brand new, rather expensive truck.

Forgive Reggie Bush if he’s unimpressed. But folks in Kentucky are sure talking about it. And Patterson’s mom is more than a little P.O.ed. Was Tipton’s lead written to provoke controversy? (Heaven forbid!). Or was it an innocent observation? By the way, Patterson’s mom says the report isn’t even true.
Tipton’s lead in today’s HERALD-LEADER:

Patrick Patterson drove to Rupp Arena for Wednesday’s Blue-White Game in his new Lincoln Mark LT. The black truck was not the only difference for Kentucky’s big man.

“I’ve got a new game to go with my new car,” he said. “I’m trying to show the new areas I’m working on.”

Then, this:

For Patterson, the fun figured to continue as he climbed in his new black truck and drove away.

“He just gave in,” Patterson said of his father finally fulfilling his pleadings for a new vehicle. “I’m ecstatic.”

I didn’t see that graph about his “father finally fulfilling his pleadings” the first time I read the story. Perhaps I just missed it … or perhaps Tipton added it later. Anyway, Tipton has somewhat of a reputation for stirring controversy. It’s hard to believe that he didn’t realize that mentioning a college player with a brand new Lincoln Mark LT would be like poking a hornet’s nest.

If you believe this sort of thing really goes on, you have to say to yourself--why do they get away with it in Kentucky? And the season? The season hasn't even started. I totally discount the damage control brought into play here by the athlete's mother. That's all it is--damage control. College player gets a free vehicle. (Hey, Maurice Clarett, how does that work again?) College player drives it around. Someone starts asking questions. The Kentucky Basketball mafia closes ranks and the Kentucky media rolls over fast. The NCAA goes back to hounding nobodies.

They have always gotten away with it. This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

Paris Hilton and Pete Rose and an Unknown Douchebag



Someday, I'll be damned glad I posted this and saved this. I wonder if that day will be the eve of my demise...

Too Early?


Chris Farley


That's the wrong question. It's never going to be appropriate to use the late Chris Farley in an ad like this:



DirecTV has raised a ruckus by raising the dead.


The satellite TV company has relied on dead celebrities to push its satellite television packages -- last year's "Poltergeist" ad starred the late Heather O'Rourke, for example -- but the cable company's latest promotion featuring Chris Farley in "Tommy Boy" has stirred up fresh controversy, with many believing that the ad was done in poor taste.


The 30-second spot features Farley, who died in 1997 of heart failure because of an overdose, in the infamous "Fat Boy in a Little Coat" scene from the 1995 comedy that co-starred David Spade.


The commercial looks like it was taken straight from the film reel, until Spade starts promoting DirecTV while Farley carries on his routine in the background.


"Great, I'm here with tons of fun, but I could be at home with DirecTV," Spade says in the commercial. "It never gets old," he says after Farley busts the seams on the too-small jacket.


What some viewers find especially shocking is that Spade, who wrote in a 1998 Rolling Stone article that he didn't attend Farley's funeral because he "couldn't be in the same room where Chris was in a box," went along with the promotion.



While I don't think one can be too precious about a dead comedian, I'd have the same reaction if this was done with the late John Candy--and it wouldn't be done with John Candy. I refuse to believe that any of the people who worked with him and were close enough to him to have done several films would do such a thing. Can you imagine Eugene Levy doing something like this?


The problem is, why is David Spade even in the discussion? When do we finally acknowledge that Spade couldn't sell icewater in hell?

What's a Little Smack Talk Between Fans and a Recalcitrant Owner?


[image from Mr. Irrelevant's wonderful site]

Do you know what might have turned things around for the Washington Redskins and their intolerably incompetent owner Daniel Snyder? If they would embrace the suck and try to make this season about trying to win one for the fans, as opposed to making themselves look good for that next contract.
If Snyder had half of the marketing savvy he allegedly possesses, he would be selling the paper bags and the "snyder sux" shirts himself. If he had instructed security at Fed-Ex field to be tolerant of irate fans last night, he might be reaping a little positive press for giving them an outlet and a release valve for their justifiable frustrations.
Granted, you can't let people run wild (although, let's be fair--there are numerous complaints of drunken, rowdy behavior and this is driving fans away faster than the poor play of the team), but you could show some humility and let the fans vent:

Last night I was at my first Skins Monday Night game. I went with a couple friends, but knew I needed to take an Anti-Snyder banner with me. Problem was I couldn’t come up with anything clever until just before I left for the game. My brother texted me the perfect idea for a sign to play off on the whole Sherman Lewis bingo thing. I whipped up a quick “Snyder…B-I-N-GO F Yourself” sign on a bed sheet so everybody could see it. I knew it would get me in trouble but didn’t expect to get thrown out of the stadium by a couple security guys.

In the third quarter, one of my friends and I took out the banner and were holding it up. Next thing I know, four security guys are coming up both sets of stairs and headed right for us. They take my banner and tell us we have to leave the stadium. On the way out a bunch of people in the section are taking pictures and chanting “Free Speech!”

Once we got to the concourse area they asked for my ID, which I quickly tried to pass off to a friend. One of the security guys snatched my wallet and wrote down my drivers license info in his little black book. I guess that means means I’m banned from the stadium or something. They then escorted my three friends and I all the way from the 400 level out to the front gate. I tried to talk to them about the whole situation but they weren’t having it — too busy being serious security guys, I guess.

So, long story short, I got my point across, they took my banner, I probably got banned for life and I got to leave the game early. Good thing too, it was an awful game.


It was an unwatchable game, and seeing the hangdog look on Jason Campbell's face every time he had his helmet off was too much. I clicked over to watch the Wild at the Blackhawks, and I noticed that Minnesota has trouble handling the puck and scoring on the power play. That's when I realized I didn't care what happened between the Eagles and Redskins and went to bed.

The Beginning of a Worldwide Campaign Against Scientology?

Buzz Buzz Buzz Buzz Buzz Buzz


There are a handful of people in the United States who are fighting a tough battle against Scientology. One of the most prominent, but by no means the only person waging this fight is Katherine Stone, who is an advocate on the issue of postpartum depression, something that Scientology has had a history of denigrating. The legal fight against Scientology appears to be in Europe:



A Paris court today convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud and fined it more than half a million euros -- but stopped short of banning the group as requested by prosecutors.

The group's French branch immediately announced that it would appeal the verdict.

The court convicted the Church of Scientology's French office, its library and six of its leaders of fraud. Investigators said the group pressured members into paying large sums of money for questionable financial gain and used "commercial harassment" against recruits.

The group was fined 400,000 euros ($600,000) and the library 200,000 euros. Four of the leaders were given suspended sentences of between 10 months and two years. The other two were given fines of 1,000 euros and 2,000 euros.

The court did not order the Church of Scientology to shut down, ruling that it would be likely to continue its activities anyway, "outside any legal framework."

