Monthly Archives: June 2012

Saturday Matinee 26 (backdated again): Memorial Day

We saw the highly positive reviews of this movie on Amazon.com.That made us cautiously optimistic, but some distraction (“Squirrel!”) led us away and we never clicked the buy-it-now button. Then, there it was in Wal-Mart, for the same price (between living in a no-sales-tax state, and using Amazon Prime, both of which we recommend highly, we’re spared complicated calculations about values, which leaves brain cells free for things like, “Have we got enough 77-grain Black Hills for the zombie apocalypse?” (Note to self — order more 77gr. -Ed).

We’ve been burned before by Hollywood’s depictions of the current war. Not to go all Sally Field, but soldiers and veterans know that “They hate us… they really hate us.” This comes through on and off screen in every portrayal by the drug-addled Woody Harrelson or sneering Sean Penn, and hundreds of other actors. We expect to be reviled by directors like Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino, and they’ve never let us down yet. It says something that the best movie so far out of the last decade of war was made for TV.

This movie stars relative newcomer Jonathen Bennett and Oscar-nominated (albeit not for this) John Cromwell and his son, James Cromwell. The Cromwells play the same character, Bud Vogel, as a young lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne in Europe in World War II and as a 70-something retiree in his hometown of Le Center, Minnesota in 1993. The story revolves around Bud’s combat memories, and the footlocker in which he’s symbolically put them away for fifty years. The physical resemblance between the lanky, beaked Cromwells is so strong that they’re able to pull this off, even if James is a bit long in the tooth to be playing a 20-something 1LT. Both are able actors, as is Bennett, which is a very good thing, because they have parts that require them to communicate a lot with only a few words penetrating their manly reserve.

The movie does not begin, though, with the vital footlocker framing scene, which is the first of very many flashbacks. The movie begins with Kyle Vogel, Ben’s grandson (played by Bennett), in his Army uniform, parking a car, picking up a holstered pistol from on top of a long letter (which is on screen for only a moment, so you can’t read it), leaving the door open and the keys in place, and walking off briskly into the woods.

We very nearly hit eject on the DVD at that point. “One more Hollywood hack job… suicidal-soldier edition.” The memory of those Amazon reviews, all but one glowing, stayed our hand. (We suspect the one negative reviewer had the same impulse we did and followed through with his eject button). What happens in the forest does not get resolved until the movie’s end. It’s worth your while to tough it out.

We’re suddenly in the war. Is the dead lamb on the side of the road an IED, or not? Facing this dilemma is a platoon of MN National Guard soldiers, led by SSG Kyle Vogel. It is an IED; a couple of insurgents are arguing in Arabic about whether to blow it or make the Americans approach more closely. The distant IED wounds Kyle and a medevac helicopter is called. He puts a piece of shrapnel in his breast pocket, and his squad makes fun of his predilection for taking souvenirs.

From the war we flash back  to a Le Center farmhouse in 1993. Four kids are playing hide-and-seek when one finds his grandfather’s dusty wartime footlocker. He brings it to his grandfather, who clearly does not like to be reminded of the memories that have been locked away with his souvenirs. Ultimately they cut a deal: Bud offers to tell the story of one item, and his grandson negotiates him up to three. The souvenirs include some we’ll learn the stories of — a Walther P38. a piece of shrapnel, a photograph — and some we won’t — a fighting knife, a compass. Each time Kyle chooses an item, you see the pain the memory inflicts on Bud, and each time, he tries to get Kyle to choose something else, anything else. But he tells the stories, which always have a twist, a turn, a leadership call, and regrets attached to them.

Flash forward to the hospital, where an earnest young doctor asks Kyle: “Which did you ask to see first?” and a grinning Kyle asks her back, “What would a 13-year-old boy ask for?” and after a brief stop on that 1993 porch we’re plunged into the story of the Walther, a story in which duty and humanity will pull young Bud in different directions.

The relationship between Kyle and Dr. Kelly Tripp is a profound one, set against the barriers of the doctor-patient and officer-NCO interfaces, but charged with honesty and intimacy. It’s not a sexual intimacy — Kyle is married, and you can tell as far as these characters are concerned, that’s that. But a little bit of tension is there. It’s a little gem of the director’s, actors’, and scriptwriter’s art.

