Thursday, June 30, 2005

They're going the way of the dodo...

I normally hate it when people post song lyrics, but this song sums up my feelings about politicians nicely.

I see a white haired man, he's got a suit on hand
He's telling people how they're supposed to live
Nobody's listening to the politician
No matter what sage advice he has to give

He's got a clumsy, outdated m.o.
And he's come to a fork in the road
And there is only one direction to go

Among the commuters, dwarfed by the skyscrapers
I watch the countless millions fighting for space
See hateful, petty acts, disjointed images,
And can't believe that I'm one of the same race

We're all just struggling to cope
And we come to a fork in the road
As we watch our foundations erode
There's only one direction to go

It's the way of the dodo
Such a noble destiny
It's the waltz of desperation
Passed along to you and me

The way of the dodo

It's the gray stuff in your head
It's the pulse of the living and the voices of the dead

- Bad Religion, The Dodo

And it reminds me of the George Santayana quote: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

ARNEWS picks up Fulton story

Nice! Army News Service (ARNEWS) picked up my story on Capt. Fulton today. For those unfamiliar, ARNEWS is the Army's wire service, sort of like AP or UPI for military papers. All material on ARNEWS is essentially press release, so no subscription is required to run it.

Thanks, guys in charge!


UPDATE: In my excitement to brag about being picked up by ARNEWS, I didn't notice that the version there is slightly abridged. No big deal - but the original story is

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mudville Gazette's Open Post.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Someone's with me on the separation of church and state issue

"Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Render unto God what is God's."
Jesus of Nazareth

I think that's a pretty convincing case for my earlier post. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Texans.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Sports Commentary - The Circus is in Town

I whipped up this commentary today. No shortage of weird stuff going on in the sports world these days:

(Working title)

The Circus is in town!

Turret Sports Editor

There are dry spells, I've found, when it comes to finding material for a good sports commentary. Maybe it's been a while since a good controversy, or maybe no professional athletes have done anything incredibly stupid lately, or maybe I haven't heard of any new "sports" that involve the Dukes of Hazzard losing fingers.

This is not one of those spells. In fact, so much has gone on in the past three weeks that it's hard to pick one subject to write about. That's why bullets were invented.

So let's get rolling.

- Just as Michael Jackson has served as both a headline and a punch line for newswriters, "Iron" Mike Tyson is doing the same for sports. He's lived in the "freaks" category for so long that the spot he moved into years ago actually has a real-estate appreciation rate.

I was fortunate enough to attend Tyson's bout with Danny Williams last year in Louisville, which was billed as "The Revenge." Everyone talked about how it was going to be Mike's come-back fight, that he was going to reclaim what he'd given up years before.

Four rounds and three knee ligaments later, those of us who grew up in the "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out" era shrugged our collective shoulders and figured, "Well, I guess he's done."

A year later, we all found out that he wasn't quite ready to quit - well, at least his creditors weren't ready to let him quit. Talk about Mike Tyson vs. Kevin McBride sounded exactly the same as the buzz surrounding Tyson vs. Williams.

Only this time, when Tyson hit the ropes in the sixth round, there were no torn ligaments to blame. Tyson quit, and said he's retiring.

The amazing thing is that we closet Tyson supporters actually put ourselves through the mental gymnastics required to be surprised at the outcome.

Tyson's career as the champ is over, but as ESPN's Skip Bayless put it, "He'll 'fight' again, even if it's against a chimpanzee on roller skates."

- File this next piece in the "I can't believe what some people will let out of their mouths" category. Formula One racing has been in the news lately, and that's thanks in no small way to Danica Patrick, the first female driver to lead a lap at the Indianapolis 500, in which she placed fourth.

Some "good old boys" don't seem particularly pleased with Patrick's ground-breaking success, notably F1 president and CEO Bernie Ecclestone, who said, "Women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances."

Doc, give me the keys to the DeLorean. Somehow, I've been transported to 1955, and I need to get back to the future.

This should be simple. If Dale Earnhardt, Jr., can't let one exuberant four-letter word slip during a post-race press appearance, and if Randy Moss can't pretend - PRETEND - to moon a football audience, then the president of F1 racing can't make insane sexist comments about a driver.

- Do the Vegas bookies take karma into consideration when they figure the odds on championships? They should, and anyone who doesn't believe me didn't watch the NBA Finals last weekend. Detroit fans have a lot of making up to do for a certain Pacers/Pistons incident earlier this season.


"Free speech - to everyone who agrees with us!"

Over the past few weeks, I've been getting into conversations with friends and colleagues about the role of religion in government. Certain things tend to spark this:

1 - The insistence of some people to hold on to the "Under God" segment of our Pledge of Allegiance,
2 - Attempts to justify, by these same people, the presence of the Ten Commandments in public structures, and
3 - Any discussion of separation of church and state.

My position, in a nutshell - As soon as government does anything that has to do with religion, other than guarantee its free practice, government has overstepped its stated authority.

Why? Well, basically because that's the entire premise the United States was originally founded on. English Puritans were sick of religious persecution at the hands of government, so they braved the rather rotten trip across the Atlantic Ocean and started up their own country here (after displacing some pesky natives).

Let's skip the colonialism issue for now.

In the United States Constitution, the word "God" does not appear. Not even once. Nowhere. I've looked. Is that because America was founded by a bunch of godless atheists? Not remotely - in fact, the cultural sting of Puritanism can still be felt today (try buying a fifth of Jack Daniels on Sunday).

