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The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

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The U.S.: Worth Dying For

Those who read about the soldier profiled in Joe Roche's "Death of a Patriot" letter posted yesterday might be interested in a couple of websites that memorialize the late Command Sergeant Major Eric Cooke.

In this photo, CSM Cooke receives donations for Iraqi kids sent by the Rotary Club. The caption states that he promised to distribute the supplies to Iraqi children, but also that he was killed in action two days after the photo was taken.

Here is a Stars and Stripes profile.

On this webpage, CSM Cooke's mother writes, in part:

Years ago, right after Eric returned from Desert Storm, we were doing that thing we so often did - drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and talk the long night through. At one point I asked him what most motivated him when things got dicey, when bullets were flying. He considered the question for a moment. His eyes gathered moisture as he replied. "Maw, I believe The United States and her people are worth dying for."
In a letter entered into the Congressional Record, it is said of CSM Cooke:
There seem to be so few heroes today. I wanted to tell you about one: Command Sergeant Major Eric Cooke of the First Armored Division. Command Sergeant Major Cooke died on Christmas Eve when a roadside bomb ripped into his Humvee north of Baghdad on a convoy to Samara. He was 43 years old.

Just before his death, Command Sergeant Major Cooke had written my uncle, David Hunter, that he had not signed up for the 2-week Christmas leave available to soldiers who were deployed to Iraq because he could not take the leave knowing that one of his men would not be receiving theirs. CSM Cooke said he was lucky to have a loving wife who would understand why he was not coming home for Christmas. He was career United States Army, and she understood his commitment.

On the day he died, Command Sergeant Major Cooke heard of an injured soldier who was in urgent need of O-positive blood, so he rushed to a nearby field hospital to donate his own. He almost missed that convoy going to Samara. Command Sergeant Major Cooke had the opportunity to have an armored Humvee, but he chose to give it to his men so they would be protected during armed escort duty, patrols and raid operations. His selfless service knew no limits.
Scroll to the bottom of this page for a photo of CSM Cooke's gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.

I did not know CSM Cooke during his lifetime, but I find him an inspiration now. I thank the Lord for our country has been blessed with men of his caliber.

Addendum: Thanks to Ally for her comments on this blog's posts on CSM Cooke, and thanks also to Truth Serum.


Update on Shoes for Kids

Keystone Military News has the scoop on what's going on with the Shoes for Kids project.

If you have kids, be sure to read it.


Death of a Patriot

Joe Roche has written again:


On Thursday, I attended a ceremony at the U.S. military base in Heidelberg to dedicate a site in honor of Command Sergeant Major Eric F. Cooke.

This man was a true American hero, one of the great soldiers who make our military strong and our country proud. Our country is hurt by the loss of such a soldier. During the ceremony, I looked at our flag, the American flag, and felt something I feel compelled to share with you tonight.

Though you probably didn't know him, you may remember the death of CSM Cooke. It was on Christmas Day that you learned of his death in America on the news from Baghdad. The night before, Christmas Eve, he went out on a combat mission that included checking on soldiers out on other missions. It was cold, lonely, dangerous, dark, and everyone was feeling the sadness and loneliness of being a world away, in a war zone, in danger, completely separated from loved ones for many months. At the bases there were ceremonies marking Christmas and lots of effort to make things somewhat special, as best as can be, so that soldiers at base would feel, well, ok and not so homesick. How many people in America really know what that is like?

The soldiers in Baghdad that dark and lonely night were cold and sad. No better way to put it. Every one of them wanted to be home. For some of the young soldiers, this was their first time away from home, not to mention being in the Army in combat in a foreign country on the other side of the world where they are facing death and injury at any moment. While Americans at home enjoyed parties with the comfort and coziness of home and family and friends, the soldiers of your military were deployed on combat missions. There were soldiers in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Yemen, all over the world, but I am speaking of the ones in Iraq, Baghdad specifically, right now.

While there were celebrations, somber and sad despite the best efforts of everyone to make it special -- including the local Iraqis at each base who helped out -- the most difficult, lonely and sad ones were those soldiers out on missions that night, Christmas Eve in Baghdad, facing danger and hardship.

