Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Things and Stuff

Sorry Dadahead, that terrorism round-up is going to have to wait a couple of days. It has turned into quite the post and I'm going to need more time to finish it up. Just thought I would point out a couple of newsworthy items:

First, the Air Force is facing further leadership issues. The Pentagon is taking over nearly two dozen procurement progams due to a lack of civilian Air Force leadership. Air Force Voices has the details. My take on the situation? This isn't a good sign. Granted, the Pentagon says its "not punishing" the Air Force and that the transfer of management is only "temporary," but it is never good to see your Service's programs go under the overall bureaucracy's management. Also, it does not bode well for the Air Force in general if it is unable to maintain adequate numbers of civilian personnel to fill high-level positions.

Second, Paul Smith is going to be posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on Monday. Here's a local news story about his life, and here is a slideshow about what he did to earn the CMH.

Truly an awe-inspiring story.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Waheed's Afghanistan

The media seems to have forgotten about reporting from Afghanistan. But Afghan citizens definitely have not. I mentioned Waheed at Afghan Warrior in an earlier post. He's got a concise summary of what's going on in Afghanistan recently as seen through the eyes of one of its citizens.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bravo Company of the 1/23

The CS Monitor has a very, VERY good article up about Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion of the 23rd Marine Regiment. They're a company of reservists out of Lousiana and Texas. For those of you who are regular readers of Blackfive, you may recognize a member of Bravo Company, Sgt. Herbert B. Hancock. Anyway, once you get past the standard "what are reservists doing fighting in Iraq/the military is overstressed" opening, its a well-written peek into the life of Marines in combat.

Check it out.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Sorry about the lack of posting; I've had a lot of crap going on in my life, so I haven't been able to post as much as I'd like to on the Terri Schiavo issue. In all honesty, that issue is so emotional its not really wise to comment on the legality of it until the emotion has subsided. So I'm going to do my part to bring your attention to an issue that should be front-page news, and would be in any other news cycle. It has all the required elements: a homosexual, a minority (hispanic), and a hate crime.

The basic gist of the story is that a hispanic gay man was "severely" beaten for being gay in Santa Fe, N.M., which is apparently the San Francisco of the Southwest. After the standard introduction about how gays are now "nervous" and "afraid," and a rehash of what went down, we have this gem:

"The community is depressed and outraged, and there's a lot of activity as far as discussing next steps," said Rachel Rosen, a friend of the Maestas family and chairwoman of Equality New Mexico, a gay rights organization."

I'm just curious, but do we usually discuss "next steps" every time someone gets beaten? Every time there is are assault charges filed on someone? Why are minorities always singled out for special treatment? A better question is how Ms. Rosen knows that the entire community is "depressed and outraged." The story relates the fact that 2% of all households are headed by homosexuals. Two percent. The gay community might be depressed and outraged, but I doubt the entire city of Santa Fe is up in arms over a single, relatively mild (He suffered a broken nose, a concussion, and some lung injuries), beating of a gay man. But hey, a little hyperbole never hurt anyone, especially when we're dealing with minorities and hate crimes.

Then there is the superb use of logic by the gay-rights activists:

"Seeking a root cause, some have blamed anti-gay language during the current session of the Legislature, where a measure to ban gay marriage has been debated. That bill was prompted in part by a New Mexico county clerk's decision to issue marriage licenses last year to about 60 gay couples."

Because the kind of men that beat up innocent gay men are definitely the type that follow what is going on in the New Mexico state legislature. Heck, I'm a politics and news junkie, and I don't even really follow what goes on in the Unicameral. The fact of the matter is that the activists are going by their SOP following a hate crime: immediately tie a random act of violence against a member of a minority to political measures that are "anti" whatever minority was assaulted.

Hey, look who just proved my point for me!

"I can tell you that anywhere that there is anti-gay rhetoric and hate speech allowed in our schools and in the Legislature, there will be violence," Rosen said."

First, notice how any speech that is "anti-gay" automatically becomes hate speech, thanks to her use of the "and" conjunction. Gotta love linguistics. Second, where the heck do schools come in? I didn't hear anything at all mentioned about schools; the men accused of the beatings are, with the exception of a 17 year old, all out of high school; the pair of gay men that were assaulted are as well. The is another part of activist SOP following a hate crime: in addition to tying the act of violence to political measures, make sure you get the schools and "the youth" involved; make a statement to the effect that the culture of "anti-(insert minority here)" that is prevalent in our schools is partially responsible for this act of violence.

