Dennis Rodman and North Korea

Can't say this any better

[Richard] Marcinko has some thoughts on our “unofficial ambassador” to North Korea, former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who recently checked into rehab for alcoholism.
“When you recognize that North Koreans know nothing about the outside world, to think that Dennis Rodman represents us in any way is ludicrous,” Marcinko said. “And certainly, for the mass population there, if they thought there were more of him around, you can understand why they should launch a nuke.”

Code Name Johnny Walker

We're on Facebook (duh)

A bit of a program note:

We're using our Facebook page as a central gathering place for information, etc., related to CODE NAME JOHNNY WALKER. Here's the link.

We have signings and a bunch of TV and radio interviews planned and will post them at the page.
The "I" of the storm . . .

Jonathon Mahler had a piece in the NYT the other day that, while using the controversy over “Dr. V’s Magical Putter,” was really aimed at the overuse of first-person narrative in nonfiction.

Mahler makes excellent points, but I do have a quibble, as he seems to blame a great deal of the overuse on the internet and the latest fads. But first person narratives where the journalist becomes the driving character of the story have been extremely popular at least since “New Journalism,” which is pretty much “long form” journalism under an earlier (if not necessarily more accurate) name.

In the right hands and on the right subject – think Tom Wolfe – the journalist as character is an effective tool. If the article is constructed in a way that the reader can both identify with the character and learn something through that identification, then all is well. But in far, far too many places – even those magazines Mahler cites approvingly – the “I” is simply an egotist getting in the way of what’s really important.

I think the real lesson for writers has to do with humility, a quality far undervalued in modern times. And, as “Dr. V’s Magical Putter” shows, writing can sometimes reveal much about the writer and what he or she doesn’t know.

As for the original story, it's here.
In the News . . .

Thanks, everyone, for the kinds words about the NY Sunday News story. We really appreciate it. And thank you, Daily News.

(I can't find a link to an online version, but I'll post it if we get one.)

Health care's problem . . .

. . . is cost, not insurance.

Doctors’ charges — and the incentives they reflect — are a major factor in the nation’s $2.7 trillion medical bill. Payments to doctors in the United States, who make far more than their counterparts in other developed countries, account for 20 percent of American health care expenses, second only to hospital costs.

Well, duh. Still the NYT story, focusing on specialists and the absurdity of their charges, is worth reading.


Benghazi, that is. So says the bi-partisan Senate investigation. From the Washington Post:

The committee determined that the U.S. military command in Africa didn’t know about the CIA annex and didn’t have the resources to defend the diplomatic compound in an emergency.
“The attacks were preventable, based on extensive intelligence reporting on the terrorist activity in Libya—to include prior threats and attacks against Western targets—and given the known security shortfalls at the U.S. Mission,” the panel said in a statement.

Full story.
The yin and yanked of the writing life

Two great reads from Sunday NY Times (subscription required.)

On the one hand . . .

A few years ago, I learned that the ­in-store book club of the old Barnes & Noble on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea was going to be reading a novel of mine, “Dreamland.” There were signs around the store announcing when the club would meet, inviting anyone to take part.
I was flattered. The book had already been out for a while, but I thought I might condescend to stop by and ask if the club members had any questions, maybe soak up a little adoration. 


On the other . . .

You might not know me, but I’m famous. Don’t feel bad. Until recently, I didn’t know I was famous either, and most days, even now, it’s hard to tell.

The case against Iran . . .

. . . and for bombing its nuclear facilities. From Foreign Affairs:

A truly comprehensive diplomatic settlement between Iran and the West is still the best possible outcome, but there is little reason to believe that one can be achieved. And that means the United States may still have to choose between bombing Iran and allowing it to acquire a nuclear bomb. That would be an awful dilemma. But a limited bombing campaign on Iran’s nuclear facilities would certainly be preferable to any attempt to contain a nuclear-armed Iran.

Article by Matthew Kroenig.

Fallujah, cont. . . .

The perspective of guys who were there, from the NY Times:

For many veterans of that battle — most now working in jobs long removed from combat — watching insurgents running roughshod through the streets they once fought to secure, often in brutal close-quarters combat, has shaken their faith in what their mission achieved. . . .
“This is just the beginning of the reckoning and accounting,” said Kael Weston, a former State Department political adviser who worked with the Marines for nearly three years in Falluja and the surrounding Anbar Province, and later with Marines in Afghanistan. . . .
“The news went viral in the worst way,” he said. “This has been a gut punch to the morale of the Marine Corps and painful for a lot of families who are saying, ‘I thought my son died for a reason.’ ”


In terms of history, I find the parallel to Khe Sanh, like all parallels to Vietnam, more than a little strained, but I think it's an accurate portrayal of what these guys feel.