Prosecutors had requested that the group be dissolved in France and be fined 2 million euros.

The Los Angeles-based Church of Scientology, founded in 1954 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, has been active for decades in Europe, but has struggled to gain status as a religion. It is considered a sect in France and has faced prosecution and difficulties in registering its activities in many countries.



Does that mean that the First Amendment in this country is too lenient? Too loosely defined in that it allows "predatory" religions to operate freely? It would be a mistake to single out Scientology--it's simply one of the bigger, richer, more lawyered-up scams running. It would also be a mistake to let the Supreme Court try to parse the First Amendment to allow for selective prosecution of a religious group. We need not infringe upon anyone's rights, and the right to be wacky and dumb is sacred in America. Some people get tired of being wacky and dumb, and they make noise about how evil Scientology is. Scientology then goes out with a vast army of minions to silence the opposition. Welcome, vast army of Scientology minions--as you feverishly scan this text, remember: I'm an Episcopalian. I don't panic or scare easily. I've been sued in eleven states, nine countries, and in various courts a total of 86 times. I'm practically my own lawyer these days. These colors don't run.


What bothers me is that our own government doesn't get it:



Belgium, Germany and other European countries have been criticized by the U.S. State Department for labeling Scientology as a cult or sect and enacting laws to restrict its operations.



That has to change. The Europeans practically invented predatory religions, and they know what they're talking about. The reality is, Scientology is a confiscatory and predatory sect, based on fleecing money out of people, and it needs to face stern regulation wherever it operates. It should be forced to pay taxes and submit to rigorous oversight while freely operating as a "religion" of course. In other words, it should be treated exactly like a chemical manufacturing plant, which has to comply with safety laws, pay taxes, and comply with the law. Both Scientology and your garden variety chemical manufacturing plant come with lawyers, thugs, guns and money, but the government has more of those things, you see, so, naturally, it comes down to who has penis envy. If you've been following the whole thing with Bronson Pinchot, you know of which I speak.

The Best Sports Photo of the Month



Via DeadSpin, this is the best sports photo of the month.

All I can say is, that poor girl. No one deserves to be ridden like this.

Billy Crystal Should Permanently Host the Oscars


Billy Crystal


There's a reason why they can't find anyone to host the Oscars--no one can do it as well as Billy Crystal and the only people who agree to host the Oscars are the ones who need it to boost their careers. Crystal doesn't need it, and that's exactly the sort of person who should host:



If it's the middle of October and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hasn't announced either a show producer or host for the upcoming ceremony people are going to start whispering.  In fact, a very small group of people -- some of them Academy members -- are going to get a wee bit nervous.  Add to the mix a new AMPAS president, Tom Sherak, a new 10 nominee Best Picture field and the expectation of topping a universally heralded show the year before and, well, the gossip mills are churning from the 213 to the 310 area codes. 

Unlike previous years, Sherak has made it clear this time around he wants the Academy to announce both the producer and the host at the same time.  This has lead to some strange politics across the board.  With upcoming projects keeping them busy last year's producing team of Larry Mark and Bill Condon had no plans of returning, so there has been numerous campaigning by those who want to produce the show and those Sherak and the Academy are trying to convince to consider.  It all came to a strange head late last week when someone leaked to Deadline Hollywood Dailythat 2009's popular host Hugh Jackman was being advised not to repeat for the most ludicrous of reasons. Word is the Academy was interested in Jackman returning, but it wouldn't be official until the new producer weighed in (Geez, sure seems like someone wanted to get word out Jackman would have declined just in case he wasn't offered, doesn't it?). 



Well, we're well past the middle of October, and I don't see anyone viable turning up anytime soon. MSNBC has floated some names, but I honestly can't see any of these people hosting the Oscars. The job is too much for a person who cannot perform live, dance and sing a bit, and do comedy at the same time. People who are trying to move up the ladder usually fail because this ladder falls away too quickly. Stink in the first half hour, and you're done. (David Letterman, Jon Stewart).


Billy Crystal is the gold standard. Who out there is as good as Billy? Not very damned many. And, no, Steve Martin wasn't as good as Billy, and neither was Whoopi, and, no, Robin Williams couldn't do it, either. Whatever it takes, someone needs to find a way to force Billy to host on a permanent basis so I don't have to write blog posts like this.

Billy Crystal Should Permanently Host the Oscars


Billy Crystal


There's a reason why they can't find anyone to host the Oscars--no one can do it as well as Billy Crystal and the only people who agree to host the Oscars are the ones who need it to boost their careers. Crystal doesn't need it, and that's exactly the sort of person who should host:



If it's the middle of October and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hasn't announced either a show producer or host for the upcoming ceremony people are going to start whispering.  In fact, a very small group of people -- some of them Academy members -- are going to get a wee bit nervous.  Add to the mix a new AMPAS president, Tom Sherak, a new 10 nominee Best Picture field and the expectation of topping a universally heralded show the year before and, well, the gossip mills are churning from the 213 to the 310 area codes. 

Unlike previous years, Sherak has made it clear this time around he wants the Academy to announce both the producer and the host at the same time.  This has lead to some strange politics across the board.  With upcoming projects keeping them busy last year's producing team of Larry Mark and Bill Condon had no plans of returning, so there has been numerous campaigning by those who want to produce the show and those Sherak and the Academy are trying to convince to consider.  It all came to a strange head late last week when someone leaked to Deadline Hollywood Dailythat 2009's popular host Hugh Jackman was being advised not to repeat for the most ludicrous of reasons. Word is the Academy was interested in Jackman returning, but it wouldn't be official until the new producer weighed in (Geez, sure seems like someone wanted to get word out Jackman would have declined just in case he wasn't offered, doesn't it?). 



Well, we're well past the middle of October, and I don't see anyone viable turning up anytime soon. MSNBC has floated some names, but I honestly can't see any of these people hosting the Oscars. The job is too much for a person who cannot perform live, dance and sing a bit, and do comedy at the same time. People who are trying to move up the ladder usually fail because this ladder falls away too quickly. Stink in the first half hour, and you're done. (David Letterman, Jon Stewart).


Billy Crystal is the gold standard. Who out there is as good as Billy? Not very damned many. And, no, Steve Martin wasn't as good as Billy, and neither was Whoopi, and, no, Robin Williams couldn't do it, either. Whatever it takes, someone needs to find a way to force Billy to host on a permanent basis so I don't have to write blog posts like this.

David Cross is Living Like It's 1979

 
David Cross


When someone admits they've done something scandalous or taboo,  I guess we should all clap:



Comedian David Cross brought his stand-up routine to Washington's Warner Theatre Wednesday night and made a shocking confession (assuming he wasn't joking...) at the end of his routine: That he snorted cocaine while seated just yards away from President Barack Obama at this year's White House Correspondents' Association dinner.