It is disgusting that these activists are using the very real tragedy of a man getting beaten for who he is to make political points to advance their pro-homosexual agenda, to the point of trying to imply that if we don't outlaw "anti-gay speech" for being "hate speech," more violence will ensure.

The First Amendment applies to me, but not to thee.

This last quote is just sad:

" Now out of the hospital, Maestas has remained out of public view. Friends describe him as a funny, peaceful person who doesn't know how to fight."

Not to be cold and cruel and heartless, but if you don't know how to fight and how to defend yourself, what do you honestly expect to happen? The police can't be there for you all the time; if you do not know how or are unwilling to defend yourself, you will get beaten. With this kind of mentality, he's lucky he wasn't killed.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Prosecute the Torturers

Andy McCarthy has been writing up a storm on the Terri Schiavo case. Check out his latest, which asks the question, why haven't those perpetrating this torture and murder of Terri Schiavo been arrested?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Right to Die

Do human beings have a right to die?

Obviously, as a result of the free will we have been given, we have the ability to take our own life. But this doesn't answer the question.

Do human beings have an inherent right to die when their suffering is deemed too great?

This question is thornier, but it seems to still be rather clear cut to me. If the human in question is fully conscious and aware, then they have the free will to make the decision to take their own life. Whether or not society should condone this action is an argument for another day. At the most basic level, the fact that free will has given us the ultimate control over our own body seems to justify the fact that one does have the "right" to take one's own life, especially when there are mitigating circumstances, such as a chronic, debilitating, and ultimately fatal disease.

But what about when the person who's life is being taken is unable to make that decision for themselves?

This answer must be an emphatic no. No moral society can possibly justify the murder of an inncent citizen. That's what is being done to Terri Shiavo. Not an "assisted suicide;" she isn't going through a "dying process;" she is not just simply being disconnected from a ventilator and allowed to die a natural death. She is being murdered through dehydration. If we as a society are to avoid turning into a "Brave New World," we must resist efforts to determine who among us is fit to live and who is useless enough to be sentenced to death. Today it is those who require a feeding tube, next it is those of us who require being spoon-fed. After that it will be those that require too many nutrients for the output they are able to produce. Where does it stop?

In other "Brave New World" news, check out this story from the Netherlands about a "Wrongful-life" lawsuit. This is where we are headed.

Absolutely sickening.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Terri Shiavo

I'm going to revisit the whole "right to die" topic over the weekend, but in the meantime, check out this article at NRO by Senator Mel Martinez about a law he's introducing, and then contact your Senator and Congressman.

Also, there's an informative article on whether or not Terr is in a Persistent Vegitative State.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

My Favorite Airplanes

Eric has a post up about his favorite guns. In that spirit, here's my favorite airplanes, including some that I hope to fly someday.

The B-1. This is the sexiest airplane ever. Besides, it can do this:

Of course, now that I've said that, the other (slightly uglier) lady in my life will get mad. You've gotta respect 50 years defending our country.

Plus, a BUFF taking off will drive an econazi up the wall.

But you can't define "ugly airplane" without mentioning the Hawg.

This is what its all about.

Two requirements.

1. You must go and visit a new blog...FROM AN AFGHAN CITIZEN!! Afghan Warrior is the first blog from a native Afghan citizen. Who would've thought back in 2001 that we'd be reading a blog written by an Afghan in 4 short years?

2. Bob of Going Down Range is deploying to Afghanistan. Head on over there and leave him a message of good luck, thanks, or whatever you'd like to say. I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

That is all.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Quadrennial Defense Review

There's been a lot of blogging on the DoD's Quadrennial Defense Review. Air Force Voices (which is a great blog, by the should check it out) has been focusing on the F(/A)-22 and its effect on the future of the Air Force. A commenter named Wild Bill, a retired F-15 maintainer, also has some good thoughts. Wretchard over at the Belmont Club has an excellent post up about the effect of the QDR as a whole on American defense policy.

