31 October, 2005

Calling Out the Army, Navy and Air Force

UPDATE: We have a very, very big name who is going to try to help us get the word out and handle logistics for the competition. I can't announce it until he's sure he has the time, but with his help we could make this a huge week for Valour-IT, and a great gift to our wounded veterans on Veterans Day. Don't let this slip away!

UPDATE II: Blackfive is also onboard. Army, you know what to do...

UPDATE III: Greyhawk joins us! Air Force supporters, let him know you're there... That leaves only Navy to step up for representation.

UPDATE IV: Mrs. Smash is leading the Navy team!

UPDATE V: See the Valour-IT blog for up-to-date information on the competition.

To all you soldiers, sailors and airmen out there:

The Marines have seized the day and are already organizing for the Valour-IT Fundraising Competition. Bloggers who were approached to lead the rest of the teams have not responded. So soldiers, sailors, and airmen, are you going to let the Marines, airmen, and soldiers be the only ones out there on the pointy end of the spear? Get in on the action!

We need somebody to step up and lead teams for the Army, Navy and Air Force immediately, with a kick-off of Wednesday morning. Think you've got what it takes? Email me now!

This is serious; Valour-IT desperately needs funds, and this fundraising competition is teetering on the edge of viability. This is why it's so important.

Thanks to Mudville Gazette for Open Post, The Indepundit for Morning Quarters, and Outside The Beltway Sunday Drive

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The Valour-IT Fundraising Competition

Readers of Michelle Malkin, welcome! Click here to learn more about Valour-IT or make a donation. If you'd like to join the fundraising competition, read on...

UPDATED UPDATE: Team Leaders are Holly Aho (Marines), Blackfive (Army), and Mrs. Greyhawk (Air Force), and Mrs. Smash (Navy).

To get team credit for a donation, you must donate via the "To Donate" button on the website of your team leader (This takes you to the proper Valour-IT PayPal donation page).
Donations made via the regular Valour-IT website will not be part of your team's official competition total, though they will still go to the Valour-IT program. Any blogger (military or civilian) can join any team. Just visit the websites linked above.


Valour-IT's online fundraising competition is just around the corner! Let's see who can raise the most money to help reconnect our wounded warriors with the world!

WHAT: Friendly fundraising competition for Valour-IT.
WHEN: November 2nd through Veterans Day (the 11th).
WHERE: Based in the blogosphere, spreading everywhere else.
WHY: Because giving wounded warriors with hand and arm injuries access to a computer supports their healing and puts them back in touch with the world.
HOW: Blogger teams will be divided along military branches, with civilians "up for grabs." Prospective team leaders were approached yesterday Wednesday (waiting for replies). When the leadership is announced, you will have the opportunity to join the team of your choice.

Additional information: every donor during this time will receive a Soldiers' Angels Coin. We are also working on providing T-shirts for larger donations.

What Valour-IT Needs From You:

  • Join a team when the time comes
  • Blog regularly about Valour-IT and the competition
  • Tell your friends, family and neighbors about Valour-IT
  • Put up these flyers around your community
  • Give us suggestions: help us name this competition.
  • Help us purchase T-Shirt incentives if you can (Valour-IT is committed to spending all direct donations on the voice-controlled laptops and Soldier's Angels is in a financial pinch. So, we are looking for people willing to make a donation directly to Soldier's Angels expressly for use in purchasing T-Shirts to use as incentives. Please email FbL if you can help).
A Note to My Beloved and Hard-charging Marines:

Before you make me dash for the bunker, ducking incoming fire all the way, hear me out... In determining the composition of the teams, the existence of a big blogger who could lead each team was an important factor. The fact that there is no non-deployed Marine blogger with a huge readership is a big disadvantage in fundraising. With that in mind, the decision was made to combine the Navy and Marine bloggers into a single team to keep things competitive.

However, I know that Marines specialize in doing the "impossible," and doing it with less. SO... if you want to put together a Marines-only team (plus supporters) and enter the competition that way, Go For It!

Linked at Mudville Gazette's Open Post

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Valour-IT Flyers Have Arrived!!

[New posts below]

The Valour-IT flyers mentioned above are now hosted over at Argghhh! (thank you, thank you, John!). There are a variety to choose from, depending on which benefits of Valour-IT you what to emphasize, or what style you think will most appeal to those you are targeting. My personal favorites are numbers 5-8.

Suggestions for Flyer Distribution

Be sure to get permission if necessary. But once you know it's okay, try the following places:

Grocery stores
Places of worship (church, synogogue, etc.)
VFW halls and other offices of veterans' organizations
The community bulletin board in your workplace lunchroom
Community events like Fall Festival, Halloween parties, etc.
Vehicles that display "Support the Troops" magnets/stickers
Any business that gives you permission
Share them with co-workers
Community organizations like Boy Scouts, Shriners, Business clubs, etc.

I'm sure the list could be much longer, as this is merely off the top of my head. These are general-purpose flyers and not exclusive to the fundraising competition, so go crazy and get the word out!

If you'd like to pay the cost of printing color versions of these flyers, let me know and I will get you files for them.

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Halloween and Grownups

Halloween used to be just for kids. But it seems that nowadays the grownups get whackier and more into the "spirt" of things than the wee ones... For example, last year Lex went to a halloween party dressed as a cat, believe it or not!

How do I know? Well, I have my ways... but here's the proof (check the label).

*GRIN* Pretty funny huh, Lex? Umm...Lex?


Blog Papa?


Hmmm... What's that Hornet doing headed this way? There aren't any Navy bases 'round here...

Argghhh!!! Where's the Castle bunker?!!

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Halloween Quiz

Shamelessly stolen from Blonde Sagacity...

Will you survive a HORROR MOVIE??

You're the Smart one....so chances are you'll
survive! :-)

You might get cut up & have some minor injuries,
but you'll be victorious. The Killer better
know NOT to mess with you anymore!

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30 October, 2005

A Spooked White House

The above title is borrowed straight from a column by Stephen F. Hayes. Its double meaning addreses both a hesitancy in the White House's actions based on previous experience, and the possibility that the career-administrator CIA "spooks" are effectively fighting the White House. It's an absolutely fascinating read that is also deeply disturbing because it gets at why the Bush Administration has never effectively clarified the importance of Iraq in the face of continual criticism. It turns out it all began with the CIA's response to those infamous "16 words."

Here's one set of bombshells from the article:

There are other documents from Iraq that would help the American public understand the nature of the former Iraqi regime and why a serious war on terror required its removal. Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) documents currently stored in a warehouse in Doha, Qatar, as part of the Defense Intelligence Agency's document exploitation project are a case in point. Many of these documents, listed in a database known as HARMONY, have rather provocative titles:

Money Transfers from Iraq to Afghanistan

Secret Meeting with Taliban Group Member and Iraqi Government (Nov. 2000)

Iraqi Effort to Cooperate with Saudi Opposition Groups and Individuals

IIS Reports from Embassy in Paris: Plan to Influence French Stance in UN Security Council

IIS Report on How French Campaigns are Financed

Improvised Explosive Devices Plan

Ricin research and improvement

There are thousands of similar documents. Many have already been authenticated and most are unclassified. That's worth repeating: Most are unclassified.
So why isn't the White House shouting this information from the rooftops? It goes back to "spooked." We've always heard that the Washington bureaucracy is vicious beyond our imagination, but if this analysis is correct, it's near-treasonous in its readiness to put internecine fights ahead of the White House's efforts to conduct national security and foreign policy activities. Unbelievable.

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29 October, 2005

Two Startling Stories

I don't know what to make of these two stories reported in the foreign press, but if they're true.... WOW!

Did the U.S. actually negotiate a peaceful exit for Saddam Hussein that was shot down by the Arab League?! Captains Quarters has the details. There's an interesting discussion in the comments, too.


Is Al Qaeda gearing up to attack France with missles and WMD, or is it just a bluff? Again, Captains Quarters has the story.

If true, both these stories could have some amazing geopolitical implications...

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Update to "The Rest of the Story"

Wherein the AP finds an actual reporter in Baghdad...

