Monday, October 31, 2005

Over the weekend I was finally able to watch Gunner Palace, a documentary that follows the solders of an First Armored Division artillery battery based in Iraq. I also caught several episodes of Off To War, a show on the Discovery Times channel that follows the soldiers from an Arkansas National Guard Cavalry outfit.

I realize this is a long winded review of two shows that have been on the air for quite some time, but being able to get a good look at what these guys are going through had a deep impact on me. Both shows gave an interesting insight into the situation in Iraq, although since the shows were made between 12-18 months ago they might be a bit dated.

What was interesting beyond the footage and getting to know the troops, was the difference in opinion on their situations in Iraq. The regular army guys were not so much more gung ho as less upset with their being in Iraq, while the Guardsmen were not happy at all. These guys tended to be much older, late 30s to 40s, which means they left families and jobs. It was hard to watch the families as they endured a variety of hardships, financial and personal, caused by the absence of the husbands, sons and brothers. The Guardsmen were as a whole very negative ab out the war and their current lot in life, which is understandable. This did not stop them from performing their tasks in an admirable fashion. They simply did not fully believe that the was was needed, much less their direct participation.

The artillerymen seemed to take it all in stride, which is understandable since this is their full time job. These guys were also a bit more upbeat about their mission, despite the fact that what they were doing is not something for which they were trained. Instead of firing their guns at an enemy 10 miles away the men were conducting mounted and ground patrols. Raiding homes and looking for weapons.

The programs also gave a great account of what Iraq looks like from the vantage point of an average soldier. Pretty dismal in my opinion. Every bag and box on a road can potentially kill you. Patrols are conducted down narrow car filled alleys, any one of which could be a car bomb.

Prior to seeing these shows my perception was the IED tended to go off on larger, highway type roads and that the soldiers could see trouble well ahead of time. This is far from the case.

I was also flabbergasted to see the soldiers patrolling in unamored Humvees and open backed trucks. There was also a scene where a soldier walked up to a black plastic bag that they thought might be an IED and gavie it a poke with his rifle. He said they all took turns checking these things. Now I believe engineers or explosive ordinance disposal troops are called in with specialized gear. These actions are a sign showing how far the military has come in adapting to the situation in Iraq.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Presidential Embarrassment

I think the most embarrassing aspect of the Valerie Plame investigation is the revelation, and constant repitition, that Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide I. Lewis Libby's nickname is Scooter.

Sure, the indictment stating he "broke the law" by leaking secret information to the press might turn him a little pink, but I would hide my face in shame if the world found out my nickname was Scooter.

Geez, isn't that name better suited for one of the Little Rascals or some kid who gets beat up all through the fourth grade. Personally, I think the nickname drove him to "allegedly" committ the crime. He was desparate to prove he was more macho then his nickname let on.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Death To Spam

For the thousands, I mean hundreds, I mean the one or two people who leave comments on my blog I apologize for having to add the verification tool. I just could not stand being disappointed after realizing the comment left was for renting summer homes on Long Beach Island instead of being a pat on the back thanking me for another insightful blog entry.

The White Sox Win The Series, The White Sox Win The Series, ah who cares

Besides the southside of Chicago nobody in the country seems to give two hoots that Ozzie and his band have won.

I watched the games off and on, all were good, close games with lots of drama, but since I have to go to work in the morning I never saw past the seventh inning. Two games ended so late that my morning paper did not have the results. I'm not going to go into one of those "think about the children" arguments which state that the game will die because it's not generating new fans.

That's been said for years and is false. What is going to happen is the game will lose the people who love baseball in addition to their hometown team. Me, I like the Mets. I don't really care about the playoffs if the Mets are not involved, which means I rarely care about the playoffs. If the Yankees are involved then I'm forced to follow it because every NY media outlet screams about the games. But otherwise I'm pretty blase'. I guess I'm just not that much of a fan.

But getting back to my point, those people who love baseball and have to get up in the morning are simply not going to watch. I would love to see if the Neilsen ratings show viewership fall off after 11pm East Coast time. Maybe Bud Selig and company could be convinced to push the start times up an hour and dump the stupidity like Latin Awards night or whatever it was that took place before Game Four.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Death of the NY Times

Here is a quick diatribe on why the Judith Miller situation has become such an issue at the New York Times. It was originally written for CBSMarketwatch's Jon Friedman in response to a story he wrote.

I’ve been a journalist for 20 years. While I’ve never been a staffer on a major daily, I’ve worked on small papers and now work as an editor for a business trade publication. I say this so you and your readers will understand that I have some basis for what I’m about to write.