That said, time for my two cents. It seems to me that this a situation of extremes, with Rumsfeld and the QDR caught in the middle. One one hand, you have the media that are all over the F/A-22, who see no need for its existence and think it is utterly pointless, given the current state of affairs with the GWOT. Then you have those in the media who think that Rumsfeld is being risky and fool-hardy in his quest to transform the military into a 21st Century fighting force. On top of that, you have some in the Air Force brass who don't appear to be concerned with either viewpoint; they just want to make sure they get their cash cow. And for good reason; as Wild Bill stated in his comment, a lot of things have been sacrificed for the F/A-22: the EF-111 and F-4G both were retired early, leaving the Air Force (and the entire military) without a strike escort jamming aircraft, to say nothing of the loss in SEAD capability; countless upgrades for the F-15 family (both C and E models) have been shelved indefinitely, putting the avionics and structure of these airframes further and further behind their adversaries; half of the -135 fleet needs new engines, as they are 40+ years old, and did I mention that a large number of C-130s have been grounded due to metal fatigue in the wings?

In short, the Air Force has sacrificed a lot of mundane, essential capabilities for the Raptor. As of now, the Air Force is still pushing for more than one combat wing of Raptors, using the logic that anything less would be pointless because the Wing would be unable to keep up a reasonable op-tempo. To me, this appears to be an example of cutting off the nose to spite the face. The Air Force is going to try and keep its planned multi-wing F/A-22 fleet, yet will continue to suffer a degredation in its essential air to ground capability as the Echos and Block 60 Falcons fall further behind as their upgrades are put off, to say nothing of the fact that the Air Force has consistently tried to prematurely retire the A-10 despite it being one of the most effective CAS aircraft in the inventory. Then there's the tanker situation. The USAF's tanker fleet is one of the most, if not THE most, essential assets it has. Tankers are force multipliers that enable long range strikes, extended CAPs, and most importantly, more time on station for CAS aircraft. As I stated above, KC-135s, which make up a sizeable amount of the USAF's tanker fleet, are ancient. While some have been re-engined, many haven't, and even those that have been re-engined are still a 40 year old airframe. All of these things are issues that the Air Force needs to spend money on.

All that having been said, I still feel the F/A-22 is an essential part of the USAF's future. The fact of the matter is that the F-15C, while a great air to air combat aircraft, is no longer the best in the world. The Air Force cannot afford to give up total air domination. Yes, we are currently fighting the GWOT, which, right now at least, appears to require little use of air to air combat. But in the wings lurks China, a threat with a large, well equipped air force. If we give up the edge we have traditionally maintained in air to air combat, we will be forced to fight the next war (after the GWOT) with an out of date fighter force...and there will be casualties; casualties much higher than the American people have experienced in a long time. Sending pilots in 30+ year old F-15s and F-35s with pedestrian performance against the latest in Russian Flankers is something the people of this country should not, and will not stand for.

So, where does this leave the USAF? My solution would be to procure the equivalent of one wing of F/A-22s, plus spares/attrition and training aircraft. This force will be sufficient for any small stealthy deep strike missions that are too deep for the F-35, too risky for a non-stealthy aircraft, and too small to risk a B-2 on, and should also be sufficient for maintaining air superiority in a traditional war. Take the money saved on the lesser force of F/A-22s and use it to extensively upgrade our F-15E fleet in order to maintain a powerful strike force outside of strategic bombers and to help alleviate the tanker crisis (yes, I know that more money will need to be invested in this situation outside of that saved from the F/A-22 buy, but every little bit helps.)

Anyway, like Wretchard said, this is going to be a very exiciting time; hopefully he is right when he says that the QDR will result in the "transformation of the United States into the foremost revolutionary force of our age."

Friday, March 11, 2005

Great MilBlog

I know I've said this before, but Red2Alpha has a GREAT war diary. His latest post, about his experiences, fears, and anxieties in the dark rain of a Baghdad night, further illustrate this fact.

If he's not on your list of daily reads, he should be. If you want to know what its like over there, look no further.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

An Addendum

In a post below, I make reference to Hezbollah rallies featuring "a lot of angry young Arab Shiite males beating themselves up and cutting themselves with knives while carrying signs of Assad and chanting mindless drivel."

That happened. But it was what didn't happen that was noticable: the lack of car bombs or other violent means that has previously passed for "political discourse" in the Middle East. If Hezbollah has gotten the message that violence is no longer an acceptable form of politics, we've reached a new milestone. Not to get ahead of ourselves, because there is still a long way to go...but can you even imagine anything like this happening in 1985 Beirut?

It's spreading...

Iraqi Police

Not sure if all of you guys saw this, as it was buried in a post far below, so here it is again. From Major K. comes the story of the incredible sacrifice of four Iraqi police officers. Because of these guys sacrificing their lives, at least one, possibly more American soldiers were not WIA or KIA.