The point was to distance the practice of religion as far from the exercise of government as possible, thereby ensuring that both were free to operate in their respective fields. Government would look after the safety, well-being, and liberty of its people, and religion would provide them with the transcendence sought by each faith. "...And never the twain shall meet," or something along those lines.

Fast forward about 150 years to the big Pinko-Commie-Red Scare, which happens to be around the time we inserted the words "Under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance. That lasted until around now, and kids such as myself grew up happily repeating the Pledge at the beginning of school without having even the vaguest notion as to what it actually meant.

Which brings us to issue number one - "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Why does that three-syllable phrase so desperately have to stay in the Pledge, according to some corners? I can't get my mind around it. If you're stringently religious, what difference does it make to your own experience of faith whether the word "God" appears in a compulsory pledge or not? Does the presence or non-presence of the word "God" have any impact whatsoever on your faith? Tell you what, don't answer that yet.

Same argument for the Ten Commandments, which are upheld in one form or another by all religions that cite what's known to Christianity as the Old Testament. Members of those faiths who have the devotion enough to be activist about their beliefs certainly don't need their faith validated by the presence of the Ten Commandments on state or federal property, correct? Surely, the faith of those pushing for placing the Ten Commandments in and around state property is strong enough to withstand not seeing them when they go to pay a traffic ticket.

And I think it's safe to stipulate on both these points that there is a certain section of the population that does not believe either in God or in a set of Ten Judeo-Christian Commandments.

But even if there wasn't, who cares? Why do religious symbols need to be present in governmental pledges, buildings, or parks?

I've thought about this a bit, and I think I've figured out the answer. It's a collective, grassroots, and perhaps unconscious method of alienating people with different beliefs. I'd wager that no one behind movements to put prayer into schools or the Ten Commandments into our courthouses actually thinks that the outcome of their lobbying, successful or not, will have any impact on their own individual faith. But they do know that some people don't share that faith... and maybe by asserting their ability as the majority to get what they want, they can keep "outsiders" out of sight.

Personally, I've been religious all my life. I grew up in a very Catholic family, and I've come to realize that the exercise of religion is only really valid when it's a free choice that's made by an individual, without coercion of any kind.

That means I don't want the government involved in anything that has to do with God. And it's not just because I want to practice religion freely, it's also because the government has no damn business meddling in religion. Religion, as it is practiced, is outside the government's - any government's - authority. And any time the government does anything with regards to religion, other than make sure that each and every one of its citizens are able to practice it freely, they've overstepped that authority.

So keep the Ten Commandments out of the public schools, courthouses, and parks. And while we're at it, let's ditch the Pledge of Allegiance altogether. There's no sense in making anyone repeat some mindless oath when the only people to whom it means anything already are faithful to their country.

And, wrapping this all up, is anyone else slightly bothered by the fact that at the same time that different courts are giving the go-ahead to certain communities (in Texas, surprise, surprise) to post the tenets of a specific religious code on their public buildings, Congress is pushing through a proposed amendment to ban the burning of the American Flag?

I realize these are two separate bodies, but the trend is slightly frightening. Banning flag-burning only cheapens the act of not burning a flag.

I can't help but hear the message: "Free speech for everyone who agrees with us!"

That's not the country I signed up to help defend.


Attempts to get traffic from The Mudville Gazette, Michelle Malkin, and Power Line.

Dark headlines at Army Times

The July 4 edition of ArmyTimes is on newsstands, and the tabloid-format has this as its cover art:

The captain watched his drill
sergeants rough up trainees.
Then he lied. Now he's...

I'm a bit miffed. The story is by ArmyTimes staffer Joseph Chenelly, and credits AP writer Dylan Lovan as a source. Chenelly was not present at the trial, and his story uses quotes from my account, and several paragraphs are pretty similar:

Turret version: "The video, shot with a hand-held personal camera, shows trainees arriving at Company E in a bus and what was referred to in testimony as a 'shark attack' by the company's drill sergeants.

"In the shaky video, trainees are rushed into formation outside the company barracks as drill sergeants scream at them, sometimes with two or more NCOs only inches from a trainee's face. Witnesses said that the 'shark attack' went on for about an hour before the trainees were moved inside the barracks."

ArmyTimes version: "The shaky footage showed the drill sergeants on Feb. 3 first receiving the recruits. The tape had been shot by a sergeant using his personal camera. Prosecutors identified Fulton as a person seen standing near the sergeants during a 'shark attack' -- a chaotic period in which drill sergeants swarm the recruits and scream at them."

Nah, it's not exactly plagiarism or anything. But it would have been nice to get a nod. Oh well. "Rich and/or famous" BroGonzo may not materialize for a while yet.


Sunday, June 26, 2005

Flag-burning ban

Cox & Forkum have my feelings about the proposed anti-flag-burning amendment here:


Sunday afternoon update

Well, it's been the better part of a week since I've posted anything here, and I suppose part of that is because I've been slightly lost as to my theme or message or genre or muse... or any other excuse you might want to add.

The Fulton trial story didn't quite generate the interest I thought it might, but I suppose it makes sense on retrospect. AP's picked the story up, and the rest of the local and Army media got themselves hopped up over the first trial - U.S. vs. Price.

Whatever. Onward to bigger and better things, I suppose.

The weekend's been solitary for the most part. I went outside Friday night long enough to make an ill-advised comment to Numb-nuts that may or may not have been about the female duty sergeant, who happened to be hiding around the corner eavesdropping on the conversation. I assured her that what I'd said was meant to demean Numb-nuts, but she didn't see it that way, and I can probably count on having to explain the incident to our friendly neighborhood first sergeant tomorrow.