"So I got to go because my girlfriend is a fancy Hollywood actress and she got an invitation to go this last time, so we went," the "Arrested Development" star told the crowd. He went on to say that he has an ongoing competition with a friend in which the two try to constantly out-do each other in "dares and outrageousness."


 Cross said that he was seated "super close to the president" and seated with or near former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and "the editor-in-chief of the USA Today."


"But it's crazy and there's security, Secret Service is standing there," said Cross. "I've got photos of all this. ... I'm there and the president is right here and with all these people at the table" Cross snorted some coke, he said. "Maybe 40 feet from the president of the United States!"



I don't doubt that Cross actually did this--why would he lie about it? It's one of those "I'm a badass" boasts that will come back to haunt him when he tries to do an Al Franken and run for public office. Was it a smart thing to do? Of course not--you're basically in a room full of cop mentality, so why risk being hustled out of there and treated like a common criminal? In the age of Obama, you can get away with things like this. In the age of Bush, I think the Secret Service was a bit more on edge. It just seems that way, anyway.


There's no mystique about being around the President anymore, is there? And, no, there's no issue with doing coke in a crowded room at a fancy dinner with hundreds of people with your girlfriend, is there? It's 1979 all over again, isn't it?

Flying the Argumentative Skies

This is nothing I want to be involved in:


Federal officials say a Northwest Airlines jet overflew the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles [see above] before crew members discovered their mistake. Officials they are investigating whether pilot fatigue was a factor.

The plane landed safely Wednesday evening, and none of the 147 passengers and crew were injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board says the Airbus A320 was flying from San Diego to Minneapolis and lost radio contact with controllers before 7 p.m.


That must have been some argument. Next time, why not have a three or four hundred mile argument and see what happens, okay?


No Excuse For Taking a Cheap Shot at Mitch Hedberg


Mitch Hedberg


Buried in this little tidbit about male arousal is a nasty cheap shot at the late Mitch Hedberg:



Is sex a state of mind? A recent study from the University of British Columbia finds that while most men can regulate their physical and mental sexual arousal to some degree, the men most able to do so are able to control their other emotions as well.


“We suspect that if an individual is good at regulating one type of emotional response, he/she is probably good at regulating other emotional responses,” says Jason Winters, the study’s research head. “This has never been shown before.”


The study employed 16 randomly ordered video clips. Eight were erotic, and eight were funny (specifically, the funny video clips featured the least sexy comedian the researchers could find: Mitch Hedberg). Participants were instructed to control their response to certain videos, and simply to watch the others. They then rated their arousal following each clip, and were hooked up to machines that measured their erections.



Hedberg didn't get into comedy to be sexy; Hedberg was an artist who happened to use comedy as his canvas. He was a true original, not a punchline, not something to "inflict" on people. He was a very talented young man who happens to have left this world early. No one deserves to be disrespected like that, least of all someone who actually had talent.

No Excuse For Taking a Cheap Shot at Mitch Hedberg


Mitch Hedberg


Buried in this little tidbit about male arousal is a nasty cheap shot at the late Mitch Hedberg:



Is sex a state of mind? A recent study from the University of British Columbia finds that while most men can regulate their physical and mental sexual arousal to some degree, the men most able to do so are able to control their other emotions as well.


“We suspect that if an individual is good at regulating one type of emotional response, he/she is probably good at regulating other emotional responses,” says Jason Winters, the study’s research head. “This has never been shown before.”


The study employed 16 randomly ordered video clips. Eight were erotic, and eight were funny (specifically, the funny video clips featured the least sexy comedian the researchers could find: Mitch Hedberg). Participants were instructed to control their response to certain videos, and simply to watch the others. They then rated their arousal following each clip, and were hooked up to machines that measured their erections.



Hedberg didn't get into comedy to be sexy; Hedberg was an artist who happened to use comedy as his canvas. He was a true original, not a punchline, not something to "inflict" on people. He was a very talented young man who happens to have left this world early. No one deserves to be disrespected like that, least of all someone who actually had talent.

The Bat Massacre of West Virginia

Dutch Windmills: Bat Killers? You Decide


Environmentalism and green energy technology--a collision best described as interesting:



Workers atop mountain ridges are putting together 389-foot windmills with massive blades that will turn Appalachian breezes into energy. Retiree David Cowan is fighting to stop them.



Because of the bats.


Cowan, 72, a longtime caving fanatic who grew to love bats as he slithered through tunnels from Maine to Maui, is asking a federal judge in Maryland to halt construction of the Beech Ridge wind farm. The lawsuit pits Chicago-based Invenergy, a company that produces "green" energy, against environmentalists who say the cost to nature is too great.


The rare green vs. green case went to trial Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.


It is the first court challenge to wind power under the Endangered Species Act, lawyers on both sides say. With President Obama's goal of doubling renewable energy production by 2012, wind and solar farms are expanding rapidly. That has sparked battles to reach a balance between the benefits of clean energy and the impact on birds, bats and even the water supply.


At the heart of the Beech Ridge case is the Indiana bat, a brownish-gray creature that weighs about as much as three pennies and, wings outstretched, measures about eight inches. A 2005 estimate concluded that there were 457,000 of them, half the number in 1967, when they were first listed as endangered.



"Any kind of energy development is going to have environmental impacts that are going to concern somebody," said John D. Echeverria, a Vermont Law School professor who specializes in environmental law and isn't involved in the suit. "This has been an issue for the environmental community. They are enthusiastic; at the same time, they realize there are these adverse impacts."



We should find a way to switch to green technology without endangering a species--that's why Poindexter runs around with his pith helmet and his clipboard, trying to record the sounds of bats making sweet love in the air while they fly through the churning rotors of a working windmill. You cannot escape the conclusion that, if we don't switch to green technology, virtually all species are threatened with something worse than turbine blades, however. This is where you put aside your bias and try to reach a compromise.


The Endandered Species Act brings out a lot of controversy, however, and environmentalist vs environmentalist is nothing new. The first place to start is to try to find good statistics and see what the problem is:



To most experts, though, there's a problem with the bird-mortality argument: The vast majority of research shows that wind turbines kill relatively few birds, at least compared with other man-made structures. The statistics are shocking if you consider just how many people are crying out against wind power for the birds' sake:






































Man-made structure/technology



Associated bird deaths per year (U.S.)



Feral and domestic cats



Hundreds of millions [source: AWEA]



Power lines



130 million -- 174 million [source: AWEA]



Windows (residential and commercial)



100 million -- 1 billion [source: TreeHugger]



Pesticides



70 million [source: AWEA]



Automobiles



60 million -- 80 million [source: AWEA]



Lighted communication towers



40 million -- 50 million [source: AWEA]



Wind turbines



10,000 -- 40,000 [source: ABC]



­


­Collisions with wind turbines account for about one-tenth of a percent of all "unnatural" bird deaths in the United States each year. And of all bird deaths, 30 percent are due to natural causes, like baby birds falling from nests [source: AWEA]. So why the widespread misconception that labels wind turbines "bird-o-matics"? I­t all starts with California, raptors and the thousands of old turbines that make up the Altamont Pass wind farm.