Go and read.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Jan's at it again!

Granted, the above isn't an entirely fair statement; after all, it is the function of the U.N. to stand around and point fingers while others do the actual work. And actually, I shouldn't be complaining. Usually, when atrocities are happening in Africa, the U.N. stands aside, wrings its hands, finally deploys a token force of peacekeepers, lets its "peacekeepers" get butchered, uses the said butchering as an excuse to withdraw all of its forces, then conveniently forgets while a million Tutsis are butchered. Then memorializes the genocide with a teary-eyed ceremony in New York led by the man who was ultimately responsible for the genocide in the first place. This fact conveniently fell down Wretchard's memory hole.

Anyway, you may remember U.N. humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland. The U.N. official who called the United States stingy in its tsunami relief efforts...after we had contributed an aircraft carrier battle group, countless C-130 aid flights, and millions of dollars worth of goods through USAID, to say nothing of the U.S. NGO contributions. He's at it again in the Sudan, criticizing the AU for not providing enough military montiors to prevent atrocities. He has a valid point; if there are still atrocities going on, as most everyone agrees, there are obviously not enough troops in country. This begs the question, why?

No doubt, a large part of the problem is the fact that most African militaries and their respective governments are chronically underfunded and that most African militaries lack the expeditionary capability to deploy and sustain a sizeable force in another country. So the problem is money and a lack of trasportation capability. The U.N. has the money and the ability to arrange air transportation. This situation is EXACTLY the kind of thing the U.N. was designed to resolve: a ruling minority is brutally repressing a majority of a different race. By any decent standard, the Sudanese government is engaging in genocide. This is what the U.N. is supposed to fix! So why hasn't it?

The answer comes later in the article.

" The resolution authorizes a 10,000-member peacekeeping force in the south and calls for a partial arms embargo as well as travel and an assets freeze against those guilty of gross human rights abuses. But Russia, China and Algeria still object to sanctions."

So, the hold up is due to the fact that China, Russia, and Algeria don't wish to lose their supply of cheap oil, nevermind the hundreds of thousands that have died. And thus we have the inherent weakness in the U.N. The voice of a totalitarian government like China or Algeria (or, increasingly, Russia) that is only interested in oil gets to be heard at the same level and with the same degree of respect as that of the democracies who are standing up for basic human rights.

Because of this system, hundreds die daily for the cheap oil of China, Russia, and Algeria.

And as a final absurdity, I leave you with this quote from Mr. Egeland:

" "And those (troops) could have been there last summer if we had been able to deploy tsunami-style," he told a news conference. "There are many countries in Africa that could give more forces, quicker. What we need is more forces on the ground.""

I'm not sure who Mr. Egeland is addressing with his use of 'we.' If he is addressing the U.N., I hope he is kidding. After all, if that was the case, the first thing established in the Sudan would not be aid flights or health care, but a camp for the U.N. staffers to make sure they do not undergo undue stress.

The memory hole...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Counter Recruiters

From USA Today comes this story about Iraq War opponents who are now taking their fight against all things Military to our Country's high schools.

""I don't tell kids not to join the military," says Murphy, 59, a member of Veterans for Peace. "I tell them: 'Have a plan for your future. Because if you don't, the military has a plan for you.' ""

What else do you tell them? Because to me, that's not really a good enough reason to throw away being in the military. Do you tell them that they should throw away an excellent opportunity to better themselves because there is a chance they might die? That they'll be forced to commit atrocities? That they'll become involved in an unjust war?

Ah, here is the answer:

"For one thing, Murphy helped convince him that he could go to college to pursue his interest in criminal justice, and that there was no guarantee he'd get his request for assignment to military police. For another, he's worried about combat in Iraq.

Yes, its true that there is no guarantee that he will not get an assignment to military police. I highly doubt the recruiter made that kind of a promise. The recruiter probably said something to the effect of, "you know, there's a good chance that you could be assigned to a MP police unit, considering that they are in heavy demand right now." The kid then took that to mean that he would be guaranteed an MP slot. Anyway, where is this kid's drive? There's no guarantee I'm going to get a nav slot in the Air Force; you don't see that stopping me from joining just because there is a risk that I might get stuck being an R & D guy, or, God forbid, an intel weenie (no offense intended to all the intelligence guys out there).