The actress that plays Dr Tripp, Emily Fradenburgh, is attractive enough but not Hollywood-fake-pretty, and her talents apparently extend beyond the screen (she’s also credited with casting). There are numerous double and triple credits like that, and extensive use of World War II reenactors and National Guard soldiers also indicates that the budget for this film was very, very tight (IMDB estimates roughly $4 million).

Perhaps because it lacked a Hollywood-approved nihilistic message, perhaps because of that low budget leaving a mere pittance for promotion, perhaps because of an unfairly assigned R rating, it had a limited theatrical release last month (May, 2012) and was in DVD by month’s end — not coincidentally, Memorial Day. No “name” critic stooped to review it. The best way to encourage more films like this (and to honor the efforts of the many talented people who made it happen) is for this film to make money. The best way for this film to make money is for all of you who read this (at least, all of you in North America who can watch NTSC-encoded Region 1 DVD films) to buy a copy. Buy a few copies, give them to your civilian friends who don’t understand what the big deal about service is. If every reader who reads this blog bought one copy, and recommended it to one more person, the merits of the film would take it from there.

Like another tightly-budgeted war film, Saints and Soldiers, the art of the cast and the crew makes it punch far above its weight… the only give-aways are the “church” (actually an outbuilding dressed for the shoot) with US vs. Central European architecture, the closeness of some of the “Iraqi desert” shots which were taken in a disused mine or quarry in Mankato, MN, or the prevalence of rare-but-cool weapons among the reenactors (particularly the FG-42. Cool gun, just out of place here). Despite that, the use of reenactors means you get far fewer gear and weapons clinkers than the typical Hollywood crowd. (There was also a boot camp for the actors, which always pays off not just in terms of method-acting but also in helping them bond).

The best feature of the film is seeing Kyle trying to deal with leadership dilemmas with reference to his grandfather’s experience. In one case, caught on the horns of a Hobson’s choice, he chooses the action opposite from the one his grandfather regrets for life, and learns that sometimes having to make the decision means you’re going to regret it for life, anyway (we don’t want to be more specific on this spoiler). Some of the other characters, like the Guatemalan kid who’s serving to win his US Citizenship, are very deftly drawn.

If the movie has a fault it’s its tendency to draw scenes out a bit longer than necessary. Fifteen or twenty minutes could have been cut from the 104 minure runtime without much loss, or those minutes could have been used to extend the combat scenes. But that’s a quibble, not a complaint.

In the end, you’re left with a powerful take-away from this Memorial Day, and an urge to see more from these actors and this director (Sam Fischer) and writer (Marc Conklin). Thank you all for a film that shows the hell of war without making the men of war into demons.

Kyle keeps his souvenirs in a small tough-box, today’s equivalent of his grandfather’s footlocker. And as significant events in his tour occur, he locks up memories as his grandfather did, but you can tell he’s going to be a little more open and less reticent with them, and his own son, in turn, will hear the stories before he decides if he wants to answer the call to service.

What’s in your footlocker?

Ca$hing in on the Stolen Valor decision

It isn’t just the phonies like Ken Aden and John Giduck that are celebrating their new License to Lie signed by six of the nine Supreme Court Justices, for whom veterans’ accomplishments and sacrifices are worth less than the name on a tube of toothpaste.Along with the phony soldiers, the makers of phony products have been unleashed.

If someone you meet in a bar says he’s SF, Ranger or a SEAL, odds are he’s lying (there are far more liars out there than actual elite-unit vets). And if some outfit is trying to sell you some piece of crap with the claim that it’s a “Special Forces” piece of crap, well, you should be able to figure it out.

If not, you’re the guy John Wayne was talking about when he said, “Life is hard. It’s harder if you’re stupid.”

For example, this watch sold by some outfit called Hammacher Schlemmer is presented as the “Genuine Special Forces Watch.” It’s a lie, of course, but Anthony Kennedy and five other Supreme Court justices have just ruled that lying is OK, as long as it only demeans and damages soldiers and veterans and not anybody who matters, like, for instance, judges, lawyers, or those copyright holders who pay their lawyers (and, presumably, pay their judges).

