Sunday, December 06, 2009

More, Coming Soon

More is Coming Soon, I Promise

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

La légion étrangère de Français

The Naked Soldier: A True Story of the French Foreign Legion, by Tony Sloane

I've always found it deliciously ironic that France's fiercest fighting force is made up primarily of non-Frenchmen. One of those non-Frenchmen, a Brit, has published an engaging account of what life is like inside a military outfit about which little first-hand information is available.

Tony Sloane was a shiftless, jobless 18-year-old whose primary desire in life was to get drunk. On a lark, he embarked with a friend on a train-jumping trip through France. In Marseille's train station, Sloane met a Legionnaire on leave who suggested that he should consider joining the Legion. He immediately ditched his friend and hopped the first train to Paris (with dreams of adventure in his head, and hope in his heart that he'd finally found his calling).

Sloane's description of Legion basic training is nothing short of eye-opening. Endless marching, repeated slaps to the head for fucking up, trips to a 4' x 4' Legion "prison" cell for seemingly inconsequential infractions ... such is the life for a Legionnaire in basic training. Sloane adds: "You don't complain. You just get on with it. You won't find a sympathetic ear in the Legion. You are most likely to get a punch around the ear and a string of obscenities spat in your face." (Hell, even the U.S. Marines don't tolerate slaps and punches during training anymore.)

Upon graduating from basic training and receiving the Legion kepi blanc (white hat), Sloane signs up for paratroop training, which he successfully completes. Soon thereafter, he's in Corsica for additional infantry training ...

Sloane tells the story of two Legionnaires being beaten in a Corsican bar by a gang of bat-wielding punks. The injured Legionnaires were quickly picked up by the military police and returned to base to be patched up. Without so much as a "Let's get 'em!" shout, a large group of Legionnaires - with Sloane right there with 'em - lined up to return to the bar to exact revenge. Knowing that the bat-wielding punks, and probably a large swath of the rest of the town, would be badly roughed up (or killed), Sloane and his comrades are instructed not to leave base on a revenge mission lest they be, ahem, badly punished. Thus, my favorite quote from the book is uncorked:

"Reflecting back it may have been the sensible decision, as it would only provoke more aggression and a war between us and the locals. Regardless, being sensible is not always right and it certainly does not always implement justice." [Emphasis mine]

Sloane is ultimately deployed to Djibouti in East Africa, whereupon he not only becomes jaded, he gets all philosophical as well. As for being jaded, Sloane describes a scene in which he and his fellow Legionnaires are dispensing clean drinking water. Now, the folks lining up for clean drinking water are desperate for clean drinking water. In the midst of all this, a lady grabs a jug and immediately begins washing her feet. Of course, she gets slapped around a bit and is sent on her way by the Legionnaires. Sloane bemoans this episode, but he fails to discuss the religious issue that would stir someone who had not a single source of clean drinking water to wash her feet with what little water ... you know where I'm going with this.

As for being philosophical, Sloane explains why he, and those who survived basic training with him, joined the the French Foreign Legion:

"We didn't join for a desire to serve France: we joined because we just had to or wanted to do something different with our lives. Once inside our only loyalty lay with our friends and to the Legion. We were totally devoted to die for France, but only because France owned the Legion. France had a great tool: an army of foreigners -- disposable and yet politically great for the voters as apart from the officers, nobody in the Legion was officially French."

Wow. A better synopsis of what it means to be a Legionnaire, I do not know.

Sloane ended his five-year hitch in the French Foreign Legion as a corporal. He resisted vigorous entreaties to re-up and become a sergeant, and he joined the British Army -- serving with distinction in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Iraq.

Oh, and if you think my "I've always found it deliciously ironic that France's fiercest fighting force is made up primarily of non-Frenchmen" quip is unfair, I'll let Tony Sloane disabuse you of that notion:

"I ... had a few fights with some of the regular French soldiers. They would start on us because they hated us, but they always ended up worse off."

I don't doubt Tony Sloane one second for saying that. Indeed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

David Freddoso rests his case

The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate, by David Freddoso

David Freddoso, a reporter for National Review Online, has done an excellent job destroying the myth that B. Hussein Obama is a post-partisan, centrist reformer who, if elected, will usher in a new era of politics.

