March 2007 Archives

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Short film of Zach Pentek, 1/506th, rated best Combat Video of 2006!

By Michael Fumento

Zach Pentek
From left to right: Me and SSgt. Bobby Statum
checking out M-14 rifles while Sgt. Zach Pentek nervously
ponders whether they were properly cleared.

An interview from an observation post in Ramadi with Sgt. Zach Pentek by Ritterby has been voted the best Combat Video of 2006 by the military. Although I wrote two articles about my embeds with 1/506th of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), part of Task Force Currahee, Zach's platoon in A Co. will always have a special place in my heart because we were all together in the manic dash I dubbed "the Ramadi Run." The video is only four minutes long and the fighting is visible but off in the background, but you can see why the military liked it. Zach gives more than a grunt's eye view to Ritterby, explaining the problem of seizing Ramadi from the insurgents and terrorists but presenting an optimistic view of what needs to be done and what probably will happen. Ultimately, he says, it's up to the Iraqis but the city can be pacified. And he was right. As more Iraqi Army were brought in and as the sheiks got off the fencepost and threw in their lot with the Coalition, Ramadi steadily improved between my first visit in April 2006 and my last in October. All indications are that while it still has claws and fangs it's now far safer yet; so much so that perhaps Zach wouldn't even recognize it even though his unit and he personally helped make it so.

Kudos to Ritterby, to Zach, and Task Force Currahee at Camp Corregidor!

March 28, 2007 10:19 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq ~ Military

This isn't a gut - it's chemicals!

By Michael Fumento

A massive industry exists to tell us what so many want to hear - it's not overeating and lack of exercise that makes us fat it's . . . well, anything but. Now, as I write in the American Spectator Online, a handful of scientist-advocates, with one in particular, is trying to convince us that it's man-made chemicals and not calories. Never mind the government data showing how much more we're eating than just a few decades ago. Never mind the "look-around-you factor" of food being available everywhere but in public toilets - or are they putting vending machines there, too?

March 27, 2007 10:40 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Environment

Perform Miracles with Your PC

By Michael Fumento

"Distributed computing" could theoretically lead to such massive supercomputers as to cure every disease known to man. It works by tapping into the unused portion of your PC's CPU. One percent of all CPUs so linked would absolutely blow away the most powerful stand-alone supercomputers in existence. Read more about how this works and why you need to become a part of it in my new TCS.daily article, "An Idle Computer Is the Lord's Workshop."

March 26, 2007 07:53 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  AIDS ~ Cancer ~ Diseases (other than AIDS and cancer)

John Edwards vs. Babies and Moms

By Michael Fumento

John Edwards, being neither a woman nor a racial minority, isn't doing especially well in his campaign to become his party's candidate for president. Alas for him, if he were half as successful in campaigning for America's top job as he was as a trial lawyer, he might be sworn in tomorrow. As I report in The American Spectator Online, Edwards won at least 94 cases, according to Lawyers Weekly, of which 54 netted more than $1 million each. Normally attorneys take a 40 percent cut of cases that go to trial. In his last year as a practicing attorney, 1997, he reported an adjusted gross income of $11.4 million.

Of course, perhaps he deserved it - but he didn't. He specialized in a particularly scummy area of malpractice, blaming Ob/gyn doctors for cerebral palsy. In fact, a 2003 study evaluated almost 1,000 life births to see if cerebral palsy or other problems could by affected by type of birth. Conclusion: "Delivery mode (whether vaginal or cesarean delivery) was not associated with any of the outcomes that were evaluated."

Yet malpractice suits against doctors with the misfortune to deliver CP babies has caused their insurance rates to rocket and to engage in "defensive medicine," by resorting to cesarean deliveries when they're actually not needed. Other research has shown that cesareans increase the risk of death and other problems for both mother and child; yet such procedures are skyrocketing. Many cesareans are the mother's preference because of convenience of timing or wanting to avoid the pain of labor; but no mother should be given one because trial lawyers roam the land telling all parents that if you didn't get a perfect baby the doctor must have screwed up.