Fair enough, I guess. Methodology being what it is, I wouldn't just accept these numbers because I really question the accuracy--as in, how do you really know? There are multiple sources listed above--do they all use the same methodology? Does the AWEA reallycount how many baby birds fall out of nests? Why do I suspect that ABC's citation of 10,000-40,000 deaths from wind turbines is based on a different methodology than that of the other two organizations? That data seems to come from an assessment done several years ago to figure out what impact the aforementioned Altamont Pass site was having on birds of prey:



After years of study but little progress reducing bird kills, environmentalists have sued to force turbine owners to take tough corrective measures. The companies, at risk of federal prosecution, say they see the need to protect birds. "Once we finally realized that this issue was really serious, that we had to solve it to move forward, we got religion," says George Hardie, president of G3 Energy.


The size of the annual body count — conservatively put at 4,700 birds — is unique to this sprawling, 50-square-mile site in the Diablo Mountains between San Francisco and the agricultural Central Valley because it spans an international migratory bird route regulated by the federal government. The low mountains are home to the world's highest density of nesting golden eagles.


Scientists don't know whether the kills reduce overall bird populations but worry that turbines, added to other factors, could tip a species into decline. "They didn't realize it at the time, but it was just a really bad place to build a wind farm," says Grainger Hunt, an ecologist with the Peregrine Fund who has studied eagles at Altamont.


Across the USA — from Cape Cod to the Southern California desert — new wind projects, touted as emission-free options to oil- and gas-fueled power plants, face resistance over wildlife, noise and vistas. The clashes come as wind-energy demand is growing, in part because 17 states have passed laws requiring that some of their future energy — 20% in California by 2010 — come from renewable sources.


Environmental groups, fans in principle of "green" power, are caught in the middle. "We've been really clear all along, we absolutely support wind energy as long as facilities are appropriately sited," says Jeff Miller, Bay Area wildlands coordinator for the Center for Biological Diversity, which took 12 companies to court.



Let's say that they're in the ballpark then, and that the actual number rests between 7,000 and 70,000. Is that still enough to justify denying someone a permit to operate a wind farm? In order to establish a wind farm, you have to find a geographic location suitable to it. I would add that you had better have a handle on migratory routes as well--and these routes probably follow the wind as well.


There is a site where this data is housed, and it is called, appropriately, towerkill.com. I don't think anyone who wants to put up a communications tower or a wind turbine should ignore efforts to determine whether or not that particular site is damaging an endangered species. It's all about balancing different needs and different threats, and if we can't figure out how to make that work, we're all going to die, boiled in our own juices and forced to leave this planet. I plan to be buried here--do I want my children to have to get on a spaceship and leave me here? As the kids say, hells no.


Happy trackbacks to the folks in West Virginia.

The Case of the Missing Warhols


 


I remember my initial reaction--you had a painting of OJ Simpson in your home? Now, I've been a bit more thoughtful:




 
Richard L. Weisman, the noted art collector who made news recently when he decided to forgo a multimillion-dollar insurance policy for stolen art, had some critical words for the LAPD detectives investigating his case.



“Maybe if they would do their job … and spent some time looking for the art instead of being accusatory of the person who had it stolen, they might actually find it,” Weisman said in an interview last weekend.


The art world was set abuzz in early September with word that a series of original works by Pop Art icon Andy Warhol had been stolen from the walls of Weisman’s home on Los Angeles' Westside.


None of the other expensive artwork hanging on adjoining walls was disturbed, and there was no sign of forced entry into the home. In all, 11 brightly colored silk-screen paintings were gone -- 10 portraits of famous athletes and one of Weisman, 69, who was a friend of Warhol's and commissioned the series in the late 1970s. 







Some experts estimated each piece to be worth at least $1 million. Then, last week, the Seattle Times confirmed with Weisman that he had canceled the $25-million insurance policy covering the Warhols. LAPD Det. Mark Sommer, who makes up half of the department’s two-man art theft detail, called the turn of events “curious” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, saying that “we’d like to talk to him about it."



I can't say that I blame Mr. Weisman for not wanting to have the LAPD go through his affairs, trying to blame the victim and burn through overtime so that they can find a way not to figure out who stole the artwork. Someone targeted the collection and went for it, en masse, and the logical place to look to is anyone with complete collections of seminal works by Andy Warhol, which would be a select few bigwigs. This was a crime of covetousness, not so much monetary gain or greed, because no one can sell the works now.


By waiving the insurance policy payout, perhaps Mr. Weisman is sending a message to whoever stole the artwork--you will NOT have a clear conscience because the art meant more to me than the money. The sentimental value alone must be great. That tells me that he suspects a noted Warhol collector targeted him, and he does not want to assuage that person's guilt by taking the payout.
Really, sometimes people do things for a darned good reason, not so much because they are low and cheap.


This is not the way you want your possessions to end up being revealed to the public. Privacy does matter, and perhaps Mr. Weisman simply wants to keep certain other aspects of his life private, and that doesn't necessarily mean anything bad.

The Case of the Missing Warhols


 


I remember my initial reaction--you had a painting of OJ Simpson in your home? Now, I've been a bit more thoughtful:




 
Richard L. Weisman, the noted art collector who made news recently when he decided to forgo a multimillion-dollar insurance policy for stolen art, had some critical words for the LAPD detectives investigating his case.



“Maybe if they would do their job … and spent some time looking for the art instead of being accusatory of the person who had it stolen, they might actually find it,” Weisman said in an interview last weekend.


The art world was set abuzz in early September with word that a series of original works by Pop Art icon Andy Warhol had been stolen from the walls of Weisman’s home on Los Angeles' Westside.


None of the other expensive artwork hanging on adjoining walls was disturbed, and there was no sign of forced entry into the home. In all, 11 brightly colored silk-screen paintings were gone -- 10 portraits of famous athletes and one of Weisman, 69, who was a friend of Warhol's and commissioned the series in the late 1970s. 







Some experts estimated each piece to be worth at least $1 million. Then, last week, the Seattle Times confirmed with Weisman that he had canceled the $25-million insurance policy covering the Warhols. LAPD Det. Mark Sommer, who makes up half of the department’s two-man art theft detail, called the turn of events “curious” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, saying that “we’d like to talk to him about it."



I can't say that I blame Mr. Weisman for not wanting to have the LAPD go through his affairs, trying to blame the victim and burn through overtime so that they can find a way not to figure out who stole the artwork. Someone targeted the collection and went for it, en masse, and the logical place to look to is anyone with complete collections of seminal works by Andy Warhol, which would be a select few bigwigs. This was a crime of covetousness, not so much monetary gain or greed, because no one can sell the works now.