Saturday I went to see George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, which absolutely did not disappoint. I've mentioned before that I'm a bit of a zombie fan, and if you share this interest, do not miss this one. Sure, Romero's previous movies have been gruesome, funny, and socially-conscious, but think of what the guy can do with many more millions of dollars at his disposal.

Plus, Dennis Hopper's plutocratic dictator gets in a few zingers, including, "Zombies, man. They creep me out." It's moments like that that make zombie movies worth going to.

Well, that, and also zombie heads exploding. Which brings me to a bit of an advisory - if you're squeamish about blood, guts, and dead people eating humans who may still be slightly alive, you should probably pass up Land of the Dead. There is gore to spare, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the zombie genre.

Also, Romero takes on a few issues relevant to today's society, including class disparity. But I thought the more pointed commentary - although it was understated - was on America's post-9/11 security mindset. Land's city is walled off from the rest of the world, which is overrun with the walking dead. Unfortunately, for many of the movie's suit-wearing extras, the very security systems designed to keep the zombies in are what wind up trapping them once the "stenches" break through.

Enough on that. New episodes of Family Guy and American Dad are airing tonight, and I'll be catching those for sure. In the past couple weekends, American Dad has actually been funnier than its predecessor.

Now it's time to get back to the wide world of the Internet. Maybe I'll find something about the bully in England who got drunk, held a "friend" down, and, with a buddy, shaved this friend and painted him green, in order to make him look like Shrek. He's going to jail for 27 months.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Fulton draws six months, will stay in the Army

Army captain gets six months
confinement for role in trainee abuse

Turret Staff Writer

A Fort Knox captain accused of dereliction of duty, false swearing, and trainee maltreatment was sentenced Tuesday to six months confinement by a general court-martial held in Pike Hall on post.

Capt. William Fulton pleaded not guilty to charges of willful dereliction of duty, maltreatment of subordinates, and false swearing when the court-martial began Monday, and was found guilty of the lesser charge of negligent dereliction of duty and of false swearing.

Fulton was found not guilty of the maltreatment charges in connection with allegations of abuse of trainees while commanding Company E, 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, a One Station Unit Training company in the 1st Armor Training Brigade.

The court did not dismiss Fulton from the Army, and his sentence is pending approval from the court-martial convening authority, Maj. Gen. Terry Tucker, the Fort Knox commander.

Lt. Col. Richard Anderson was the presiding military judge in the court-martial.

Representing the United States in the case, prosecutors Capt. Steve Berlin and Capt. Joseph Krill alleged that Fulton had personally abused a Company E recruit, supposedly punching a trainee in the stomach while attempting to take away his inhaler during the initial basic training contraband shakedown.

"(Fulton) grabbed my hand and in one motion punched me in the chest," one former trainee testified.

He was also accused of standing by and watching as another Soldier was thrown by the collar of his field jacket through a door on the second floor of the Company E barracks by a company drill sergeant.

The recruits arrived at Company E Feb. 3, and at 5 p.m. on Feb. 4, Fulton signed out of his unit on leave, traveling to Germany. He was called back to Fort Knox early by Lt. Col. Chester Dymek, the 1/81 Armor Battalion commander, to talk with Criminal Investigation Division agents who were investigating the abuse charges.

Dymek said Fulton expressed "disbelief" when he was told about the investigation.

"He did say one thing, that he'd do anything to protect his drill sergeants," Dymek said.

Day Zero chaos

One of the most contentious pieces of evidence was a videotape introduced by defense counsel Capt. Paul Streetman, Fulton's Army-appointed attorney.

The video, shot with a hand-held personal camera, shows trainees arriving at Company E in a bus and what was referred to in testimony as a "shark attack" by the company's drill sergeants.

In the shaky video, trainees are rushed into formation outside the company barracks as drill sergeants scream at them, sometimes with two or more NCOs only inches from a trainee's face. Witnesses said that the "shark attack" went on for about an hour before the trainees were moved inside the barracks.

Fulton said the intense atmosphere was part of the program for basic training.

"You create an environment of stress," he said. "It's to develop and build cohesion in the unit... There's actually structure and reasoning to what we do."

Sgt. 1st Class Paul Holley, a senior drill sergeant with Co. E, said that he left the "shark attack" before it was over.

"In my eyes, it was not the way I would have conducted an initial pickup," he said. "The whole nature of the situation wasn't even right. There was too much chaos and no plan... I didn't want to be a part of it."

Fulton testified that he had not witnessed any instances of abuse during the trainees' Feb. 3 arrival at his company, and denied being involved in any abuse himself.

"It was a pretty standard pickup," he said. "I actually rode in the bus with the (trainees on their way to the company from the Reception Station) and gave them my in-brief... it's a calm before the storm."

The video showed trainees grabbing their Army-issue duffle bags and personal gear in preparation for heading into the barracks for the shakedown.

One recruit testified that Fulton had been holding the door on the second floor landing as the trainees entered. Fulton said he followed the trainees, entering the second floor hallway only after they had all gone in themselves.

In the video, however, Fulton does not appear at the door.

During the shakedown, Fulton said, a drill sergeant approached him and handed him an inhaler, saying, "Sir, we have a problem."

Medication without an accompanying prescription is considered contraband in basic training.

Fulton said he took the inhaler back to the room of a trainee, and asked the trainee if he had any other contraband.

The trainee produced "four or five" other medications, as well as a pamphlet on "How to spot tuberculosis," Fulton said.

Fulton said he told the drill sergeants to "immediately cease" training the recruit until his medical records could be reviewed.

However, the prosecution also cited the video, saying that it clearly showed abuse of trainees.