March 21, 2007 10:12 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Trial Lawyers

Will the Iraqi insurgent terrorist gas campaign work?

By Michael Fumento

Insurgents launched three more chlorine truck attacks in Al Anbar province on March 17, killing two and sickening an additional 350. Is this a disturbing new trend? No. Had those trucks been filled with high explosives, each could have killed around 100 people. Instead, combined, they killed two. Probably all those sickened will recover with little or no lasting damage, as opposed to losing limbs and eyes. Chemicals have never lived up to their reputation as weapons.

That's why even though the Germans invented Sarin gas, which is vastly more deadly than chlorine, they decided not to use it. Hitler didn't forego its use because he was a nice guy. Rather, his generals convinced him that high explosives are far more effective in causing deaths, not to mention that all the poison gas in the world can't destroy material objects. That said, gas is a good terror weapon because most people have a more innate terror of being gassed than of being blown up or shot. But that's primarily or exclusively because gas is such a rare threat. The more the terrorists use chlorine, the less the terror effect will be.

March 19, 2007 01:06 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq

What I Saw at the Non-Revolution (photoset of tiny Iraq rally in DC)

By Michael Fumento

AP reported 10 to 20,000 people attended the march. But when I arrived shortly after the march ended, as this photo shows, there couldn't have been much over a thousand. Perhaps the rest were using invisibility cloaks.

According to the AP, "perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 anti-war demonstrators marched" in Washington, D.C. to protest the war on St. Patrick's day. That's funny, because I got there just after the march ended and I'd put it at hardly more than a thousand. Indeed, I was able to photograph the whole crowd - without benefit of a wide angle lens. Okay, so they were one zero off. It seems the MSM is no more capability of telling the truth about the Iraq war domestically than they are from Iraq itself. At least the Washington Post reported "attendance at yesterday's march was noticeably smaller than one held in Washington in January, police said."

As to the participants, they were exactly what you'd expect: aging hippies, representatives of all sorts of Communist organizations, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, illegal immigration supporters, Islamist extremists, and sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Boy, were they suffering! But don't take my word for it. Check out my photoset and see for yourself that four years into the war there's still no such thing as a true Iraq protest movement.

March 17, 2007 09:29 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq

Are We Losing in Afghanistan?

By Michael Fumento

Afghanistan may be called "The Forgotten War" but we'd better hurry up and remember it, for time is short. That's increasingly the word from experts both military and non-military, including an exhaustive survey based on 1,000 interviews with Afghans released by the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Put another way, the peak year for progress appears to have been 2005. It's been downhill since then and if it isn't arrested soon the nation will be lost. "2007 is a critical year," the study's co-director Frederick Barton said at an event releasing the survey. Read all about it in my TCS Daily article, "Survey of Afghans Says Time Running Out."

March 13, 2007 06:14 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military

Iraq Experts who Don't Go to Iraq and the Problem of Boosterism

By Michael Fumento

A lot of people like Robert Kagan's reports on Iraq because he says what they want to hear. He's a booster. Thus, for example, the senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who resides in Belgium, writes in his latest column in the Sunday Washington Post that "NBC's Brian Williams recently reported a dramatic change in Ramadi since his previous visit. The city was safer; the airport more secure." Actually, I've seen that Ramadi is safer than it had been. Alas, it has no airport. It hasn't since the war began. It has landing zones for helicopters but not even a strip of runway on which C-130s can land. Brian Williams, having been to Ramadi, would know that and indeed a search of his writings turn up no mention of any Ramadi airport.

Okay, so Kagan committed a faux pas. But it doesn't enhance one's credibility to say a place that doesn't exist is "more secure." Nor does it help his overall theme as expressed in the title of his column "The 'Surge' Is Succeeding." It's way to early to make any such pronouncements. What we've seen so far is that as American forces increased, Sadr apparently just slipped across the border to a safe haven in Iran and has clearly told his men to lay low for the duration of the "surge." When the tide ebbs, he plans to reclaim the beach. It is a good plan, which isn't to say it will work. Our best hope is that his men can't take it anymore and defy Sadr, giving us the chance to kill and capture them. But that clearly hasn't happened yet and it may never.