By waiving the insurance policy payout, perhaps Mr. Weisman is sending a message to whoever stole the artwork--you will NOT have a clear conscience because the art meant more to me than the money. The sentimental value alone must be great. That tells me that he suspects a noted Warhol collector targeted him, and he does not want to assuage that person's guilt by taking the payout.
Really, sometimes people do things for a darned good reason, not so much because they are low and cheap.


This is not the way you want your possessions to end up being revealed to the public. Privacy does matter, and perhaps Mr. Weisman simply wants to keep certain other aspects of his life private, and that doesn't necessarily mean anything bad.

Women Can Be Stalkers, Too


~


This is the story of a young lady who decided to listen to her inner dingbat and run wild with her obsessions and personal problems. It's sad to see the depths to which people sink because they are unloved or because they have things that are wrong with them. Clearly, this young lady is maladjusted in some way and cannot have meaningful relationships with people without trying to shape or control their lives. How can you be that obsessed with anyone or anything? I get bored too easily I guess.

Someone Needs to Get a Handle on the Crazies


Audrina Patridge


I hate to see stories like this:



An 18-year-old Calabasas man was charged today in connection with break-ins at the Hollywood Hills homes of actresses Audrina Patridge and Lindsay Lohan.


Nicholas Frank Prugo faces two counts of first-degree residential burglary in the February and August burglaries in which he allegedly stole more than $170,000 worth of jewelry and designer clothes.


He was arrested last month and released in lieu of $100,000 bail. He faces up to six years in prison if convicted on all counts and is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 11 at the downtown L.A. criminal courthouse.


Prugo, who is unemployed, is believed to be one of three people, including two unidentified women, who entered Lohan's home through an unlocked door and ransacked it before leaving with undisclosed property, police said.


Video surveillance showed Prugo at Lohan's home, police said. That footage, as well as video from Patridge's home and other evidence, led authorities to the suspect, police said.



While I am pleased that they caught the guy, were the two homes targeted just because they were the homes of celebrities? That really isn't clear here. Residential break-ins being what they are, you hope that it was a coincidence, not a specific targeting of their homes just because they happen to be owned by famous people. Besides the value of what was taken, you have the possibility of having computers or cell phones being taken--what a calamity if there's something on there we're not supposed to see.


This is the most legitimate way of exposing the public to a secret sex tape, albeit, one acquired under less-than ideal conditions. Celebrities should be able to freely expose us to their sex tapes, if that's what they want to do. I am totally against what happened to Erin Andrews, that was sick and twisted. But, by the same token, you just know there's a video of Lindsay Lohan doing something depraved but watchable. Audrina has too much common sense to make a sex tape now; she's on the move up the ladder and she doesn't need one. LiLo needs a sex tape so bad right now, it's a wonder she doesn't have four of them coming out for Christmas.


What's difficult to understand is how Johny Law was in possession of video surveillance and wasn't able to locate the perpetrator until now, and why they are still trying to find his accomplices. So much for the police state. Apparently, there are some bugs in the system.

The Spy Who Was Too Dumb For Words

This Secret Squirrel knows where you have hidden your nuts, sir


The bad economy has driven many people to desperation. Some people join the military, thinking, whew! Obama is President now and he's not going to escalate any existing wars.Some enter into reality television deals or stage elaborate hoaxes--if there were any examples of such things, I would surely link them, but I can't think of any because, well, my head is like a balloon and I really, really feel like having my kid do something stupid so I can get attention for myself. Some start blogs and put up hotties and--wait, I'm doing quite well. I put up hotties because, frankly, why wouldn't you put up pictures of hotties? You'd be crazy not to.


The bad economy--I'll start again--has driven many people to the kind of desperation that leads to things like this:



A former U.S. government scientist who served in sensitive positions on classified aerospace projects has been arrested and charged with trying to deliver classified information to someone he thought was an Israeli intelligence official.



No, that is NOT David Letterman--it's Stewart David Nozette


Stewart David Nozette of Chevy Chase, Maryland, was taken into custody Monday by FBI counterespionage agents of and was expected to appear in a federal courtroom in Washington on Tuesday.


The criminal complaint does not accuse the government of Israel of any violations of U.S. law.


In an 18-page affidavit, the FBIsets out the case against Nozette, 52, who received a doctorate in planetary sciences from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The FBI document, signed by Special Agent Leslie G. Martell, says Nozette in January 2009 told a colleague "that if the United States government tried to put him in jail" on an unrelated matter, Nozette would move to Israel or another unidentified foreign country and "tell them everything" he knows.


Nozette had a "top secret" clearance, and served at the White House on the National Space Council for President George H.W. Bush, the affidavit says. Later, from early 2000 to early 2006, he did research and development for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Naval Research Laboratory, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, it says.




This gentleman was "low hanging fruit," and was too stupid to understand basic espionage. He was likely entrapped or enticed into what he did because of a shiny object or hypnosis. How could anyone be that stupid?


His party affiliation means nothing. He is a greedy dirtbag, and he joins the pantheon of fools who thought they could spy for money oh behalf of a foreign government and not get caught because he is, of course, smarter than anyone in the government.I truly do not understand how anyone this inept would go so far as to do what he did. Nozette was--using a post office box and then asking for an Israeli passport. Unbelievable.


Why couldn't he have bothered to use the methods preferred by Robert Hanssen and have found a nice park somewhere to pass his information in a dead drop? He could have used the 50 yard line at FedEx field next Monday night when the Redskins play the Eagles, because no one will be watching. Memo to all potential spies out there--go ahead, follow Mr. Nozette's methods very clearly and make certain that you only speak to your contacts on the telephone, in public places in Washington D.C. so the FBI doesn't have to drive out to the suburbs. Remember to make sure you use post office boxes, which are all under video surveillance, and always ask for a passport to the country for which you are spying so that no one is suspicious. It's not like they track things like passports, especially when you haven't had your Top Secret clearance for three years and when you aren't an Israeli citizen.


Really, follow those steps--you'll have ten or twenty grand in your pocket for as long as it takes the FBI to come and get you.

Getting Away With Excellent Satire


Parks and Recreation


After a busy weekend, I finally got a chance to catch up with the episode of Parks and Recreation that ran last Thursday night. This is the cream of the crop and a show I have watched religiously since it came out. I am rather fond of the format, yes I do know the whole connection to the Office, but I think Parks and Recreation should be talked about on its own merits.


Last Thursday night's episode, "Sister City," skewered Venezuela, and Hugo Chavez in particular, and South American male superiority complexes in general, and socialism in the broadest sense. It was a very well done episode, making good use of Fred Armisen, who is fall-down funny as a uniformed technocrat sent to America to humiliate Americans. It comes on the heels of several episodes featuring the always brilliant Louis C.K. as a small town cop.


As I watched it today, I kept thinking, the outrage that this episode is going to generate is going to stir up some buzz for Amy Poehler and her excellent show. To watch Poehler talking about Hillary Clinton with that smile on her face is magic; you want the whole country to embrace Amy because she is a national treasure.