Last Tuesday I commented on a news story about the 2000th U.S. military death. Buried deep in the long article was a vague and confusing description of a soldier (SPC Green) having "taken out" the driver of one of the VBEIDs used to attack two Baghdad hotels last Saturday. I concluded: "I can't help wondering where the headlines about SPC Green are..."

Well, you could've knocked me over with a feather this morning! One week later, we finally have the story that should've been written the day of the bombings: GI Kills Suicide Bomber Who Attacked Hotel.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. soldier shot and killed one of three suicide bombers who attacked the Palestine Hotel complex before he could reach his intended target and that probably saved lives in the building, the military said Saturday.
With the exception of the fact that the article almost reads as if the attack happened today, it's one of the most straight-forward and balanced news articles about the U.S. military in Iraq that I've read in ages: no snarky mentions of total U.S. casualties or an "increasingly effective insurgency," (etc.), the U.S. military "says" (instead of "claims"), Al Qaeda's statements are "not independently verified," and all sources associated with the story are consulted.

Amazing. Looks like somebody actually committed real journalism here. Keep your eyes on Mr. Wagner!

UPDATE: I went searching for more information bout Mr. Wagner, and discovered that he was actually in the hotel at the time of the attacks. He's quoted in this story from USA Today.

UPDATE II: Powerline has a more detailed report and analysis from an Army Major (there seems to be some confusion as to whether it's "SPC" Green or "SGT" Green).

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Interesting and Funny

Homefront Six has some great pictures of Chinook helicopters being loaded for a U.S. army earthquake relief mission to Pakistan. They're fascinating, and even beautiful...

But for a good laugh, you've gotta check the caption on the second photo from the bottom. Maybe it was my weird mood, but I'm still giggling as I type this.

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28 October, 2005

A Heartfelt Plea

This comes purely from the heart:

Valour-IT is not "my baby." I don't have my ego wrapped up in it, and I take no personal pride in what we have accomplished; all I did was sound a call that seemed so obvious to me that I couldn't believe no one had done it before. I have no big dreams of making this my life's work, and it will never appear on my resume. I can take no pride in saying I'm "in charge" of Valour-IT, except to bask in the reflected glow of having my pseudonym associated with such an amazing bunch of people. In fact, if you ask my friends, they'd tell you I've been dragged kicking and screaming into being the head of this project. I don't feel like a leader, I'm definitely not a manager of anybody older than 12 (and some days even that's iffy), and I still can't believe I got myself into this in the first place! But I saw a need, and I had a dream of how to fill that need.

That need is neither short-term nor static; it grows with the passing days. It does not wane because hurricanes arrive or Christmas approaches. It does not become less urgent because a couple dozen people have been helped so far. It does not pass away just because it passes from our consciousness. For most beneficiaries of Valour-IT, that need is framed in months, years, or a lifetime.

For the recipients of a voice-activated laptop from Valour-IT, it is not a matter of a short-term emotional boost, or even the sustenance gleaned from the knowledge that one is "remembered." It is a matter of assistance in reclaiming a part of one's wholeness and independence in the face of life-altering injuries, repeated surgery, painful physical therapy, and the isolation of the hospital room.

The military doctors and the technology they wield can do amazing things. But it still takes time to heal, and full recovery is not always possible. It is during this period of great challenge, after a proud warfighter has laid it all on the line and come back with the wounds to prove it, that he needs us most. He will forever carry the eventually-healed internal and external scars as a marker of his priceless gifts to us. The least we can do is the comparatively painless activity of opening our pocketbooks to give him a gift that is also priceless--a piece of his life back. A tough-talking "soldier's soldier," the leader of a tank company in Iraq and the inspiration for Valour-IT, wrote the following:

Being fed, bathed, taken care of like an infant—not exactly a fitting role for a warrior who's used to being the one who helps others. It sure as hell wasn't a role that I wanted...At that time I had no use of either hand. I know how humbling it is, how humiliating it feels. And I know how much better I felt, how amazingly more functional I felt, after Soldiers' Angels provided me with a laptop and a loyal reader provided me with the software...
How can you not do everything in your power to make that happen for yet another soldier who finds himself facing similar trying times? How can you let it pass from your mind? Can you turn your face away from the opportunity to give what you can to those who have given so much for you?

You don't have to be a millionaire. Like droplets into trickles, flowing into steams into rivers, the dollars add up.

They gave what they could. We must do the same.

They've always had our hearts. But what they need most right now is our money and our time.

Linked at Mudville Gazette's Open Post

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27 October, 2005

Lex Does It Again

Lex puts his mastery of the english language to work once again, with the usual provocative effects... This time the subject is that "magic" number of 2000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq.

I waited to link it because I hoped to find some worthy way to introduce it, thoughts of my own that would further illuminate. But I can't. It's too well-said, too rich to allow for summary. Here's a bit to whet your appetite.

There’s a power in round numbers, a kind of symbolism. Certain people have been waiting for this inevitable death. It is the initiating death that sets their plans in motion. His life was his alone, but his death they have claimed for themselves. He had a life. He has become a name. And more than that, he has now become a symbol.

And even though I am aware of the power of symbols, I find all of this somehow intrusive, unseemly and inappropriate, this branding together of a man and a number. It smacks a little too much of that old murderer Stalin, who famously exclaimed, “One man’s death is a tragedy, one million a statistic,” because it tries somehow to reach a dialectic synthesis between the man and the number and in doing so immorally overreaches the form.
Read it all.

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Can Women be Curmudgeons?

The neighboring family is (again!) using their car stereo to share their favorite tunes with the neighborhood while they work in the yard: Mexi-rap on the front side and Spanish pop music at the back. I suppose it could be worse. The last place I lived the fave was gansta rap, and my entire apartment grooved to the beat as pimped-out vehicles stopped to open the apartment complex gate... at 10:30 p.m.!!!!!!

I can never remember a time--even as a teenager--that I thought my right to be noisy was absolute, or that I EVER played my music loud enough to for the neighbors to hear or to bounce the car of the guy pulled up next to me down the street. I'd be embarrassed to force my musical choices on the people around me. When did such egocentric and obnoxious behavior become socially acceptable?!

Good grief! I'm a curmudgeon at 30 (ahem, 30-something)...

UPDATE: I should clarify: it's not that I've never played music loudly, it's just that I've never done it in a situation that might infringe on others' desires to be quiet.

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Ballots vs. Bombs

The ballots may be winning...

The Sunnis of Iraq have formed a portion of those--at the very least--tacitly supporting the terrorists' and insurgents' attacks on Iraqi civilians, Iraqi soldiers, and the U.S. military and its partners in Iraq. But this is a very promising development.

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25 October, 2005

The Rest of the Story

If you watch or read the news at all, you've heard about the recent car bomb (VBIED) attacks on two Baghdad hotels that killed several seventeen people and injured many more. But buried at the end of a long Associated Press article entitled U.S. Military Deaths Reach 2,000 in Iraq is some information about the bombing that I hadn't heard before. Read it carefully. Yes, the attack involved three vehicles, as widely reported, but that's not the whole story. It turns out it's another in a long line of (largely unheralded) heroic actions by our soldiers:

The group also said it was behind the three suicide car bombs aimed at the Palestine and Sheraton hotels in Baghdad. Deputy Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Hussein Ali Kamal said 17 people were killed — mostly hotel guards and passers-by — in Monday's attack, which involved bombers driving two cars and a cement truck.

The U.S. soldier who shot and killed the truck driver said he initially had a hard time seeing the truck drive through the breach that the first car explosion had created in the concrete wall.

"Once the dust and the debris settled down, I noticed the truck had already breached through our perimeter," Spc. Darrell Green told CNN American Morning. "He backed up and then pulled forward. As he was doing that, I engaged in machine gun and took out the driver. If he had made it through, he could have done a lot more damage, a lot more casualties than what actually happened."
I can't help wondering where the headlines about SPC Green are...

Update here.

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Lighter Fare

I have no idea how this works, or how it could be in any way scientific, but I found the results startlingly accurate...