The reason I am stressing this is because CSM Cooke, a top-ranking enlisted soldier, did not have to do anything that night. He could have stayed on base, enjoyed the comforts being provided, and huddled around the phones and Internet stations to communicate with home while enjoying a hot meal. He could have avoided the danger of missions in the streets of Baghdad. Instead, he cared too much for his soldiers, for us, for your loved ones in the military, so he went out to check on soldiers who were out on missions that night. Of course, this meant going to some of the most dangerous areas, because that is where U.S. soldiers were guarding, patrolling or otherwise on duty.

The soldiers he was with were my fellow soldiers. The admiration and respect for him was the highest. No soldier who met him and worked with him failed to be affected by his courage, determination, optimism and positive outlook. General Bell, the commander of the Army in Europe, said "it didn't matter where or how difficult a mission was, Sergeant Major Cooke always did it." Those who knew him well said he treated everyone with respect, and that he was absolutely committed to the whole mission in Iraq. He kept the soldiers going even when they were hurting and tired. He was the type of military leader who could inspire us at the worst and most difficult times. He always saw hope and purpose in what we were doing.

CSM Gravens told us that CSM Cooke "would make and inspire soldiers to do more things, no matter how hard or challenging, than they themselves thought possible." He was the type of leader who respected and honored his soldiers, seeing that his example was important to our performance. As such, he always set the standard for top quality performance and incredible determination to overcome obstacles. It was also this that, on Christmas Eve, prompted him to go out when it was actually the job of other soldiers to do that. He went, so they would not have to go. And as such, when he was killed, "he took one for another soldier," as CSM Gravens pointed out.

This was just like him. CSM Cooke had served 25 years in the Army, joining in 1978 when it was not fashionable to join and patriotism was not so honored in an America reeling from the Vietnam War. He worked hard, climbing the ranks through an amazing career of duty, dedication and service to our nation. He served in the 1st Gulf War, in the Balkans, and in many other deployments and operations.

From soldiers who knew him well, I learned that he was a rugged tough man who reminded them of the great heroes of our past. He smoked cigars and loved to inspire love and patriotism in his soldiers for our country.

In Iraq, he led us as a only a hero could do. I believe such people as him are the best that America has, and I wish you and more Americans could get to know such people.

In the Army, we are instilled with seven core values that every soldier is pushed to learn and to grow with. They are: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.

Sometimes we soldiers struggle with these, and we sometimes feel cynical about them because of the daily challenge in doing our jobs. It isn't easy being a soldier. When you encounter a soldier like CSM Cooke, however, you realize right away that such values are the core of being a good soldier, and that they are the distinction that separates us from other militaries.

His career reached the critical height in Iraq of commanding the 1st Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, dealing with some of the most difficult events of last year. CSM Cooke exemplified the seven core values in his job. General Dempsey, the commander of the 1st Armored Division, said that his leadership and dedication to the soldiers even more emphasized Selfless Service. I think we can all appreciate that.

Gen. Dempsey quoted Will Rogers in speaking of Sergeant Major Cooke. "The most a man can hope to accomplish in life is to leave the pile of wood a little higher." This he did, every day, every year. Today I'm struck by the impact and loss of this man to our nation.

I know that Americans are caught up in a political season in which all the major issues of the day are being debated. I am sharing this with you as best I can because I think people should also pause to bear in mind that behind the issues are true American heroes like CSM Cooke. He isn't the only one, either. I think, though, that if some people feel distant and disconnected to the soldiers who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places, they should pause to reflect on this man and realize that he represents something that should make us very proud to be Americans and very proud of our women and men in uniform.

It isn't every country, every military, that produces such leaders. General Dempsey said he was "a true soldier's soldier." On Christmas Eve, he made the ultimate sacrifice to our nation, to our mission, to our flag and all that America represents. His life, and his death that sacred night so far away from home, was truly the Last Full Measure of Devotion that a citizen will ever make to our Republic.

Amy, I know that you have some special people who follow your work, who believe strongly in our country and in our military's missions, and that they respect and honor the sacrifices that our soldiers make every day. This is perhaps the case more with the people you work with than most other people because your work is so dedicated to upholding and preserving our country's values and principles. I remember how so many people listened to you to send us soldiers in Baghdad care packages, and that really made a difference.

All of us strive to make the pile of wood a little higher, and I know that you are doing that. Few of us, however, will ever achieve what CSM Cooke did in his service to our country.

I hope that people will take today's issues affecting our soldiers seriously, and that they will continue to support the soldiers now deployed. The holiday season again is not far off. Let us all bear in mind that others will be following in the example of CSM Cooke.