I did a series of searches--this and this are the only "buzz." No controversy, no condemnations from Venezuela, no unhinged screaming and nothing at all from the thought police. Nothing.


I won't do a spoiler, but this episode is eminently watchable and hilarious, and goes after Chavez by name and in specifics. It doesn't spare any feelings and it is hilarious without being cruel, which is Poehler's specialty. She has a brilliant cast and there have been no clunkers so far. I always hesitate to get involved with a show--the networks pull the plug on only the good ones I care about, of course.


Anyway, I had hoped there would be some genuine outrage out there to help move the show up in the ratings. Maybe it will come later, I don't know. Rarely do you see something this good and I don't want to see it disappear like so many other brilliant shows.

Always Have Some Measure of Respect For the Dead



I certainly want to be noticed, but you don't see me going around doing crazy things to get noticed. Sure, I put up pictures of hotties. Yes, I do sometimes speak ill of the dead. No, I don't know what a Boyzone is, but I would say that the death of any young man is a tragedy, not an opportunity to make a fast buck as a word merchant:



Britain's press watchdog said Monday it had received a record 21,000 complaints about a newspaper column on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately after critics used Twitter to brand the article homophobic and insensitive.


Gately died Oct. 10, aged 33, while vacationing on the Spanish island of Mallorca. An autopsy found he had died of natural causes from pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs.


Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir wrote in a column Friday that Gately's death was "not, by any yardstick, a natural one" and said he died in "sleazy" circumstances, She noted that Gately, who came out publicly as gay in 1999, had been to a bar and invited a young Bulgarian man back to his apartment the night before he died.


Moir concluded that "under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see."


Anger at the column swept social networking site Twitter soon after Moir's piece appeared on the paper's Web site. Actor Stephen Fry urged his 860,000 Twitter followers to contact the Press Complaints Commission. Other prominent Tweeters followed suit, and provided links to the commission's Web site.


Advertisers including retail chain Marks and Spencer asked to have their ads removed from the Mail Web page carrying Moir's column.


In a blog post Monday, Fry called Moir's column an "epically ill-judged piece of gutter journalism."


Moir defended her article, claiming suggestions of homophobia were "mischievous" and suggesting the backlash was a "heavily orchestrated Internet campaign."


The commission said Monday it had received "by far the highest number of complaints ever" about a single article. It said it would write to the newspaper seeking a response before deciding whether to take further action.



Boyzone obviously has fans who are inundating the newspaper with complaints, but I don't think that tells the whole story. The obviously inflammatory angle of the column and the pathetic attempt that it makes at being insightful while preachy falls flat, entertaining no one and angering many who can think on their own two feet. Spare us the preachy--who's to judge? No one.


Here's the snark that bothered me about the article:


Consider the way it has been largely reported, as if Gately had gently keeled over at the age of 90 in the grounds of the Bide-a-Wee rest home while hoeing the sweet pea patch.


Was that necessary? I am anti-snark. Snark is never done well enough to justify it. Snark is easy for the half-wits to copy. You don't have to work at snark. You can just fire away and then sulk when no one laughs at how ha-ha-ha you were. Snark leaves you empty. Remember that thing they had called "ice milk" and it was supposed to be ice cream but it was just frozen milk and it was awful? Snark is like ice milk. No one wants it, no one enjoys it, but if there's no ice cream to give to company, that might make them leave.

We don't have a press "watchdog" in this country--we have ombudsmen that no one pays any attention to. We have hacks and charlatans and fools. Our media is a disgrace. The British music media and music press is a joke within the confines of a bad Ziggy cartoon: no one cares, no one wants to read it, and, wow, I wish I had my life back after reading it.


The press in Great Britain has hounded those poor Spice Girls to pieces. They never have anything nice to say about them. What's not to love? The Spice Girls were incredibly talented, and a great act to go see. I took Miranda to see them numerous times, and she loved them. I'm not allowed to say this, but they were once her favorite, before she discovered "goth" and that whole thing with dying her tongue black.

Ronan Tynan Screws the Pooch


Ronan Tynan


It was a pretty nice gig, signing at Yankee Stadium. Was, being the operative term here:



Irish tenor Ronan Tynan says he’s sorry for making an anti-Semitic remark, and hopes for another chance to sing his noted rendition of “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium.


“This is my mea culpa,” he told The Associated Press before Saturday night’s playoff game between the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees.


A day after the Yankees dropped their long-standing tradition of having him perform the song during the seventh-inning stretch of postseason games, Tynan said he’d apologized to the woman who was the subject of his remark. Tynan also said he had made a charitable contribution to an organization of her choice.



Basically, his attempt at humor got away from him. Never, ever go anti-Semitic:



On Friday, during the ALCS opener, Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion said: “There are no plans for him to sing.”


McGillion said Friday a woman sent an e-mail to a team official this week claiming Tynan made the remark while the woman was being shown an apartment in the building where he lives.


The real estate agent reportedly said to Tynan, “They are not Red Sox fans.” He responded: “As long as they’re not Jewish.”


In an e-mail to the AP, Tynan said he’d previously spoken to the real estate agent about two Jewish women who had looked at the apartment and “how scary for them it would be for living next to me with my music and singing.”


Tynan confirmed his remark to the team official but said he was joking, McGillion said, and the Yankees severed ties with him.


Tynan said Saturday the woman, Gabrielle Gold-von Simson, a doctor at New York University, accepted his apology and that he made a contribution to the charity, KiDs of NYU.



I think it was a fine tradition, one no one is really going to miss. I could be wrong, but, let's face it--God Bless America gets a little maudlin.


What? Something I said?

Ronan Tynan Screws the Pooch


Ronan Tynan


It was a pretty nice gig, signing at Yankee Stadium. Was, being the operative term here:



Irish tenor Ronan Tynan says he’s sorry for making an anti-Semitic remark, and hopes for another chance to sing his noted rendition of “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium.


“This is my mea culpa,” he told The Associated Press before Saturday night’s playoff game between the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees.


A day after the Yankees dropped their long-standing tradition of having him perform the song during the seventh-inning stretch of postseason games, Tynan said he’d apologized to the woman who was the subject of his remark. Tynan also said he had made a charitable contribution to an organization of her choice.



Basically, his attempt at humor got away from him. Never, ever go anti-Semitic:



On Friday, during the ALCS opener, Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion said: “There are no plans for him to sing.”


McGillion said Friday a woman sent an e-mail to a team official this week claiming Tynan made the remark while the woman was being shown an apartment in the building where he lives.


The real estate agent reportedly said to Tynan, “They are not Red Sox fans.” He responded: “As long as they’re not Jewish.”


In an e-mail to the AP, Tynan said he’d previously spoken to the real estate agent about two Jewish women who had looked at the apartment and “how scary for them it would be for living next to me with my music and singing.”