Your Expression Number is 11
You tend to be associated with idealistic concepts and spiritual issues.
You have high potentials that are somewhat difficult to live up to.
You have very strong intuition and you can be a bit psychic at times.

Highly inspirational, you can lead merely by your own example.
You have an inborn inner strength and awareness that helps you advise others.
Although you have what it takes for a successful career, you belong outside the business world.

Overly sensitive and temperamental, you tend to have a lot of nervous tension.
You dream a lot, so much so that you may be more of a dreamer than a doer.
Fantasy and reality tend to get intermingled for you, and that leads to impracticality.

And... Did you know I'm very dense?

Hg... Mercury

You scored 66 Mass, 31 Electronegativity, 56 Metal, and 0 Radioactivity!

Quicksilver. You are a contradiction in terms and the largest most grave flaw in this classification scheme... you defy all expectations because, while your interactions with things should be marked by intransigence, inflexibility, and singlemindedness, you manage to slip through and engulf problems and concepts with an impossibly fluid grace. You are an unknown quantity, and one that subsumes others and forces them to reexamine their entire paradigm. Okay, I'm just throwing out grandiose sentences now because I can't rationalize where mercury falls in this scheme... be proud though... its awesome.

Which Chemical Element Are You?

H/T to AFSis for both quizzes.

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24 October, 2005

"Honoring" the Fallen

[Update below]

I've been turning over in my mind an issue that I'm hoping you guys can help me clarify. Something has long bothered me about those who claim to honor the memory or sacrifice of soldiers who die, simply by reading or printing their names.

When This Week with George Stephanopoulos first started ending their shows with a scrolling list of recent KIA in Iraq, I was so angry I nearly put my foot through the TV screen. It felt terribly intrusive--I didn't know the people behind their names or even why they died, so it felt almost voyeuristic. The program listed name, age, and place of origin, if I recall correctly. It was combined with some rather haunting and agonized-sounding music. Pretty soon they started added the names and photos of notable figures who had died in the last week, too. Somehow it didn't feel quite as offensive anymore.

Other shows have done similar things either regularly, or in a special event--as Ted Koppel did when he read the names of all the American soldiers who had died in Iraq.

I find these kinds of things deeply disturbing, but not in a way that might be typically thought. I am intimately aware of what the loss of a loved means; I know what it means to grow through your preteens and onward without a beloved father. I know what it's like to watch your mother cope with losing the love of her life in the prime of his, and what it does to a family's financial future. I think every day of the losses that are suffered in the current fighting. Seeing a list of names of people I don't know is not going to make me any more aware of the cost of war. And besides, the societal/emotional costs extend much farther than the physical loss of life.

So, why is this so emotionally upsetting to me? Here's my theory: Without context and meaning to their sacrifices, the reading of names can be only a political statement.

Many events have included the reading of the names of those who died in the attacks on 9-11. To me, that feels a little different because those people were victims and because their loss is something we experienced corporately--even for those of us who didn't lose someone or someone-of-a-friend that day, we were still impacted by it in very personal ways. We don't need any context to be explicitly given; we know why they died--they died as innocents, as noncombatants in an unjust act of war. To read their names is to mourn, to once again rage against the injustice of what was done to them. Their deaths were senseless, and no "context" is ever going to change that.

Many of the milbloggers post pictures and stories about those who have lost their lives in the current fight. They include information about the personality, laudable characteristics, the fallen person's military work, etc. And as John does at Argghhh! with his reference to a time to dance, their lives are celebrated for who they were and what they did. Those don't offend me, and I think it's because when you read them, you are reminded that they contributed to the world, and of why they thought the dangerous work they did was worth doing.

But to simply read without context the names of those who died in battle because they chose to serve us in an inherently dangerous way is something else entirely. To mourn them without context of their sacrifice and courage turns their deaths as senseless as the deaths of those who were murdered on 9-11. The message is that their deaths are without meaning, an inherently antiwar message that I doubt they would have supported in life. Because no context is given for how or why they died (was it an VB-IED that exploded in a crowd of kids as they were patrolling to keep the streets of Baghdad safe? Was it a sniper as they stepped out of their vehicle to do a security check? Was it an IED as they were delivering supplies to their fellow soldiers? Was it in a firefight with people who had planted an IED that killed other soldiers?), their deaths are given no meaning. We simply respond emotionally--"Oh how terrible! Somebody died."

Yes, that's unspeakably terrible. That's what makes war so awful. And that's why we must take war so seriously. But those who are willing to lay down their lives for another are usually hearalded as heroes--they are willing to sacrifice for something they believe in, whether it's their own family, American ideals, or the physical safety of America and Americans in general. And if we simply say, "They died," we rob them of that status, for we never know why they died, or what their death may have accomplished, and what their lives meant. They're simply victims.

And as I've posted before, most warfighters find the idea that they are victims--whether of their political leadership or of those who fight against them--abhorrent and dishonorable. And I do, too. Maybe that's why I find this kind of "honoring" so emotionally inflammatory.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this... What is your reaction to "honoring" fallen warfighters simply by reading their names or having the names scroll by on a TV screen? Does my theory on this sound reasonable? Do you think there is anything valuable in reading their names devoid of the context of information or ceremony? Please share your thoughts. I'd really like to know...

This is how you "honor" one of the fallen. Though he may be the 2000th soldier to die in Iraq, he is not a number.

Linked at Mudville Gazette's Open Post

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23 October, 2005

Giving When it Hurts

Seawitch is a coastal Mississippi resident. She's right in the middle of those who are still working to put their lives back together in the wake of the devasting hurricanes of September. She shares this nugget about a group of hurricane victims who still wanted to support our wounded troops through Valour-IT:

I forgot that I had collected money from co-workers before Katrina struck and when I was organizing my new desk area, I found the envelope with the money that had been collected and sent it via PayPal. In case you are wondering, I did check with those who had so graciously donated to see if they needed their donations back. All said no and to send it in.
To those of you who have not recently lived through a massive hurricane: have you given anything?

[photo of hurricane damage is from Seawitch]

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Tech Help Wanted (Valour-IT)

Valour-IT would like to create a CD that would allow someone to view the highlights of information and blog posts about Valour-IT without being online. I'm guessing it's a rather simple project, as we have the content. We just need it organized into offline browser files.

Please email me if you would like to help Valour-IT this way.

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21 October, 2005

Soldiers' Angels and Valour-IT Need YOU

[Update in #2 below]After the hurricanes that devastated the Gulf of Mexico, millions of people reached deep into their pockets to help those who had lost everything. It was wonderful to see how people stepped up to help their fellow Americans.

But for some people this meant choosing between soldiers and hurricane victims. They chose the hurricane victims--they rightly chose to assist with the more pressing and life-threatening needs. But now, organizations that help our military men and women are really hurting. Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels writes, "[D]onations to Soldiers Angels [are] at an ALL TIME LOW. We will not be able to effectively assist soldiers if this continues." She adds the plea, "We need press, radio and TV exposure, we need it yesterday."

The various projects of Soldiers' Angels encompass far more than care packages and holiday gifts to our deployed warfighters. Here's a partial list of additional SA activities:

  • Airplane tickets to reconnect families of soldiers on leave/hospitalized
  • Hotels/housing for family members of a hospitalized soldier
  • Clothing and furniture and diapers to struggling military families
  • Personal hygiene kits for the recently-wounded
  • Round-the-clock hospital support for the wounded until family arrives
  • Blankets for wounded personnel in-transit to the U.S.
  • Armored blankets for army vehicles
  • Food for military families with employment struggles
  • Computers for the wounded

That's just a small sample of what the 40,000-strong membership of Soldiers' Angels does. There is no troop-support organization out there that has a broader mission.

The financial woes of SA also directly affect Valour-IT. Because SA has been so excited about our project, they have advanced significant money to help us provide voice-controlled laptops. If the donation situation continues to deteriorate, they will likely no longer be able to help us with laptop purchases.

So, what can you do to help Soldiers' Angels and Valour-IT?