Krill asked an instructor with the Cadre Training Course, a required six-day class for all 1st ATB training cadre, about what could be considered "appropriate" touching of trainees by instructors.

"Would hitting a trainee in the chest be appropriate physical contact?" the prosecutor asked.

"No, sir," the instructor replied.

"Would slamming a Soldier into a wall locker?"

"No, sir."

"How about choking a trainee?"

"No, sir."

Berlin and Krill argued that behavior of that type had indeed occured in Company E under Fulton's watch. According to Training and Doctrine Command Regulation 350-6, drill sergeants are only authorized to touch Soldiers in training to prevent a safety violation, in a medical emergency, or to correct a uniform deficiency.

Trainees testified that they were slammed into wall lockers, kicked, and struck during the indoor portion of the "shark attack," and that the abuse continued the next day.

"It defies reason to think that on 3 February, Captain Fulton was on the second floor while all this was going on, and just missed it," Krill said during the prosecution's closing arguments.

Contradictory testimony

Streetman drew attention to the fact that statements made by Company E Soldiers immediately after the alleged incidents contradicted testimony they gave during the court-martial, and that in the five months that had elapsed since the abuse, their recollection of events may have been tainted.

"This case turns on perception," he said in his opening statement. "The chaos of that (first) day... hampered their ability to perceive correctly."

Streetman asked the trainees how they felt when they learned about the result of U.S. vs. Price, the first of four special courts-martial held in connection with the alleged abuse. The Soldiers testified that some members of the platoon had been upset over what they felt was a relatively "light" sentence received by Price -- reduction in rank from sergeant first class to staff sergeant, and no confinement.

"Their perception today is tainted by their bias -- perhaps even motive to fabricate," he said.

One trainee said he'd been present during abuse that he said Fulton witnessed, and testified that he recognized Fulton that day, Feb. 4, because he saw Fulton clad in a physical training uniform, wearing a reflective vest with "CPT FULTON" written on the chest portion of the vest.

But Fulton, who has a physical profile due to an injury he suffered while deployed in Iraq, said he rarely ever wore his PT uniform, and was on that day dressed in Class A uniform in preparation for his scheduled commander's briefing to the new Company E trainees.

Fulton said he did have a reflective vest matching the Soldier's description, but that it was "probably somewhere in Bowling Green, Kentucky."

Master Sgt. Todd Brown, the Company E first sergeant at the time who had been cleared of wrongdoing by the investigation, corroborated Fulton's statement about his uniform.

One trainee, who was eventually discharged from the Army for medical reasons, changed his testimony after seeing the video.

According to testimony, after the Price trial, Company E trainees found themselves under increased pressure from peers and cadre. Their platoon was reviled by other Soldiers in the battalion, who referred to the platoon by derisive names, according to witnesses.

In his closing argument, Streetman said that gave the trainees reason for bias in their testimony.

"Over five months, (they developed) a desire to band together against those who they perceived to have wronged them," he said. "Their recollection is now seen through the prism of being called the 'Pout-laws' and the 'Special Ed' platoon."


After Anderson returned with the verdict, Streetman called several witnesses to testify to Fulton's character during the pre-sentencing phase.

Among them was the captain's father, Robert Fulton, a retired Army major and Vietnam War veteran who served for more than 20 years.

Robert Fulton said his son should remain in the military.

"He was born to be in the Army," Robert Fulton said, "just like I was. It means everything to him."

Krill and Berlin called several Company E trainees to the stand to testify.

Berlin asked one Soldier how Fulton's behavior had affected his view of the Army.

"Officers are, in my opinion, supposed to take responsibility for what happens under them," the Soldier said. "With what happened in Echo Company... I didn't see that happen."

Fulton made an unsworn statement after the defense and prosecution had rested.

"I love Soldiers," he said. "I love being a Soldier. There's no doubt about that. I've put my heart into everything I've done.

"Perhaps my experiences in the Army have jaded my perspective on what abuse is. To me, the greatest abuse is to see untrained Soldiers coming home from far away countries in body bags.

"But the ends did not justify the means," he went on. "I'd like to apologize to all my Soldiers for not being the leader they deserve."

Prosecutors recommended a sentence of three months of confinement and dismissal from the Army.

"(Fulton) placed loyalty to his drill sergeants above (his) mission," Krill said, "which was training the Soldiers of Echo Company... He showed them that taking an oath to be honest was meaningless.

"All Captain Fulton had to say was 'Stop,'" Krill said. "(He) needs to be shown that dereliction of duty by an officer in the United States Army cannot and will not be tolerated."

Anderson deliberated for almost an hour before returning to the courtroom with a sentence.

"No one should envy me the task of having to fashion a sentence here," he said before delivering his decision.

Under Article 13, Fulton received 45 days credit against his six-month sentence. Streetman will represent him when the court's decision is reviewed by the court-martial convening authority.

Fulton was the fourth member of Company E to be tried in connection with subordinate maltreatment. Staff Sgt. Brian Duncan's court-martial has been rescheduled for Aug. 18.


UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Knox captain found guilty of dereliction, false swearing

The general court-martial held for Capt. William Fulton, formerly the company commander for Company E, 1/81 Armor Regiment, concluded today, and I've just wrapped up my first draft of the story.

The AP and News-Enterprise were there, too.

Here's the
AP's version of the story, via Guardian Unlimited.

Here's the
Louisville Courier-Journal's take.

And here's the News-Enterprise's treatment. [Requires subscription]

Mine will post as soon as I've gotten it by the editors and public affairs officer. It weighs in at more than 1,700 words, and it includes a lot of testimony.

Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.


Monday, June 20, 2005

U.S. vs. Capt. William Fulton, Day 1

I covered the first day of the court-martial for Capt. William Fulton, accused of abuse and dereliction of duty in connection with the trainee abuse in Company E, 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment.

A couple of issues, right off the bat. First, the prosecution's witnesses still suffer from the same inability to tell a coherent story, even though it's clear that they've done some corroboration over the course of the past several weeks of trials.

This time, however, the defense counsel is taking advantage of that fact, and is pointing out the differences between the sworn statements the trainees made to investigating CID agents immediately after the alleged abuse, and the testimony they're providing at the ongoing trial.

Second, the defense brought in a video shot of the "Shark Attack" that happened as soon as the trainees arrived at Company E from Company B, 46th Adjutant General (Reception). This has done two things - it's established that parts of the trainees' stories are false, but it's also categorically proven that abuse technically did occur that day. Which means that the defense is going to have a hard time squirming out of the dereliction of duty charge.

More tomorrow. I'm off for a run.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Coming Friday - Zombies!

There's lots of talk going on now about Hollywood being in a historic summer slump, and I'm not helping. I'm just not excited about the movies coming out this summer - Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Nope. Angelina Jolie playing opposite Brad Pitt in some flashy assassin movie just seems like the bastard lovechild of Jerry Bruckheimer and John Woo. With maybe a Wachowski brother thrown in for good measure.

Fantastic Four? Thanks, I'll pass. I was more a Spiderman kid, and now that I'm not a kid, the latest Spiderman just seems stupid and mealy-mouthed. Given that
the Fantastic Four were always pretty lame, I won't be in line to see this superhero movie, either.

Maybe - Maybe - Batman Begins. I'm not sure, since the last few Batman biopics have sucked, thanks to casting
Val Kilmer and My Least Favorite Actor in the title roles. People I know who have seen it have said it's good, but if history is any lesson, people I know don't know anything about movies.

War of the Worlds might be worthwhile. But
Tom Cruise - and now Katie Holmes, too - is clinically insane, and Steven Spielberg's latest efforts have been self-indulgent yawners (well, at least A.I. was, and I'm still angry with him for that).

I am, however, looking forward to one film opening this Friday - George A. Romero's
Land of the Dead. I know what some of you are thinking - "Isn't that a zombie movie? Aren't zombie movies supposed to be horrible?"

The answers are "Yes" and "Well, yes, but..."

I like zombie movies, particularly Romero's, and here's why. The movies were always marketable because they were gory and shocking. The gross-out factor is always going to make lots of money (studio executives, please take note), because people like to be shocked. A prediction - anything rated "PG-13" this summer isn't going to make as much as you'd hoped. In fact, look at
Frank Miller's Sin City if you need evidence.

Back to the zombies. Without getting into too much plot analysis, it can be generally said that Romero's zombies are more plot devices than characters. That's an easy observation most miss, because they're too mortified by the fact that this or that zombie is missing parts of his face to realize that zombies have no lines (they're dead) and therefore are used for a very different purpose.

Another thing about zombies in Romero's movies is that they keep multiplying. There are more and more of them as time goes on (zombiism is spread, after the initial event that starts the whole process, by biting). What this all translates to is that the zombies are a force of nature, part of the environment that the surviving human characters are forced to deal with.

It's here that we start to see the real meat - heh - in zombie movies. The characters are forced to deal with the oncoming mob of reanimated corpses, and we usually find out that they are their own worst enemies. The zombie film became Romero's social commentary vehicle. I suppose we should be glad he didn't have blogs around when he made his first cult classic.

Anyway, I'll definitely be going to Land of the Dead. One other good thing about zombies is that they explode nicely.


UPDATE: Open Post at Mudville! Hooray for traffic overflow!

Iowahawk finds some Durbin memoranda

Ok, I'm about to go watch the latest episode of Family Guy, but Dad said I should check out Iowahawk's latest on the good Sen. Dick Durbin. It seems our pipe-smoking midwesterner has found some additional hyperbole from the bombastic politician. Check it out here.


As I witnessed one after another of your uniformed parking attendant shock troops invading my cul de sac with menacing SUVs, eventual blocking my driveway, I could not help but imagine the raw panic that must have gripped the doomed souls that inhabited the ghettos of Warsaw in 1939. Although the traffic jam eventually passed over when your took your adolescent blitzkreig on to Lazer FunZone, I am not sure I will ever fully recover from the trauma.

Never again, Mr. and Mrs. Epstein. Never again.


Senator Richard J. Durbin
Washington, DC

Truly, blogging gold.


Comedy and the truth

I've got to be honest. It's getting harder and harder to take this journalism thing seriously when usually, the people closest to the truth are comedians.

For instance, and this is what made me start thinking about this again, we've got Sen. Dick Durbin making yet another reference to Nazis this past week. Gallons of ink have been spilled in reaction to the Illinois democrat's comments, but I think, once again, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's Daily Show has it right. Check out the video.

Hat tip for this one goes to the Mudville Gazette.


Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all fathers, particularly to my own, who's stopped by here and commented as "Gonzopa."

Also, to all fathers currently deployed, come home safe.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Killer bees in Arkansas

Via the Washington Post:

BRIGHTSTAR, Ark. -- Some unwanted arrivals from Texas have been spotted in this southwest Arkansas town. State Plant Board officials say the presence of Africanized honey bees has been confirmed in Brightstar, in southern Miller County.

