A reader points out that the -Marine featured in our cover photo three weeks ago is Captain Timothy R. Sparks, who was recently honored with a Silver Star for his actions during the Battle for Marjah in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. Sparks received the medal in a September 28 ceremony at Camp Lejeune.

The official citation reads as follows:

“The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain Timothy R. Sparks, United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Company Commander, Company B, First Battalion, Sixth Marine Regiment, Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan on 13 February 2010 in support of Operation MOSHTARAK.

“In the early morning hours, Company B conducted a low-light heliborne assault to seize the Taliban stronghold in the Koru Chareh village. As the company maneuvered to assault the enemy positions, a like-size enemy force attacked Company B from all directions with a heavy volume of small arms and indirect fires. Undaunted by the enemy fires, Captain Sparks moved from position to position, covering hundreds of meters of open terrain in order to effectively direct his platoons. With complete disregard for his own safety, Captain Sparks led his company from the front, refusing to lose momentum and cede the initiative to the enemy.

“As the Company pushed into the village, Captain Sparks remained well-forward, spearheading the assault to seize key terrain and gain a foothold. He and his men continued to fight off the Taliban counter-attack through the night. During heavy fighting the following day, he personally led an ambush of an enemy force as it displaced, destroying ten insurgents and a sniper. Over the next several days, the company expanded its foothold in Marjah and encountered stiff resistance. Throughout numerous direct fire engagements, Captain Sparks’ calm demeanor, confidence under fire, and exceptional tactical prowess ensured he was always at the point of friction.

“By his bold leadership, determination, and complete dedication to duty, Captain Sparks reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.”

The photo on our cover was taken nine days after the fighting described in the citation.

The Dark Lady Returns

Twice earlier this year—first in March (www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/her-chris-christie_552733.html) and again in August (www.weeklystandard.com/articles/marvellous-ode_582082.html)—a Dark Lady approached The Scrapbook’s boss with poems. The first, “To Her Chris Christie,” implored the governor of New Jersey to take the presidential plunge. The second, “To Our Coy Non-Candidates,” addressed Christie as well as Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, “and others,” urging them to enter the lists.

Well, the Dark Lady seems to have given up on getting someone new to join the field. She appeared in Constitution Hall just after last Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate. Kristol didn’t recognize his old friend at first, as she was dressed as a witch. But when she spoke, he says, her sultry tones were unmistakable. She seemed cheerful (for a Dark Lady) and animated. She’d enjoyed the debate, asked that Bill pass on compliments to the sponsors, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, and pressed a scrap of paper into his hand. Then (as before) she faded into the crowd.

The paper was ripped from a larger manuscript. Here are the only lines The Scrapbook could make out:

Round about the cauldron they go;

Each with good ideas to throw—

Eye of Newt, and hair of Mitt,

Which should in the Oval sit?

To yield on either we are loath—

So—ye gods!—let’s have them both.

Choosing one’s a sticky wicket,

Put them both then on the ticket!

Mitt and Newt—or Newt and Mitt?

Whichever order the results fit.

The combo’s more than twice as lov’ble,

Double the flavor, double the trouble.

So fire, burn, and cauldron, bubble.

And bury the Dems in the rubble.

Major Crisis Looms in Iraq

A friend of The Scrapbook forwards an email from the United Nations offices within the Green Zone in Baghdad:

Message from the

Staff Welfare Committee

We regret to inform you that the UNdercover Bar will be closed on Tuesday 22 and Thursday 24 November due to stock shortages. The bar will reopen on Tuesday 29 November. The Riverside Bar, also affected by stock shortages, will reopen in the new year. [emphasis added]

As you know, the UNdercover Bar is staffed by volunteers. We’re always looking for new volunteers, and encourage you to sign up for bartending shifts in December! .  .  .

Many thanks !

Needless to say, panic has set in. Our correspondent also shared some commentary from a U.N. acquaintance:

The Iraqis closed the only booze shop in the [Green Zone] because [U.N. personnel] didn’t have proper papers. This was maybe two months ago but people were well enough stocked that it was a dwindle situation. And it’s dwindled, as you can see. .  .  . Feet are in the air. Drinking corked wine is not frowned upon. All of a sudden, everybody has a long-lost friend at the U.S. embassy, and they’re going over there and loading up at the PX.

It’s reassuring to know that in times of crisis, you can always count on Americans to lend a helping hand, and that, in extremis, there are limits to anti-Americanism at the U.N.

The Way We Live Now (Harvard Edition)

The Harvard Crimson reports the university’s health plan will henceforth cover “lower gender reassignment surgery”:

Lower surgery, also known as bottom surgery, alters an individual’s genitals to match his or her transitioning gender identity.

“I know Harvard students who have made the decision to take steps to have surgeries to reassign their gender,” said QSA [Queer Students and Allies] Co-Chair Samuel J. Bakkila ’11-’12. “I know it’s always a difficult decision for anyone to make, and I think that it’s great that the University is now supporting steps to have [individuals’] outward gender reflect their inward gender.”

Last year, Harvard modified its health care plan to include coverage of top surgery, which includes breast construction and mastectomies, for “individuals struggling with serious gender identity issues,” according to a statement issued by University Health Services. This change took effect on Aug. 1, 2010.

In 2010, the University decided not to include lower surgery in its health plan, though Blue Cross Blue Shield had outlined Harvard’s new health policy to include the operation. At the time, the University cited a lack of local qualified health care providers for individuals transitioning from one gender to another.

The celebratory coverage does not explore why there might be a shortage of surgeons. A hint can be found in a 2004 essay in First Things by Paul McHugh, then the University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. Johns Hopkins was once a center of sex-change operations but closed its clinic after rigorous followup studies showed poor outcomes for patients. As McHugh explained:

We in the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Department eventually concluded that human sexual identity is mostly built into our constitution by the genes we inherit and the embryogenesis we undergo. Male hormones sexualize the brain and the mind. Sexual dysphoria—a sense of disquiet in one’s sexual role—naturally occurs amongst those rare males who are raised as females in an effort to correct an infantile genital structural problem. A seemingly similar disquiet can be socially induced in apparently constitutionally normal males, in association with (and presumably prompted by) serious behavioral aberrations, amongst which are conflicted homosexual orientations and the remarkable male deviation now called autogynephilia.

Quite clearly, then, we psychiatrists should work to discourage those adults who seek surgical sex reassignment. When Hopkins announced that it would stop doing these procedures in adults with sexual dysphoria, many other hospitals followed suit, but some medical centers still carry out this surgery. Thailand has several centers that do the surgery “no questions asked” for anyone with the money to pay for it and the means to travel to Thailand. I am disappointed but not surprised by this, given that some surgeons and medical centers can be persuaded to carry out almost any kind of surgery when pressed by patients with sexual deviations, especially if those patients find a psychiatrist to vouch for them. The most astonishing example is the surgeon in England who is prepared to amputate the legs of patients who claim to find sexual excitement in gazing at and exhibiting stumps of amputated legs. At any rate, we at Hopkins hold that official psychiatry has good evidence to argue against this kind of treatment and should begin to close down the practice everywhere. .  .  .

The improved understanding of what we had been doing led us to stop prescribing sex-change operations for adults at Hopkins—much, I’m glad to say, to the relief of several of our plastic surgeons who had previously been commandeered to carry out the procedures.

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