Friday, August 31, 2007

Where are you going with those bombs, eh?

TORONTO: The police arrested a Lebanese and recovered three bombs from his car during the search operation.

The police performed a controlled detonation of three bombs in an isolated waterfront area on Friday after transporting the devices from the city's east end amid heavy security.
(The News)

Why would a Lebanese person want to set off bombs in Canada?

Toronto's close to the U.S., of course, so maybe they were bound for Detroit.

Or maybe he doesn't like Canada's conservative government.

Or maybe it's the Canadian troops in Afghanistan?

Rays tame Yankees, 9-1

Andy Sonnanstine pitched a 2-hit gem over eight innings, and Carlos Pena clocked two home runs to pace the Rays' 12-hit attack.

Every win against the Yankees is sweet, so much so that I'll tempt fate by posting about the first victory in the series despite what happened last time I did so.

Looking at the pitching matchups, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Yanks take two of three. Edwin Jackson has been pretty strong for the Rays in the second half, but I think he'll need his best stuff to keep New York's batting lineup in check. Hopefully the Rays' offense can punish the rookie pitcher the Yankees will send to the mound against Jackson.

The third game features Jason Hammel against Andy Pettite. Hammel has struggled starting in the majors after putting up good numbers in AAA ball. Pettite isn't what he used to be, but he was very effective the last time he pitched against Tampa Bay.

In a grumble over ESPN coverage of the game, the sports ticker included no highlights other than the box score. One would think that Carlos Pena reaching 33 home runs while going 2 for 2 with three walks would merit mention. I'm pretty sure that every other major league game specifically highlighted the numbers of either a pitcher or a hitter. I guess they could have highlighted Alex Rodriguez's 125th RBI, too.

James Denselow on Iraq

Analysis of the news, from another planet (reality-based?).

Meanwhile politicians on both side of the Atlantic have taken continued advantage of the huge public support given to the soldiers, despite opposition to the war itself, to defer political decisions to military commanders informed by "conditions on the ground". Yet the abrupt substitution of General Casey for Petraeus shows that if commanders on the ground disagree with new strategies from Washington then they are replaced. President Bush has consistently hidden behind a popular military to explain the catastrophic failure of his Iraqi adventure.

But the president is running out of people to hide behind. Most of the planners of the war have gone and despite an attempt to replace the divisive Rumsfeld with a "big tent" approach by including pragmatic generals like Petraeus, as well as hard bitten realists like Ryan Crooker and Robert Gates, the situation is all but lost. The surge represents a gamble for resurrection, as if by putting more chips on to the table Bush can win back the blood and treasure that has been lost in Iraq over the past four years.

(The Guardian)

I'd be interested to see some polling of "those who oppose the war" that goes into the depth of their opposition.

What would they be willing to allow to get U.S. or British troops out of Iraq? A genocide taking millions of lives? An Iraq in political orbit around Iran? A war between Turkey and Kurdistan?

Is Denselow's perception that Casey replaced Petraeus ("the abrupt substitution of General Casey for Petraeus") an indication of how well he is paying attention?

I don't even understand this sentence: "President Bush has consistently hidden behind a popular military to explain the catastrophic failure of his Iraqi adventure."
How would hiding behind the military "explain" catastrophic failure, if we were to grant that the operation is a catastrophic failure? Does Denselow mean to say that Bush blames the failures on his generals and military advisers? Seems to me that Bush uses "we" when he talks about the successes and failures in Iraq. A pity Denselow provides no examples. How are we supposed to understand the term "explain" as Denselow is using it?

Denselow suggests that the situation in Iraq is "all but lost"--but why? What areas of Iraq are controlled by insurgents? What major victories have insurgents registered? There simply isn't any data that supports the claim that the situation is all but lost except on the political front--and even then the main threat is on the political front in the United Kingdom and in the United States.
A stalemate during an insurgency is not a loss. The analogy has been drawn before, but the type of view Denselow give us could have come during the Civil War or during WW2--except that things were truly poised to be disastrous in both cases. The fastest way to ensure disaster in the case of Iraq would be to institute a speedy withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Denselow talks about the "gamble for resurrection," but again the resurrection is on the political front, since Iraq has never been a dead situation. And the positive happenings in Iraq, exemplified by the flipping of Anbar, provide excellent reason for a corresponding flip in the politics of Iraq.

Apparently that prospect doesn't sit well with folks like Denselow who have their Iraq War narrative mapped out, and intend to stick with it regardless of the facts.

May I call you "Dense" for short, Mr. Denselow?

Blackwater to purchase Super Tucano aircraft

August 27, 2007: Security company Blackwater U.S.A. is buying Super Tucano light combat aircraft from the Brazilian manufacturer Embraer. These five ton, single engine, single seat aircraft are built for pilot training, but also perform quite well for counter-insurgency work. Brazil.
Note that StrategyPage calls the Super Tucano a single-seat aircraft. That conflicts with my earlier report, though the plane does have a two-seat version for training. Blackwater is purchasing one of the trainers. Not a bad idea if they want to give their pilots training with the new planes.

There's just one thing that bothers me about this story, and that is that Wonkette wrote about the story before I did.

If my analysis is thin, theirs is thinner.

More nice pics, along with some specifications, at this French page. One of the photos looks rather a lot like an artist's conception.

Pakistan's political reconciliation continues to inch along bumpy path

A fair percentage of the headlines at The News, the Pakistani news outlet I check for early-breaking events, are a mystery.

Like this one: MMA vows to resist if BB comes from backdoor

There's just no way I know what that means without reading below the headline.
PESHAWAR: MMA president Qazi Hussain Ahmed said that resistance would be made if Benazir Bhutto tries to come into power from backdoor after a deal with General Musharraf.
(The News)
A-ha. I dimly suspected that "BB" might be Benazir Bhutto, the exiled political figure that Musharraf has courted (in the political sense) to assist in unifying Pakistan against extremist factions. Apparently the rest of the MMA doesn't appreciate her just waltzing back into the country and cutting deals without consulting them about it.
He said that Benazir Bhutto’s deal with General Musharraf would mean that she supports the General and he would not accept any deal.
It's almost enough to make me do a parody of an old Rolling Stones tune. "Sympathy for a Military Dictator." I'll have an easier time coming up with the rhymes than Musharraf will have in unifying Pakistan.

Bucs finish preseason 3-1

I haven't bothered to check the pre-season standings, but I doubt that 3-1 wins the pre-season championship.

So what does it mean?

Well, the record in pre-season means little. At most, it can pump up a team that has struggled, giving them a little taste of victory--and the Bucs did struggle last year. But on the other hand, the teams' struggles were predictable given their particular injury problems last year (no. 1 and no. 2 QB, DE Simeon Rice, CB Brian Kelly, MLB Shelton Quarles).