The aggressive insects are popularly known as "killer bees" because they are more likely than other varieties to respond in large numbers to animals or people who disturb their colonies. The bees' venom is no more toxic than that of the European honeybee, but they are more dangerous because they attack in larger numbers.

And we all remember how awful the deadly scourge of killer bees was back in the '90s, right? I just wish we could get some of those bastards here in Kentucky.


How about a reality check for Dick Durbin

MyPetJawa has some material that might help put Sen. Dick Durbin's and Daily Kos' comments about torture at Guantanamo into perspective here. The images are graphic - you've been warned.

The comments flying around over Guantanamo Bay are getting out of hand, but Will Collier of
VodkaPundit has a good perspective on it:

Durbin and company aren't worked up over "torture," or even terrorism. They're just worked up over hating George Bush. So let them rant. All they're doing so far is revealing their own uselessness. They'll be rewarded for it again and again, every other November.
Well spake, Martini Man.

My own theory is that the people doing the most screaming about the issue are the ones who have most recently seen
"A Few Good Men" and want to play the Tom Cruise role in taking down the evil Col. Nathan Jessup - played by the inimicable Jack Nicholson.


UPDATE: Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.

Friday, June 17, 2005

'Problem' Soldiers? Not neccessarily

That's a photo I shot during the Army's birthday celebration festivities held Tuesday. It ran on the front page this week, which I was pretty pleased about. Anyway, here's a story I put together on the new separation memo:

'Problem' Soldiers?
Not neccessarily

Army puts retention decision
into the hands of brigade COs

Turret Staff Writer

With the Army still actively engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, and recruiting numbers failing to meet goals for the fourth consecutive month, the Department of the Army issued an order to commanders that raised the authority for separating "problem" Soldiers from battalion to brigade level.

While that decision has been criticized as an attempt to keep less-qualified Soldiers to fill out ranks, Frank Shaffery, the deputy chief of staff for the U. S. Army Recruiting Command's Operations and Plans Division at Fort Knox, said that the decision was designed to foster more consistency in the separation process.

"The Soldier gets the benefit of having a more seasoned leader determine whether the Soldier should be separated or given the benefit of being able to be rehabilitated," Shaffery said.

"My view, after reading (the memorandum), is that the intent was not to keep more people, it was to ensure that we're keeping the right people," he explained.

The memorandum, dated May 27 and published in the online magazine Slate, said cases where first-term Soldiers are under consideration for separation will be reviewed by a brigade-level commander. That includes those under consideration for failure to meet medical fitness standards, alcohol or other drug abuse rehabilitation failure, poor entry level performance and conduct, pregnancy, and failure to meet body fat standards.

Sgt. Maj. David Ohler, Fort Knox's command career counselor, said the decision is aimed at giving every Soldier under consideration for discharge a fair and impartial review.

"We want to give every (one) a fair chance and a fair shake," Ohler said. "This is really just another set of eyes looking at each situation."

Since brigade-level commanders are farther removed from the "boots on the ground" company level, he explained, a Soldier facing involuntary separation has a better chance of an impartial decision by a commander at that level.

"They're looking at the 'Big Army,'" Ohler said. "It does not mean that the (individual) will not be discharged.

"We want to make sure that we're giving everyone a fair shot at rehabilitation."
Some battalion commanders are not pleased with the decision.

"It is the guys on weight control ... school no-shows, drug users, et cetera, who eat up my time and cause my hair to grey prematurely," one unnamed commander said to the Wall Street Journal's Greg Jaffe in an article published June 2.

But Shaffery said the order does not constitute a lowering of standards.

"It has nothing to do with the standards going down," he said. "It's realigning the approval authority to reduce the number of people making individual decisions."

Shaffery said that fewer approval authorities will make for more consistency in separations.
Other programs are being initiated in the hopes of increasing recruitment and retention as well, including boosting signing bonuses and creating a 15-month-plus-training contract option for certain military occupational specialties.

Potential recruits may also participate in the Future Soldier Training Program, Shaffery said.
"We're trying to better prepare them to enter basic training," he explained.

Under the program, recruiters enroll potential enlistees in a physical training regimen and give them the opportunity to complete some of the more "academic" tasks of basic training -- like first aid and sexual harassment classes -- online.

USAREC is also providing greater opportunities for promotion prior to basic training. Passing a physical fitness test or assisting a local recruiter for a set period of time before basic will get a recruit promoted to private (E-2).

Challenges remain ahead if the Army hopes to make its goal of 80,000 new recruits this fiscal year, increasing the size of the force to more than half a million.


Update: Here's the Mudville Gazette's latest Open Post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Catfish noodling, or how to lose a finger for less than $5

Here's my submission for this week's Sports Commentary. I know I should have hit up the "Tyson's a huge wuss" issue, but I've burned out on it and I now have a hard time caring. So, without further ado:

Catfish noodling,
or how to lose a finger
for less than $5


Fishing is one of those activities called "sport" only under the broadest definition of the term, at least in my own experience. In fact, the "catching fish" part of fishing has been more an annoyance for me than anything else, since catching fish requires that my attention be shifted away from the cooler or from napping in the sun.

But there are some for whom this version of fishing is woefully insufficient, and they prefer to take matters into their own hands -- literally.

They call their activity by different names: noodling, hogging, dogging, or tickling, depending on the local parlance, but the premise remains the same. They catch catfish with their bare hands by reaching into submerged holes in riverbanks and creeks, hoping a large cat will latch on to fingers wiggled around near their mouths.

It's been reported that catfish weighing nearly 200 pounds have been caught with this method, and the sport certainly has its devotees. In fact, at, you can order your own copy of "Girls Gone Grabblin,' " a film that features women from across the American South wrestling catfish out of their muddy homes and onto shore. I swear, I am not making this up.