There is no “official Special Forces watch.” From time to time, small SF units have bought watches, but guys buy their own watches. There are, of course, trends and fads here like in any other workplace. In the 1960s through the 80s, the “in” watch was the Rolex Submariner, bought for a good price from a jeweler in Bad Tölz or Bangkok. If you were a cheapskate, you bought a Seiko dive watch. In the nineties and oughts, Suunto watches which have barometric features and other navigation capabilities became popular (some units bought them specifically for medics). And you used to be able to draw a watch from Supply — a standard, wind-it-up Army Hamilton or similar. But the Hammacher Schlemmer soi-disant Special Forces watch is about a genuine as the Rolexes they sell on eBay.

Looking at the watch itself, the SF claim gets thinner. Even the features on this watch are not what an SF guy would want. Can you imagine the klutz on your team having this available to him:

Located at the 12, 4, and 8 o’clock positions, three LEDs provide a total of 300 lumens. Set to flash as a white strobe light, they pierce the dark up to one mile away for sending a distress signal, or set to shine continuously, they can scour the ground for lost items. The LEDs can also illuminate the dial with an ambient blue glow for inconspicuous map reading…

We’re trying to think of a real-world problem array that will require this solution and we’re still coming up el blanko.

Yeah, we’ve spent billions in developing and training with night observation devices so that we can summon every enemy within 12 miles with this thing. (We have had infrared strobe lights on our web gear for about 30 years now). What in the name of Niffelheim do these geniuses think SF teams do out there in the woods? “Dang, I know I left my boom box around here somewhere. Buddy, turn on your watch so I can find it and we can have some righteous tuneage!”

Well, yeah, sometimes we do that, but when we’re “admin,” as they say, we have these remarkable inventions called flashlights. We also have headlamps. We have SureFire floodlights we can put on our guns… and we have the AN/PEQ-2 and its successors, devices that combines an infrared aiming or target designation laser and an IR floodlight, invisible to the naked eye. Nobody’s so hard up for illumination that he needs a Vegas light show on his watch.

But wait, as Ron Popeil (who at least never used stolen valor or cool-by-association to sell his crap) would say, there’s more! Let’s read between the lines of this little factoid from the Genuine Fake Special Forces Watch’s propaganda page at Ham-Schlem:

The watch’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to eight hours of continuous LED light (or one month of regular use) from a full six-hour charge without cables using the included electromagnetic charger.

What that says is, if you use this craptastic thing,you have to recharge it with a wall socket at least every month (and that’s if you don’t use any of the disco lights) for six hours. Any idea what the world record is for a Special Forces team between visits to civilization? A watch that makes a best-case month in the ad copy is not something you can take to the field with confidence.  (We bet the wall charger is 110v only, too, but that’s simply a coup de grâce on an already dead idea).

Hey, if you want a watch to accompany your phony Special Forces stories, this abortion can be yours for a mere $600 — of which, we figure $400 is profit, $170 is advertising, and $30 is a cheap Chinese case and quartz movement.

It’s a great gift for the Ken Aden in your life. Since all the real SF guys are laughing at him anyway.

‘Under the Radar’ gun control = search engine censorship

Why have Google executives been meeting with DOJ and White House officials?

The company — and other search engine firms — have been working to make a huge donation-in-kind to their favorite politicians by providing gun-control-by-search-result. Since it is implemented by private companies, ostensibly on their own, none of the documents behind the search results ban are accessible to the public by FOIA or to Congress — not that Congress even gets the documents it’s supposed to.

The crackdown at Google begins with Ad Words — no longer available or working for firearms, accessories, and ammunition. July 1 it’s supposed to be implemented in Google Shopping, which last week let you comparison-shop Google advertisers for ammo and already this week won’t, as Google rolls out its anti-gun update across its server farms. (Hat tip: Steve at The Firearm Blog).

The thing is, it’s not just Google. On our own testing, Bing and Yahoo are also sending gun and ammo shopping results to the bit bucket.

So far, web search engine results have not been zeroed out, but who’s to say they’re not next? For most people, Google is their window on to what is on the web. If Google wants you disappeared (or if the Chinese secret police, who have a cozy relationship with the firm, want you disappeared), you disappear.

According to internet rumors, the quality of which can’t be easily assessed, the next step is censorship of gun videos on YouTube. They’ll do this in part by declaring them adults-only and ad-free, requiring interested parties to identify themselves (and be enemy-listed?) and starving merchants of revenue.