Defeatism certainly doesn't help anything, but boosterism is just a temporary feel-good shot in the arm. It did not help that in May of 2005 Vice-President Cheney claimed the insurgency is "in its last throes." It did not help that Karl Zinsmeister, when he was editor of AEI's magazine, (and somebody who actually has been to Iraq), published an article in his own magazine a month later declaring "The War is Over, and We Won." Only realistic assessments of the war will lead to realistic actions, and only realistic actions can lead to salvaging something resembling victory out of this war.

[Apology: In the initial posting of this blog I confused Robert Kagan with AEI's FREDERICK Kagan. Actually, there is no mention of Frederick Kagan having ever visited Iraq and he's also a booster. But this does not excuse my mistake.]

March 11, 2007 06:33 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq

The Fighting Killions

By Michael Fumento

My latest article, "The Fighting Killions," concerns a remarkable military family. I met one of them, Rob, on a rooftop during a firefight in Ramadi. Of four confirmed enemy killed that day, Rob pegged three of them with his M-249 light machine gun. He also almost had the dubious distinction of having his head shot off by a sniper while I filmed him. Only much later did I find out that his brother and dad were serving in Iraq, his wife had served in Iraq, and his mother had served in the Air Force. Most remarkable, perhaps, is his father Rick. Rick served on active duty with the Air Force, got out, joined the Army Reserve, got out, and figured his military days over forever when Rob joined the active Army and his brother Doug the Reserves. Rick knew both were headed for Iraq so he once again put on a uniform, joined Doug's unit, and shipped out with his boy to Mosul. And to think, I felt lucky when my dad accompanied me to the park!

I'm delighted to have stumbled upon such patriotic and selfless people - from a long line of patriotic and selfless people - and to have had this chance to present their story.

March 8, 2007 10:17 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Military

Time Magazine's Aparisim is lying, by Ghosh!

By Michael Fumento

In my article on the Baghdad Press Corps and its perceived need to display faux bravado because it has no real bravado, I noted one way they did this was by grossly exaggerating the "terrors" of landing at Baghdad International Airport. This included Time Magazine's Baghdad bureau chief Aparism Ghosh. I wrote:

"In an August 2006 cover story, [Ghosh] devotes five long paragraphs to the alleged horror of landing there [in a Fokker F28 from Amman, Jordan].

It's "the world's scariest landing," he insists, as if he were an expert on all the landings of all the planes at all the world's airports and military airfields. It's "a steep, corkscrewing plunge," a "spiraling dive, straightening up just yards from the runway. If you're looking out the window, it can feel as if the plane is in a free fall from which it can't possibly pull out." Writes Ghosh, "During one especially difficult landing in 2004, a retired American cop wouldn't stop screaming 'Oh, God! Oh, God!' I finally had to slap him on the face - on instructions from the flight attendant."

I then quoted a reporter saying it was a bunch of nonsense. "The plane just banks heavily," he said.

Recently I heard from a pilot who does the Amman-Baghdad run:

Well done for taking on Aparisim Ghosh about his report on the descent into Baghdad in the Fokker F28.

I too feel he overplayed the drama excessively. It may well be the world's scariest civilian landing, but as for him claiming he was instructed by a flight attendant to slap a hysterical passenger - no truth to this at all.

How do I know? I have done about 250 descents into Baghdad in the Fokker - I fly the thing. And I have asked all of our flight attendants if any of them have ever told a passenger to slap another passenger, and all have replied no.

During descent one of the flight attendants sits in front on the forward bulkhead with his/her back to the passengers, and the other sits right at the back next to the toilet!!

Truth is, most times into Baghdad it's pretty straightforward, we come overhead at anywhere between 9000' to 29000' and once cleared for descent we must remain within a 3 mile radius of the airport center point which requires a maximum bank of about 45 degrees. Under normal circumstances we pitch down about 10 degrees.

