35 Years

From the February 28, 2013 statement of Bradley Manning:

During the mid-February 2010 time frame the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division targeting analyst, then Specialist Jihrleah W. Showman and others discussed a video that Ms. Showman had found on the ‘T’ drive.

The video depicted several individuals being engaged by an aerial weapons team. At first I did not consider the video very special, as I have viewed countless other war porn type videos depicting combat. However, the recording of audio comments by the aerial weapons team crew and the second engagement in the video of an unarmed bongo truck troubled me.

The fact neither CENTCOM or Multi National Forces Iraq or MNF-I would not voluntarily release the video troubled me further. It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck were merely attempting to assist the wounded. The people in the van were not a threat but merely ‘good samaritans’. The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemly delightful bloodlust they appeared to have.

They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote “dead bastards” unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.

While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew’s lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see that the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew– as soon as the individuals are a threat, they repeatedly request for authorization to fire on the bongo truck and once granted they engage the vehicle at least six times.

Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanized infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van and despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kid’s into a battle” unquote.

Everybody clucks their tongues at Bradley Manning but nobody ever talks about why he released the files. No news reports mention how he found My Lai on the T-drive. Soldiers murder civilians but it’s the guy spilling the beans who goes to jail with liberty and justice for all.

Linky Links

Apologies for the staleness hereabouts; my nose has been to the grindstone. I hope to have more exciting news and updates this summer. Meantime:

Megafauna Extinctions. Another nail in the coffin of the overkill hypothesis: “a scientific review has found fewer than 15 of the 90-odd giant species in Australia and New Guinea still existed by the time people arrived.” As in the Americas, climate change is suspected. Fingers still point to human responsibility in the extinction of New Zealand’s moa, however, just as Paleo-Indians probably played a role in pushing stressed mammoths over the edge.

Albert Camus. The first full English translation of his Algerian Chronicles recasts Camus solidly as an Algerian writer, not a French one, a man who wrote explicitly about his birthplace and shared little in common with Parisian intellectuals.

Herman Melville’s House. Arrowhead, the Massachusetts home where Melville wrote Moby-Dick and “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” is undergoing renovations to return it to a closer approximation of its appearance circa 1870. The addition of the porch is odd since it was built after Melville moved out.

News

HL Hunley. Archaeologists have discovered the Confederate submarine was still attached to its Housatonic-sinking torpedo when the device exploded, which in turn probably caused Hunley to founder. Previously, most believed Hunley stuck the torpedo into the Union ship and released it before reversing and detonating it from a distance.

Coyotes. A Connecticut wildlife biologist says “a map of where coyotes were sighted in 2012 compared to 2011” reveals “the number had mushroomed.” This doesn’t necessarily mean the population is up — we don’t know because the state hasn’t conducted a census — but I think that’s a reasonable inference. In any event, while the biologist did inform his audience that we’re probably not dealing with coyotes but rather coywolf hybrids, the implications of this didn’t seem to be fully understood. Prescriptions for hazing and other prevention techniques used west of the Mississippi may not be germane to our situation here in the northeast.

Grand Central Terminal. My favorite building turns 100.

BioShock Infinite. I never played the original BioShock game but the verisimilitude of this trailer for the alt-hist sequel — set in 1912 — produced in the style of an early ’80s In Search of… documentary show is outright amazing.

The Rebel on the Range

Henry Allen in the WSJ on the film I consider to be the first revisionist Western:

Only “High Noon” can explain “High Noon.” It is no more explainable than Michelangelo’s David, a world in itself, self-defining. The artistic genius of the movie is that somehow we utterly support Kane, though we can’t say why.

It shows us what existentialism called “authenticity.” Kane defines himself by what he does rather than what he is. If his motive is honor, it’s an honor so foolish as to be dishonorable. No psychoanalytic agonies drive him—he takes sole responsibility for himself and the people affected by his decision.

With Amy taking up a gun too, Kane wins the fight.

There is no better expression for existentialism than the Western. The Western throws a spotlight on the person by himself on a vast and empty stage, a dry and thirsty landscape haunted by bad men. And yet — Kane is saved by his formerly pacifist wife. In Once Upon a Time in the West, Harmonica has his vengeance on Frank only after working with Cheyenne and Jill to eliminate Frank’s gang. There’s no army to help either man; there’s no tin-starred justice or the weight of the state to put things right. They ate their vegetables and paid their taxes but nobody cares. It’s just the individual, alone — alone except for the commitments made to others who’ve found themselves dropped into the same bleak universe.

I ♥ Vermont

I love living in New England. I love the climate; I love the green of my marsh reeds in summer and the pumpkin orange of fall. I love the geography of crying seagulls and tolling buoys after hiking in the woods. And I love the cultural ideal of self-sufficiency and minding your own business coupled with tolerance and mutual aid. But very often, when I see the bloat and abuses of the six states and the scoundrels we elect to public office, I question whether my latter infatuation is nostalgia, a romantic pining for beliefs that certainly aren’t shared now, if they ever were.

Then I read stuff like this in Vermont:

When Irene washed out big chunks of Route 100 in Pittsfield, cutting this tiny town of about 425 people off, David Colton knew he couldn’t wait. At 9 a.m. the morning after the storm, Mr. Colton and about two dozen other Pittsfield residents revved up their bulldozers and backhoes and started carving their own way out. … [B]y Wednesday morning, the town had reconnected itself to Killington, eight miles to the south, where town volunteers in turn built some temporary roads of their own.

Outside Pittsfield’s town hall, a huge bulletin board is filled with 8 x 11 paper sign-up sheets. “I can offer power,” reads the top of one list, with several names below it. “I can offer medical supplies,” reads another.

“It’s been great—everyone has a different set of skills, and we’re all coming together,” said Patty Haskins, the town clerk, adding that if the volunteers hadn’t started digging, “we’d still be isolated.”

The Apathetic Agnostic

I was laboring over a longish response to this Slate piece by Ron Rosenbaum calling for a distinction to be drawn between agnosticism and atheism. Then I remembered my blog is on the googlenets, and I imagined the comments section of the finished post going something like this:

I clicked here from someplace and I know fuck-all about you but based on what you wrote about atheism I think you’re stupid and terrible.

Actually, I didn’t say anything bad about atheism. I simply said agnosticism is a fundamentally different approach to the issue —

What “issue?” There is no “issue.” Because there’s no God.

Well, you see, from an existentialist point of view —

Are you an atheist?

As an existentialist, the existence of God is not —

Then you think God is real?

He might be. But even so, ultimately his will is inscrutable and therefore —

Where’s your proof!? You have no proof.

Well, a theist would answer that by saying —

Do you believe in Santa Claus too?

No. But the question doesn’t really have any bearing —

Your arguments are weak. You are an idiot.

I have a four-year degree in philosophy and religion, and I believe I can contribute to the —

Well, la-de-da! Look at Mister Fancy Pants! You still suck.

And then I said, screw it. I’m good.