Tynan confirmed his remark to the team official but said he was joking, McGillion said, and the Yankees severed ties with him.


Tynan said Saturday the woman, Gabrielle Gold-von Simson, a doctor at New York University, accepted his apology and that he made a contribution to the charity, KiDs of NYU.



I think it was a fine tradition, one no one is really going to miss. I could be wrong, but, let's face it--God Bless America gets a little maudlin.


What? Something I said?

The Need to Understand Vietnam


I don’t think that we should underestimate the need to understand why we lost in Vietnam, and why we could very well lose in both Afghanistan and Iraq. While these are all three distinctly separate wars, the lessons of Vietnam inform the larger reasons as to why we are even in two different countries fighting two different wars right now. I think that we are forgetting Iraq largely because we don’t see it escalating; I think we are focusing on Afghanistan because the fear of escalating that war could then lead to the experience we had in 2006 in Iraq.


A good place to start is with the latest books on the subject, and, according to George Packer, here is one worth looking at:



Rufus Phillips, raised in rural Virginia and educated at Yale, was a young C.I.A. officer in Saigon in the nineteen-fifties, a protege of the legendary Colonel Edward Lansdale. Over the next decade, Phillips became that rare thing in American foreign policy—an expert in the politics of another country. (Leslie Gelb, the former Times columnist and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, once told me, “American foreign-policy experts don’t know anything about countries. That is a fundamental and tragic problem in our policymaking process.”) Phillips got to know South Vietnamese politicians and military officers better than any other American. He ran the U.S. civilian counterinsurgency program in the early sixties and traveled all over rural South Vietnam (he was Richard Holbrooke’s first boss). When the Saigon government started to collapse, in 1963, Phillips returned to Washington and, though he was far down the bureaucratic pecking order, was asked to brief President Kennedy. Phillips was one of the few officials in a position to know how badly the war was going, and he and a blithely optimistic Marine general argued it out in front of Kennedy, in a scene that made Phillips’s reputation as a fearless straight-talker (David Halberstam recorded it in “The Best and the Brightest”).


After 1963, Phillips ended his official work in Vietnam. But he was one of those young men who never got over it, never again found anything else as interesting and important. A couple of decades ago, Phillips started to write a memoir, but he put it aside when publishers told him that no one wanted to read another Vietnam book. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan caused him to take it up again, and last year, at the age of seventy-nine, Phillips published “Why Vietnam Matters.”


It is, among other things, a wonderful read, full of detail and drama. It tells you what it felt like to live and work in Saigon before the Americans arrived by the hundreds of thousands—the Saigon of the French hangover and the American operatives who met their Vietnamese contacts at colonial hotels—where Ngo Dinh Diem seemed for awhile like the best hope of stopping Communism, and Americans had a sunny confidence in their own democratic faith. Phillips might have been the prototype for Graham Greene’s “quiet American,” except that through the lens of Greene’s Catholic-and-Communist loathing for liberalism, Phillips would have been caricatured, his idealism turned to dangerous arrogance, his kindness to naïvete.



Now, if you haven’t read Halberstam, get yourself to a bookstore. Go online, and begin consuming this man’s work. Understanding Vietnam begins with The Best and the Brightest; I can’t imagine anyone reading this new book by Phillips without already having read at least that.

Mistaking a Dead Guy For a Halloween Display


You know, the Eighties were relatively substance-free


I've been to Marina del Rey, and nothing about this shocks me. It is a tragic story, and I'm aware of the sensitivities I'm offending, yes, but it is just strange enough for me to do something with it:



The body of 75-year-old man sat decomposing on his Marina del Rey balcony for days because neighbors thought the lifeless figure was part of a Halloween display and didn't call police.

Mostafa Mahmoud Zayed had apparently been dead since Monday with a single gunshot wound to one eye. He was slumped over a chair on the third-floor balcony of his apartment on Bora Bora Way, said cameraman Austin Raishbrook, who owns RMG News and was on the scene Thursday when authorities were alerted to the body.

Neighbors told Raishbrook that they noticed the body Monday "but didn't bother calling authorities because it looked like a Halloween dummy," he said.

"The body was in plain view of the entire apartment complex [and] they all didn't do anything," Raishbrook said. "It's very strange. It did look unreal, to be honest."

An investigator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said the case is an "apparent suicide," and declined to comment further.



Now, don't go blaming Halloween, although, I would like to say that Halloween decorations should not go up until two weeks before October 31st (Christmas decorations should not go up until the Friday after Thanksgiving). That might have saved some trouble. Sad to say, this is probably not how Mostafa wanted to be remembered, and his inadvertent celebrity is grisly and tragic. I hate to make light of it, but don't you find it a little macabre? Sort of like traipsing around with a dead person for laughs? No?




Mostafa's neighbors don't seem too quick on the uptake, in any event.


On a related note, I cannot be the first person to notice that Andrew McCarthy got away with flipping the bird on a movie poster:


I would have to hazard a guess that it must have been his response to whoever his buddies were at the time who might have asked: really? You needed the money bad enough to do a movie with Jonathan Silverman?


Weekend at Bernie's was directed by the great Ted Kotcheff, who is a vastly underrated director, responsible for some of my favorite films, such as North Dallas Forty, First Blood, and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Kotcheff is producing a film titled 1066, about that date in English history--I will definitely go see it when it comes out a year from now.

Body Armor and the Wrath of the GAO

I have a new favorite Federal Agency, and it's not the one that sends people to your home and takes everything you own away in a moving van when you forget to pay your taxes one year. It's the Government Accountability Office, or the "GAO" for short.

Our troops need the best body armor we can procure for them. The body armor we hand to our troops must be tested and rigorously evaluated. The GAO has issued a report that talks about how the military really didn't do a bang-up job of making sure that the body armor they were buying met the necessary standards [pdf alert].
During Preliminary Design Model testing the Army took significant steps to run a controlled test and maintain consistency throughout the process, but the Army did not always follow established testing protocols and, as a result, did not achieve its intended test objective of determining as a basis for awarding contracts which designs met performance requirements. In the most consequential of the Army’s deviations from testing protocols, the Army testers incorrectly measured the amount of force absorbed by the plate designs by measuring back-face deformation in the clay backing at the point of aim rather than at the deepest point of depression.

GAO, essentially then, caught the military administering and then believing in and citing fraudulent tests:
The following are examples of deviations from testing protocols and other issues that GAO observed:
  • The clay backing placed behind the plates during ballistics testing was not always calibrated in accordance with testing protocols and was exposed to rain on one day, potentially impacting test results.

  • Testers improperly rounded down back-face deformation measurements, which is not authorized in the established testing protocols and which resulted in two designs passing First Article Testing that otherwise would have failed. Army officials said rounding is a common practice; however, one private test facility that rounds told GAO that they round up, not down.

  • Testers used a new instrument to measure back-face deformation without adequately certifying that the instrument could function correctly and in conformance with established testing protocols. The impact of this issue on test results is uncertain, but it could call into question the reliability and accuracy of the measurements.