It’s all part of “under the radar” gun control, promised last year. In 2010, the search-engine vendors agreed with the white house to blackhole search engine results for unlicensed web pharmacies, and items that violate trademarks or copyrights. The initiative, under DHS, cited the search engines as “internet choke points.” A White House attorney, Victoria Espinel, said the following:

“It’s important that we act aggressively now before it snowballs into a bigger problem,” Espinel said in an interview. The U.S. aims to “put a challenge to the private sector, rather than have us regulate or mandate.”

It’s not so much that we don’t believe in Godwin. More like we’re agnostic that way….

Is applying those principles what Google is doing with gun-related web results? At least one Google lawyer, Hilary Ware, said of the pharma search-engine results-manipulation program:

“As the administration has made clear, no one company can solve this problem, so this new cross-industry group is a welcome step forward that we are pleased to support.”

Again, it’s not hard to see Ware, Google, and their BFFs at 1600 Pennsylvania applying this same “cross-industry group” to what they see as the “problem” of Americans who bitterly cling to want to own guns.

Google has a long history of hostility to gun owners (and again), even as it’s used the “X don’t kill people, people kill people”argument  to fend off regulation of its own business.

Eric Holder is laughing at us. He has been found in contempt for his cover-up of ATF gun smuggling to Mexico, but in the world of Washington kabuki theater,  he is responsible for prosecuting himself, which is not going to happen. Instead, he strikes back at his enemies — and make no mistake, he defines legitimate gun owners as his enemy, and such brutal criminals as the Mexican cartels and al-Qaeda as his friends — by zeroing out their internet results.

Google’s alleged motto is “Don’t be Evil,” but it’s a Silicon Valley nerd’s definition of evil, where “target shooter seeking ammo for sport” = “evil” and “Chinese secret police seeking dissidents for torture and extrajudicial murder” = “good”.

One is reminded of Inigo Montoya’s famous statement on the meanings of words. To use a reference a Silicon Valley nerd would get.

YANKUP: Yet ANother Ken aden Update (Phony)

Ken Aden, you may remember, is the infantry combat vet running for Congress, which kind of civic engagement from the gruntosphere is something we’d usually applaud. But Ken, who had the guts to try and get selected for Special Forces training, only to flunk out of the school after running out of second chances, insisted in a splash of publicity that he weally weally was a Gween Bewet. Only, as we pointed out in our initial story and a follow-up this week, he weally weally isn’t.

In the face of media and veterans’ enquiries into his bona fides, and in the face of the Special Warfare Center’s very public and specific repudiation of him (which we’ll get to in a minute), Aden continues to steal the valor of Special Forces.

We are pleased that men want very badly to join SF and that so many attempt the very difficult pathway to qualification. We are not thrilled when quitters, dropouts and flunkouts like Aden then go around lying about how they left the course.

Here is the timeline of Aden’s actual attendance at SFQC, courtesy of the Special Warfare Center and School:

11/9/06 Aden completes Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), is selected as a Special Forces Candidate.
4/26/07 Aden completes BNCOC, a basic NCO leadership school that is one of about a dozen elements of the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC), and one of the few that provides a qualification and diploma of its own.
9/16/07 Aden completes SERE Level C, a survival school for personnel with duties that present a high risk of isolation (being separated from friendly forces) and capture.
10/9/07 Aden fails the Special Force Medical Sergeant (18D) MOS phase, roughly three weeks into the yearlong course
3/3/08 Recycled into Special Forces Weapons Sergeant (18B) school, a common “second chance” for dropouts from the extremely difficult medical course, Aden fails 18B MOS phase also. He is given a second second chance in a subsequent class.
8/12/08 Aden slams gun vault door on his hand, is out of training for an unknown period, ultimately recovers well enough to stay in Army (and if he was healthy enough to stay Infantry, he’s healthy enough for SF).
4/29/09 Aden fails a third time in either MOS Phase or other training (language? Robin Sage? It’s not clear from immediately available records what he failed, but it is clear that he failed). He is sent to the 82nd Airborne Division. He leaves active duty at the end of his service obligation (2010?) and joins the National Guard.

