Today’s NY Times Sunday Magazine includes an article most appropriate for this weekend of honoring the nation’s war dead: “What Happened to Valor?” The article’s core question: Why have so many fewer Medals of Honor been awarded for the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts than for any war in the Twentieth Century?
Despite its symbolic importance and educational role in military culture, the Medal of Honor has been awarded only six times for service in Iraq or Afghanistan. By contrast, 464 Medals of Honor were awarded for service during World War II, 133 during the Korean War and 246 during the Vietnam War. “From World War I through Vietnam,” The Army Times claimed in April 2009, “the rate of Medal of Honor recipients per 100,000 service members stayed between 2.3 (Korea) and 2.9 (World War II). But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, only five Medals of Honor have been awarded, a rate of 0.1 per 100,000 — one in a million.”
The steep decline in the awarding of Medals of Honor — along with the absence, post-9/11, of any Medal of Honor bestowed on a living serviceman — has spurred many military officers and veterans to speak out in protest. These servicemen complain that higher-ups at the Pentagon either downgrade valor-award nominations … or reject them altogether.
Appropriate questions for this weekend.
Laws Against Recording Department
I’ve already written of draconian laws in Massachusetts and Illinois that outlaw recording of police when performing their duties. I haven’t given sufficient attention to efforts to enforce similar bans in Maryland, which although it is a two-party consent state, also has a specific “expectation of privacy” exception to the law. Radley Balko, whose The Agitator blog I follow regularly, has now taken on the Maryland situation in light of some citizen-cop confrontations there, one of which appears on the brink of a gross miscarriage of justice, and the other where such a miscarriage was avoided thanks to private party videos made of the event supplementing official recordings the key portions of which were “lost.”
Pentecostalism: Prosperity Gospel Department
An interesting, informative, and somewhat troubling article by Walter Russell Mead entitled, “Pentecost Power.”
[T]he fastest growing force within global Christianity is the most pro-American group within it: the global Pentecostal movement has grown from zero to something like half a billion members in the last 100 years. This is the fastest growth in percentage terms for any religious movement in world history, and in Africa, Asia and Latin America the growth continues today. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Pentecostal Christians and their beliefs are a substantial and in some cases dominant force among Christians in some of Africa’s largest and most important countries. From beliefs in divine healing and speaking in tongues, to the expectation of Jesus’ imminent return, to faith in the ‘prosperity gospel’ (the belief that God will bless those who truly believe with secular prosperity and physical health), some of the most characteristic beliefs and practices of Pentecostal Christians are found among both Protestant and Catholic Africans across denominational lines.
The faith competition between ‘hot Christianity’ and ‘hot Islam’ also matters at home. The elites pay only a very casual attention to this competition, but a war is being fought in America today for the souls of the African-American underclass. In our prisons, in our inner cities, even in our military barracks a silent struggle is going on for individual souls, one soul at a time. A preacher I know told me recently that the battle is for the soul of the forty-year-old unemployed and unmarried grandmother whose eighteen year old unmarried daughter has a one year old child. “Somebody’s going to reach her,” said the preacher. “And she’s either going to be wearing a veil or carrying a Bible and singing in church.”
I’m as little a fan of Pentecostalism as I am of radical Islam, other fundamentalist Christian sects, or — well — just about any of the “fringe” religious beliefs that would impose their views through jihad or proselytizing. We need to be aware of these folks, however, and of their increasing power within the undeveloped and developing world. Europe is not in issue — they have as much or more to fear from radical Islam as we do, and as advanced secular societies they are infertile grounds for Christian sects like the Pentecostals. But Pentecostals within the undeveloped and developing worlds are becoming a power to be reckoned with, and that means that their “motherships” back here in the U.S will also have increasing power and influence within the domestic political sphere.
Special Relationship Department
Last night I watched HBO’s special, “The Special Relationship,” about the ties between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Leaving aside the substance of the story (and what seemed to be HBO’s usual high production quality), I was tickled how many of the cast members from The Queen HBO managed to corral for this — it provided an extraordinary sense of continuity, and they should be congratulated for it. (Oh, and Hope Davis was superb as Hillary — a visible sense of subordinating disappointment, and maintaining a stiff upper lip, in the light of scandal and intense personal pressure.)
One of my amateur models; we did some good stuff over multiple sessions.