Part of what attracts catfish noodlers to their particular sport is the danger inherent to sticking one's arm down a dark hole in a riverbank. Catfish are not the only creatures that live in these dens, and participants have picked up nicknames like "Stubby" and "Nubbins" after finding other residents, which include, but are not limited to, water snakes and snapping turtles. A snapper has approximately zero motivation to refrain from chomping off the fingers of a noodler who has disturbed his sleep.

Even catfish are far from harmless. When irritated, catfish will sometimes rocket from their holes, and the spines along their dorsal and pectoral fins can cause punctures, poisoning, and infection.

Catfish also tend to grow to remarkably large sizes, and noodlers know that having a spotter is essential. Your chances of survival may be slightly improved if you have someone around who's willing to catch your feet as you're dragged down into the depths of a murky river by a belligerent catfish who doesn't want to be caught.

To make matters worse, catfish have sandpaper for teeth, which means that if you've got your arm down the throat of a particularly fierce one, you stand to lose a fair amount of skin. I'm not certain on this, and I'm sure your primary care provider would disagree with me, but I'd say this would be a relatively cheap way to have tattoos removed.

If losing skin isn't enough, consider joining the ranks of the true elite -- those few who dare noodle for snapping turtles. One member of an online forum advises: "I've heard if you're noodling for snapping turtles (a man's sport), you can tell if the snapper is facing into the hole (about two thirds of the time) or towards you by feeling the edges of its shell. It's the ones that are facing out that make it a real sport."

I suppose by "a real sport" he means "requiring weapons-grade stupidity." As far as I'm concerned, snapping turtles are a variety of monster, and I prefer to leave them alone completely. Who's to say that you're going to feel "the edges of its shell" before you learn first-hand why they call them "snapping" turtles?

Catfish are considered "rough" fish by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the noodling or "tickling" season runs June 1 - August 31, during daylight hours only, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. So if you're out of your mind and have decided this is something you'd like to try, now's the time.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Guantanamo hand-wringing

Blackfive links to one Cuban's response to Amensty International's claim that the United States detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is akin to a "gulag" (Be warned, graphic language):

"They eat maggot filled slop maybe twice a day. Dont see the light of day and are tortured both physically and mentally in so many different ways that I, so far removed yet so read up on the subject, even have trouble imagining."
Yes, this is going on in Cuba, but outside the fences of the United States Naval facility. The description is of Castro's prisons, which warrant the term "gulag" much more than GITMO does.

And as long as we're talking about gulags, where is Amnesty International's condemnation of the gulags in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, and other parts of Central America?

Why is it that the first facility denounced as a "gulag" is the one that routinely feeds its prisoners? A point missed in this ridiculous hand-wringing over supposed desecrations of the Qu'ran is the fact that prisoners have actually been provided with Qu'rans, which they've apparently decided to desecrate on their own.

So let's cut the crap on this issue. It would be a mistake to shut down Guantanamo, and it's a mistake to keep wallowing in these laughable charges of abuse. I had worse done to me when I was a fraternity pledge.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Personal update, trial results

I wound up leaving the trial as they broke for lunch Tuesday, since we were on deadline and the only thing that had been accomplished was panel selection (in a court-martial, a panel of soldiers acts as the "jury," all must be of greater rank than the accused). The accused, a sergeant first class, pleaded not-guilty to two specifications of trainee abuse under Article 93, and one specification of obstuction of justice under Article 134.

I learned later that the accused, formerly a drill sergeant serving in Company E, 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, was sentenced by the panel to reduction in grade to staff sergeant (one stripe) and a letter of reprimand.

In other personal developments, I found out at the dentist's office today that I'm going to need to have all four of my wisdom teeth pulled and a cavity filled in the next little while. Here's hoping they're generous with the anaesthetics.

Plus, I've been pegged to stand in a battalion Noncommissioned Officer Induction ceremony next week. I'm going to be representing the Army from the World War I, and I picked up the solid-wool set today -- a jacket, "britches," two of the ugliest boots I've ever seen, a nearly-as-ugly overseas cap, and legging wraps.

Now, even though I'm sure all of the newly-pinned sergeants in LEC are just itching to attend this ceremony, I'm wondering if it was really necessary for the operations guys to see how many people's time they could squander.

Oh! Here's an email -- I swear I am not making this up, I just got it:

Due to a scheduling glitch, you need to turn your complete Period Uniform back in to SSG Stone at LEC by 1600 today. Sorry for the incontinence.
Words fail me.

Therefore, I think it would be appropriate to play this song, which warms my heart every time I hear it. And by "warms my heart," I mean, "makes me nauseous."


Monday, June 06, 2005

A new conclusion to the previous entry

Watching Sports Center up in the Finch's room, I saw Ricky Williams in a piece about his upcoming re-entry into the Miami Dolphins' program. I couldn't help but think of a new conclusion to the piece I wrote for this week. Here we go, in draft:

The show is gone now, and while it was horrible while it ran, I think it has a place in today's sports world. "American Gladiators" could be a perfect auspices under which players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Ricky Williams, and Jose Canseco could finish their careers.

UPDATE: And here's the Mudville Gazette's latest Open Post.

The worst damn sports show, period

Since I've got the trial tomorrow, I'm trying to get as much sports done today as possible. That also means that coming up with new blog material is somewhat low on the old priorities list, so I'm going, once again, to post the upcoming commentary for this week's paper. This came out of a random discussion that arose this weekend on '80s kitsch.