Finally, we get to the crux of Mr. Murphy's argument:

"Murphy told him that even for Americans from the most violent neighborhoods, combat is a shock. "It's gonna change you forever, and not necessarily positively. Think of all the civilians killed in Fallujah. You're gonna see something like that for the rest of your life," he told him.""

Yes, that is true, combat is a shock. But what would Mr. Murphy know of ground combat? He served in the Air Force in Vietnam. This means that he was either a rated officer, serving in some sort of flying capacity, some type of non-rated REMF officer, or an enlisted ground crew. (Judging by his appearance, "His untucked shirt covers a pot belly, his gray hair reaches his shoulders, and he favors blue jeans and windbreakers," I'd be willing to venture a guess as to him being enlisted, but that's just me stereotyping again.) Anyway, none of the above mentioned capacities involve sustained ground combat, with the related shock, violence, and effects that come with it. What does Mr. Murphy know of ground combat?

Perhaps a better question is what he knows of Fallujah. Almost all news accounts I've read, along with accounts of people who were there (thanks Redsix!) seemed to indicate that by the time the Marines and Armored Cav went in, the only people left in the town were those that needed to die. (Not civilians, for those of you that were wondering.)

I feel sorry for the young adult that Mr. Murphy counseled out of the military. I feel sorry because he appeared to be someone that truly had a love for the Military, and in particular, the Corps. He "was a member of the Junior ROTC Honor Guard at his High School" and "loved everything about being a Marine, from the lore to the uniform." He had tried to enlist twice before, and was rejected due to his age. Then Mr. Murphy got to him.

I feel sorry for young Greg McCullough because thanks to the efforts of military-hating peacniks like Mr. Murphy, Greg will never know the satisfaction that comes from being a member of the most professional military force on the planet.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Paperwork, paperwork, everywhere, and way too much for me

(Warning: this post could be construed to contain a bit of angst, so proceed at your own risk).

So today I got my first indoctrination into the evil empire of paperwork that constitutes the Air Force health care bureaucracy: I received my paperwork regarding my DODMERB physical that I need to have in order to be able to activate my ROTC scholarship. Granted, it doesn't really matter now because I don't go on scholarship anyway until my sophomore year (stupid manpower cuts), but I still need to get the physical done before I can be approved for the scholarship and begin taking part in AFROTC.

Actually, to be honest, the indoctrination started a few weeks ago, when I got a little envelope from AFROTC HQ at Maxwell. It gave me a toll free number in Colorado that I needed to call in order to set up an appointment for my DODMERB physical with an approved physician in my area. The postcard also told me to have my SS number and calendar ready. I call the number, a polite gentleman picks up on the third ring. I explain why I'm calling, so he asks for my name and my SS number. I identify myself; he then explains to me that he is going to now contact Concorde Inc, which is the company that DOD contracts out to in order to provide a list of approved doctors and optometrists. He then tells me that I'm good to go and that Concorde will be sending me a package containing further information in a week or two.

Yes, I know. That appeared as absurd to me as I'm sure it does to you. It baffled me that Maxwell felt the need to tell me to have my calendar ready when they had to good and well know that Colorado had no need for my calendar, and that I would be scheduling my appointment personally, not through Colorado. Then the bigger absurdity: why do I need to contact Colorado in the first place? Concorde Inc. is located in Philadelphia. So, in the DOD's convulted logic, I needed to contact Colorado, with SS number and calendar ready, so they could fire off an email to Philadelphia telling Philadelphia to send me a sheaf of papers; the only one that really mattered being the one that has the contact information for the physician's office on it, so that I can contact the physican and set up an appointment. Wouldn't it have just been simpler for Colorado to have the doctor's name on hand? I guess that would make sense.

Ah, this could be a long and painful career if I don't learn how to deal with paperwork. I'm sure all things will come in time. The saddest part of my story is that up to this point, I haven't even received the actual DODMERB physical form yet. Let me tell you, it is a doozy.

To begin with, I have to read a paragraph that is provided on the sheet to my doctor to detect any speech impediments. I guess conversation with him wouldn't be enough. Then I have to go through the list of 74 questions relating to my health. Most of them are relatively benign, if tedious, but a few are downright laughable. The first 8 questions relate to illegal drug use. Now, this might appear to be normal, but the irony comes when you consider what you had to affirm during the application process for your ROTC scholarship. When I went in for my lovely interview with Captain UNO, I had to sign paperwork affirming that I had not used illegal drugs up that point, and would not as long as I remained in the AFROTC program. The Captain made it quite clear that this was the point of no return, that I could disclose illegal drug use at this point with a minimal penalty, but that if I disclosed use after this point, I would be automatically kicked out of the application process.