  1. Donate--to both, if you can. So many of us are so casual about our purchases of a dollar here, five dollars there. What does a fancy cup of coffee cost these days? Every day for five days a week? How about having a regular cup o' joe for a week and spending that $15-25 on supporting a military family, helping a wounded soldier access the Internet, or helping a military family come to the beside of their wounded loved one?
  2. Donate--without donating! Check out Buy for Charity, which gives a percentage of your online purchases to your favorite charity. You must register at Buy for Charity just once, selecting Soldiers' Angels under the category "miscellaneous" or entering "angels" in the search box. Then when you purchase online from over 350 affiliated companies (like The Gap, Dell Computers, Overstock.com, and many military equipment sites), a portion of your purchase price is donated to Soldiers' Angels! Also see GI Bracelet, which donates the entire purchase price of every bracelet sold.
  3. Email and tell your friends about Soldiers' Angels, Valour-IT, and especially the "Buy for Charity" program. Casually follow up with them to make sure they took at look at the websites.
  4. Call your local talk radio stations. Tell them about Soldiers' Angels and Valour-IT and direct them to the websites. Call up the big syndicated talk show hosts too, and tell me that you've heard about a great way to support the troops. Email them! And don't forget about newspapers and blogs--write letters to the editors, and give your favorite bloggers a heads-up. (If you have significant media contacts, let us know!)
  5. Get Creative! Try any fundraising idea that sounds like it could be fun--bake sale, fundraising dinner like a spaghetti dinner, an auction for services like leaf-raking or window-washing, etc. Even if you don't raise a ton, you'll have fun, and every dollar counts.

Soldier's angels and Valour-IT need you right now... because the men and women who are serving our country and protecting us need our support in more than just words. Say it with your pocketbook and your actions. Make sure they know we haven't forgotten them!

This post "borrows" heavily from Holly Aho
H/T to Mudville Gazette
Cross-posted at Valour-IT Blog, and Linked at the Indepundit's Liberty Call

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CPT Ziegenfuss and Valour-IT

Another in what I hope will be a series of looks at Valour-IT in action...

CPT Ziegenfuss is a co-creator of Valour-IT. It was actually his experience with a voice-activated laptop that inspired the creation of Valour-IT. Today on his blog, he described his condition when he first received a voice-activated latop.

I know how much it means to the guys who are stuck lying on their backs, unable to use their hands to so much as scratch. Being fed, bathed, taken care of like an infant—not exactly a fitting role for a warrior who's used to being the one who helps others. It sure as hell wasn't a role that I wanted...

And not a role that is conducive to coping with the trauma of injury or coming to terms with its lifelong effects. I've written before about the role that these laptops can play in bolstering the mental health of their users, which is such an important part of recovery from severe injuries. But as usual, CPT Z says it better, and in his own inimitable style:

At that time I had no use of either hand. I know how humbling it is, how humiliating it feels. And I know how much better I felt, how amazingly more functional I felt, after Soldiers' Angels provided me with a laptop and a loyal reader provided me with the software. I can't wait to do the same, to give that feeling to another soldier at Walter Reed.

This is what it's about, folks. We are not just giving these guys a fun little toy. We are giving them a tool to help them regain bit of their confidence, self-respect, and independence. That's truly priceless, worth far more than merely the cost of a laptop. Because through the magic of a voice-activated laptop, your dollars become salve for a wounded warrior's spirit. Dig deep.

Besides, as CPT Z points out, it's tax-deductible.

P.S. CPT Z will be returning to Walter Reed at the end of this month for more surgery and a 6-week stay. He's really not looking forward to the surgery and hospital time, which means another long stretch of separation from his kids. Additionally, he's in in the process of being officially replaced as Company Commander and will be without an official position in the Army for the next few months. So, drop by his blog and let him know how much you appreciate his courageous service, and that you'll be cheering him on through this difficult time.

Linked in Mudville Gazette's Open Post and Stop the ACLU's Trackback Party
Cross-posted at Valour-IT

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20 October, 2005

Motivation and Determination ...and Success

Lex read something that got him thinking about motivation. Bruce Fleming (a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy), writes, "In the conservative, and hence military, mindset, everything is a 'choice,' and motivation alone decides whether you succeed or fail." Fleming says the attitude of the Academy is "that personal motivation alone determines all outcomes."

Lex's response?

Perhaps it’s just that I’m a product of that [U.S. Naval Academy] education, but nothing that the good professor highlights as unusual seems the least bit remarkable to me. One man can move the world, if he’s got the motivation.

Don’t they teach that everywhere else?
"Personal motivation alone determines all outcomes?" That seems a pretty harsh and intolerant way of looking at things... brings on visions of any failure being laid at the feet of laziness.

But I have to say that deep down, I tend to agree. I can’t say I don’t have my long moments of self-pity and total doubt... times when I look at a personal or professional problem, believe there is no way to get the result I want, and have myself a good little pity party. But I also know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for (among other things) sheer willpower and the refusal to accept "reality."

This is not the place to bare my soul, but suffice it to say that if I had listened to the "experts," I'd never have finished college, much less been a music teacher. If I had accepted financial barriers to college education as final, I'd never have earned a bachelor's degree, much less a master's. And on an even more personal front, I could have wallowed in some things I've lived through, and ended up in a padded room. Obviously I didn't.

Today, I teach very "underprivileged" students. They have the decks stacked against them in multiple ways that are completely unfair--from the neighbors who tell them "Don't act white," to poverty, neglectful parents, and the problems of trying to learn English as a second language. In interacting with these students, I acknowledge that their situation sucks. Then I ask, "Are you going to let others control you and determine your future, or... are you going to stick a metaphorical finger in the doubters’/oppressors’ eyes and prove them wrong?" And at the same time, I am supporting them in reaching high standards of behavior and accomplishment (they often surprise themselves with what they can do).

But back to Lex's question... I don’t know where I learned to think that way, and I haven’t been teaching long enough to know if it’s worked for my students. But so much in my experience has taught me that no matter how unfair or unyielding a situation is, if one "wants it" bad enough, there’s very little that can’t be achieved. It comes down to how much you really want it. It’s not always worth the cost, but it’s possible if you’re willing to pay.

For example, during my undergraduate years, I was considered the best in the music department on my chosen instrument. My last year, several new students began studying with my private lesson teacher as a secondary area of focus. They thought I was amazing (deluded little fools, haha), and were particularly impressed with my work ethic. They would talk about how terrible they were to not practice hard like I did, as if it was a character defect on their parts. I'd ask them if they really wanted to be as good as me on this particular instrument, and the answer was invariably, "Not really. I like my regular instrument the most." Then I'd tell them that my hard work was no great "gold star" on my character; I wanted to make this instrument my career, so I was willing to put in the 4-6 hours of practice a day that was necessary to reach that goal. I told them it was all about how bad you wanted it (believe me, I was not one of those super-talented people who never had to practice).

And ultimately, I wanted it bad enough that I landed at one of the premiere schools for my field.

But I don't always think such gung-ho thoughts--I find myself bemoaning various things about my life that I wish were different. Then I'm confronted with what I've accomplished int he past, and the fact that I can either work to change what I don't like (with or without support from others) or stop whining about it. Or I discover that maybe, like those younger students who idolized me, I don't want it as bad as I think I do.

Ultimately, it all comes back to character: get to work, or stop whining. If I’ve decided it’s worth it, do I have the inner strength to do what it takes to get what I want? In other words, am I willing to do what's necessary or am I just too scared to try? If it's all about motivation and I do want it bad enough, then success is nearly guaranteed, right? So why not go out there and make it happen?

Having to "see oneself in the mirror" every day can be such a pain! ;)

[Tip o' the hat and a Thank You to Lex, whose post got me thinking... to the point that my longish comment grew into this longer essay. My dear readers may not share the same gratitude... ;) ]

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19 October, 2005

Sex or Chocolate II

Results are in on the Sex or Chocolate poll. Ladies, you have restored my faith in the men of this world... apparently only 20% of the female readers of this blog value chocolate more than sex.

And for those 20% who seem to experience chocolate in a way the rest of us can only imagine, or else have hobbled through life with only a chocolate bar for comfort... 20 Reasons Why Chocolate is Better than Sex (Mom, you don't want to click that. Trust me).