Here's the quick list of positives:
  • The offense was able to run the ball, even against Jacksonville.
  • Each of the top three quarterbacks showed an ability to move the offense.
Here's the quick list of negatives:
  • The defensive line has only slightly improved its ability to pressure the quarterback.
  • Ruud hasn't proved his ability to take Quarles' place effectively, and there's nobody to back him up.
  • The defensive subs gave up quite a few big plays (contrary to the design of the defense).
  • Gradkowski still can't hit the long ball (demonstrated with several misfires against Houston).
The offense will probably improve quite a bit this year. The upgrade at quarterback (Jeff Garcia), and the growth (experience and size) of the offensive line may produce one of the most effective offensive teams the Bucs have ever had.
The defense is breaking in a number of new players. Cato June looks like a sure hit at linebacker. Aside from Chris Hovan, every player on the defensive line is a question mark (Greg Spires merely on account of his age). Philip Buchanon should be an excellent nickel corner, and the Bucs upgraded the depth at safety in the draft. If they didn't draft next year's starters this year, they at least gave the incumbents some great motivation to step up their play.

I'm always optimistic (sometimes foolishly so), but I expect 9 wins, possibly 10. The offense can move with either Garcia or McCown running the show. Gradkowski still needs to improve his deeper throws to keep the defense honest (he also showed some poor judgment in throwing downfield this preseason).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The bottom of the (inverted) pyramid

I was updating myself on MRAP news today and ran across a USA-Today story on manufacturers' efforts to develop armor protections against Explosively Formed Penetrators, the type of IED most lethal to U.S. vehicles.

Most of story was no surprise, as it stayed line with the narrative that MRAPs are unprotected against EFPs. Near the bottom of the story, where the traditional print-media story form stuffs the less-interesting and least-critical detail, I discovered something I didn't know.

"We have a solution that is made up of standard and new materials in a configuration that will defeat a number of the EFP devices," said Jim Tuten, director of research development and armor programs at Protected Vehicles, which is based in North Charleston, S.C. "We have tested it against a number of them at several different government facilities successfully."

Force Protection, a major Pentagon MRAP contractor, has anti-EFP armor in a vehicle called the Mastiff, which it has sold the British military.

(USA Today)

One of my favorite blogs, the delightful across-the-pond EU Referendum, had criticized the Mastiff version of the Force Protection Cougar because it lacked windows with which soldiers could make themselves aware of their surroundings before disembarking at the rear of the vehicle. Apparently, the EFP protections designed by Force Protection resulted in the elimination of the windows.

Linking back to EU Referendum helped me stumble across a blog entry from 2006 that I had missed, on IEDs, EFPs, and military vehicles. Pay them a visit.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Good news for dolphin fans

Some weeks ago, I highlighted a story about the freshwater Yangtze River dolphin. Chinese scientists had completed a survey of the river and came to the conclusion that the recently rare dolphin species was probably extinct.

SHANGHAI - A creature believed to be the rare Chinese white dolphin has been sighted in the Yangtze river, an expert said Wednesday, renewing hope for a mammal recently declared as probably extinct.

Video footage by a resident of eastern Anhui province purportedly taken this month appears to show the critically endangered white dolphin, known in China as the ‘baiji’, frolicking in its native Yangtze habitat, said Wang Ding, one of the world’s leading authorities on the species.

(Khaleej Times)
So President Bush has lucked out, at least for now. I'm sure he didn't want that one added to his record.

Deal reached on Musharraf's uniform?

I admit I'm surprised--so I guess I'll wait to see if it's true.
LONDON: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has agreed to resign from his position as army chief in a power-sharing deal with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the exiled former leader said in an interview published Wednesday.

Speaking from London, where she currently lives, Bhutto said in an interview to a UK-based newspaper that while the deal was not yet complete, the "uniform issue is resolved."
(The News)
There has been plenty of posturing on the issue by both sides over the past couple of weeks. This may yet be more of the same.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

MRAP testing at Aberbeen

There's no information about how the vehicles performed during testing, which is no surprise.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., Aug. 24, 2007 - A team of test operators and mechanics here gave members of the media and other visitors a firsthand look at the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, or MRAP, which is currently being tested on its automotive quality and ability to protect servicemembers' lives.

The Marine Corps has awarded contracts for 6,415 MRAPs to date. The vehicles have raised, V-shaped underbellies, that deflect the force of improvised explosive devices and other blasts from below better than other vehicles in use. But before each armored vehicle transports troops in the field, it undergoes two phases of testing conducted here or at Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz., to gauge how well each MRAP model drives, steers and handles, and whether it can withstand explosions.
(

The story includes a report that the current crop of vehicles offers "significantly" better protection than earlier ones.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Maybe Maliki gets the last laugh

After press reports depicted him as unable to effectively govern Iraq and after a number of prominent Democrats called for his ouster from his position as prime minister of Iraq, PM Nuri al-Maliki's recent political maneuvering appears to have made a promising breakthrough.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key measures seen as vital to fostering national reconciliation.

The agreement by the five leaders was one of the most significant political developments in Iraq for months and was quickly welcomed by the United States, which hopes such moves will ease sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands.
(Reuters, through Yahoo! News)

It remains to be seen if the deal will work out in practice, but good news on the Iraq political front has been rare--so this news is welcome.
Hopefully, Washington Democrats will have ample opportunity to eat another set of ill-timed and ill-spoken words.

Hat-tip to Powerline.

My rigorous fact-checking confirms Scott Beauchamp's stories

Sublime Bloviations can now reveal that everything that Scott Beauchamp wrote was perfectly true. We have conducted our own investigation, communicating via Haloscan with one of Beauchamp's co-workers.

I work with Scott Thomas Beauchamp on a regular basis. he has helped me in more ways than one! We have gone through alot of the same things and have been there by each others sides and helped keep our heads up. I can honestly say that everything he wrote was completely true. As for the other comments about this great and wonderful man, is a complete outrage. Half of these people have no idea what happens in Good'ol Iraq. I my self have witnessed everything has writen about. He is one of my best friends and would trust my life with him any day. He is an oustanding person and a great husband. To slander his name for telling the truth about something is completely uncalled for. Unless you were then and know exactly what happened. then your comments mean shit!
There you have it. Chew on that, Weekly Standard.

The IP address stemmed from Virginia, for what it's worth.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blumner bloviates on taxes

I'll take some more swipes at the great pinata of the St. Petersburg Times' editorial staff, Robyn Blumner.

Blumner wore her (pink-o) colors for an editorial column on taxation recently. Predictably, the column uses the fairness of progressive taxation as a premise.

Blumner begins by hinting that it is an outrage that a person with over $1 billion in income can pay a lower tax rate than teachers or mail-carriers. And it might well be, depending on why the rate is lower. Chances are the rate is lower because the former receives a different form of income than the others. Hard to say, however, since Blumner offers no details.
This imbalance is a consequence of decades of tax reforms that have benefited those at the top, with a marked acceleration under President Bush.
(St. Petersburg Times)
Uh, yeah, I figured she'd get around to mentioning George W. Bush.

If Blumner is aware of the manner in which capital gains tax cuts are more likely to return tot he government in the form of revenue (documented here) than a cut in income-tax rates in the lower half of the income scale, she's not telling.