  • As a result, one design passed First Article Testing that would have otherwise failed. 
With respect to internal control issues, the Army did not consistently maintain adequate internal controls to ensure the integrity and reliability of test data. In one example, during ballistic testing, data were lost, and testing had to be repeated because an official accidentally pressed the delete button and software controls were not in place to protect the integrity of test data. Army officials acknowledged that before GAO’s review they were unaware of the specific internal control problems we identified.

Here's what the GAO is telling lawmakers, and, by and large, I don't expect our government to do backflips and panic over this. I expect them to hold the military accountable for administering bad tests, and here's a more detailed version of what I highlighted above:

During Preliminary Design Model testing the Army took significant steps to run a controlled test and maintain consistency throughout the process but did not always follow established testing protocols and, as a result, did not achieve the intended test objective of determining which designs met performance requirements as a basis for awarding contracts. The Army’s significant steps to run a controlled test included, for example, the consistent documentation of testing procedures using audio, video, and other electronic means and extensive efforts to maintain proper temperature and humidity in the test lanes. However, we identified several instances in which the Aberdeen Test Center deviated from testing protocols, including failing to test the ease of insertion of the plates into both pockets of the outer protective vest as required by the testing protocols; shooting several plates at the wrong velocity or location on the plate; and repeating failed clay calibration tests on the same block of clay—the latter having the potential to significantly affect test results. In the most consequential of the deviations from testing protocols, the Army testers incorrectly measured the amount of force absorbed by the designs tested by measuring back-face deformation at the point of aim rather than at the deepest point of depression.



Army testers recognized the error after completing about a third of the test and then changed the test plan to call for measuring at the point of aim and likewise issued a modification to the contract solicitation. At least two of the eight designs that passed Preliminary Design Model testing and were awarded contracts would have failed if measurements had been made to the deepest point of depression. The deviations from the testing protocols were the result of Aberdeen Test Center incorrectly interpreting the testing protocols.

Yes, that's the fraud here, and it's plain as day--the military was allowed to rig the tests in order to award contracts to body armor manufacturers without realizing that this could lead to the failure of the body armor in combat and the killing of our men and women in uniform. You can go read the 'he said, she said' section of the report, where the military and the GAO go back and forth on how the clay was subjected to calibration drop tests, and what you will find is that the GAO is essentially calling bullshit on a systematic effort to do slapdash testing in order to shut up Congress.

The controversy here comes when the GAO says, "here's what you need to do in order to get yourself in compliance with the expressed will of the U.S. Congress. One thing that the GAO would like to see happen is this:



To improve internal controls over the integrity and reliability of test data for future testing as well as provide for consistent test conditions and comparable data between tests, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretary of the Army to provide for an independent peer review of Aberdeen Test Center’s body armor testing protocols, facilities, and instrumentation to ensure that proper internal controls and sound management practices are in place. This peer review should be performed by testing experts external to the Army and DOD.



Fair enough. However, there's always pushback:



DOD did not concur with our recommendation for an independent evaluation of First Article Testing results and accordingly plans to take no action to provide such an assessment. DOD asserted that the issues we identified do not alter the effects of testing. However, based on our analysis and findings there is sufficient evidence to raise questions as to whether the issues we identified had an impact on testing results. As a result, we continue to believe it is necessary to have an independent external expert review these test results and the overall effect of the testing deviations we observed on those results before any armor is fielded to military personnel. Without such an independent review, the First Article Test results remain questionable, undermining the confidence of the public and those who might rely on the armor for protection. Consequently, Congress should consider directing the Office of the Secretary of Defense to either require that an independent external review of these body armor test results be conducted or that DOD officially amend its testing protocols to reflect any revised test procedures and repeat First Article Testing to ensure that only properly tested designs are fielded.



The GAO goes on to comment that:


In written comments on a draft of this report, DOD takes the position that our findings had no significant impact on the test results and on the subsequent contracting actions taken by the Army. DOD also does not concur with what it perceives as our two overarching conclusions: (1) that Preliminary Design Model testing did not achieve its intended objective of determining, as a basis for contract awards, which designs met performance requirements and (2) that First Article Testing may not have met its objective of determining whether each of the contracted plate designs met performance requirements.



Even though the GAO goes to great lengths to show the DOD that it screwed up, the DOD won't acknowledge it. Hence, U.S. troops are going into battle today with body armor that wasn't properly tested.We have bureaucrats being shown the error of their ways. If I'm missing something here, could someone please stop by and help this old man sit down in a chair and think about the error of his ways? I may need to go see someone about this problem I've been having, which is, I keep seeing blatant incompetence wherever someone does the legwork of pointing out that there is, umm, blatant incompetence here.

We've been involved in a continuous shooting war in two countries for over eight years, and the Poindexters can't get anything right. This is an absolute disgrace.

I don't know how anyone could keep their job after such a report, but nothing surprises me anymore. Our troops deserve the best equipment we can get them, and what they get instead is gear that is shoddy and poorly evaluated. It's not something you can just dismiss as being George W. Bush's fault, and even though the bulk of this testing happened on his watch, and on the watch of the current Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, this is not a political issue. This is something that must be fixed as soon as possible. Congress needs to hold immediate and uncomfortable hearings over the matter. This is an incompetence and procurement issue, and it needs to be fixed because our troops deserve to have decent body armor.

They're Going to Get You For Being a Douchebag



No one should expect to get away with rampant douchebaggery:



The TLC cable TV network says it's suing Jon Gosselin for breaching his contract as star of the reality show "Jon & Kate Plus 8."


The lawsuit, filed Friday in Maryland, alleges that Gosselin hasn't met the obligations of his contract as an exclusive employee, has appeared on other programs for pay and made unauthorized disclosures about the show.


Gosselin has starred for two years in "Jon & Kate Plus 8," which has been consumed in recent months by marital turmoil as Gosselin and his wife, Kate, feuded, then filed for divorce. The couple are the parents of young twins and sextuplets.



I would imagine that the contract signed with TLC was eighty or ninety pages of specifics, and Mr. Gosselin's decision to become America's Douchebag Daddy and have his mid-life crisis twenty years early likely runs afoul of most of the rights he signed away.


In the event that they take what little money he has left, and in the event that he is left partied out, broke, and sleeping with whatever trips and falls into the broom closet with him at the Motel 6, he can look forward to watching himself become the guy who can't pay his bills and can't work because everyone will hound him. He'll remember the good times, when he had money, a family, a home, and a future. All he had to do was put up with the screaming, controlling dingbat in his life. It's called "earlid," and all you have to do is tune them out, sir. My problem is, I would tune them out and I wouldn't be listening when they would give me ultimatums.


In America celebrity doesn't actually kill you, it just makes your life suck in ways you couldn't have imagined when you and your pretty wife were signing all those papers.