 

Now, there is no shame in failing Special Forces training. Most of the men selected fail, and this is after coming through a sieve of administrative requirements (medical, fitness, IQ, etc) and passing a very tough selection process. The Command Sergeants Major in the 82nd Airborne Division, where the guys who fail go, have asked the Special Warfare Center if it could please fail a few more, because these SF rejects tend to be some of the best troopers in their units. They were only half joking. And Aden has released an award recommendation that indicates that his National Guard infantry unit might have felt that way about him. (On the other hand, they only recommended him for an Army Commendation Medal, which is one of the lower rungs of the pyramid of recognition. If he had really distinguished himself, he’d be up for the bronze star for service. But many conventional units assign medals by rank, which isn’t fair but that’s the Army for you).

But there’s a great deal of shame in claiming honors you did not earn. It’s only going to get worse for Ken Aden and for Vince Liebowitz, the political consultant who says he’s en expert in military records but who has backed up Aden’s thoroughly debunked lies. Other candidates who are opposed by Liebowitz’s other clients might want to take a good hard look at any military claims they have put forward.

As is usual with phonies, the phony service claims aren’t the sum of Aden’s deception. He has also made a false claim about an injury (that he “lost two fingers” — as photographs still show him with ten. Unless he started with 12. [Insert your own Arkansas joke here]). He’s also claimed that the injury is what ended his stay at SF school, but the school is crystal clear on that And he’s also made many misleading claims about his educational attainments. He claims a degree from Arkansas State University, but the registrar’s office has no record of him. He claimed classes at Chicago, but when that registrar never heard of him either, backpedaled after hours to say he misspoke again and meant City Colleges of Chicago (an open enrollment community college, not the prestigious university in the same city). Even that hasn’t been independently confirmed.

Links:

  • Another post at This Ain’t Hell. The post reports on the continuing first-class investigative reporting of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper on Aden. In the comments, Jonn Lilyea notes that Aden apologized by email.
  • The apology didn’t signify, apparently, because Aden sent a furious press release to this blog for Arkansas Democrats, reiterating his lies about his Special Forces status and his “modified, limited hangout” position of having “miisspoken” once.
  • Another Arkansas Democrat blogger reports that Aden, whom he endorsed, lied to him and extended his Green Beret claims in a phone call (meaning, that Aden’s claim that he only misspoke about it once [and what, the reporters just imagined it in two years' worth of publicity and interviews? - Ed.]  was more of Aden’s usual output: poseur bullshit). Hey, fellow blogger, we’re sorry you got used and taken in by a liar. It happens. Better luck next election. It’s worth quoting what this guy says verbatim:

For my part, I can say that when folks on the right began asking questions, Ken and I had a phone conversation where he was livid about the questions and said specifically “they’re saying I was never a green beret”.  Ken himself though hedged on that in the D-G article

For the record, it wasn’t “folks on the right” that began asking questions, and if it was, it wasn’t in their capacity as Republicans or Conservatives or whatever. All those guys are worried about other political issues, not a quiet Congressional race in Arkansas where the result is apparently a foregone conclusion (the district is very heavily Republican). It was Veterans and Soldiers who began asking questions. And they’re not going to let up until Ken Aden does the right thing and apologizes and retracts the claims he knows are false (which is our preference), or he’s utterly destroyed as a political and public figure (which seems to be the cliff Aden is heading for). But hey, Tony Kennedy says his lying is OK. Unfortunately Tony Kennedy can’t shut the SF veterans’ community up. We’re small, but we’re pretty big for a small thing.

  • Ken Aden’s campaign has posted a statement on the website, saying that he’ll have no further statement, implying that the records the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette obtained are false, completely failing to address the Special Warfare Center spokeswoman’s flat and unqualified statement that Aden was never a Green Beret or Special Forces soldier, and once again putting up the long-discredited erroneous or forged DD-214. The statement also fails to address Aden’s equally fraudulent educational claims.

Ken Aden, you and we all know that you are not a Special Forces Soldier. You made your best effort and even made it most of the way, but you cannot continue to claim the laurels of completion for yourself. Apologize. Retract. Every new discovery in this case has controverted your position and exposed new untruths in your self-written biogtaphical information. The longer this continues, the more damage you do your reputation — although you may be thinking that as an exposed valor-stealing phony Special Forces soldier you’re so low the whales are crapping on you. We know your type and there is always lower. You set yourself on this path to self-discreditation when you first aggrandized yourself with the false Special Forces claim.