Liberals really do have an interesting view of fairness. Their view of fairness tends to resemble Karl Marx's view of fairness. The rich, they believe, should not just pay more in taxes, but the rich should pay at a higher rate. In simple English, the tax system can only be fair if it is unfair (it needs to punish those with more money by taxing them at a higher rate).

Progressive taxation is inherently unfair, despite the prodigious spin applied by Blumner. A truly fair tax would look more like the Fair Tax proposal of John Linder, or the Flat Tax system used effectively in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Blumner isn't really favoring fair taxation. She's in favor of fairness in the distribution of wealth, and in favor of using the tax system as a means to achieve that end. If you have too much, the government needs to take more of it away to give to those with less. To wit:

The most well-adjusted and decent societies are those where the government provides basic social services (good schools, health care, police and fire protection), invests in infrastructure including human capital, and promotes a thriving middle class. A progressive tax code contributes to this model by having society's most advantaged citizens provide the necessary resources for a more beneficent society. It also tamps down income inequality, and since people tend to view their lot in life in relative terms, this increases general well-being.

But America has been moving in precisely the opposite direction. Since the 1960s, the widening of income inequality has been cheered on by a tax code that takes proportionately less from acquired wealth while keeping the burden on workaday paychecks.

Since we view our lot in life in relative terms, we should all be poor. That way we'd be relatively just as rich as the richest person. And this will increase our general well-being. Makes a great deal of sense, no?

Note the way Blumner simply exercises a bald value judgment with her opening sentence above. The most well-adjusted and decent societies provide health care as a government service. Why did I pick out health care? It should be obvious. The other three things she mentioned are typically supplied by the local government through property taxes. Those who own the most land supply the bulk of the money for the services. It's a relatively fair system of taxation because the rates need not discriminate, and it reflects the commonsense practice of taxing those who can afford to be taxed.

Honestly, it's just painful wading through Blumner's mindless twaddle. Note the role of the Alternative Minimum Tax in reducing progressivity (a piece of legislation designed to ensure progressivity):
[S]ome of the income bands below face higher overall tax rates than in 1960, thanks to the increasing pinch of payroll taxes and the Alternative Minimum Tax, which isn’t adjusted for inflation. For incomes between the 60th percentile and the 80th, overall tax rates have climbed to 21% today from 17% in 1960. If these trends persist, the authors say that in a few years the rich will end up paying the same overall tax rate as everyone else in America, meaning that in effect America has a flat tax.
(Wall Street Journal)
While Blumner bemoans the way the super-rich decrease our general well-being, she succeeds in overlooking the way the super-rich shoulder a huge part of the overall tax burden.
In 2002, the wealthiest one percent of the nation's taxpayers paid 33.7 percent of federal income taxes collected. In 1980, those top wage earners paid only 19 percent of the federal income taxes collected, the Tax Foundation says.
(New Mexico Business Weekly)
Blumner's statement about the difference between taxes on wage income and other forms of income reveals the error in her thinking.

For Blumner, it isn't fair that income from investments is taxed at a lower rate than income from a blue-collar job. But that's really only true if the purpose of taxation is to even out prosperity. That should not be the purpose of taxation. Taxation should provide necessary services, and derive its revenues from those able to pay the tax. Beyond that, the tax system should encourage economic prosperity. And that's precisely why taxing investment income at a lower rate than wages makes a great deal of sense. The CBO has it figured out. It's time for Blumner to get a clue about it.

Move over, hole in the ozone layer. Scientists find hole in the universe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A giant hole in the Universe is devoid of galaxies, stars and even lacks dark matter, astronomers said on Thursday.

The team at the University of Minnesota said the void is nearly a billion light-years across and they have no idea why it is there.

Just speaking in terms of averages, there's a good chance this one will eventually trace to George W. Bush.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Super Tucano video: Inside the cockpit

This is pretty cool.

I just posted on the Super Tucano aircraft (super toucan, in English) aircraft, used in counterinsurgency operations in South America.

There's really no telling what you can find on Youtube ... I'm telling you!

The video makes clear that the aircraft is a two-seater. It's frequently used as a trainer as a result, but in counterinsurgency operations the second person can assist with the details of the mission.

The new Air Force? Smaller, slower planes may offer some advantages

The photo shows three "Super Tucano" aircraft. Brazil uses them for counter-insurgency operations.

What am I doing posting about prop planes in a modern air force? One of the blogs on my regular visit rotation is EU Referendum. They posted about the small planes a number of times, most recently in a story concerned with friendly-fire incidents. The smaller planes may allow safer coordination with ground forces. I can't speak to the vulnerability of such planes to surface-to-air weapons. I imagine that heat-seeking missiles would be at a disadvantage in tracking the Tucano (toucan).

It would be interesting, given the advances in fighter-plane maneuverability and speed, if a propeller-driven plane turned into the weapon of choice for air support of troops engaged against insurgents.

Force Protection promo video

The video gives a brief overview of company operations and includes a number of clips of the Buffalo, Cougar, and Cheetah vehicles. Some of the shots from the assembly line provide a nice view of the "monocoque" v-shaped hull.

The video runs about 5 minutes.


Have Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles been trumped by the Explosively-Formed Projective type of improvised explosive device?

David DeCamp, writing for the St. Petersburg Times, suggested as much, and defended his position when challenged

A new story by David Hambling seems to treat the issue more comprehensively and responsibly.
Are Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles the answer to Explosively Formed Penetrators, the armor-piercing bombs that are becoming increasingly common in Iraq?

The vast majority of IEDs cause damage by blast and shrapnel. Vehicles can be hardened to withstand these by a combination of measures such as a curved, strengthened hull which deflects blast rather than absorbing it, and increased ground clearance. But EFPs are different, as they spit out a high-velocity kinetic projectile more like a bullet that can go through steel.

(Danger Room)

Hambling notes that the first generation of "basic" MRAPs (MRAP I) is not designed to deal with EFPs, thus the call for a better MRAP with the MRAP II competition. Hambling's story focuses on the latter competition, and unfortunately doesn't delve into the add-on kits that may give existing MRAPs substantial protection against EFPs.

The same story by Hambling has a footer that notes a story I spotted just a few minutes before reading Hambling's.

Force Protection is suing PVI
for filching company secrets.

Force Protection makes the Cougar (Britain's Mastiff) and Buffalo MRAPs. Protected Vehicles manufacturs the Golan and Alpha. The Alpha, a cooperative effort with Oshkosh, received an initial order for 100 vehicles but that order was later canceled. The U.S. has ordered 60 of the Golan under MRAP I, and has reportedly welcomed the Golan to the MRAP II competition.

Criswell predicts: California earthquakes

I predict that the strongest earthquake in the history of the U.S. will virtually wipe out the city of San Francisco on April 7, 1975
--The Amazing Criswell
Time magazine may have been influenced by Criswell's prediction. Come September of 1975, they were wondering what was up with the impending super-quake and ran a story on the topic.
What would happen to the San Francisco Bay Area if it were hit by a major quake (8.3 on the Richter scale) during the evening rush hour?
The 1989 earthquake that ended a World Series game prematurely seem to be the top one since the famous 1906 quake.