George Washington called us "citizen soldiers" because though we become soldiers, we never stop being citizens of our great Republic. Let us do endear ourselves to our nation this season and always seek to honor our soldiers with patriotism in the flag they are serving, and with gratitude for the service and sacrifice they are making. They are the ones defending the Constitution and our way of life every day with their lives. Freedom is not free.

I think this is a proper tribute for our fellow citizens in America to do tonight in honor of CSM Cooke. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that thinking of CSM Cooke brings me such pride in being in the U.S. Army. What incredible people these are and what a special nation we are serving. Thank you for taking the time to read this.



The Garden Of Angels

If you ever have cried, as I have, after learning of an abandoned newborn in a dumpster, or a mistreated child, please read Strengthen The Good's story of Debi Faris and The Garden Of Angels.


France: Our Oldest Enemy

Thanks to a tip from Professor Bainbridge, I intend to get this book.

Many of us think the French have been hostile lately, but were great friends to America during the 1700s. This is not so. I expect John Miller and Mark Molesky's new book, "Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America's Disastrous Relationship with France" will prove the case nicely.

As an amateur genealogist, I was struck by the number of times noxious policies by the French hurt my ancestors and my husband's. For example, in the 1750s, my ggggggg-grandfather was murdered in central Pennsylvania by Indians at French instigation. He left a widow and several young orphans. (The many and brutal murders of this sort in that area at the time were one of the factors leading to the Revolutionary War -- settlers were dissatisfied with the amount of protection being provided by the British government, while the British government thought it quite reasonable to tax the colonists for the cost of said protection. No doubt France was gleeful.)

Ancestors on both my side of the family and my husband's fled France and areas near France a few centuries ago because the French government tended to slaughter innocents, especially Protestant ones.

(By the way, if anyone thinks my last name is French, don't. Some of my husband's paternal ancestors changed their German surname to this spelling long before my husband was around to have a say in the matter.)

I do think highly of some individuals in France, including an old and very pro-American Parisian friend I haven't seen lately, but that friend is only alive today because his Dad was sick and missed school one day back in the 1940s -- the day all the Jewish students were rounded up by French authorities. I suspect I don't have to tell anyone what happened to those children.

I'll say this for France, though: It drove a lot of our ancestors to get the heck out of Europe, making us Americans. That, at least, is a debt we can never repay. But I'm still willing to put down $16.97 for "Our Oldest Enemy."

Addendum: Ally at Who Moved My Truth, one of the blogs I read regularly, sent over this comment: "I just wanted to respond to your post on France. While I guess some are misinformed regarding France's relationship with the U.S., I had a very good history professor who put that myth to rest. During the U.S. founding, the French only were interested in us when it provided something to them without any risk. Look at the Revolutionary War. They laughed at us, until they saw that we had the upper hand. Only then were they willing to commit - precious little - help in our direction. And later, they fought against us with the Native Americans (if they were on the Native American side for altruistic reasons, I would have more respect for them; alas, they were just as guilty as us for using the Native Americans for their own designs). The French have always been Machiavellian in their hearts - which is why the world comes knocking at our door for help, and not at the Louvre. They might have the prettier language, but we will always have the bigger heart."


United Nations Tax

Notice that although Jacques Chirac wants the world to give the U.N. the authority to directly tax arms sales and financial transactions, Chirac does not propose a tax on bribes.

If he's not willing to make sacrifices, why should we?

Seriously, though, while any U.S. political party that endorsed giving the U.N. taxing powers would condemn itself to losing every election for a generation (and rightly so), this is an idea that will not go away until the United States leaves that corrupt organization. The U.N. wants our money, but it hates having to be dependent upon us. Poor dears. But we must never give in.


BBC America's Little Britain

I think this is one of the funniest TV shows around.


Global Warming Quiz

During what time period did the annual mean temperature increase from about 7 degrees C to over 10 degrees C?

A. As the last ice age ended

B. The early 1700s

C. The late 1900s

D. A and C

E. It has never happened

Answer: B. From 1695-1733, the annual mean temperature as measured in central England rose from 7.25 degrees C to 10.47 degrees C.

I'll leave it to my environmentalist friends to explain how such a thing could happen prior to the Industrial Revolution.


I Fisk a Jerk

James Lileks is way too nice to this guy.