Ken Aden Phony Update

Ken Aden — Special Forces phony, faker, fraud. Running for Congress

Arkansas Congressional Candidate Ken Aden (who, it turns out, is a Democrat, if that matters to you) has doubled down on his bogus Special Forces claims. It’s a bit sad as Aden has . You will recall that Aden flunked out of SF school (messily enough so that the school sergeant major still remembers him four years later – we guarantee you, every successful candidate has a goal of standing in Regimental First Formation without the CSM knowing his name).

Aden has posted an infantry NCO Evaluaion Report that refers to his “18B skills” as part of his justification for making the claim. Instead, it just looks like he misled his superiors in that unit, too.

One of Aden’s political hacks consultants, a guy named Vince Leibowitz, has been attacking Aden critics and claiming that FOIAing Aden’s actual records is a felony. It’s pathetic, and Leibowitz goes on to say:

We’ve worked for dozens of military candidates, and reviewed the service records of countless others on behalf of PACs and individual donors, and I can assure you that Ken Aden’s DD-214 is genuine.

Thanks for your concern.

Vince Leibowitz
Principal Consultant
The Dawn Group
vince.leibowitz@gmail.com
vince@dgtexas.com
DGTexas.com
512.705.7001 (m)
512.861.2370 (f)
512.318.2432 (o)

Of course, the question isn’t whether Aden’s 214 is genuine; this is an attempt a redirection or as your mother called it, “changing the subhject.” It’s whether it supports his SF claims (it doesn’t, although a single line in it can be tortured into sort of giving up an otherwise unsupported SF claim) and whether it’s accurate (since Aden never completed SF school, he was never ever assigned to a Special Forces unit or MOS. Not for one day. So any SF assertion on a 214 is fraudulent, even if the 214 itself is an authentic military document. Yet, even though he (or Leibowitz?) has scrubbed many of those claims from his website, he made the claims over and over again.

Makes you wonder, of course, whether Leibowitz’s “dozens of military candidates” and “countless others” are all poseurs like Aden.

But we don’t have to exert ourselves to expose Leibowitz’s and Aden’s fraud. The press in Arkansas are on him like a razorback hog on a truffle.

1. A blog by one of his fellow Democrats calls it “resume padding.” That’ll leave a mark.

2. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had a front-page, above the fold story with the title: “Military records debunk candidate’s rhetoric” and the tag:

Third Congressional District candidate Ken Aden has claimed he’s a Green Beret, but his military records indicate he washed out of Special Forces training, not once but three times.

Ow. Unfortunately, on the website, it’s only accessible to subscribers. (Their content, their business). But apparently the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporters also uncovered academic fraud on Aden’s part: a college degree he claimed for which the college didn’t have matching records. D’oh! Like we always say, it’s never just one fraud with these guys.

3. Aden has released a long, whiny response to the Democrat-Gazette, in which he basically resorted to DAMN: Deny everything, Admit nothing, Make counteraccusations, Never change your story. Except an admission did creep in. Even while assailing the D-G for using official records instead of ones provided by phony Aden and phony-enabler Leibowitz, and clinging to the MOS 18B claim (” I was designated as 18B, which is a special forces designation, and I maintained that designation until I was discharged”), and  “I earned the 18B designation, and was awarded the same on June 12, 2008, and provided a copy of the orders from Installation Management Command at Fort Bragg to the Democrat-Gazette”,  he did admit: “I misspoke about serving with a Green Beret Unit.”

“Misspoke.” C’mon Ken, the word is lied. You’re a liar and a fraud and a phony.

Of course, the Installation Management Command has no authority to award MOS 18B. It’s kind of like finding orders from a Navy admiral awarding somebody Air Force pilot’s wings… interesting, but not real. That means it’s either some kind of clerical error, or a forgery from Aden and Leibowitz. Either way, Aden is lying. But then, it’s not like he aspires to a job where integrity is important. (“He did once… but then he flunked SFQC!” <rimshot!>  “Thanks, we’ll be in the blog all week. Don;t forget to tip your waitress!”).

Update: this post has been edited. No substantive changes, but we fixed a number of typos.