Sorry, Cris. Better luck next time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rove attacking Hillary Clinton?

This column just didn't jibe with the talking points I'm being fed.
Is Republican strategist Karl Rove attacking Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton because he really wants to help her win the Democratic presidential nomination? Do Democrats seem paranoid when they suspect that he is? If so, as the saying goes, that doesn't mean somebody is not out to get them.

I have a slightly different theory. As Rove departs his long-held post at the ear of President Bush, I think his recent bash-Hillary tour of media interviews is the first Band-Aid in his attempts to patch up the damage he left behind, both to his party's prospects and his president's legacy.

After all, with Republicans largely dispirited and in disarray in their search for a clear front-runner in the presidential race, what better way to pull the forces together than to wave their long-time foe Hillary Clinton in their faces?
(Orlando Sentinel)
The "bash-Hillary tour," eh? The sole evidence of bashing Senator Clinton from the story was Rove noting Clinton's negative polling data. If that's bashing Clinton, than what are the nation's newspapers doing when they print a story on the latest approval ratings for President Bush?

Let's try to be serious, at least for a moment. Polling data is one of the primary concerns of political strategists, and the negative feelings aroused by Clinton were a campaign issue on the left over a year before Rove's weekend "bash-Hillary tour."

Here's the transcript (a FOX news interview of Rove by Chris Wallace). Scroll down about half way for the mention of Clinton. There's no bashing.

This seems to be a case of the MSM taking a Clinton talking point and doing the legwork of spreading her message.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: Today Karl Rove attacked me again. I feel so lucky that I now am giving them such heartburn.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

RG-31 MRAP: Canadian promo video

Aside from all that French, it's a decent production!

Franklin Foer: "Fixer"

Scott Johnson of Powerline provides the perfect commentary to match the news concerning Columbia Magazine's profile of Franklin Foer.

The current issue of Columbia Magazine carries a profile by Tim Warner of New Republic editor Franklin Foer celebrating him as "the fixer" who is resuscitating the magazine. (The profile is not available online at present. Thanks to reader Robert Avery for sending me a copy today.) If not the most poorly timed article in the history of journalism, it is nevertheless laughable in light of the ordeal inflicted on the magazine by its Baghdad fabulist and will to believe him on the part of "the editors."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The RG-33 MRAP

I almost took this one for a tricked out Caiman, based on the window layout and the similarly sloped hood. Turns out it's BAE's RG-33 MRAP.

Looks like there's plenty of room in that one.

BAE produces an RG-33 to serve as an ambulance.

Bushmaster rejected for MRAP I

It has been one of the most puzzling features of the MRAP competition to date. Thales Australia's Bushmaster vehicle was one of the first mine-resistant vehicles on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, where it has served successfully with Australian and Dutch forces. Yet it reaped none of the "low risk deployment" orders issued at the competition's inception, and has received none since. Now Thales Australia makes it official: with over 80% of allotted vehicles ordered, the Bushmaster Category II JERRV vehicle is out of the race for MRAP-I competition orders.

The Bushmaster joins Oshkosh's Alpha vehicle on the rejection list. The Alpha was a partnership between Oshkosh and PVI. PVI remains in the running with its Golan vehicle, which received 60 orders through the MRAP I program and remains in the running for MRAP II.

Reviewing Richard Miniter on TNR and Scott Beauchamp

Richard Miniter, in part, followed much the same path in reporting the Scott Beauchamp story that I followed.

Here is an updated timeline reflecting Miniter's reporting of the wedding location.
  • Scott Beauchamp and Elspeth Reeve associated at the Missouri School of Journalism (~2005)
  • Beauchamp in Europe by June of 2006--probably already in the armed services
  • Beauchamp develops relationship with girl in Germany
  • Beauchamp deployed to Kuwait by September 2006, engaged to girl in Germany
  • "War Bonds" published in TNR 1/29/07
  • Beauchamp serves in Iraq from Sept. 2006 through April 2007, at which time he receives 2 weeks R&R.
  • Marries Elspeth Reeve (in the United States) rather than the aforementioned fiancee, returns to duty somewhat after he was supposed to arrive.
  • "Dead of Night" published 6/7/07
  • "Shock Troops" published 7/13/07
  • Criticism of "Shock Troops" begins and builds
  • Beauchamp publicly identifies himself through TNR
  • Army takes away his laptop and telephone
  • Foer confirms for Howard Kurtz that Beauchamp is married to a TNR staffer (7/27/07)
Not much of Miniter's reporting is news to me, but he and I reached very different conclusions regarding the role of Elspeth Reeve. I am not prepared to declare Reeve free and clear before the evidence is all in, but Miniter has not added enough for me to alter my opinion that Reeve deserves the benefit of the doubt until the evidence declares otherwise.

Miniter offered the following reason for suspecting Reeve of malfeasance:
In the days after the party, Elspeth Reeve received the sympathetic attention of editors and fact-checkers at The New Republic’s offices. They did not blame her for escorting a fabricator into the magazine’s inner sanctum, who hoodwinked them and body-slammed the magazine’s reputation, according to McGee. Apparently, they did not ask what responsibility she might bear.

Reeve certainly knew enough about Beauchamp’s strange history of lies to lead her to be careful of his journalism or to speak up when other editors fact-checked his work. Beauchamp’s odd personal history directly bears on his credibility and on Reeve’s fiduciary duty as an editor to flag potential problems.

(Pajamas Media)

TNR published Beauchamp before he and Reeve were married, and the only additional step Beauchamp took into the "inner sanctum" was via his marriage to Reeve--if that even counts. Many businesses, including media outlets, have policies against hiring more than one member of the same immediate family. If TNR has such a policy, then Beauchamp and Reeve set up an obstacle between Beauchamp and the "inner sanctum." He would likely be no more than a freelance contributer so long as she worked there.

I've already noted that Reeve was a fact-checker for TNR (Miniter's announcement that she was one of only three was news to me), but I've already noted that TNR would have been absolutely nuts to let Mrs. Beauchamp fact-check Mr. Beauchamp. There is no reason at present to see anything wrong with Reeve fact-checking Beauchamp's first story for TNR.

Having engaged in it myself, I understand Miniter's interest in the potential failures at TNR, particularly in whether or not Reeve was particularly involved. Reeve is not a sympathetic figure, in terms of abruptly replacing Priscilla as Beauchamp's bride-to-be, but it's too much to lend total credence to Priscilla's report that Reeve knew of Beauchamp's former engagement arrangement without additional reporting. In other words, I doubt that Priscilla heard directly from Elspeth Beauchamp. Most likely her information came from Scott Beauchamp, who doesn't currently have the greatest reputation in the world for telling the truth.

Miniter's tentative indictment of Reeve supposes that she was aware of Beauchamp's duplicity in leading on Priscilla. That is the cornerstone of his argument, in fact. I don't find that foundation strong enough to support the implication that stems from it. Not at this point, anyway.