"This guy" is journalist (his description, I'm not practicing libel here) Nick Coleman of the Star-Tribune, who believes himself far superior to bloggers and not too modest to say so:

"'s what really makes bloggers mad: I know stuff." (Oh yeah, we feel threatened by a guy whose self-reported credentials are "I covered Minneapolis City Hall, back when Republicans controlled the City Council. I have reported from almost every county in the state, I have covered murders, floods, tornadoes, World Series and six governors." I swoon with envy the depth and breadth of his education and experience. I can only imagine how envious the bloggers who are MDs must be.)

"Bloggers don't know about anything that happened before they sat down to share their every thought with the moon." (Yes, as we sprang from our mothers' wombs we landed flat in front of keyboards, fingers primed to blog.)

"I have been a reporter longer than most bloggers have been alive, which makes me, at 54..." (Is there a study on the age distribution of bloggers? Cite, please. But as long as we're talking ages, I, at 44, have been sick of pompous journalists at least as long as he's been one.)

"So, how is it that nakedly partisan bloggers who make things up left and right are gaining street cred while the mainstream media, which spend a lot of time criticizing themselves, are under attack?" (Hint, Nick: One of you makes $7 million a year for dishonest reporting.)

"...unlike the bloggies... I have an ear trained to detect baloney." (Tell that to the $7 Million Man, Nick.)

"Most bloggers are not fit to carry a reporter's notebook." (True. They deserve better.)
James Lileks must be a real nice guy not to have said what I just did. Or maybe I'm just overtired. I usually ignore jerks.


Foreign Policy Debate Question

We put a full-page ad in the Washington Post this week. It asks a question of President Bush and Senator Kerry -- a question we dearly hope each will answer during their foreign policy debate tonight.

As I don't believe paper ads in the Post are reproduced on the Post's website, I made a pdf copy available here.

If you have the paper edition of Tuesday's Washington Post, you can find the ad on page A5.

Addendum: Jim Lehrer asked the question (thanks!) as the final question of the debate. Both men expressed concern about trends in Russia, but in my humble opinion, neither said enough about what he would try to do about them. Still, the even discussing the matter in a forum of such prominence puts pressure on Putin, who would prefer that we look the other way.


Criticizing Politicians

The staff of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) is circulating on Capitol Hill an article by Jonathan Rauch from the September 24 National Journal about free speech problems within McCain-Feingold.

It's a scary read. I excerpt a bit:

Fix The McCain-Feingold Law. Oops -- Can I Say That?

by Jonathan Rauch

Now it is official: The United States of America has a federal bureaucracy in charge of deciding who can say what about politicians during campaign season. We can argue, and people do, about whether this state of affairs is good or bad, better or worse than some alternative. What is inarguable is that America now has what amounts to a federal speech code, enforced with jail terms of up to five years.

An exaggeration? Judge for yourself. Consider the sorts of cases the Federal Election Commission now finds itself deciding:
Item -- In June, the FEC ruled that the Bill of Rights Educational Foundation, an Arizona nonprofit corporation headed by a conservative activist named David Hardy, could not advertise Hardy's pro-gun documentary (The Rights of the People) on television and radio during the pre-election season. The FEC noted that the film featured federal candidates and thus qualified as 'electioneering communication.' Hardy, according to news accounts (I could not reach him by phone or e-mail), yanked the film until after the election.

Item -- On September 9, the FEC ruled that a conservative group called Citizens United was not a 'media organization' and therefore could not use unrestricted money to broadcast ads marketing a book and film critical of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. 'Not everyone can be a media organization,' said one FEC commissioner.

Item -- Also on September 9, the FEC ruled that the Ripon Society, a Republican group, could run TV ads touting the anti-terrorism efforts of 'Republicans in Congress' because no political candidate was referred to in the ads.

Item -- That day, the FEC also ruled that a Wisconsin car dealership, called the Russ Darrow Group, could continue using its own name in its car ads during the election season. Russ Darrow Jr., the patriarch of the company and father of its current president, was running for Senate in Wisconsin (he lost in the primary). The FEC found that the dealership's ads were not 'electioneering' because they did not feature the candidate himself.
Set aside how you or I might have decided any of these cases. Focus on the fact that federal bureaucracies -- the FEC and ultimately the federal courts -- are now in the business of making such decisions. 'That's where we've gotten to today,' FEC Chairman Bradley Smith, a critic of the law, said in an interview. 'Can a car dealership run ads?...'"
There's lots more.

Addendum: Thanks for the comments on this post, Sean, with which I heartily agree. The Supreme Court decision was flat wrong, Bush should never have signed this legislation in the first place, and those Congressmen who think themselves above criticism should be ashamed of themselves.