American Gladiators: The worst damn sports show, period.


Tom Arnold returned to television airwaves a couple years ago with a program called, "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period."

While the idea of Tom Arnold participating in anything even remotely associated with athletics is funny enough, I think that since there's a "best" sports show, there must also be a "worst" one, and I have a nomination for that category.

Think back about 16 years. It's 1989, the first George Bush was president, and Guns 'n Roses was considered an "edgy" band. On TV sets across the nation, people were watching the first season of "American Gladiators."

The premise of the show was to pit ordinary people from, say, Peoria, Ill., against super-human "gladiators" who wore spandex and had names like "Nitro" and "Blaze" in competitions that ranged from climbing a rock wall to avoiding tennis balls being shot out of a cannon at 100 miles per hour.

Action took place inside an arena that looked like it came straight out of the set from any '70s B-grade science fiction movie, with surfaces painted flat-grey with "space-age" stripes placed seemingly at random.

One event was the obstacle course, where contestants raced gladiators through a series of brightly-colored pipes, ramps, and rolling catwalks, trying to avoid being yanked down by other gladiators stationed below.

There was also the joust, which immediately came to mind during basic training when the drill sergeants introduced us to the pugil sticks. One gladiator and one contestant would perch on raised platforms and try to knock each other off using their jousting sticks. This activity could probably be nominated for "Television Event that Resulted in the Most Dental Surgery," since kids my age had a tendency to pick up broom handles and square off against siblings after watching the show.

As the series went into subsequent seasons, the show's producers tried numerous gimmicks to boost viewership. These included having celebrity guests participate, including "Lois and Clark's" Dean Cain, whose Superman was anything but gladiatorial.

Miami Dolphins hall-of-famer Larry Csonka did a stint on American Gladiators as an "analyst"... although I'm not quite sure what kinds of strategies existed within the context of the show to analyze. Coming up with lines to fill dead air must have been tough: "Gee, Mike... it looks like Blaze should have tossed the old jumpsuit in the wash before contending today."

I'm making the case for "American Gladiators" being the worst sports show ever, but I don't want to confuse anyone -- I watched the show avidly when it initially came out, and probably could have been considered a fan. Looking back on the show, however, I realize how monumentally stupid it was. I suppose there are a lot of cultural elements I could include in this category -- Star Wars, for instance.

Much like other horrible television programs, "American Gladiators" spawned an entire line of merchandising, including kid-sized jousting kits, action figures, video games, and trading cards, which I suppose were meant to lend the steroid-enhanced "gladiators" an air of athletic credibility that their actual profession didn't provide.

The show had its fans -- including me -- but I'm not sorry that it's gone. There has been no shortage of awful television programming to fill the gap it left 10 years ago. Tune into ESPN's "Around the Horn" if you don't believe me.


Saturday, June 04, 2005

So it was the detainees who "flushed" the Quran

Hey! Check this story out over at CNN:

Detainees, not soldiers, flushed Quran

A U.S. military investigation into the mishandling of the Muslim holy book at the Guantanamo Bay prison for suspected terrorists has determined that detainees -- not U.S. soldiers -- attempted to flush the Quran down the toilet there.

That's certainly a bit different from the Newsweek story. But since this one also is careful to include accounts of U.S. soldiers "kicking" and otherwise maltreating the Muslim holy book, psychopaths still have a reason to go around rioting and killing.

Michelle Malkin's treatment, with links galore.


UPDATE: And here's the Mudville Gazette's latest Open Post.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Another drill sergeant trial

I'll be covering the trial of the third drill sergeant charged with trainee abuse in connection with the events that occurred on or around Feb. 5 in Echo Company, 1/81 Armor. Regular readers may remember the first trial I covered:

Post drill sergeant pleads guilty to charges

The court-martial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.


Mike Tyson: 'My whole life has been a waste'

File these in the "Freaks" category: In the lead story in USA Today, former heavyweight champion of the world Mike Tyson says his "whole life has been a waste":

"I'll never be happy," he says. "I believe I'll die alone. I would want it that way. I've been a loner all my life with my secrets and my pain. I'm really lost, but I'm trying to find myself.

"I'm really a sad, pathetic case."

Last year, I had a press pass to watch Tyson vs. Danny Williams in Louisville. Here are a couple photos I shot at the fight:

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

It was pretty amazing to walk into a major boxing match on the red carpet, even though I had to do some serious haggling with security to make them believe that my press pass was actually valid. But I made it in anyway, and sat in the press area down on the floor. I estimated that ticketed seats that close cost around $1,100.

I doubt they'll be that expensive when Tyson fights Kevin McBride June 11 in Washington, D.C.

Another advantage of being in the press area was that the fighters walked right by us as they headed to the ring. I snapped this shot of Layla Ali, daughter of the legendary fighter and Louisville native Mohammed Ali, on her way to the ring, where she pummelled the snot out of Monica Nunez:

Image hosted by

In other news, the Michael Jackson trial has gone through closing arguments and is going to the jury.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Woodward's account of 'Deep Throat'

I'm reading through the Bob Woodward's account of his relationship with W. Mark Felt, who Tuesday admitted to being "Deep Throat," the secret source Woodward and Carl Bernstein relied on for tips and information in constructing one of the 20th century's most important cases in journalism and politics, the Watergate scandal. It's really a remarkable piece.


UPDATE: Via RealClearPolitics, here's the Vanity Fair piece that broke the "Deep Throat" story (.pdf, Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

UPDATE: I'd be remiss if I didn't include this link to The Daily Show's coverage of the "Deep Throat" story, via BoingBoing. Hilarious, as always.