Friday, August 17, 2007

When the headline changes the story

US forces attack Iraqi mosque
Updated at 1510 PST
BAGHDAD: U.S. troops battled gunmen in a mosque after their combat outpost north of Baghdad came under machinegun and rocket-propelled grenade fire that killed one soldier, the U.S. military said on Friday.

The military said an aircraft fired a Hellfire missile at two gunmen on the roof of the mosque in the town of Tarmiya on Thursday after ordering everyone inside to evacuate.
(The News)
Not so bad once you get past the title.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Golan promo video

While looking for additional background on Protected Vehicles' Golan MRAP, I ran across a promotional video.

Vehicles never get stuck in a promo, of course, but at least you get to see how the thing moves, and you can get a sense of its capabilities.

"Mr. Zippy" suggested that the armed forces aren't showing much interest in the Golan vehicle (appearing to suggest that the order for the Golan had been canceled as was the order for the PVI/Oshkosh Alpha. I have yet to see news of cancellation of the order for 60 Golans, and if I interpreted the contract announcement correctly, the vehicles should have been delivered by now. Mr. Zippy made the point that the Golan could not have performed very well if additional orders had not been made. That's possible, but it doesn't necessarily follow. The Alpha was offered through a partnership with Oshkosh, and no such partnership was formed for the production of the Golan, as far as I can tell, anyway.

The Golan is costs more than other MRAP models, and it's quite possible that production considerations have played a part in the fact that the vehicle is thus far a fringe player in the MRAP program.

The Alpha, certainly, failed some aspects of the test program, but the somewhat cryptic comments that accompanied its rejection could reflect vulnerabilities other than a failure to resist IED attacks.

It's too early to draw a conclusion about the Golan without more data, in other words.

I have read that the Golan was welcomed for the MRAP II program. Given that the MRAP II program carries higher specifications than the MRAP I program, it seems unlikely that the Golan is being shunned because of its IED protections.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Second-generation MRAPs

To contrast with the MRAP-bashing story by David DeCamp that I finished critiquing in my previous post, I'll return to a USA Today story that I referenced earlier.

In this case, USA Today blows the door off of the St. Petersburg Times when it comes to properly informing its readership.

In Iraq, the IED threat continues to evolve. Insurgents increasingly use new devices that fire molten slugs, known as explosively formed projectiles, or EFPs, that can penetrate not only MRAPs but even heavily armored tanks.

When the Pentagon invited manufacturers this week to design a second generation of MRAPs, it specified that the new vehicles must offer more protection against EFPs. The challenge facing Force Protection and other MRAP makers is how quickly and effectively they can upgrade their vehicles to better repel the deadly devices.

Force Protection already has developed an add-on armor kit for the Cougar that it touts as being able to withstand EFP blasts. Aldrich says the kit also can be used on non-MRAP vehicles in the U.S. military fleet, and it's relatively light — an advantage in keeping vehicles maneuverable.

(USA Today)

DeCamp offered nothing about the Golan vehicle with its EFP protections and advanced armor, and nothing about the add-on armor developed by Force Protection.

DeCamp defends "A tool of war trumped"

David DeCamp remains confident about his reporting in the St. Petersburg Times story I analyzed last week, "A tool of war trumped."

In that story, DeCamp reported on the vulnerability of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to the Explosively Formed Projectile IEDs.

I took DeCamp to task for presenting a misleading view of insurgent war capabilities versus those of the United States, omitting (or failing to uncover) information about MRAPs that already possess EFP protections (the Golan vehicle produced by Protected Vehicles, Inc.) and for editorializing with his assertion that optimism about the MRAP program has been "tempered."

I forwarded my blog critique of the story to DeCamp, and he responded with the following:
Thanks for your note. I'll try to respond to your points. I believe the facts support the story.

1. EFP use is not solely limited to Iranian production, according to military commanders and Pentagon officials public testimony and statements. While EFPs are employed less than other forms of explosive, defense analysts and military in my story -- and in public statements -- found them being used and adapted more frequently, and predict their use could increase. In addition, the BBC story you cited questions evidence of "a direct link to Iran."

2. There have been, as of my report, 4,900 MRAPs ordered. You reference 60 ordered in February that are mine resistant and EFP defensive, and others are being tested . The vast majority of troops will not be in those 60, obviously. Most models ordered by midyear far are without a substantiated EFP defense.

3. I'll stand by the story's report that optimism has been tempered by the delays rolling out the vehicles since Hejlik's 2005 request and the adaptations enemies are making. Congress members on both political sides have expressed frustration and criticism. The optimism in Hejlik's request was in 2005, and two years elapsed before large orders for MRAP vehicles were given. Meanwhile, credible sources in the story have substantive questions about the program as it goes forward.
1. In his first point in response, DeCamp claims that EFP production is not solely limited to Iranian production. DeCamp addressed my statement that insurgents probably did not have the capability to produce EFPs without Iran, and DeCamp's response is effective on that point. His response does not, however, support his original characterization of insurgent capabilities: "Insurgents get their hands on an explosive, go to a machine shop for changes, and trigger it with a common cell phone." The technology for EFPs was borrowed from a technological proxy (Iran, and/or foreign fighters who personally possess the know-how to produce EFPs).

Producing EFPs is not as easy as running to a machine shop for changes.
It's like getting technological and logistical assistance from Iran and then trying to spread the technology through experience. The latter makes the enemy's EFP programs vulnerable to disruption. DeCamp ends up hiding that aspect of the situation.

2. DeCamp shows no concern at all for having overlooked or failing to report on the Golan vehicle, with a composite armor that has (since DeCamp's story was published) shown good results in resisting EFP attacks during testing. The tool of war is "trumped" even if the tool of war has been upgraded to resist the alleged trumping. DeCamp's excuse is that the Golan provides its protections to a minority within the U.S. military. DeCamp could have pushed the same narrative even if all of the MRAPs had EFP protections, since the MRAP program is not presently designed to replace the Hummer. A majority of U.S. soldiers would be in unprotected vehicles in that case, also.

In any case, DeCamp's theme is clearly disrupted by the existence of the Golan. The Golan trumps the EFP, in terms of technology, and the insurgents need to find a way to deal with it in order to justify DeCamp's glowing admiration for their ability to run to machine shop and make the necessary changes.

3. DeCamp's excuse for his "tempered" optimism for the MRAP vehicles is a bait-and-switch. In his original story, the "tempered" optimism is clearly from the expectation that the new vehicles have already met their match in the theater of war because of EFPs ("A tool of war trumped").

The portion of the story that emphasizes the plodding steps in getting MRAPs to the front lines does not contribute to the claim of "tempered" optimism. The optimism remains, but in the company of frustration. But the frustration itself should be tempered, because if the MRAP had been ordered to replace the Humvee before technology made a vehicle like the Golan possible then the argument that the tool of war had been trumped would actually be stronger.

