Thursday, June 05, 2014


I have two articles to recommend on the Bergdahl business:

David Brooks takes a stand [OMG! David Brooks takes a stand on something!] in President Obama Was Right.

And the NY Times gives a good rundown on The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahl. The main stuff:
Four months ago, Senator John McCain said he would support the exchange of five hard-core Taliban leaders for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. “I would support,” he told CNN. “Obviously I’d have to know the details, but I would support ways of bringing him home and if exchange was one of them I think that would be something I think we should seriously consider.”

But the instant the Obama administration actually made that trade, Mr. McCain, as he has so often in the past, switched positions for maximum political advantage. “I would not have made this deal,” he said a few days ago. Suddenly the prisoner exchange is “troubling” and “poses a great threat” to service members. Hearings must be held, he said, and sharp questions asked.


Republican operatives have arranged for soldiers in his unit to tell reporters that he was a deserter who cost the lives of several soldiers searching for him. In fact, a review of casualty reports by Charlie Savage and Andrew Lehren of The Times showed there is no clear link between any military deaths and the search.

And a classified military report shows that Sergeant Bergdahl had walked away from assigned areas at least twice before and had returned, according to a report in The Times on Thursday. It describes him as a free-spirited young man who asked many questions but gave no indication of being a deserter, let alone the turncoat that Mr. Obama’s opponents are now trying to create.

If anything, the report suggests that the army unit’s lack of security and discipline was as much to blame for the disappearance, given the sergeant’s history.

Thousands of soldiers desert during every war, including 50,000 American soldiers during World War II. As many as 4,000 a year were absent without leave for extended periods during the Iraq war. They leave for a variety of reasons, including psychological trauma, but whatever their mental state, it is the military’s duty to get them back if they are taken prisoner. That’s what the Obama administration did in this case, and there was a particular sense of urgency because a video showed that Sergeant Bergdahl’s life might be in danger.

But the critics seeking political advantage don’t care about the life or mental state of a particular soldier, or of a principle of loyalty that should provide comfort to any soldier in danger of capture. They live only for the attack.
Obama did the right thing, but handled the political end of it miserably.  We are talking about an American soldier here – a POW, for the love of Pete – and the Republicans are seriously suggesting we should have just left him there. If you can't win THAT fight, Barack, give us Hillary.

A Postcard from Screwtape*

Got an unusual postcard the other day:

"Wow!" methinks. "Only one percent of the Humane Society's budget goes to pet shelters? Where does the rest of it go? Oh, I know – into their pockets! Hah!"

Reading on, I see:

"You can be sure of THAT!" says I, and make a mental note to cross them off my charity list. Well, okay, I've never really actually given money to the Humane Society, but now I never would! That'll teach those skunks. Good thing there are folks keeping an eye on these crooks.

And then I forgot about it . . . until I got another postcard from the same people. And that's when the "You're Being Played for a Dummy!" alarm finally went off.

Wwwwaaaaaaiiiiiiiittttttttt a minute! Who's sending me these cards? Is supporting animal shelters the only way to help animals? Wouldn't that just be dogs and cats? Oh, yeah, and bunnies? What about horses? And cattle, hogs, and sheep raised for food? And before I got these postcards, did I really think the Humane Society's main mission was supporting local animal shelters?

The postcard says to go to the web site of something called HumaneWatch.

Oh, my! HumaneWatch turns out to be a front for the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is run by a person named Richard Berman. Mr. Berman acts, talks, and quacks like a libertarian. He says he is against the "nanny state".  And to demonstrate his noble displeasure, he raises millions from corporations to perform public relations hits on non-profits that are causing them trouble

According to a spokesman, John Doyle, the purpose of the CCF is to "draw attention to our enemies: just about every consumer and environmental group, chef, legislator or doctor who raises objections to things like pesticide use, genetic engineering of crops, or antibiotic use in beef and poultry."

Or, in the case of the Humane Society of the United States, organizations that are trying to improve the treatment of factory farm animals and keep sick animals from winding up in your steak or hamburger.

Some corporations, like Kraft and Pepsico, will have nothing to do with Mr. Berman. I guess they want their children to be proud of them – or at least not ashamed of them.

The same does not apply to Coca-Cola, Cargill, Monsanto, Tyson Foods, Outback Steakhouse (take a good look at that steak next time you're there), Anheuser-Busch, Phillip Morris, Davidoff (cigars), Overhill Farms, and Bruss Company (steaks and chops), all of whom have been named as donors to the Center for Consumer Freedom. Quite a rogue's gallery.

I never liked Outback, anyway.

Net Neutrality

In case you missed the buzz, John Oliver did a bit on the FCC's plan to end net neutrality that managed to send so many commenters to the FCC web site that it brought down their server. To which I can only say: Good!

Another instant classic:

And while we're on the subject, if AT&T tries to convince you to give up your DSL and sign on to U-verse, politely decline. It is so bad I actually started googling to find a class action suit I could join. Although I am paying for speeds "up to" 6 mbs, I can no longer stream movies at night (or most days) because their infrastructure is so poor. And they knew it when they sold it to me.

The class action suit? Well, I certainly wasn't the first to think of it. But it seems there's something in that fine print of their contract that says if they commit fraud, I will not sue them, but will take it to arbitration.

Anyway, enjoy the John Oliver video.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The NRA and Gun Control

So it wasn't just my imagination. Once upon a time, in my life-time even, the National Rifle Association wasn't a bunch of wild-eyed paranoids. They were responsible people who promoted gun safety and advocated common sense gun control.

And did Ronald Reagan really say he saw "no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons" and that legislation restricting it "would work no hardship on the honest citizen"?

My, how things have changed.

Fundamentals of Coaching Basketball

The Washington Post has a fascinating story up about bankruptcies among professional athletes.
The data on professional athletes are startling: Shortly after they retire, nearly four of five NFL players are bankrupt or under financial stress, according to Sports Illustrated. Joblessness and divorce are the main reasons. It’s marginally better in the National Basketball Association, where after retirement nearly two of three players are broke within five years.
Consider this chart:

It's really sad.