As a reader I cannot trust the Times, as a journalist I am appalled at how that organization functions. In my opinion Times’ reporters feel that once they have made it to this level, arguably the top of the profession, they are beyond reproach by editors or the public. The editors feel that no reporter could get to the Times without being perfect journalists, so why question the copy.

For me it is easy to see how this situation has come about.

I frequently see NY Times reporters at press events and I watch how they operate. This may sound outrageous, but Times reporters are lazy. They are accustomed, in many cases, to being handed the news. In my little corner of the journalism world Times, and also Wall Street Journal, reporters are handed stories by corporations before it is widely disseminated. I’m sure the same thing happens with those covering politics and other national topics. Politicians and the makers and shakers in Washington all want to be mentioned in the Times so info is sneaked out to a select few journalists. Granted, I do not expect my publication to have the level of pull as the Times or Journal, but I think this level of access allows the Times reporters to sit back and suck in the raw data then pump out stories. They believe that since the information is coming from the highest sources it does not need to be checked.

“If I can’t trust the vice president’s chief of staff then who I can trust,” is a common thought, I believe.

While this is not too dangerous when covering new consumer electronic products, it is when national policy is the topic.

Then there is the entire issue of journalists as celebrities. The advent of the talking head TV news show has propelled many journalists to an entirely new level. Journalists are not short on ego, believe me. When they are launched from being a faceless, nobody sitting at a keyboard to a person whose opinion is sought after by other journalists then watch out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Not Enough Hatred

This blog does not have enough server space to list all the differences between Muslims and the rest of the world, but here is a brief example.

Everyone, Christian or Jew, has probably watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. It's a cute show with a cute story and a cute moral. Same holds true for The Grinch, Rudolph, etc. However, in the Islamic world simply life lessons are just not enough.

So the Jordanian film industry has come up with this wonderful holiday show. Check it out on the synapsis and clips MEMRI.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Gun's Don't Make People Safe

One of the National Rifle Association's beliefs is that guns help keep people safe. Its basic theory has always been that if everyone were armed then crimminals would be to scared to act.

Well, that theory has been proven false in Brazil, but it seems the average Brazilian doesn't understand the situation. That country just held a referendum on banning gun and ammunition sales and the pro-gun side won grabbing 64% of the vote. Brazil has a higher gun ownership level then even the United States and it also experienced more then 36,000 deaths by firearm last year.

According to Bloomberg News: Brazil is the world's leader in gun deaths and its urban centers, including the seaside city of Rio de Janeiro, are among the most violent anywhere. Brazil's annual rate of gun death has climbed to 21.7 per 100,000 people, second only to Venezuela among 57 countries surveyed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in a June 2005 survey. The U.S.'s rate was 10.3.

There are more than 17 million firearms in Brazil, of which nine million are not registered, according to the Higher Institute of Religious Studies, which carried out a study with non-governmental groups Rio Alive and Small Arms Survey.
About 36,000 Brazilians a year are killed by firearms -- more than cancer or traffic accidents, its government said.

A coincidence. I'm sure the NRA does not think so.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

No Sense of Proportion

Spain has indicted three US soldiers who they say murdered a Spanish TV cameraman during the intitial attack on Baghdad in 2003.

You might remember the incident. The tank fired into a hotel room where Jose Couso was filming killing him. For the full story see CNN. The actual warrant states the soldiers are wanted for "murder" and "a crime against the international community."

What international community? How vague is that.

While this man's death is a tragedy, there no crime was committed. Couso went to a war zone. What did he expect? War zones are dangerous. Journalists are killed all the time. Couso was not targeted, the killing was not premeditated, it was an accident of war.

That the soldiers on both sides could tell if a person 500 yards away, inside a building is a friend of foe. That soldiers in the midst of a battle can take everyone safety into consideration? This was not a police action in New York City or Madrid. This was an urban battle where the soldiers had to react to dangers, both perceived and real, with deadly force.

The true point of this legalistic excersize, in my mind, is that Spain is trying to make the war appear illegal and denigrate U.S. actions.

The bright side of the story is the soldiers will never be turned over to the Spanish government. The negative aspect is these guys will have to look over their shoulder if they ever travel internationally because there will be an international arrest warrant out for them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hyperbole Unleashed

There is a great quote from The Simpsons' character news anchorman Kent Brockman that goes:

"Ladies and gentlemen, I've been to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq and I can say without hyperbole that this is a million times worse than all of them put together."

He said this in reference to a summer camp uprising staged by Bart at Kamp Krusty. The kids took over, ran wild, etc. Anyway, reality imitated art today on when columnist Jayson Stark made this comment regarding Luis Pujoles game winning home run Monday night.

"But it was a swing, a baseball, a moment that seemed to change the world."