And on a kinda related note, an interesting discussion about beauty and attraction has developed over at ALa's site.

I'd give a Hat-tip to somebody for the "20 Things" list...if I could just remember where I found it. Must be a lack of chocolate... ;)

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18 October, 2005

A Must Read

For anybody who has ever loved a geographic place....

Do not deprive yourself of reading this. Even commenting on it somehow feels like blasphemy.

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Buzz Robertson and Valour-IT

As we gear up to raise more money for Valour-IT, here's a reminder of why it matters so much.

Many of you may have already read about SFC Buzz Robertson, who received a laptop from Valour-IT. When Buzz's mother heard about the laptop's arrival, she wrote:

"I can't believe it but I just called to talk to my son to see how he was doing and he said the Angels for Soldiers delivered a Dell Laptop today!!! This is really incredible! The love and support..."

The excitement and joy she seemed to feel, simply from hearing that her son now had a laptop from Soldiers' Angels, jumped out at me. It reminded me that when a soldier is wounded, he is not the only one who suffers. Those who love him suffer, too. And when we can ease his burdens a bit, we are also easing the burdens of those who love him.

Today I received an email from Buzz's mother. She said that Buzz reports having the laptop has made staying at the hospital more tolerable (as theorized during the development of Valour-IT). It turns out that the laptop is also becoming an important factor in his treatment because besides using it to stay in contact with friends and loved ones while he's hospitalized, he and his wife are using it to gather information on the latest research about spinal cord injuries.

This is just one story... one soldier whose burden of hospitalization is more tolerable, who has a little more control over his life and future as he faces the challenges of his injuries.

So far we have purchased forty laptops--we have the capacity to assist forty soldiers. Considering the kind of impact this can have on each wounded soldier (and family) who receives a laptop, that's not nearly enough.

Let's make it happen for another soldier... and another... and another. Here's how we do it.

Cross-posted at Valour-IT Blog
Linked at Stop the ACLU and Mudville Gazette open posts.

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Why They Fight

I occasionally go through stretches of feeling guilty that my life is so safe, quiet, and "normal," while the men and women of our military are serving in my place...facing down the darker things in hopes that I will never have to--a sacrifice on their part for which I feel there can be no true recompense. When I have shared those feelings with the warriors I am privileged to know, they have said similar things to one friend who once wrote:

You represent the best of what we fight for - your continued existence makes the sacrifices worthwhile.

You've thanked me, and others I am sure, for our service.

We want to thank you in return, for being an example of what we fight for - the one who rocks the cradle, teaches the kids, raises the next generation to believe in something as beautiful as music.
Perhaps some might say that is a bit Norman Rockwell-ish, but the message I heard is that we all have our callings and our roles; our country wouldn't be what it is if we were all warriors. I was reminded of that when I found this, A Letter to the Republic for Which We Stand:
Yes, we’re soldiers, but who wants to live this way? What man enjoys being threatened all the time? Show me that man and I’ll show you a fool. But ask me to show you a person who is willing to live like this so that Americans back home can live more safely, and we’ll show you a couple hundred thousand.
Go read it all, It's near-poetry.

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It's Always Something...

[Update: A lot of stress and strain, but I now have electricity again. Existence of functional brain not yet determined.]

Best laid plans of mice and (wo)men, and all that...

I arrived home last night to find I had no electricity. At this point, it may be days before I do, though I'm going to work on that (no, not a natural disaster, etc.).

So, I may not have the promised details about Valour-IT up today.

My deepest apologies to all involved.

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16 October, 2005

The "Return" of Valour-IT

No, we didn't really go anywhere. But Valour-IT has been rather quiet lately, as the spotlight of charitable giving has been shining on the recent hurricane victims. However, laptops have still been going out to the wounded, and we are gearing up for some exciting things.

I had hoped to have all the details for you by Monday morning, but it looks like it may not happen (I'll take this post down if it does). But here is what you can expect to hear about in the next couple of days, guaranteed:

  • The online fundraising competition that will lead up to Veterans Day
  • Stories and words of those who have received the laptops
  • Suggestions for approaching large businesses for donations
  • Two new press releases
  • Top-notch Powerpoint presentations for use with corporations or community groups
  • Flyers for distribution around neghborhoods, businesses, or places of worship, etc.
  • Details about press exposure we've been getting
  • Info on total laptops delivered so far
  • Updates to the official website
But we need your help right now! For the online fundraising competition, there are three different ways of setting up teams being considered:
  1. Two or three big bloggers recruit smaller bloggers to create ad hoc teams.
  2. Milbloggers are divided by service branch and we civilian bloggers pick whom we want to support
  3. Milbloggers vs. a coalition of civilian/political bloggers
If you have any opinions or suggestions on the subject of teams, please comment below!

Cross-posted at the Valour-IT Blog

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15 October, 2005

He's Back!

I don't know if SGT Hook was the first milblogger I read; I think I discovered him and LT Smash in the same week. However, almost as soon as I had discovered his excellent writing and wonderful insight, he disappeared on us. But now he's back!

Go, read, and bookmark. He's sure to quickly be a favorite once again.

H/T Margi Lowry

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Congratulations to the Iraqi People!

The polls have closed in Iraq, after an historic day that was largely free of violence and marked by high voter turnouts.

Congratulations, Iraq! And congratulations to the brave people of many countries who made the day the success it was.

Please do read the article I linked above. The pictures below are from the article. The article paints a picture of what the activities must have been like, describing families going to the polls together, wearing their best clothes, etc. Very cool.

The NY Times has an excellent article written at the opening of the polls, that has a
very balanced view of Iraqi attitudes leading up to the election. One particular quote jumped out at me.

"During the Saddam regime I lost two sons," said Saliema Khidher, 50. "I have only one daughter left, I am here today to vote with yes for the sake of Iraqi people because I consider them my sons."

Puts all the insane politics and media issues back in perspective, doesn't it?

Linked to Iraqi Freedom Trackback Post at Cao's Blog (Thanks!)

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I first heard this exchange on the radio. I was stunned. I know the name of reporter Dana Milbank, though I've never purchased a copy of the Washington Post, and I know the actual names of very few reporters. He's definitely a bigwig on the Washington, D.C. journalistic/politico scene. Yet, during a discussion on MSNBC of that already-infamous teleconference, Milbank mocked the Iraqi NCO involved, mimicking the accent and broken English of the soldier as he thanked President Bush. The host on MSNBC actually played along with Milbank!!!

The whole exchange once again leaves me speechless at the intellectual corruption of the media. Fortunately Swanky Conservative isn't at a loss for words:

How f**king rude can Milbank be to dismiss with a regal wave of his hand the well-wishes and sincerity of an Iraqi man? Sod, f**king off you ivory-towered blowhard! You are out of touch and in serious denial of reality at best.

...Milbank, you are an ass.
He's worse. He's an arrogant, racist, condescending, intellectually-stunted, coldhearted, self-important pig.

And what's really scary is that his peers in the media don't seem to think that's a problem.

Linked at Stop the ACLU Open Trackbacks (Thanks!)

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14 October, 2005

Sweet Nothings

Like I said, no more politics. So, let's shift gears. :)

Gummy Bears

You may be smooshie and taste unnatural,
but you're so darn cute

Hmmm... Comments on this thread should prove interesting... Haha!

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The Media, Again II

Apparently I was among the earliest bloggers to write about the "staged" teleconference, though certainly not the best (I can find only one blogger who posted previous to me). It has now turned into a full-blown, media-manufactured frenzy.

I used to like politics. I knew it was a game, but I felt like we little people had a chance of finding out what was really going on, so I found it fascinating to dissect and decipher; the politicans spun and the media dug. And yes, they all had their biases and their turf to protect, but you could usually figure it out rather easily, and just as easily communicate the truth another person. But in the last four years it's been no fun anymore. I felt this way leading up to the election--discouraged and disappointed in our society--but it dissipated afterwards. But I'm again reminded that it's life and death; it's not a game. Yet people aren't playing by the rules anymore and it's all about personal and ideological power, not about trying to do what's right. And doing what's right matters more now that it has in a very long time.