I can't explain DeCamp's resistance to my challenge to his story other than by supposing that his ideology trumps his reason. I asserted in no uncertain terms that nothing at all in his story indicated tempered optimism for anybody except for DeCamp, implicitly challenging him to offer a counterexample. I did not and do not expect that any counterexample is possible (having read the story!), and DeCamp did nothing to dispel that impression.

Here, by the way, is the context of the quotations DeCamp provided from Secretary Gates.

Q Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about the IED problem in Iraq. I mean, as you know that yesterday an IED attack killed five soldiers and wounded six or seven others in southern Baghdad, I'm wondering what -- have you just accepted this threat as one that cannot be defeated, or are you -- are either of you pressing for some new, better way to address the problem?

SEC. GATES: We absolutely are not accepting it as a challenge that can't be defeated. I met with General Meigs just this week for a regular update on our efforts. One of the things that we have found that is very helpful in locating these IEDs is establishing personal relationships in the neighborhoods and in the areas, and where the local inhabitants have looked to the coalition for support and for protection.
The result of that is that in Anbar province, I was told that, thanks to help from the locals, they are finding something around 70 percent or so of the IEDs they believe are implanted.
This is significantly higher than in areas that are still being contested or where we don't have a presence and the kind of local support.
I also had this week another update, a regular update on the MRAP vehicles and how fast we can push those into the field, and particularly those with the capability to withstand the EFPs. But clearly they're effective against the regular IEDs. So we're -- in the technologies and in these areas, we're doing everything we possibly can. We're going after the networks. One of the results of the surge of operations that we're seeing is significant discoveries of caches of armaments, of the materials to make IEDs and so on. So I think all of these different things, including continuing to work with technology, are part of a larger effort to deal with these IEDs.
We're beginning to see IEDs in Afghanistan. This is not a problem, I think, that's going to be confined to Iraq, and so we need to keep working on it and find ways to protect our soldiers and Marines.

GEN. PACE: No, I was going to say, it's clearly the weapon of choice for the enemy. It is an asymmetric weapon for sure. We are very precise in our application of combat power. They are random, and they don't care who gets killed. But it is a problem for us, and as the secretary said, we're going after the entire network, from where the enemy usually comes from through the leadership in the network, delivery systems to warehouses where they're made, how they're being implanted, all those kinds of things. And there's been an enormous effort over the last couple years, and that will continue to be a focus of effort for us.


Q So how fast can you get the MRAPs out to the field you saw in your briefing?

SEC. GATES: The companies that have been awarded the contracts are ramping up their production capabilities. It will take a period of time to be able to do that, several months, probably. I am pressing them very hard to see where they can cut the time scale as well as increase their production.
I was initially told that once the vehicles were manufactured, it would take about 30 days to fit them out with all of the communications and other gear that the government puts into them, and then another 30 days to ship them by sea. I basically said that I didn't think that was acceptable.
They are looking at ways to cut that 30 days to fit out. They have already cut it by probably a week, and they're working hard to figure out how they can cut it further. They're under a great deal of pressure from me to do that, and also in terms of how we can help them accelerate the production rate, whether we can help them in terms of the acquisition of specialty steels or axles or whatever might be an obstacle to getting these things produced as quickly as possible.
And the way I have put it to everyone is that you have to look outside the normal bureaucratic way of doing things. And so does industry, because lives are at stake. For every month we delay, scores of young Americans are going to die.
And so I think that's the biggest incentive of all. These manufacturers are patriotic. They're working hard to figure out a way to cut the timelines on this, but I think that a significant flow is probably a few months off. But right now, I want them there fast enough that we're actually flying some of these vehicles to Iraq.
Q And what do you mean by significant flow? Can you put a number on that?
SEC. GATES: In the many hundreds a month.
The press conference left the issue of MRAPs for a time, but then it came up again.
Q I just need to follow up. Two things. Why are you not having conversations on the Hill? And if I could just very briefly follow up on what you said about MRAP, when you said scores of Americans might die every month that MRAP is delayed, have you now seen evidence that convinces you MRAP is an absolutely fail-safe against the largest IEDs, against EFPs? Are you really convinced that the insurgents cannot defeat MRAP?

SEC. GATES: There is no fail-safe. These IEDs, these large IEDs can destroy an Abrams tank. So there is no sure-fire guarantee that anything will provide absolute protection against these. But I think the experience of the Marines in Anbar suggests that the MRAP, and particularly with the V-shaped hull, does provide significantly enhanced protection for the soldiers and Marines inside.
But as I say, there is no magic solution to this, and I think that, you know, this has been an evolving threat and it's been an evolving response.
And we're dealing with, as you've heard us say before, a smart, agile enemy who adjusts his tactics.
It's not clear, for example, that the attack in Iraq yesterday was particularly more -- involved a significantly different kind of IED. It was a more sophisticated attack in terms of the way they planned it. And we're seeing some more of that. And General Petraeus obviously will respond to that.
But I think that we will get -- because the MRAPs provide significantly enhanced or seem to provide a significantly enhanced protection, that's why I want to get as many of them out into the field as possible.
With all due respect to DeCamp, the press conference indicates a great deal of optimism for the program. Perhaps optimism is "tempered" by the admission that MRAPs are not a foolproof protection--but who ever thought that in the first place? The optimism for getting MRAPs to our soldiers remains as high as ever on the part of the military.

DeCamp stands behind his story. I stand behind my charge that DeCamp is guilty of journalistic malpractice according to the "objective" standard of the American mass media.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chavez the reformer

CARACAS: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will unveil Wednesday a constitutional reform plan expected to include a provision ending term limits, which would allow him to run for a third six-year term.

Information Minister William Lara told reporters Tuesday that Chavez would present to the National Assembly a draft of his proposal to modify the constitution of 1999.
(The News)
What a guy.

This type of reform was badly needed in Venezuela to help keep power-mad villains like George W. Bush from seizing power.

Or something like that.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Christopher Hitchens v. David Allen White

Christopher Hitchens again involved himself in a debate about God on the Hugh Hewitt Show, this time against Roman Catholic David Allen White.

I haven't read the whole transcript through, yet, but here's the most memorable exchange for me thus far:

DAW: You know the great scene where old Theodore, the father, has two of his sons, Ilyusha and Ivan at the table. And he says to them directly, is there a God? And Ivan says no, there is not God. He asks Ilyusha, the young monk, is there a God? Ilyusha says there is. He follows. Is there immortality? Ivan says no, no immortality, Ilyusha says yes, there is. Now Ivan goes one step further then, and takes the cognac away from his father, and says without God, there will be no cognac, either. There would be no civilization at all if God had not been invented. Now I think that’s your claim, fair enough, that God was an invention?

CH: Yes, absolutely. It’s a manmade construct. It’s a reification of our peers, and also of our self-centeredness.

DAW: I guess what I am suggesting, and Dostoyevsky said himself in a letter he wrote after the book was finished, that he thinks he made better arguments than the atheists themselves had made. He was an honest man and a brilliant man, and in that taking away of the cognac and saying there can be no more civilization, I think he is absolutely correct in that civilization is connected directly to the religious impulse, and that what we are likely to see is a dissent into mere political power, as Waugh called it in his great novel Helena, power without grace. Maybe we can explore that later.

