by Ted on November 17, 2004

Most readers will have seen the footage of the American soldier in Fallujah killing an insurgent who was either unconscious or pretending to be unconscious. I’m not prepared to judge the guy, who deserves the presumption of innocence.

If you can’t trust Instapundit citing NewsMax citing ten thousand howler monkeys at Free Republic, who can you trust?

The official citations show Kerry was not awarded the Silver Star “for simply pursuing and dispatching” the Viet Cong. In fact, the killing is not even mentioned in two of the three versions of the official citation (see “supporting documents” at right.) The citations – based on what Elliott wrote up at the time – dwell mostly on Kerry’s decision to attack rather than flee from two ambushes, including one in which he led a landing party.

The longest of the citations, signed by Vice Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam, describes Kerry as killing a fleeing Viet Cong with a loaded rocket launcher. It says that as Kerry beached his boat to attack his second set of ambushers, “an enemy soldier sprang up from his position not ten feet from Patrol Craft Fast 94 and fled. Without hesitation, Lieutenant (junior grade) KERRY leaped ashore, pursued the man behind a hooch, and killed him, capturing a B-40 rocket launcher with a round in the chamber.”

Two other citations omit any mention of the killing. One was signed by Admiral John J. Hyland, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, and the other was signed by the Secretary of the Navy. Both those citations say Kerry attacked his first set of ambushers and that “this daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers.” Later, 800 yards away, Kerry’s boat encountered a second ambush and a B-40 rocket exploded “close aboard” Kerry’s boat. “With utter disregard for his own safety, and the enemy rockets, he again ordered a charge on the enemy, beached his boat only ten feet away from the VC rocket position, and personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy.” In these citations there is no mention of enemy casualties at all. Kerry was cited for “extraordinary daring and personal courage . . . in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire.”

Crazy proposals

by Henry Farrell on November 17, 2004

Nick Confessore makes a self-described “crazy proposal”:

bq. Imagine an endeavor under which the official Democratic Party sponsored a non-profit health-insurance corporation, one which offered some form of health insurance to anyone who joined the party — say, with a $50 “membership fee.” Since I’m not a health care wonk, I don’t know how you’d structure such a business, or what all the pitfalls might be, or even if such a thing is possible or desirable. But I can think of some theoretical advantages. The Democrats could put into practice, right away, their ideas for the kind of health insurance they think we all ought to have. They could build their grassroots and deliver tangible benefits to members. Imagine a good HMO, run not for profit and in the public interest, along the lines the Democrats keep telling us all existing HMOs and health care providers should be run.

I don’t know enough about health care to comment on whether this would work or not as a policy (I’m somewhat sceptical, but can’t give good reasons for my scepticism). I will note, however, that this is how European Social Democrats (and the Christian Democratic parties who sought to imitate them) generated mass appeal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the days before the welfare state, they provided an enormous variety of services to party members including health, life insurance etc etc. While Confessore’s idea may or may not be crazy, it’s by no means ridiculous.

Alabama’s Constitution.

by Harry on November 17, 2004

Alabama’s Amendment 2 is due for a recount on November 29th, because the vote was so close, but most commentators apparently expect it to be defeated. For those who weren’t paying attention, Amendment 2 would revoke the post-Brown constitutional amendment passed to mandate segregated education, impose a poll tax, and, most cruelly, specify that Alabama’s children have no right to a state funded education. Of course, revoking it would not guarantee a right to a state-funded education, but a central, and spurious, argument in the campaign against Amendment 2 was that revoking it would provoke lawsuits claiming that the state’s unequal provision of education was unconstitutional. Leading the charge against the Amendment: the Christian coalition. Russell Arben Fox has a lengthy and excellent discussion of the case and its implications. Although myself an atheist, I have found Russell’s post-election thoughts very helpful. His thesis, which I share, is that progressives would do better to relate to evangelicals and their ilk in new and different ways. The Amendment 2 story is good ammunition for those who disagree with us. Is there an upside? I can’t think of one, though it is notable, that, again, Governer Bob Riley is more-or-less on the side of human decency.
(I’ve turned off comments because you should be discussing this at Russell’s place).

Requests to the lazyweb

by Henry Farrell on November 17, 2004

A request aimed at those out there with halfway decent coding skills – somebody, somewhere, should write an MT-Disemvowel plugin for Movable Type. For those not familiar with the concept, disemvowelling, pioneered by “Teresa Nielsen Hayden”:, is the most effective troll-repellent yet invented. You leave the troll’s comment up, but remove all the vowels from it. It can still be read by anyone who has a bit of patience, but makes the troll look rather ridiculous. So far, on the very few occasions I’ve had to use it, it’s worked absolutely perfectly. The only problem is that it’s a bit of a nuisance – it takes a couple of minutes to remove the vowels manually from the longer harangues. Seems like something that a not-very-complicated .cgi script could accomplish in a flash – anyone out there up to the task?

Update: gratitude and kudos to Novalis, who within eight minutes of the request reheated some previously existing code to create the “Dsmvwllr”:

by Henry Farrell on November 17, 2004

While we’re “on the subject”: of essayists and bloggers, I’ve always liked this bit from Samuel Johnson.