Yeah, I know that wasn't coherent. I'm trying to force myself to tie this story off neatly, but I don't think I care enough; I'm too disgusted to care. Everything I have read has convinced me even more that this is a tempest in a teapot. Those who call it "staged," have not a whit of evidence that the soldiers were told what to say, or that the president had specific questions he was reading from. By definition then, it can be neither staged nor scripted. Managed and choreographed? Absolutely; it's politics as it's been done for decades.

But these people say it better:

Big Lizards: the best discussion of the issue I've seen (notice the "Update" in particular)
SGT Ron Long: A milblogger who participated in the teleconference
Michelle Malkin: Roundup of the right side of blogosphere; from there you can dig deeper and find links to the other side, too.

This is part of why I didn't want to get into discussing politics. It's a sewer, and so many people are so ignorant, and others so shameless and manipulative, that facts and logic don't mean a thing. It's a losing game.

I quit. No more politics.

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13 October, 2005

The Media, Again

[UPDATE: The link referenced below with the headline "Bush Teleconference with Soldiers Staged" now leads to the same article, but has a different (and much more accurate) headline: "Bush Thanks Soldiers in Rehearsed Talk." Original headline cached here.]

Must be bad luck or something, but I've stumbled across another disgusting piece of news media output today. I had seen an earlier version of this article that had a somewhat biased headline, but it wasn't particularly noteworthy. However, its recent incarnation is absolute excrement!

Under the headline, "Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged," the article describes what seems to me to be standard rehearsal/preparations required for a teleconference or informational meeting involving a large number of participants and a range of subjects. In this case, it was the President teleconferencing with 10 officers and enlisted men currently in Tikrit, Iraq.

Knowing how obviously the president enjoys interacting with the military personnel, I'm sure he relished the opportunity to talk to soldiers with on-the-ground experience. Of course it was a photo op too, likely primarily so. Basically unremarkable to me. But apparently I didn't see it for the sinister plot it truly was...

Go read it, if you can bear such snarkiness in a "journalist." I swear, the DNC would've happily written and distributed this. The article breathlessly notes that:

  • The soldiers knew ahead of time what topics the president wanted to address
  • It was predetermined which soldiers would address which topics
  • Topics were expected to be raised by the president in a specific order (An agenda for a meeting?! However, that did not happen in actuality)
  • The president's "advance man" wanted the setting to look nice

Horror of horrors! You mean the soldiers knew in advance what the President expected to talk about, soldiers with relevant areas of expertise/experience were identified to answer ahead of time, an agenda for the meeting was conceived, and there was a desire to make this a good photo op? Oh, the corruption! I don't think I can bear it!

For an entire transcript, which is inherently more informative, try this. Surely this event qualified as "choreographed, but "staged" is a whole 'nother word that doesn't apply here. 'Cause if there was a script for this event, someone neglected to give the President a copy...

CAPTAIN KENNEDY: Good morning, Mr. President, from Tikrit. I'm Captain Brent Kennedy. To my right is Sergeant Major Akeel from the 5th Iraqi Army Division. We're working together here with the Iraqis in Task Force Liberty for the upcoming referendum. We're surging an operation, called Operation Saratoga, that includes the securing of over 1,250 polling sites. We're working right alongside with the Iraqis as they lead the way in securing these sites.

THE PRESIDENT: That's good. And so, like -- I mean, and so the vote is in less than 48 hours -- or about 48 hours, I guess. And so how do you -- how would -- are you confident? I mean, how do you feel the operations are going?

CAPTAIN KENNEDY: Mr. President, I'm going to field that question to Captain Smith.

THE PRESIDENT: I didn't want to give you -- I didn't want to throw you a hardball there, Captain.

Oh yeah, everybody sticking to the script, there.

And just in case you didn't follow the link to the article and you think I'm overstating the level of bias and snarkiness, check just this little bit:

The president also got praise from the Iraqi soldier who was part of the chat.

"Thank you very much for everything," he gushed. "I like you."

Where's my barf bag?

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Al Qaeda's Media Arm in the U.S.

Update: the WSJ has an opinion article with greater detail of the memo contents than anything else I've seen (reproduced below).

I heard something on the radio today that--in all honesty--nearly made me wreck my car. Having just moved recently, I'm not intimately familiar with the local radio stations, and I didn't catch which major media outlet provides national news bites on the station I was listening to, though I know it's one of the biggies.

This is what they broadcast as their second story at the top of the hour, in alarming tones:

"A widely-distributed letter purported to be from Ayman al Zawahiri to his al Qaeda deputy in Iraq may be a forgery."

My heart was instantly in my throat, and my first thought before I heard the actual story was, "Oh God, don't let some political hack have been that stupid." Of course, upon reflection, the idea that some politician cooked it up is absurd (for myriad reasons that I'll address in the comments if anybody has any questions).

But what, pray tell, were the details that followed this stunning audio headline? Nothing more than the breathless report that a website believed to be associated wtih al Qaeda had posted a statement saying that it was false, that it had been created by the American government for propaganda purposes.

That's it.

That was the entire story. There was nothing more.

I'm not kidding about nearly wrecking the car. I'm not the type to sit on the sidelines and take potshots at "the media," but this one takes the cake! You might as well report that a website claims Billy Graham is a Satanist! The utter insanity of treating the statements of people who drive IEDs into crowds of children as something to be taken at face value!!! Have journalists completely sold their souls?!!

I'm just speechless. I really don't have the words to describe the moral depravity and intellectual deficiencies of "journalists" who would think that story was anything more than a propaganda gift to al Qaeda. Giving that kind of undeserved weight to their words without even a smidgen of proof is positively treasonous (and no, I'm not throwing that word around lightly)!

What unspeakable moral darkness...


From the WSJ (emphasis added):

Zawahiri's Lament
What our enemy thinks about Iraq.
Thursday, October 13, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

Ayman al Zawahiri and George W. Bush don't agree on much. But al Qaeda's No. 2 leader and the U.S. President are in accord on one thing: Iraq is the central battlefield.

This is just one of the many insights into the mind of the terrorist braintrust gleaned from an extraordinary document obtained this summer by U.S. forces in Iraq and released yesterday by the White House. It is a 6,000-word letter from Zawahiri, presumably in hiding in Pakistan, to al Qaeda's commander in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

We're glad the Administration made the decision to declassify it. It goes a long way toward letting Americans see what we are up against in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. The letter's full text is up on the Web site of the Director of National Intelligence at www.dni.gov.

Those who want a premature U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will now have to explain why that won't play into the hands--and plans--of the enemy. Zawahiri makes it quite clear that al Qaeda's ambitions extend well beyond the borders of any one country. The goal is a fundamentalist Islamic regime that begins in Iraq, extends into the neighboring secular nations of the region, assaults Israel and moves on from there. And yes, he uses the word "caliphate."

But let Zawahiri speak for himself. The jihadists, he writes, "must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal." Plainly said, these boys are in it for the long haul. Just because the U.S. might decide to pull out of Iraq hardly means that al Qaeda will stop trying to kill Americans.

Notwithstanding Zawahiri's chilling language, the good news here is that the tone of the correspondence with his mass murder colleague in Iraq often borders on the desperate. Zawahiri hardly sounds like a commander on the brink of victory. He is clearly worried that the jihadists are losing in Iraq. He devotes a large portion of his letter to a critique of Zarqawi's tactics, counseling him to do more to win "public support" among the Iraqi Shiite majority.

Don't attack mosques, he advises. Don't target ordinary people. "Many of your Muslim admirers amongst common folk are wondering about your attacks on the Shi'a," he writes. Such strikes amount to "action that the masses do not understand or approve."

As for the Sunnis, he urges Zarqawi to cast a wider net--an implicit admission that he's worried about Sunnis who have been showing signs of interest in the democratic political process unfolding there. Afghanistan--and the Islamic democracy emerging in that nation--is his worst nightmare. "We don't want to repeat the mistake of the Taliban, who restricted participation in governance to the students and the people of Kandahar alone," he says. "The result was that the Afghan people disengaged themselves from them. Even devout ones took the stance of the spectator and when the invasion came, the emirate collapsed in days, because the people were either passive or hostile."