Seemed to change the world? Come on. Revolutions, great discoveries, acts of incredible bravery, these change the world. Not a home run that simply extended the playoffs another game. Now, I'm a pretty big baseball fan. I love the Mets and the 1986 World Series will always stand out in my mind as a great event, but it did not change the world.

I do not intend to denigrate sports, as it is capable of changing the world. Jackie Robinson and Jessie Owens are two cases that come to mind.

But for Stark to equate what is truly an amazing win with a world changing event is foolish and it is part of the reason the media is distrusted by so many people. Journalistic perspective is skewed so far from reality that it losing all meaning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yankee Fans Are the Greatest....

....complainers in the world.

It's been three days since the Yanks lost to the Angels and you should read the headlines in the NY tabloids or listen to sports radio. The papers have blamed the loss on everything from Joe Torre's managerial ability to global warming. Meanwhile the fans on the radio just don't seem to get the idea that your team simply will not win every World Series. They bitch and moan, curse A-Rod for hitting into a double play to end the series, complain that Randy Johnson can't pitch, Giambi can't field, and on and on.

It's the same drivel every time the Yanks get knocked out. So after years of reflecting upon this I have come to this conclusion. Many Yankee fans have a massive inferiority complex that can only be negated by having their team win. No win, more inferiority.

I realize that many sports fan gain self-esteem by closely associating themselves with a sports team, but Yankee fans take this to an extreme.

But you might say the above statement is nothing more then a normal bile-filled rant that all NY Mets fans generate in October because there team tends to spend October golfing instead of playing. Well, that is simply not true. I am so used to switching to football and hockey that the lack of Mets' playoff time does not bother me. I don't expect them to do well so I am rarely disappointed. When they do scrape together a winning team it's simply that much better.

So there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blogger Spam

Blogger spam is something I noticed a month or so ago when my comments section experienced its largest single day level of interest with seven people leaving notes.

Yes, seven is not exactly a landslide, but I was pretty impressed. In addition my stat counter registered 70 or so hits, which was pretty close to a record high. I was so full of myself that I did not even closely read the comments and it wasn't until the next day that I realized they were all kind of vague and included links to sites that had nothing to do with blogging, but everything to do with selling diet pills or pushing religion.

I have to give the spam bloggers credit. They played me like a fiddle. These people knew that bloggers crave attention and would like click into their sites without paying any attention. After all if you are nice enough to leave a kind comment on my blog the least I can do is visit your site...

I guess everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame.

Friday, October 07, 2005

NYC Terror Threat

There is nothing like going to work wondering if you will end up being an unwilling participant in a terrorist attack, but that was my situation this morning as I cruised into New York on the Long Island Railroad.

With Mayor Bloomberg and the FBI citing semi-credible sources that pointed to an immanent attack on the city subways, commuters all across the metro area were able to wonder if their normally dull trips would be kicked up a notch by some lunatic looking to hook up with 72 virgins in allah's heaven.

Penn Station, my main entry point into the city, was shut down for awhile this morning when a suspicious package was found. It turned out to be a bag with a can of soda inside, not evil soda, just the regular kind. Hopefully, that will be it for today.

However, if sex is what these guys want, there are better ways to get it in NY. Maybe the police and FBI should round up a few dozen hookers and present them as a peace offering to the sex-starved terrorists? We have entire avenues populated with women, and men dressed as women, who would be more then happy to comply with the terrorists wishes for a small sum of money. In the strictest interpretation of virgin these women might not be "virgins" but spending meaningful hour with a somewhat experienced, non-virgin has to be better then exploding all over the A train.

This brings me to what I consider to be the primariy reason behind the terrorists behavior. Muslims are among the most up tight people on the face of the Earth. Even evangelical Christians have more fun then your average Taliban or bin Laden follower. What Iraq really needs is a good happy hour bar. Some place to loosen up, have a beer and goggle the burkha wearing women over in the corner. Mentally undressing them until you can almost imagine what their ankles look like.

This is healthy behavior and once the guys start chasing the women they will have no time for anything else.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I Have Returned

No Gen. Douglas MacArthur has not dug himself out of his grave, but I've finally had some time to come back to Rear View Mirror.

Oddly, my first post in over a month will feature someone else's writing. As anyone who has read through my earlier posts I'm a supporter of the Iraq war. The linked column was written by former NY City Mayor Ed Koch. A pretty liberal Democrat who helped save NY City from a horrible fiscal crisis 25 years ago. His column, which appeared in the Jewish World Review contains many of the same conclusions that I have discussed here, but it is written in a much clearer and succinct fashion. Admitting that there is someone who wrote a better story is never easy for any journalist, but in this case I tip my hat to Ed.

Please take the time to check out Speak up America! Sheehan has spent her sympathy .