Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reuters goes Dada-esque

... from an article on that news-service: "Kelley told the mayor that Petraeus, Allen and Vice Admiral Robert Harward had sought her help in preventing a local disc jockey known as Bubba the Love Sponge from deep-frying a Koran."

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Red Poppy, and Remembrance Day, in London on 11.11.11

This past Sunday, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, was Remembrance Day in Britain.  A two minute silence is observed at the eleventh hour, the time when the armistice was declared at the end of World War I, 1918, and the guns stopped firing and the war that tore Europe apart ended.   Of course, as Walter Russell Mead points out...

The consequences of that war were only beginning. In Russia, the Civil War was picking up steam as the Bolsheviks crucified their nation in an agony of confusion and hate. Refugees wandered through Europe, hungry and weak. The coming influenza epidemic would be as deadly as the war. In Germany, the shock of unexpected defeat was about to launch Adolf Hitler on a political career as Benito Mussolini in Italy took stock of the state of his country.
Remembrance Day, then, is to remember those who served, fought, perished far from home, and gave their lives for Britain.

Last year, in 2011, in the afternoon, well after the eleventh hour, I was walking with a British friend near the Mall, by Horse Guards Parade, when I came upon a group waiting for something.  The  Remembrance Day ceremony had ended long before.  The great and good, and the Queen, had gone home hours ago.  The crowds had dispersed.  The media had unplugged and gone to their editing rooms or Sunday lunches.  Crowd barriers had been taken down.  The streets swept... but here they were, this group.

I introduced myself to two women, Sandra Warner and her friend, who told me that a private ceremony was about to take place, and that I should stay for it.  “It’s Prince Charles, he’s about to come and observe remembrance with members of his regiment.  He does this every year, just before dusk.  No one knows he does this. They do it away from the cameras, but I always come to watch.”

I’m grateful to Sandra because the ceremony was like nothing I’d seen in my years in this country, and perhaps like nothing you’ve ever seen.  I’ve tried to explain to my American friends that, though we share the same language, Britain is different.  What’s more, this ceremony, formal, though oddly intimate, showed a rather different Prince Charles than is depicted in the mass media.  You can see him most clearly in the ceremony’s aftermath, after the soldiers and veterans have marched past, the lone figure in the background, standing in front of the Guards Memorial.

Fortunately I had my phone with me, so I’m able to offer a record of this moment of reflection and remembrance now.  The video clip is ten minutes long, and there are some dark patches, for which I’m sorry, but I offer it below (the second clip down) without interruption.  First, though, Sandra Warner explains Remembrance Day and the meaning of the red poppy worn this month on so many lapels. 

Herewith, Prince Charles and members of the Welsh Guards pay tribute to the fallen members of their company, on 11/11/11.

More about Remembrance Day from Walter Russell Mead’s blog, HERE.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mr. Bond

A wonderful observation here on, and appreciation of, James Bond, by banker/professor Frank Schell:
As Bond in cinema celebrates his 50th, it is appropriate to ask if a vibrant western democracy should measure itself against Bond, or should it measure Bond against itself? Put another way, should we assess changes in society against the values of Bond, or should we evaluate Bond in the context of contemporary tastes and mores?

[His] is a grand, purposeful, and heroic existence, and Bond is the instrument that assures the continuation of Western civilization, with a waning but surviving tradition of the British Empire, at times partnering with the Central Intelligence Agency. And danger is his business. Alas, what could be more noble?

In our current times, however, Bond could be adjudged an unmitigated disaster. His directness of purpose is at odds with a pluralistic and highly matrixed society, where indiscipline, fissiparousness, and nuance can define national character. There would be few convenient places to smoke a Morland blend of Balkan and Turkish tobacco; Bond might need to excuse himself for a cigarette break a stipulated distance from the ominous MI6 headquarters on the banks of the Thames River. Further, protective lobbies could make it hard to find foie gras, and environmentalists and the need for governments to economize would force Bond to drive a Prius hybrid.

Read the whole thing HERE.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Tell me how this ends" ... including that Awful Mess in Tampa, Florida

The DCI David Petraeus has just admitted to an affair with his attractive biographer, Paula Broadwell, and has retired.  Some weeks ago his biographer gave a speech making reference to sensitive security matters regarding the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that led to the death of the much admired American ambassador Chris Stevens.  It turns out the affair was exposed after the biographer sent a stiff warning from an anonymous account to an attractive Tampa-based "social liaison" to the military's Central Command base there.  Got that?  Okay.  An FBI agent took a special interest in these threatening emails to her, which turned out to be not so threatening, after all... and he took his shirt off for the photos he sent to the complainant.  Meanwhile, it turns out the "social liaison" had apparently exchanged some 20,000 pages of emails (presumably not double-sided, and photos would each count for one page) with General Allen of ISAF, who is sometimes based at Centcom, which oversees special operations.

The "social liaison" in question is from Jouniah, Lebanon, and is a Maronite Catholic Christian, so unlikely to be a sympathizer with Hezbollah, or al Qaeda, let alone a Quds Force sleeper.  But as a social liaison she may have some sensitive home addresses of military figures.  Oh, and she has a twin sister.  I may be wrong, but I suspect the sister may be involved in whatever kicker, whatever spectacular next act, emerges.

When Petraeus arrived in Iraq in 2003 he famously asked "Tell me how this ends?" which became the title for Linda Robinson's book on Iraq.  My initial reaction on learning all the above was "I've seen this movie and it does not end well."  But now I suspect it will end in further retirements, multiple covers for People magazine, a reality show, a run for the US Senate, the further trivialization of public life, and the Gulliverizing of our security and foreign policies for some time to come.

Of course it all could have ended so differently.  I'm reminded of the conclusion of the Coen Brothers' "Burn After Reading."  How apropos.

Video at this LINK.

Meanwhile, William McGurn, bringing acute moral vision to wider matters, asks in the WSJ whether David Petraeus's personal troubles influenced what he said regarding Benghazi.   Read the whole thing HERE.

And Richard Cohen of the Washington Post argues well that "P4" deserves his job back.  Read that HERE.

Buy "Tell Me How This Ends" via Amazon HERE.

Monday, November 12, 2012

On Remembrance Day: I Was a GI Baby - An Interview

Somewhat past the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month I was walking in central London and by chance, near Horse Guards Parade, met a small group waiting for something.  One of them, Sandra Warner, explained what they were waiting for… but first she told me about herself.