Zawahiri's also not feeling too peachy about his personal situation. He recounts the death of his "favorite" wife and a daughter after the collapse of their house during an apparent American bombing. He admits to a "real danger" from the Pakistani army, which is pursuing al Qaeda in tribal areas. He mourns the capture of al Qaeda big shots, and oh by the way, he asks Zarqawi to send him $100,000.

The letter is dated July 9, two days after the London subway bombings, of which there is no mention; this suggests that life in a cave, or whatever redoubt in which he is holed up, doesn't include the basic amenity of daily news access. He asks whether the full text of a speech he had sent to al Jazeera was actually broadcast in June.

Amid these lamentations, however, one area emerges about which the terror commander exudes great confidence: the mediaThe lesson he learned from Vietnam is that "more than half of the battle is taking place on the battlefield of the media." He clearly wants to use the media, in the U.S. and in the Arab world, to induce the U.S. to pull out of Iraq and default a position of strength to al Qaeda. He actually worries about the possibility that Zarqawi will blow victory on the media battlefield: Toward this end, he gently urges Zarqawi to discontinue his habit of beheading hostages, suggesting that perhaps instead he could just shoot them. "We are in a media race for . . . hearts and minds," he writes.

The long Zawahiri letter is a rough roadmap of the strategic vision for al Qaeda's intentions in Iraq and the global jihad. If it has a familiar ring, that's because George Bush has been warning the world about it for several years.

Linked at Mudville Gazette's Open Post

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12 October, 2005

Goodbye, Cassie

A a brilliant light has been shuttered.

She's been hinting at it for a very long time, but I kept hoping it was just a recurring--but ultimately passing--mood. Cassandra of Villainous Company has been the kind of blogger I would be in my dreams: witty, brilliant, up to doing the required research... in short, amazing. Her voice will be greatly missed.

And it was more than just her voice. The regulars of Villainous Company were without parallel in my corner of the blog world.

You will all be missed.

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Conversation with a Lady

Continuing the descent of Fuzzilicious Thinking into a pedestrian personal blog...

As most of my three readers know, I am most-definitely single—very, very single for far too long. Being single at my age may sometimes be thought to carry the whiff of desperation, which certainly doesn’t apply here. People who know me well would say I’m more likely to run away from a man than towards. And more than one lady of experience has told me my standards are rather high.

Those standards are something I’ve been recently examining with a lot more specificity. It probably started with that silly little 5 Things Meme. I included “Intelligence/wit” at the top of my list of “5 Things that Attract Me to the Opposite Sex” simply because I am easily charmed by a man who can make me laugh and with whom I can go toe-to-toe in a battle of social or intellectual wits.

I can’t speak for all women in this case, but it is a man’s mind I fall for first. And the most efficient way to communicate that mind is conversation. An active, curious mind that loves a good turn of phrase, pulls from a variety of disciplines or experiences, and confidently digs into whatever is found to be intriguing will always bear at least a second look. And a man with intellectual passions that differ markedly from mine—whether mathematics, technology, art, or “The History of Warfare,” the subject matters not—is a constant source of intellectual stimulation and opportunities to view through familiar eyes things that seem so foreign at first glance. …And a chance also to glimpse the passion and fire that lurk in all of us.

And then there is the wit side of things… I remember a friend from graduate school (sadly uninterested in the fairer sex), who was always ready with the devastating bon mot, and whose ability to quote or allude to the famous writers of Western poetry and literature left me in awe. A mind like that is a wonderful thing, though unfortunately rare. And truth be told, that is not what I am looking for. Some minds are just too intimidating!

But I believe wit is the true hallmark of an intelligent mind—educated or not. Some wits are the life of every party, while others are quiet and dry, leaving one breathless with laughter at the most inopportune moments or wondering what delicious thoughts lurk behind that calm facade. And still others can communicate volumes of amusing and enticing information with the mere lifting of an eyebrow or a knowing smile.

And for me, no intellectual interaction can compare to the joy of a good battle of wits, usually framed in a flirtation. For the joy in teasing and tweaking and believing oneself to have the upper hand, can only be exceeded by suddenly discovering one’s error and having to submit to another’s teasing gaze and triumphant laughter. For the ultimate joy comes in gracefully ceding the battlefield, armed with ready material for the next time, when one will prevail and turn the tables in that delicious dance.

So gentleman, it is truly the mind that matters. For the mind controls the body, and the body can be taught. But unlike the body, the good mind grows in splendor commensurate with its age. Approach me with the bravado and certitude of twenty-five and I will find you titillating, and even passably interesting for a few moments. But set before me a man of nearly forty with intelligence, experience and a devastating sense of humor…who can make me laugh and make me cry, make me wonder why I was never interested in rocket science or guns or 17th century French literature or even antique cars, and who can go toe-to-toe in both discussion and flirtation... then I will be entranced and intrigued, and gladly sit and talk.

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11 October, 2005

Al Qaeda Isn't Stupid

More proof that the terrorists know the score on the American Homefront:

WASHINGTON - In a letter to his top deputy in Iraq, al-Qaida's No. 2 leader said the United States "ran and left their agents" in Vietnam and the jihadists must have a plan ready to fill the void if the Americans suddenly leave Iraq.

"Things may develop faster than we imagine," Ayman al-Zawahri wrote in a letter to his top deputy in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. "The aftermath of the collapse of American power in Vietnam — and how they ran and left their agents — is noteworthy. ... We must be ready starting now."
And the protestors with their visions of Vietnam II call themselves patriotic... I think I'm going to be ill.

And al-Zawahiri has a message for the idiots who think there wouldn't be war if the U.S. wasn't there:

In a letter taking up 13 typed pages in its English translation, al-Zawahri also recommended a four-stage expansion of the war that would take the fighting to neighboring Muslim countries.

"It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established ... in the heart of the Islamic world," al-Zawahri wrote.
The leftists and other war protestors say if we just leave the terrorists alone everyone will live together... happy and peaceful?! Idiots! Dangerous idiots!

But one note of hopefulness:

"More than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media," he wrote. "We are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our umma," or community of Muslims, he wrote.
Perhaps another sign that we are winning...

Linked in Mudville Gazette's and Stop the ALCU's open posts

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09 October, 2005

Chocolate or Sex

I saw a conversation over at ALa's that got me to thinking. Someone mentioned that reportedly Oprah had once asked the women in her studio audience to answer the question, "Which would you rather give up for the rest of your life: chocolate or sex?" Supposedly a substantial majority said they'd give up sex for the rest of their lives in order to be able to continue to eat chocolate. Unbelievable!

So my dear female readers, I have a poll for you. LADIES ONLY!

UPDATE: Yup, it would be a post on the combined topics of chocolate and sex that breaks the record for highest number of comments 'round these parts. *sigh* Luv ya guys, though. :)

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And Now for a Little Jingoism*

I'm generally not a country music fan, though the self-deprecating humor and unabashed pride of some songs is marvelous.

And yes, some of the things Charlie Daniels has said/written make me cringe. But I stumbled across an obscure website today... and once again, That Song left me in tears, regardless of whether I can endorse every line.

In part:

They took all the footage off my T.V.
Said it's too disturbing for you and me.
It'll just breed anger that's what the experts say.
If it was up to me I'd show it everyday.
Some say this country's just out looking for a fight.
Well after 9/11, man I'd have to say that's right.

Have you forgotten how it felt that day,
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away?
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going thru a living hell.
And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout bin Laden...
Have you forgotten?

Now I've been there with the soldiers
Who've gone away to war,
And you can bet that they remember
Just what they're fightin' for.

Have you forgotten all the people killed?
Some went down like heros in that Pennsylvania field.
Have you forgotten about our Pentagon,
And all the loved ones that we lost and those left to carry on?
Don't you tell me not to worry about bin Laden.
Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten how it felt that day,
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away?
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside going thru a living hell.
And you say we shouldn't worry 'bout bin Laden...
Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten?