Well, that was a nice digression, but I seem to have lost my train of thought...Ah yes, so, if you answer in the affirmative to any of the drug use questions, you would be providing the rope to hang yourself with on that physical sheet. (Oh no, bad metaphor! One of the questions is have I "ever attempted or considered suicide"...have to watch these things, you never know who might be reading!)

Another two questions I found rather absurd are: "bed wetting after age 12?" and "sleepwalking after age 12?" First of all, where did DODMERB get this age 12 cutoff at? You're telling me that if I wet the bed when I was 11, I'm fine, but if I wet it when I was 13, I'm for all intents and purposes out of AFROTC? But hey, that's nothing compared to the Academy. Parents, listen up: if you think your child is a potential USAFA cadet, get their orthodontal work done early. If you don't, and they try to apply to the Academy with any kind of orthodontal problem or active orthodontal work, they could be disqualified from admission for that sole reason.

Even more absurd.

Finally, there is the mandatory rectal exam. In black and white, it is spelled out on the form: "A visual rectal exam is a mandatory DODMERB requirement for both men and women." Why, oh why does the USAF need to know about my rectum? What could possibly interest them about that area of my body? Granted, there is a lot of bullshit that floats around the Air Farce, but I imagine that the officers who produce that have a pet bull that produces it for them; there's no way human beings can produce that much. So stepping outside of that, I honestly can't perceive any rational reason why the USAF needs to know what my rectum looks like. I can understand inspecting for hemorrhoids, but that should be relatively simple. All you need to have me do is sit in a very uncomfortable, non-conforming chair for about 5 minutes. If I start squirming, then you can suspect something. Otherwise, I highly doubt I have that particular medical ailment. Now, I understand that old farts need to have a prostate examination, and this involves the rectal area, but an 18 year old? I think my prostate is just fine, thank you, and don't need anyone examining it.

Anyway, wish me luck in negotiating the pathways of USAF health care bureaucracy: I still need to set up my appointment, get that date to Philadelphia, who will then send it to Colorado, I imagine, who will then pass it on to Alabama. And I'm sure the process will start back again, so the doctor's office can get confirmation. And then once I'm done with the physical, my paperwork will make the long journey from Omaha, to Philadelphia..etc etc.

I love being a part of wasting the tax payer's money!

I believe that it is time for me to conclude this particular post, but before I go, let me say a few things.

First of all, who here feels that Lebanese women are incredibly hot? Especially Lebanese women who are protesting for their freedom. But still, I mean, nothing against Iraqi women or Afghan women, but those Lebanese chicks just got it goin on. I know if I was a Lebanese male, I'd definitely be for freedom, regardless of my personal politics.

Along those lines, something to be on the watch for is an outbreak of violence in Lebanon during the next 24-48 hours. Hezbollah has promised a large number of rallies throughout the country in support of Syria and Assad. Expect Hezbollah's rallies to consist of a lot of angry young Arab Shiite males beating themselves up and cutting themselves with knives while carrying signs of Assad and chanting mindless drivel. Also expect Hezbollah to try and stir up trouble as a result of the Syrian "peacekeeping troops" leaving.

This is one time I suspect I'll be right, but am stridently hoping I am wrong.

More blogroll additions

I've added a couple more blogs to the blogroll. First is Doc in the Box, the blog of a Navy Corpsman attached to a Marine Helicopter unit who is currently on his second tour in the Sandbox. Next is Major Mike, a retired Marine Officer who has a blog that I would dare say is on the same level as Smash or Blackfive, which says a lot. Then there is SF Alpha Geek, who writes a blog of similar quality, and who also has really interesting and informative stories of actual special forces operations in the GWOT. Red2Alpha is an infantryman currently station in Iraq who is a great writer, and who doesn't pull any punches regarding his superiors. Finally, there is Air Force Voices, an actual AIR FORCE BLOG!!! I know, get excited, I didn't think anyone in the Air Force actually knew blogs existed. I guess I was wrong.

As always, check out these sites, look around, and if you see what you like, come back.