He adds that "sometimes it can get hectic" because of "other aircraft, military and civilian, which are also using this 3-mile radius column" but the pressure is on the pilots, not the passengers. "We try and keep it as 'normal' as possible for the passengers, they only notice very few of the dangers we see and avoid."

He concludes: "Keep up the good reporting!" I'm sure Ghosh and his Time crew will keep up their BS reporting, as well.

March 7, 2007 07:01 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Iraq

The case against HPV vaccine mandates

By Michael Fumento

To hear the politicians say it, Merck's new HPV vaccine is the greatest health advance since penicillin. Hence, like Polio shots, it should be mandatory for all 11 to 12-year-old girls. Only those "nut cases" on the religious right could oppose a miracle like this, right? Wrong. Indeed, as I write in The Weekly Standard some of those politicians and allegedly neutral groups lobbying them are being paid off by Merck. The reality is that this vaccine provides protection 70% of the time against the HPV strains that causes about 1 in 75 U.S. female cancer deaths a year. Moreover the incidence and death rate of that cancer, that of the cervix, has been steadily dropping for decades. It also takes about 30 years on average for those few HPV infections that do cause cancer to reach the point where they are life-threatening, during which time all of those women should be receiving regular Pap smears that would catch the cancer from HPV - or other causes - in its tracks. Yet for this we're going to mandate a series of three injections costing $360 total? And we're in such a hurry to do it that we can't wait for the almost inevitable approval of a competitor vaccine later this year? Hey, you can't blame Merck for trying - but you can blame our elected officials.

March 4, 2007 07:59 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Vaccines

Why am I here when I should be embedded in Iraq?

By Michael Fumento

Military public affairs keeps thinking that if they just keep licking the boots of the mainstream media, that media will finally give our troops an even break and accurately report the war. That or it's absolutely clueless that in a guerrilla war, as the Tet Offensive so well demonstrated, perception as relayed by the media is far more important than reality. As to citizen embeds like me, with a track record for supporting the troops and reporting facts, as I note in my Daily Standard article, I was offered literally no embed but Tikrit - where there is no war. This is notwithstanding that one of the two principals responsible for this idiocy, Col. Stephen Boylan, reports directly to Gen. Dave Petraeus, commander of Coalition Forces in Iraq. And he knows Petraeus said of my first Ramadi article: "Great stuff with a great unit in a very tough neighborhood!" Obviously Col. Boylan and Lt. Col. Garvin, head of the Combined Press Information Center, think we need that type of reporter twiddling his thumbs in a pacified area of Iraq, leaving us dependent on the mainstream media to provide war news collected from Baghdad hotels.

March 4, 2007 03:52 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Media

The Moot Attack on a Pioneering Stem Cell Paper

By Michael Fumento

Oh joy; oh joy! The original paper finding that a type of adult stem cell can become mature cells from all three germ layers - and hence any type of cell in the body - turns out to be false. Or so some backers of massive extra taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell (ESC) research would have us believe. But t'ain't so, as I write in today's American Spectator Online.

That paper, published in Nature in 2002 by Catherine Verfaillie and colleagues at the University of Minnesota, has been investigated and irregularities have been found. Those might include problems in the conclusion of the paper. But that hardly means that those particular stem cells (from rodent marrow) don't do what Verfaillie claimed. In fact, one researcher has replicated some of Verfaillie's findings with human cells. At this point, Nature has neither requested a retraction nor has Verfaillie offered one. Contrast that with what happened in January of last year when the journal Science was forced to retract two groundbreaking ESC studies that proved totally fraudulent.

More importantly, since that Verfaillie paper appeared a large number of labs have used a wide variety of adult stem cells to make mature cells in either two or all three germ layers. Anthony Atala's work reported in January using amniotic stem cells is only the latest. Thus even if the Verfaillie paper were "false," it would be like saying a recent discovery that the Wright Brothers falsified their documentation shows that planes can't actually fly.

March 1, 2007 07:32 PM  ·  Permalink  ·  Stem Cells