*Jingoism: 1. an appeal intended to arouse patriotic emotions; 2. fanatical patriotism.

Which one is this? I don't know. I just know I'm sitting here with tears on my cheeks once again.

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Political Inconsistency

Surfing the web, I found the most amazing little quiz: Iconochasms, a compendium that highlights some of the notable inconsistencies among major political figures. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Here's a sample of questions about people who, for better or worse, were not always consistent (answers are in the comment section):

Who, commenting on the deaths of more than half a million children, said "I think that this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it," Yasser Arafat, Madeline Albright, Pandit Nehru, or Ayotollah Kohmeini?

With reference to World War One, who said "If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as admirable (as Hitler) to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations," General Montgomery, Winston Churchill, King George VI, or Bertrand Russell?

The two questions above may be among the easier ones; others are more challenging. It's a lot of fun to see both what the surprising answers are, and how many you answer correctly (My score was 30 out of 46). Go, take the quiz for yourself.

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08 October, 2005

Iraqi Military Readiness

This last week it was widely reported that only a single Iraqi battalion was completely ready to take over. My first mental image upon reading that was of the rest of the Iraqi military units just running around in training exercises, unable to do any "real" work.

Major K has been involved in training the Iraqi military forces. As is more and more frequently the case, the true story is behind the media spin. The major sets the record straight:

In the initial months of our operations here, most major raids and searches were conducted jointly by an Iraqi unit with an equivalent-sized US unit, a company with a company or a battalion with a battalion. US units were still in the stage of carrying their Iraqi counterparts through these operations as the Iraqis still had a reputation for cutting and running if enemy contact got hairy. Support for Iraqi units was needed in almost every area...

But after nine months...

Battalions and companies are seldom, if ever matched with US battalions and companies for "strike operations" - raids, searches, etc. Many Iraqi Battalions operate with a small US MiTT (Military Transition Team) that is squad-sized (9-15 men). The MiTT advises, rides along, and provides limited training, logistical and communications support.

...The Iraqis constitute over 95% of the manpower on any operation, and no longer cut and run from enemy fire, even after sustaining casualties. The US MiTT helps to coordinate to overcome logistical snarls...The MiTT also provides communications infrastructure to link the Iraqis with other Iraqi units and the US higher command....Metaphorically speaking, the MiTT is the father running along side of his child riding without training wheels for the first time to scoop the child up if the child crashes.

...As I write this, two sectors of Baghdad are controlled by Iraqi Army Brigades (4000-5000) assisted by a platoon-sized (30-40) MiTT. The number of Iraqi Battalions operating with only a small MiTT adviser group as I described is in the dozens, and that is only here in the Baghdad area.
Just stop and consider the kind of military culture that existed in Iraq before 2003. And remember that it's been only two and a half years since the first shots of OIF were fired. Dozens of battalions living by new rules and operating with mere training wheels in Baghdad alone (among the bigger "problem areas" in Iraq) is awfully impressive.

Major K also shares this:

While visiting 1st Brigade a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Mini-NCO Academy that they had set up with the help of their MiTT Team. It was one of those experiences that really gives one hope.

Tough, competent, professional NCO's are what the Iraqi Army has been lacking for many years. The culture of the old Iraqi Army was one of an aristocratic officer corps and subservient but tightly controlled enlisted force with no real NCO corps in the middle...In this little NCO Academy, of which 1st Brigade is very proud, Iraqi Sergeants are taught professionalism, leadership, ethics, initiative, map reading, training concepts and planning, to name a few of the courses.

...Now, the courses are taught exclusively by Iraqi NCO Instructors. Several of these instructors are female.

...As we stood at the back of the classroom watching one of the classes being taught by a graduate of the Academy...[I looked] over at my interpreter, Jay, who was born in Iraq but has lived in the USA for over ten years, and he was wiping away tears of joy from his eyes.
Major K also writes about some of the challenges involved in training Iraqi military forces (illiteracy and fatalism), and some great related pictures on the left hand side bar of his blog. For a ground-level view of the emerging Iraqi military, go read it all.

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06 October, 2005

FbL Joins the 21st Century

I am no longer a Luddite! The Cable ISP guy came this morning and I've got the wireless up and running now, too. It's AWESOME!!! What's even more cool is that it turns out that my worthless desktop computer can handle this one little thing without crashing: hosting the WiFi.

One little hitch, though: IE on my laptop doesn't recognize that it has access to an Internet connection, though the laptop says WiFi is connected. Any geeks out there who can help me?

Update: It turned out to be even worse than that. But all fixed now, thanks to Masked Menace, Flightpundit, and a very nice guy in the Yahoo "Computers Chat Room." *does little happy dance* Now all I need is a chair on the patio so I can sit out there with my laptop while I enjoy the view of the lake. :D

Oh! And somebody to help me set it up so that I can print from laptop without wires to the printer, too. ;)

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A GOOD Meme This Time

I found this at ArmyWifeToddlerMom (who was kind enough to email me recently), and I thought it would be a lot of fun. The procedure is: answer the 5 groups of 5 questions and forward to 5 more people. Hmmm... wonder why they call it the Five Things Meme?

5 things I plan to do before I die:
1. Put more than just a bookshelf in my living room
2. Become an extraordinary teacher
3. Travel in Europe
4. Go at least four years without a (minor) traffic accident
5. Find the love of my life (Where's he been hiding?)

5 things I can do:
1. Play the piano
2. Be very patient with children
3. Cook and bake almost anything
4. The splits
5. Tease and torture the men of the Castle

5 things I cannot do:
1. Take a compliment gracefully
2. Write legibly
3. Encounter willful ignorance with equanimity
4. Draw a straight line with a ruler
5. Tell a convincing lie (I gave up trying a long time ago, LOL!)

5 things that attract me to the opposite sex:
1. Intelligence/Wit
2. Quiet confidence
3. Sparkling eyes
4. Large, strong hands
5. Honor (integrity, chivalry, courage, etc.)

5 things I say most often:
1. Daisy, no!! (make the cat stop scratching the screen)
2. Hello.
3. Goodbye.
4. Where did I put my keys/purse/car/glasses?
5. I'm lost.

ArmyWifeToddlerMom was kind of enough to ask that everybody who read her answers join the fun. I'll be "nice" and restrict it to Lex, AFSis, Neffi, FlightPundit, Kat... Tag, you're it! If you don't have a blog, or don't want to post it on your blog, please email it so I can post it or put it in the comments. Thanks!


Update: Neffi answers! For those who may not know, Neffi is a Castle Denizen and a light-aircraft pilot with a sometimes frighteningly-creative mind. :)

5 things I want to do before I die:
1. Give my daughter's hand to a good man.
2. Fly a Supermarine Spitfire
3. Canoe the Platte River to the Mississippi
4. Build a functional light-sabre
5. Reclaim the Bering Land Bridge

5 things I can do:
1. See the good in most everyone
2. Fool trout into thinking that bit of feather and fur is lunch
3. Keep a Shovelhead Harley-Davidson running strong
(125,000 miles since I bought it 23 years ago)
4. Cheat death in a stick-and-rudder flying machine... so far...
5. Psycho-analyze complete strangers during a 5 minute conversation

5 things I cannot do:
1. Keep a lawn alive
2. Dance
3. Play the 'pipes
4. Tolerate fools and/or venal people
5. Teach presidents not to say nuke-yoo-ler

5 things that attract me to the opposite sex:
1. Attitude
2. Wit
3. Intelligence
4. Eyes
5. Being a rich heiress

5 things I say most often:
1. What the Hell are you doing?! Follow the procedure, dammit!!! (at work)
2. Hey, Foxy Mama- what's yer sign???" (disco nite at the VFW)
3. Umm, no- I don't actually know what the speed limit here is, officer...
4. Altitude?! We got plenny altitude- quitcher snivelling!!!
5. D'oh!!!!!

Thanks Neffi, those are awesome answers! :D

Lex and AFSis, and Flight Pundit have also responded.

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