Friday, March 04, 2005


Today I'm going to take a bit more of a local bent, although I suppose what I'm discussing has a larger radius, in the abstract. We had a Reconciliation service on Wednesday at my high school. For those of you that don't know, a Reconciliation service is a gathering in which Catholics celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation, where we confess our sins to a priest, acting as God's intermediary, and are forgiven by God for our sins. In the past, we've usually had a program for these services with a basic examination of conscience printed in it. However, this year Father Lewis, our campus chaplain and/or Ms. Miller, our campus minister (I'm not sure who made the decision) felt it necessary to provide something more for our contemplation during our examination of conscience. In addition to the usual program, a booklet was provided. The booklet was a "Teenage Guide for Confession," written by Father Frank E. Papa. Father Papa is obstensibly an expert on teenagers. I was able to find a bio of him online, and according to the bio, he has over 25 years of experience in working with teenagers, including homeless youth. He also has a doctorate in canon law. This would appear to make him well qualified to write a guide to confession geared for teenagers.

What he wrote is definitely not a guide for teenagers. What he wrote is one of the most conservative laundry list of sins I've ever seen. Among the many, MANY things Father Papa lists as sins are "joining or taking part in the false worship of non-Catholic 'religions,' tarot cards, chain prayers, horoscopes, lucky rabbit's feet, lucky numbers, passionate prolonged embraces with sexual intent, tampons (for contraceptive use), " and the kicker, "'steady dating' (placing oneself in the near occasion of sin by dating the same person steadily with no intents or prospects for marriage in the near future within approximately 12 to 18 months)."

Now, I'm not going to dispute that the Catholic Church feels all those things to be sins. In fact, I'm not going to dispute that there are good reasons for most of those things to be sins. Yes, even the dating for 12 to 18 months thing. But Father Papa chose the worst possible way to present the various sins he wanted the teenage readers of his pamphlet to consider. By listing all of them without explanation, he totally turned teenagers off to whatever the pamphlet is saying. Using the 12 to 18 months thing as an example, by simply listing that as a sin without explanation, he gave teenagers the impression that the Church feels that all steady dating is a sin. In reality, I feel that what Father Papa was trying to convey is that by dating someone steadily for that long, you run the serious risk of becoming sexually active with them, and are thus guilty of putting yourself in a near occasion of sin. But because of the way he chose to present his list of sins, all our student body got out of the pamplet is that the Catholic Church feels that dating someone for over a year is a sin.

Even worse that the fact that because of his presentation many of the sins on his list were misunderstood is the fact that many sins that had direct application to our school and our lives were overlooked. For example, Father Papa also lists as sins "showing disrespect and disobedience to your school principal and teachers...drunkenness, drug-abuse, steroid abuse, self-induced malnutrition causing excessive weight-loss due to vanity...indecency in dress, sexually suggestive gestures, postures, or mannerisms...wasting time, money, or talents, cheating...gossiping, slander, betraying trust, eavesdropping...impure conversation, impure dress, impure music lyrics...greed, envy, and prejudice."

I wonder how many students at our school honestly feel that willingly disobeying a teacher is a sin? I think we all know that we have a serious problem with drinking at our school, and a slightly lesser one with other forms of drug abuse. Anyone who has been to a soc hop knows that 90% of the females at Gross Catholic don't understand the original intent of clothing. All teenagers are tempted by time wasting and by cheating, just as all teenagers are tempted by gossip and spreading rumors. I know that almost everyone at our school thinks nothing of impure conversation, to say nothing of impure dress or impure dance lyrics, and I'm pretty sure that we've all been seriously envious of someone else sometime in the past few months.

These are all serious problems in our school that need to be addressed. But because of Father Papa's insistence on including ALL sins in that booklet, the outrage many in the student body felt over his poor presentation of sins such as using lucky numbers, contraceptive tampons, and steadily dating someone overshadowed the actual reflection we should have been doing about not wearing enough clothing, drug use, and cheating.

This brings me to the abstract part of my argument. Should Catholic educators be focused on giving teenagers a list of all sins and make us strive for perfection, or should they be more focused on making sure we lead relatively good, relatively holy lives, and accept that as good enough? I know I would rather have someone who occasionally messed up, perhaps got a little frisky with the opposite sex, perhaps told a lie, maybe even got drunk once, but who led a generally "good" and fun life rather than someone who was prim, proper, and never sinned, yet was cold and heartless, or even worse, someone who was totally and utterly morally bankrupt inside. To me, its about the end result: when a teenager graduates high school, are they prepared to lead a relatively moral, good, and just life? If so, then their Catholic educators have been successful. This pamphlet did more harm than good because it pushed many students away from all Catholic teaching, including the basic bedrocks necessary to lead a relatively moral and just life. Father Papa apparently feels it necessary to shove all sins down the throats of teenagers without regard for the consequences rather than to have a more measured approach that has a greater success of permanently touching the most lives.