Freddoso - who, incidentally, supported Ron Paul in the Republican primaries - describes in detail how Obama, during his youth and during his days as a "community organizer, rubbed elbows with left-wing radicals (chapter 7); how Obama did the bidding of, and refused entreaties to help reform, the corrupt Cook County political machine (chapter 1); how Obama sought and received the endorsement of the neo-Marxist New Party during his 1996 bid for Illinois State Senate (chapter 7); how Obama's rise in the state senate was abetted by a senate Speaker who often "gave" Obama bills right before passage so he could claim credit (chapter 2); and how Obama, with a straight face, continues to support ethanol subsidies and continues to insist that Chicago's public schools are underfunded (chapter 5). Incidentally, Chicago spends $10,550 per student -- 20 percent above the national average.

Of particular interest to conservatives will be Freddoso's documenting that Obama is the most pro-abortion presidential candidate in history. While serving in the Illinois State Senate, he worked to block a bill that would have made it illegal to deny medical care to children born alive after a failed abortion procedure. In addition, Obama supports taxpayer funding of abortion and the Freedom of Choice Act, of which he is a co-sponsor in the U.S. Senate. The Freedom of Choice Act, which Obama says will codify Roe v. Wade, would ban each and every restriction on abortion, even those which majorities of Americans support (like parental notification laws and bans on partial-birth procedures). No wonder Obama bested Hillary Clinton for the National Abortion Rights Action League's endorsement.

Also of interest to conservatives is the fact that Obama's economic policies reveal him to be the most statist presidential nominee since George McGovern. Obama promises to increase tax rates and regulation to levels not seen since the 1970s. The National Taxpayers Union released a study showing that Obama's proposed spending increases - $300 billion a year at last count - cannot be paid for by letting George W. Bush's tax cuts expire and withdrawing from Iraq. So it ain't just "the rich" who will need to hang on to their wallets should Obama get himself elected.

Freddoso has been assaulted by B. Hussein's sycophants during several radio interviews. Reading from a script provided by the Obama campaign, Freddoso has been called a McCain hack whose book is nothing but a hatchet job. As I've already pointed out, Freddoso is no pro-McCain stooge, and he provides 30 pages of notes to buttress his claims. Furthermore, Freddoso takes to task those conservatives who've claimed that Obama refuses to salute the flag or was sworn in on the Koran ("intellectually lazy," he calls them). What Obama's supporters don't want discussed is their candidate's shady past and his even shadier plans for the future. Unfortunately for them, Freddosso has done a masterful job presenting a case against a President B. Hussein Obama.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A sordid, twisted tale

An Unfinished Canvas: A True Story of Love, Family, and Murder in Nashville, by Michael Glasgow and Phyliss Gobbell

Nashville lawyer Michael Glasgow and true crime author Phyliss Gobbell do an admirable job recounting the events surrounding the 1996 disappearance of Nashville artist Janet March and the nearly ten-year chain of events which culminated in the 2005 conviction of her husband, Perry, for her murder. A sordid, twisted tale indeed.

Three things I didn't like about An Unfinished Canvas:

First, how many times must a reader be told that Lake Chapala - where Perry March fled with his children not long after being named the primary suspect in his wife's disappearance - is "Mexico's largest natural lake" before it finally sets in. A half-dozen, according to the authors.

Nashville's Gerst Haus German restaurant supposedly has "food [that] is expensive for something less than fine German fare." Since when are $8-13 entrees "expensive?" I've eaten at the Gerst Haus dozens and dozens of times, with dozens and dozens of friends and colleagues, and I've never heard anyone say "Gerst Haus" and "expensive" in the same breath.

Finally, the authors claim that the L'affaire Perry March is "the most celebrated case in Nashville history." Not true. In 1908, Nashville Tennessean editor Edward Carmack, who was also a former U.S. Senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, was gunned down on a Nashville street by a political opponent, Robin Cooper. The "Carmack-Cooper" saga gripped the city for weeks; and after a well-publicized trial, Robin Cooper was acquitted, after which Carmack's supporters in the state legislature voted to erect a statue honoring him on the capitol grounds (which you can still see on the south side of the capitol to this day).