(Hugh Hewitt)

Hitchens has appeared weak to me in the past when it comes to addressing this type of argument. I'll be interested to see how he treats it when I've worked through the transcript.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

TNR weighs in again on Scott Beauchamp

I haven't rushed to respond to TNR's latest response on the topic of Scott Beauchamp. The commentary made it look like there really wasn't much new.

Ace at Ace of Spades HQ promptly gave a fairly comprehensive response, but I'm going to go ahead and file a few notes anyway.

TNR acknowledged the legitimacy of concerns over accuracy.
This is why we have sought to re-report the story, in the process speaking with five soldiers in Beauchamp's company who substantiate the events described in Beauchamp's essay.
This phrasing looks suspicious. TNR's recounting of its re-reporting made it look like details surrounding the events described had received some corroboration. The phrasing here tends to suggest that five soldiers jumped aboard with every detail. The current apologetic doesn't jibe with TNR's earlier justifications. I suspect they would have communicated more accurately with "who substantiated various details in Beauchamp's account."

TNR complains that the Army isn't allowing any examination of its investigation. That's a perfectly legitimate complaint. I made known the fact that I'd very much like to know the content of any sworn statement made by Pvt. Beauchamp. A blanket statement by the military that Beauchamp's stories were false is no better than TNR's claim that five (anonymous) soldiers substantiated Beauchamp's claims.
Here's what we know: On July 26, Beauchamp told us that he signed several statements under what he described as pressure from the Army. He told us that these statements did not contradict his articles.
Did he describe the nature of the statements at all for his editors? What sort of statements having nothing to do with contradicting his articles would necessitate "pressure" tactics?
Part of our integrity as journalists includes standing by a writer who has been accused of wrongdoing and who is not able to defend himself. But we also want to reassure our readers that our obligations to our writer would never trump our commitment to the truth.
The above is nonsense.

You stand by a writer who is not able to defend himself if the facts warrant the defense. You also stand by a writer who is not able to defend himself if you know him well enough to vouch for him. Elspeth Beauchamp is probably the only person at TNR who knows Scott Beauchamp well enough to use that basis for defending him.

And that's where TNR's errors come in. More than defending Scott Beauchamp, they have their own errors with which to deal. The details in Beachamp's stories don't add up, and TNR's attempts to re-report the story look like little more than thin justifications (standing by a writer who can't defend himself regardless of the facts).

From the look of things, TNR tried to skimp on fact-checking by choosing a writer based on personal connections. What started out as a hedge against inaccuracy is looking more and more like a self-made trap that has ensnared the magazine.

Alpha MRAP rejected by Pentagon? (Updated)

The Alpha vehicle produced through a partnership between Oshkosh and Protected Vehicles Inc. reportly performed poorly during testing.
The USMC's letter allegedly said that explosives testing of the Alpha had "caused concern regarding overall vehicle survivability,'' and unspecified "automotive'' and "human factors'' also "preclude safe vehicle operation.'' These issues were, said the letter "borne out'' by a limited troop evaluation and the military "is convinced that remediation of this issue would require significant redesign…. The result would be an unacceptable delay to future production orders.''

In plain English: rejected.
(Defense Industry Daily)

The cancellation of the order would seem to free up the amount specified in the contract for the purchase of other MRAPS ($30.6 million for 100 vehicles).

At $306,000 each, the Alpha was easily the least expensive MRAP model I've run across so far.

Though losing this contract hurts PVI (not to mention Oshkosh), the armor developed by PVI has performed well in testing with Explosively Formed Projectiles.

Update 12-22-07:
Here's a .pdf brochure on the Alpha, hosted by Oshkosh Truck. I haven't heard of any interest in the vehicle since the Pentagon canceled its initial order, so I find it interesting that Oshkosh continues to proudly display it at the Web site.

Another MRAP design: the Caiman

Armor Holdings, Inc. received an order for 1170 of its Caiman MRAP.

BAE Systems, manufacturer of the well-known Bradley, completed its acquisition of Armor Holdings on Aug. 1, 2007.

The procurement contract calls for 1170 vehicles, coming to about $443,000 per. The order specifies a handful of the heavier version of the Caiman, so the average price for the lighter version is probably less.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bucs 13, Patriots 10

It's pre-season. But pre-season NFL football is a million times better than no football at all.

The Bucs showed some good things with the running game, and late-round draft pick Kenneth Darby out of Alabama made the most of his opportunities. Darby hit the line quickly and did a nice job of finding running room--recalling Cadillac Williams' rookie form apart from the fact that Williams has virtually no history of playing in the first pre-season game.

New starting QB Jeff Garcia missed two third-down passes and failed to generate a first down.

Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood struggled a bit in pass protection.

On defense, the Bucs continue to labor to bring pressure on the opposing quarterback. That must improve or the Bucs have little chance to eclipse the 8-8 mark. The defense registered a few QB pressures, but failed to generate a turnover.

Getting the win was satisfying, even though it's pre-season, but some of the weaknesses of last year's team continue to show.

One big difference on offense: Both Garcia and second-stringer Luke McCown have the ability to throw the ball deep. I'm not saying either one is great at it. I'm saying that the defense will need to take that threat into account. That fear was pretty much absent last year after opposing defenses got a look at Bruce Gradkowski's film. Gradkowski continues to struggle to throw the ball accurately downfield. Thanks to Kenneth Darby, that didn't cost the Bucs the game.

The threat of the deep pass, along with improvement along the offensive line, means a rejuvenated rushing attack from the Bucs. If the rush from the defensive front four improves as much, the Bucs have a shot at the playoffs. That's a tall order, from what the team showed tonight.

"In the Know"? Many aren't buying it

clipped from
A just-released Pew Research study indicates a high level of distrust of the mainstream media, and the distrust increases for the more educated demographic (Internet users) identified as a group in the study.

In practical terms, that means that many people simply don't believe the St. Petersburg Times' little jingle that tries to assure them that reading the Times puts them "in the know."

At least readers of the Times are more likely to know what the Times wants them to know.

"In the Know" regarding MRAPs (Updated)

"In the Know" refers to the St. Petersburg Times' advertising jingle.

In blogging over the past several months I've spent some time looking into Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.
What would I know about MRAPs if I were relying on the St. Petersburg Times?

With roadside bombs claiming troops at an alarming rate, a general urgently requests an armored replacement of the Humvee. Two years later, the vehicles are arriving in droves, but the enemy is already prepared.

U.S. soldiers in Iraq will soon see shipments of specially armored trucks designed to withstand the roadside bombs that have killed more service members there than any other single cause.

This should be good news, but the truck's troubled path has tempered optimism for it.

(St. Petersburg Times)

Well, well, well.

As nifty as MRAPs are, and as much as the troops like them, the enemy has trumped them already as a tool of war. The futility of using MRAPs is conveyed in the title ("Tool of war trumped") and the nut graf ("the enemy is already prepared").

Thus, writer David DeCamp tells us, the optimism regarding MRAPs is "tempered."