Supreme Court: ‘Thanks for serving. Chumps.’ Stolen Valor Act tossed

The Stolen Valor Act has been declared unconstitutional by a 6-3 decision in the case U.S. vs. Alvarez. Alvarez was a phony whose tall tales made him a lot of money and helped him get elected to political office, and according to the Supreme Court, that’s all OK. This news will be buried under the Holder contempt vote, which will be buried under the Obamacare Supreme Court decision, so we’re putting it out there for you.

We feared that the law was overly broad and would go down on 1st Amendment grounds, and it did. The free speech objections to the law are aired by Chicago law professor Eugene Volokh here and here. But the problem may be greater than that.

Voting to preserve the law: Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas. According to a very brief précis of the opinion at law-prof group blog The Volokh Conspiracy, four justices apparently ruled that military impersonation is absolutely protected free speech: Chief Justice  Roberts, Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion, and Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Their opinon seems to say that no law criminalizing impersonation like Alvarez’s could ever be legal, and that the right to be a military fraud and phony is as important and vital as, say, the right to choose one’s religion.

In other words, false speech has greater Constitutional heft than some true speech.

Wow.

In a concurring opinion, Justices Breyer and Kagan wrote that the law was unconstitutional as written, but provided some suggestions for rewriting it to pass constitutional muster. But legislators now reckon with the tough fact that any rewrite not only must please these two liberals, it has to do it without losing the three conservatives who were ready to uphold the original act. And politicians must be keenly aware that the wannabes that this law threatened far outnumber the real SF, SEALs, Rangers and whatnot.

We may revise these opinions in a day or two after reading the actual opinion and some informed comment, which we hope to find at Volokh and other law-prof sites.

Somewhere, phony SF officer John Giduck is high-fiving someone, probably somebody associated with Russian intelligence.

Travis Thursday! (Travis Mills Update)

A somewhat blurry still from Travis’s brief walking-lessons video. Go man go!

We’re going to make Thursdays officially Travis Thursdays, and that we we don’t forget to bring you an update on the tough paratrooper who’s adapting to life without limbs — or without, shall we say, the factory equipment, because the physicians and technicians at Walter Reed have been outfitting him with prostheses.

You’ve already seen his prosthetic hand, well, this week we can send you to Facebook for a video of Travis’s progress at walking lessons. Travis is walking in “shorties,” short prostheses that are part of the amputee’s version of training wheels (the braces/crutches on his arms are another part of the same rig, and he wears a harness attached to a ceiling track to mitigate any fall).

(This also is our atonement for not having a Wednesday Weapons Website this week. We had a couple of ideas but they were all kind of blah. Better to wait and find a good one for next week).

Anyway, it’s been busy for Travis over the last ten days or so. He and Kelsey celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary on the 21st. He’s also met a bunch of interesting people, including a World War II vet and Marine triple-amputee Tyler Southern — who taught him some tricks and can bee seen at the link running on his shorties. (Tyler also lost parts of his remaining hand).Tyler intends to stay in the USMC. He’s been dealing with his amputations for about a year longer than Travis, and now he’s sharing some of his tips for practical living with the new guy. Travis says:

He’s a badass. He’s one of the gentlemen I met here at Walter Reed. He’s the true meaning of an American hero. And a champion. He helps me and inspires me everyday, showing me where I want to be and what I can achieve. With a good sense of humor, smile, and the heart of a lion he “steps up” to help the newly injured warriors come to terms with our new normal. He also taught me how to get on and off the floor from my couch, to play with my daughter, all by myself.

Travis and Kelsey’s daughter Chloe was born while he was in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of our soldiers and Marines have suffered amputations as a result of their injuries in Afghanistan or Iraq, but triple amputees like Tyler are very rare, and there have been only a few surviving quadruple amputees like Travis.

As always, the best source for Travis’s updates is his own web page, but we’re going to keep posting them here weekly because, frankly, the guts of this man and his family is an inspiration to us. One always feels better about the human race after contact with guys like Travis and Tyler, and Navy EOD guy Taylor Morris, another quad amputee who also has his own web page with a journal kept, at this point, mostly by his girlfriend Danielle Kelly.

Go Ahead. Make My Day.

One last splash of empty-headed celebrity worship, then eternal silence from this failed human being. That would be a good thing.

On second thought, use pills. We’re sure you have plenty. Guns don’t deserve the cloud of bad press that follows you.