Winning the Debates

Chris Matthews just said on MSNBC that "history shows if you want to be elected President, you have to win the debates."

Guess he didn't read the Daly Thoughts take on the matter.

Frankly, Matthews' notion is rather silly anyway. "Winning" is subjective. The term is tossed about inaccurately, as if campaign debates were akin to college debate competitions in which having the most substantive answer actually means something.

Mostly, we look back on various debates and remember specific remarks or rebuttals -- snapshots that confirm or upset the public's preconceived notions about a particular man. People who remember President George H.W. Bush looking at his watch in 1992 probably don't remember the topic under discussion, but remember a public perception that the first President Bush was disengaged from policy -- a feeling the watch episode confirmed (unfairly, in my view). What was it that President Jimmy Carter said that caused Governor Ronald Reagan to say "There you go again?" Few recall, but it was the moment in which millions of voters grasped that Reagan wasn't the sort of guy to intentionally start World War III.

A presidential or vice presidential candidate who shows up for a debate without doing his issues homework (a rare circumstance, but it has happened) can lose his party votes, but a candidate with the most informative and wise answers to policy questions -- perversely -- may not win any.

Voters often just like to "size up the guy."


Do Presidential Debates Matter?

The Daly Thoughts Blog editorializes:

In each [presidential election from 1960-2000], there has been a clear winner in the debates. Yet in every case except 1980, the debates did not change the race.
If you disagree, read it. You might change your mind.


Presidential Debate

I am quite skeptical of the notion that the country needs a presidential debate commission.

As far as I am concerned, if the candidates want to debate in their boxer shorts perched atop Mount McKinley, its their call. They are the ones who won their party's respective nomination, not the members of some obscure commission.

Besides, would the candidates really choose a worse venue than the Commission did: Southern Florida during a very active hurricane season?

But possibly commission members haven't heard of the hurricanes. They've missed some other major news, too: The late former President Ronald Reagan is still listed as an honorary co-chairman of the commission on the group's website.


Is the Canadian Health Care System Better Than America's?

Is the Canadian health care system better than America's?

I take a stab at the question here.


Combat Arms

This is wonderful.


Suddenly England

I love it when spot-on new phrases are coined.


Whinny, Your Honor

A justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rendered a dissent in the form of a song set to the tune of the jingle from the "Mr. Ed" TV show.

Fittingly, the case was over whether one could be charged with drunken driving for being inebriated while on horseback. The original Mr. Ed character was, according to TV Land, a "hard-drinking equine."

Frankly, it sounds to me as if the justice was a little soused himself.


Teresa Heinz, Environmental Defense & Pittsburgh's Cleanup

As reported by The Commons Blog, Teresa Heinz is claiming some credit for cleaning Pittsburgh. She says Pittsburgh is one of the cleanest cities in America.

Yet this EnvironmentalDefense report claims Pittsburgh is the nation's 18th dirtiest city.

Teresa Heinz is on their board, and is a major backer.

Which is it, Teresa? Clean or Dirty?

To be fair, Environmental Defense's ranking methods are wacky, so perhaps it is unfair to note Heinz apparently disagrees with the group's conclusions, even if we fairly place part of the blame for the group's wackiness on her shoulders. Pittsburgh is a much cleaner city than its industrial workhorse reputation leads some to expect, as it undertook a massive city cleanup known as Renassiance I from roughly the 1950s to early 1970s. So Heinz is right about the relatively clean air, although her unspecified role in the clean up must have been limited, as she did not even move to the United States until the 1960s.

But, back to the wackiness. Environmental Defense ranks cities not only according to the cleanliness of their air, but by the number of children who live there. The more kids as city has, the worse its ranking will be.

Why would such a large group do something so odd? Because it is trying to make a political point about asthma in kids. The more kids a city has, the more kids with asthma a city has, the more dirty air-related suffering is going on. That's the group's reasoning, anyway.

Personally, if I were doing such a ranking, I'd put the dirtiest city at the top of the list, the second dirtiest second, and so forth. But then, I lack imagination.

So whatever you do, if you are looking to move to the cleanest city in America, use some other group's ranking system to pick your next home. If you are looking for playmates for your kids, however, Environmental Defense may have just the data you need.


Cleveland Plain Dealer on Blogging

Check out this nice column about blogging in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Kevin O'Brien.

Hat tip to Michael Ubaldi's uBlog.