Sorry, Mr. DeCamp. Your story looks like journalistic malpractice.

1. Is the enemy "already prepared"?
Iraqi insurgents probably do not have the capability of self-producing the "explosively formed penetrators" that might take out the first generation of MRAP vehicles. DeCamp supposes that insurgents just "go to a machine shop for changes" in order to cook up an EFP. British and U.S. intelligence services, however, report that Iran provided the technology and parts for the EFP. In other words, the theme of DeCamp's narrative--that the loosely-organized insurgency gives it the flexibility to stymie the bureaucratically handicapped United States, doesn't apply in this case. In addition, DeCamp ignored the Golan MRAP, which reportedly has EFP protections. Sixty Golans had already been ordered in February, while the advanced vehicle that DeCamp mentioned, the Bull, remains in development. I should emphasize that 60 Golans were ordered before Mr. DeCamp's story went to press.

2. Is optimism for MRAPs tempered?
DeCamp says the optimism is tempered. But what part of his story supports that assertion?
  • DeCamp quotes Brigadier General Dennis Hejlik indicating casualties will continue at their current rate without MRAPs.
  • DeCamp notes that the secretary of defense has place the MRAP program as its highest priority.
  • DeCamp quotes Senator Joe Biden calling for more rapid implementation of the MRAP program
But what accounts for the "tempered optimism"? Apparently, it is DeCamp's optimism that is tempered. The last portion of his story has a title: No problem for foes.

A version of the MRAP has been on patrol in Iraq in small numbers almost from the beginning, but not for routine patrols. The insurgent bombs that penetrate the armor, called "explosively formed projectiles," began appearing in 2005.

American military leaders have blamed Iran for pushing the penetrating bombs into use.

The military reports that enemies are expected to employ them more frequently - just as MRAPs are expected to arrive in Iraq by the thousands.

DeCamp evidently figures that the MRAP program is a waste of money. By the time we get the vehicles over there, the insurgents will be routinely using EFPs to blow up our troops and their expensive new toys. After all, MRAPs are "no problem for foes."

That just doesn't follow, or else DeCamp would easily be able to quote a relevant source expressing tempered optimism.

As noted above, MRAPs are already incorporating measures to deal with EFPs. On top of that, the fact that Iran is probably supplying the technology and materials that allow the insurgents to use EFPs in turn allows the possibility that their use can be curtailed through improved border security. Production of an EFP is not, as DeCamp earlier appeared to suggest, a matter of running to the machine shop and tweaking the bomb components a bit.

My opinion? DeCamp was engaged in agenda journalism. He put an amazingly sour spin on what will probably turn out to be another victory of U.S. and allied technology--if the Democrats don't succeed in declaring defeat first. And DeCamp's story was a little bugle toot calling for retreat.

Update: EFPs are easier to make than I thought.
They've been around for some time, and it primarily just takes know-how to make one rather than specialized parts or equipment. On the other hand, the criticism of DeCamp's story remains: it wasn't the flexibility of the insurgents that implemented EFPs, it was assistance from nations that possessed the technology.
Reducing EFP usage would thus be more complicated than simply exerting tighter border controls. Factories would have to be located, and killing or capturing enemy combatants who possess the knowledge to make the devices would certainly contribute.

Bottom line: There's no reason to despair that the insurgents can't be beaten, nor to fear that they will keep the upper hand in battlefield tactics.

I sent my critique to the writer, and he responded (partly accounting for this update). I hope to post a follow-up entry within a few days.

"In the Know" regarding Scott Thomas Beauchamp

The St. Petersburg Times continues to use its "In the Know--In the Times" ad jingle to call attention to "Florida's Best Newspaper."

Occasionally I like to check with the online edition and see what I would know about certain things if I were getting my information from the Times.

I've had a blast following and writing about the Scott Thomas Beauchamp affair burbling along at the New Republic and elsewhere, but the story doesn't register at the Times. The New York Times, yes. The St. Petersburg Times, no.

I wonder how long it will take the local paper to let people in on the story? And I wonder where they'll bury it?

The Tampa Tribune hasn't picked it up, either, so far as I can tell.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rays split 4-game series with Tigers

Thanks to solid pitching by James Shields and Scott Kazmir, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays won the second two of four games with the Detroit Tigers and even won the season series with the defending American League champs, 4-3.

The Rays have a long way to go to finish near .500 for the year, however. A pair of extended losing streaks have put them in a deep hole (44-70), and the pitching staff around Shields and Kazmir has been erratic at best--and the bullpen has been nothing short of horrendous.

The Rays gave up Ty Wigginton and a few minor leaguers to shore up the bullpen. Losing Wigginton from the batting lineup hurt (he was the cleanup hitter for much of this season), but improving the bullpen toward average should help the team tremendously.

If the team can get away from the sloppy defense that has been a trademark over the past month, the second half might look quite respectable.

Michael J. Totten interview with Iraqi interpreter

MJT: Why is there peace in Kurdistan but not in this part of Iraq?

Hammer: The Kurds got rid of Saddam earlier. They fought against Saddam just like the Shia fought against Saddam, but the Kurds won their war and the Shia lost. In 1991 the Americans were heroes to the Kurds, but they disappointed the Shia and left them to Saddam. They were not reliable. So the next time, in 2003, some Shia thought they should get help from Iran. They know Iran is not going anywhere. Iran is a more reliable ally than the Americans.

The Shia never forgot being abandoned by the Americans. They talk about this all the time, still. They know the U.S. will leave Iraq and they will face Al Qaeda alone.

(read it all)

Consider that template for foreign policy in terms of the proposals from the Democrats over the past year.

Bob Steele on the Beauchamp imbroglio

The Poynter Institute is in my backyard (no, not literally!), so the Associated Press story on the Scott Beauchamp story interested me especially.

Bob Steele, the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at The Poynter Institute school for journalists in St. Petersburg, Fla., said granting a writer anonymity "raises questions about authenticity and legitimacy."

Steele said he was troubled by the fact that the magazine did not catch the scene-shifting from Kuwait to Iraq of the incident Beauchamp described involving the disfigured woman.

He added that he was also troubled by the relationship between Beauchamp and Reeve, his wife, who works at The New Republic. "It raises the possible specter of competing loyalties, which could undermine the credibility of the journalism," he said.

(AP, The Hinesburg Journal)

Steele is right on target. This is the New Republic, not far removed from the Stephen Glass reporting scandal (the TNR writer who made up stories).

TNR took the questionable step of publishing stories by an effectively anonymous author. The magazine compounded that error by choosing an anonymous author who was engaged in a romantic relationship with a TNR staffer, and keeping that information from the reader along with the identity of the author.

Steele is correct to identify those aspects of the issue as troubling, but the real scandal in this story (other than the implicit slander of U.S. troops) is that TNR proceeded to publish "Scott Thomas" without carefully fact-checking his work against the troubling backdrop Steele outlined.

Those three editorial decisions will probably cause some heads to roll at the New Republic.

Hat tip to Ace of Spades HQ.