On third thought, isn’t she a felon? A few years back ATF busted some teenage gal who’d been caught up in some BF’s drug ring and pled out, and later posed for a picture holding a gun that belonged to the professional photographer. She went to Federal prison for many years. Because ATF has to do something to offset the guns they deliver to the Sinaloa cartel. Thanks for looking out for public safety!

Update: we’ve checked and this one-woman crime wave has always been able to plead her felonies down to misdemeanors. Then she gets probation, and breaks it. So she’s not a felon in possession — yet.

TSA Dumps Human Remains… Laughs

Just when you think you’ve seen the nadir of corruption, misconduct, and impunity from the TSA, and they can’t surprise you any more, they mark a new perigee of malfeasance. TV6 Indianapolis reports:

John Gross, a resident of Indianapolis’ south side, was leaving Florida with the remains of his grandfather — Mario Mark Marcaletti, a Sicilian immigrant who worked for the Penn Central Railroad in central Indiana — in a tightly sealed jar marked “Human Remains…”

“They opened up my bag, and I told them, ‘Please, be careful. These are my grandpa’s ashes,’” Gross told RTV6′s Norman Cox. “She picked up the jar. She opened it up…. She used her finger and was sifting through it. And then she accidentally spilled it.”

Gross says about a quarter to a third of the contents spilled on the floor, leaving him frantically trying to gather up as much as he could while anxious passengers waited behind him.

She didn’t apologize. She started laughing. I was on my hands and knees picking up bone fragments.”

Emphasis ours. No-one good, decent, moral or honest is employed by TSA in any capacity whatsoever. These payroll patriots illustrate the depressing fact that every society, however great, contains within it the sort of inhuman monsters that staffed the Gulags and the Einsatzgruppen.

Mr Gross has asked for one thing: an apology. He’ll get it, of course, about the fifth of Never. That’s not how they roll.

We are waiting to hear reax from the TSA’s mealy-mouthed mouthpiece “Blogger Bob” Burns — who, Reason notes, is paid handsomely to mock TSA’s captive victims, and whom Flight Wisdom calls, aptly , “the Tokyo Rose of the modern age.” (Actually, he’s more like Lord Haw-Haw — he takes delight in serving evil, and is the only one who thinks he’s funny. What ever became of Haw-Haw, he’s not on the radio any more?). Over-under is: Bob won’t mention it, but he has probably joined the Grandad-dumper in a few peals of cruel, mocking laughter. That’s the sort of man he is. A TSA man.

No one good, decent, moral, or honest is or ever has been employed by TSA.

Hat tip, Jim Treacher: DC Trawler | The Daily Caller.

Update1: Here’s Blogger Bob’s denial of a previous case of TSA grave robbery. They didn’t do it, they never saw the bag, they never make mistakes. The critics are liars — all of them.  The TSA workers are all saints — especially the thieves and pervs. The chocolate ration is being raised from 30 to 20 grams. And we have always been at war with Eastasia.

Update 2: Here’s yet a third case of mishandled cremains, although in this case it was TSA combining with US Airways to ascend its usual pinnacles of imbecility, immorality, incompetence and indifference.  (We give you alliteration in alphabetic order. Because we’re cool like that).

Schofield’s Treatise on Discipline

Thanks to the same retired-but-still-serving anonymous colonel who raised the subject in the first place. This was part of a lecture that Major General John M. Schofield delivered at West Point.

The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others, cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself, while he who feels, and hence manifests disrespect towards others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.

This is a brilliant and heartfelt paragraph. It is, as the good colonel notes, beaten into officer cadets at various points in their upbringing. But what is interesting is that at the time Schofield delivered the address (to the graduating Class of 1879), it was rather foreign to the discipline of the United States army, which was cruel and brutal. One career’s-length before,  at the time of the Mexican War, the Army’s toxic leadership was so bad that a large number of immigrant Irishmen defected to the Mexican side, forming an entire regiment, the San Patricios, of American deserters.

Of course, the San Patricios didn’t do well. If you’re going to change sides, changing from the winning to the losing side is usually non-habit-forming.

(No, the Schofield who made this speech is not the same one who was involved with the eponymous Smith & Wesson top-break revolver; the speechmaker is the older brother, the revolver guy the junior).