From the Christian Science Monitor, a somewhat better story than most on Iraq, as it gets at some of the subtleties most of the mainstream press misses:
Iraq has a major crisis on its hands, make no mistake.
The country's civil war never really ended – it just went off the boil for a while. Last year, the heat was turned back to high, with the number of civilian deaths from political violence doubling to roughly 8,000 people over the previous year, the highest civilian death toll since at least 2008.
With the civil war raging in Syria and a porous border between Syria and Iraq's Anbar and Nineveh Provinces that has allowed militants – many of them jihadis in the style of Al Qaeda – to flow back and forth pretty much at will, Iraq's central government has a major challenge on its hands. It doesn't help that Iraq has parliamentary elections scheduled for this April and that its political polarization breaks down largely on sectarian lines.

Story. (Make sure to follow the jump.)

I disagree with some of his conclusions in one important respect - the crisis clearly could lead to practical autonomy for different regions of the country, which is presumably one of the overall aims of the mujihadeen (who over course would then attempt to dominate that region). In that respect, it's more serious than the writer seems to suggest, though he does leave that question open.

A couple of things to note:

1. Many Iraqis use "al Qaeda" as shorthand for Sunni mujihadeen groups in general, without necessarily distinguishing between the different groups or their affiliations, how close they are to the bin Laden organization (or each other). So it's very confusing for a westerner to parse the different alliances.

2. Tribal alliances are still very significant in the politics of Iraq, and the fighting.

3. There is a general feeling among Sunnis that the present government is not only overly dominated by Shiites, but is a handmaiden of Shia Iran. There is an element there of nationalism that is often missed -- some feel that Iran is making Iraq a subordinate client state, and the present government is helping them do it. Many Iraqis can cite numerous insults against the country, starting with the position (or non-presence) of the Iraqi flag on state visits to Iran by dignitaries, and vice versa.

The Rogue returns . . .

Rogue Warrior: Curse of the Infidel is on sale today. You can get it online at Amazon, B&N, etc., or at your favorite local bookstore, including that great independent you've been meaning to check out.

This one starts with Dick getting whipped in Saudi Arabia. The question is whether he likes it or not . . .

Amnesty for Snowden?

Give me a break.

I don't know why there's even a debate. But if you really think there should be an argument for it. Start here:

Many have likened Snowden’s actions to Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers. (Ellsberg himself has made the comparison.) But the Pentagon Papers were historical documents on how the United States got involved in the Vietnam War. Ellsberg leaked them (after first taking them to several senators, who wanted nothing to do with them) in the hopes that their revelations would inspire pressure to end the war. It’s worth noting that he did not leak several volumes of the Papers dealing with ongoing peace talks. Nor did he leak anything about tactical operations. Nor did he go to North Vietnam and praise its leaders (as Snowden did in Russia).

The rest of the argument is here. (And yes, it's an argument that he should NOT be considered anything but a traitor - regardless of what you think about the NSA, the Patriot Act, et al.)

Iraq update

Falluja, Ramadi fall . . .

. . . under mujaheddin control.

The continued unrest in Iraq has hit two key cities, both of which were secured at great cost under the American occupation:

BAGHDAD — Radical Sunni militants aligned with Al Qaeda threatened on Thursday to seize control of Falluja and Ramadi, two of the most important cities in Iraq, setting fire to police stations, freeing prisoners from jail and occupying mosques, as the government rushed troop reinforcements to the areas.

Story. Ignore the tortured attempt to connect this to Syria. And know that there's a lot more going on than "peaceful" encampments - there have been numerous IED attacks over the past several months. This is only the tip of the iceberg, as undoubtedly the Times reporter in Mosul knows.

Why you can't get real lightbulbs any more

Capitalism is too hard.


Say goodbye to the regular light bulb this New Year.
For more than a century, the traditional incandescent bulb was the symbol of American innovation. Starting Jan. 1, the famous bulb is illegal to manufacture in the U.S., and it has become a fitting symbol for the collusion of big business and big government.

The definition of "chutzpah"


BOSTON (AP) - A man charged with trying to bilk the Boston Marathon bombing victims' fund out of more than $2 million has filed a federal lawsuit claiming state police violated his constitutional rights when they arrested him.
Branden Mattier, 23, alleges police misconduct and is seeking $100,000 in damages, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston on Dec. 23 and reported Tuesday by the Boston Herald.
Mattier, of Boston, and his brother filed a claim with The One Fund using the name of a dead aunt, prosecutors said. They claimed she had lost both legs in the attack. Mattier was arrested July 2 when he allegedly accepted a fake check for almost $2.2 million from an undercover state trooper posing as a delivery driver.
His suit says state police never received permission from The One Fund to make a phony check in the organization's name.