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My Essays Page

Some of you may have noticed, next to the “About” page, a link for “Essays.” This is for a handful of long-form, footnoted pieces that I’ve written within the last few years. Most of them were part of my Master’s Degree work.

So I’m not entirely yanking your chain on the “Scholar” thing.

I mean, I'm not this guy, but...

The Air Force Burial Business

I spotted this first on Ace’s sidebar: The Air Force has buried remains of servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in a landfill in Virginia.

The obvious reaction

I know. I know. Ladd Ehlinger, who worked for the military in some capacity until 2001, has piled on. But hold a second:

Air Force now confirms that body fragments linked to at least 274 fallen military personnel sent to the Dover Air Force Base Mortuary were cremated, incinerated and buried with medical waste. That procedure was in place between November 2003 and May 1, 2008. The Air Force also said that 1,762 body parts were never identified and also were disposed of, first by cremation, then by further incineration and then buried in a landfill.

Wait…what’s a body fragment? Is that a body? What is it?

When bodies are not intact — for instance, in the aftermath of a crash or explosion — a body may be released to the family before some parts have been identified by the Air Force Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Families can elect to be notified when parts are identified or leave it up to the military to dispose of them appropriately. Since the policy was changed in 2008, the unclaimed body parts are buried at sea.

So what I take from this is: what got buried in the landfill was unidentified body parts, not whole bodies. What could be identified was sent home to families as it should have been.

At some point, it’s not 100% possible to determine who a particular bone or organ belongs to. DNA testing can only take you so far. And hanging on to body parts in the forlorn hope that they’re going to ever be identified — so you can ship them to family members who have already buried a loved one — is a rather ghoulish bureaucratic perversity.

You can fairly argue that cremating the leftovers and putting them in a landfill is insensitive. I agree, and am glad for the new policy — instituted in the closing months of the Bush Administration — of sea burial (after all, if it was good enough for Bin Laden…).

But however hot this tempest blows, it may extend no further than the teapot’s dome.

 

Helping Your Kids With Rhyme

I am about to be a father. The Good Greatsby has wonderful advice for teaching kids with rhyme:

Flirting:

Don’t blow off a lady when you learn she has a mister; relax, play it cool, she might have a sister.

Sleep safety:

Check under the bed before you count sheep, you never know where monsters may creep.

Vampire peer pressure:

Sucking blood makes you a dud.

Fashion:

No man is a fox wearing black shoes with white socks.

You should, of course, read the whole thing.

Matthew Perpetua Pretends to Understand Conservative Politics, References Ron Swanson…

Slate never fails to underwhelm.

Swanson, played by Nick Offerman, is essentially an optimistic fantasy of a conservative politician. He’s stoic and deeply hostile to the very notion of government, but ultimately kind-hearted and genuinely concerned for the well-being of other people. He’s a throwback, in some ways, to the Teddy Roosevelt image of conservatism—hyper-masculine, outdoorsy, self-sufficient. (Swanson probably would not have created any National Parks, however.)

I suppose, if I didn’t know anything about what conservatism is, that I might think Teddy Roosevelt was a conservative, too. I also might say that Gingrich isn’t enough like Teddy Roosevelt, if Gingrich didn’t just admit his man-crush on the Roosevelts.

I’m not going to say that this is one step removed from a semi-ironic Chuck Norris for President poster. He had to type out all those words, so that’s another step.

Virginia Tech Update

Now they’re saying that the suspect “apparently killed himself” (does that mean he was the guy in the parking lot?) and wasn’t a student at the university.

Time Magazine’s current piece spends more time on the slain policeman than on giving us any update on the shooter. Even to the point of writing this:

A woman who answered the door at the Crouse home at the end of a three-unit townhouse building Thursday night said it wasn’t a good time to talk, and they were trying to get the children to bed. A group of people were sitting around a table inside.

Really, Time Magazine? This seemed like a useful and relevant detail to include?

They do, however, provide a short breakdown of events:

Police said Crouse called in the traffic stop at 12:15 p.m. After a few minutes passed without hearing from the officer, dispatch tried to get in touch with him, but didn’t get a response. About 15 minutes later, police received the first call from a witness who said an officer had been shot at the Cassell Coliseum parking lot and the gunman had fled on foot.

Authorities refused to say whether Crouse was able to defend himself or fire back at his assailant.

Local, state and federal officials responded immediately. At 1 p.m., an officer saw a suspicious man in a parking lot. He had a gunshot wound and a gun nearby.

Then they jump into praising the university’s reaction and closing with the inevitable bystander reaction.

The Philadelphia Inquirer also reports that the shooter is dead, and killed by the same gun. They also suggest that second shooting victim in the parking lot was the gunman, without saying it. A lot of it is the same information.