Now that I've delved into the abstract, back to reality. As a student at Gross Catholic, the use of this pamphlet has forced me to draw one of two conclusions: either Father Lewis and/or Ms. Miller are utterly out of touch with our student body, or they are incompetent. If they (whoever made the decision to use the pamphlet) made the decision to use this pamphlet based on the belief that it would truly help us examine our conscience, they must have no feel for what our student body believes and how it feels about the Catholic Church and its teachings. However, if they did know this, and still chose to use this pamphlet, they are incompetent, for one of two reasons. Either they read the pamphlet and still made the decision to use it, or, more likely, they didn't fully read the pamphlet and still chose to use it without knowing what was in it. I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they just made the decision to use the pamphlet without reading it, but that does not absolve them of blame. Setting aside the fact that it would have taken 15 minutes of their time to fully read the pamphlet all the way through before distributing it to the student body, how hard would it have been to run this by Pastoral Council? Even Pastoral Council VP KBRod was expressing disbelief/amusement at Father Papa's list of sins. If he is laughing at something related to the Catholic Church, you know you need to go back to the drawing board.

Father Papa's badly presented pamphlet is unacceptible. Our responsibilities as a Marianist High School to educate for formation in faith and to educate for adaption and change demand that our students are better provided for when it comes to educating them in their faith.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Besides liberating 50 million people and bringing freedom to the Middle East...

Via Instapundit comes this Times op-ed. "What have the Americans done for us," indeed.

Or as Glenn says, "heh."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Indigenous Security Forces

A common experience in American military history has been the underperformance of indigenous forces, especially in a guerilla warfare campaign. While there have been examples of this in every war since WWII, the most glaring is the performance of the ARVN in Vietnam. An almost universal sentiment expressed by soldiers who fought in Vietnam was that, outside of elite units, the ARVN was a wholly corrupt, incompetent force. While there are more than a few exceptions to this rule, the sheer weight of the corruption and incompetence was almost always enough to crush any ARVN officer who tried to change things. Officers were promoted because of patronage or their family name, while the average grunt was a poorly trained, poorly paid draftee who was almost always thrust into an unfamiliar part of the country. While there are many reasons for the defeat of the United States military in the Vietnam Conflict, one of the bigger reasons is that it is almost impossible to win a guerilla campaign without a competent indigenous force to provide a link to U.S. troops and the general population. (For the record, I'm waaaay oversimplifying things for the sake of making a point; if you want to discuss guerilla warfare, I'm more than game. Just leave a comment.)

Fortunately, the U.S. military does not face this same issue in Iraq. When a terrorist bomb killed 120 men waiting to enlist in the Iraqi Army, there were protests. Not for the terrorists and extremists, but against the Iraqi government, for failing to protect these men, and in support of their mission. Then there's this story from Major K. If you ever hear a news reporta about the Iraqi Security Forces being weak or incompetent, just remember this, and the sacrifice of those four Iraqi police officers.

Blogroll additions

In case you hadn't noticed, I've added a couple of blogs to my blogroll. A Day in Iraq is a ground-level view of the war from a soldier who is in the middle of it. If you want to know what its really like over there for the average grunt, read his blog. Dadmanly is the same, only with a bit of a political bent. Major K. and Assumption of Command are a bit higher level view, from a field grade officer's perspective (Major K. is a...Major, and I believe Mustang at Assumption of Command is a Captain.) Eagle Speak is the blog of a retired Navy Captain. If you want to know anything about the GWOT (Global War On Terror) on the seas, this is the place. Lots of interesting tidbits about terrorism gathered into one place. The New Sisyphus is my replacement for liberal (in the original sense of the word) minded State Department officers now that the Diplomad has folded up shop.

I've also added a new category. Libertarian Blogs; Eric's Random Musings and The Unrepentant Individual are both blogs of individuals with a decidedly libertarian/true liberal bent. However, don't mistake them for Randites or the current pathetic Libertarian Party.

Like always, I wholeheartedly encourage you to go check out each and every one of the blogs on my blogroll (with the exception of the xangas.) Click the link, look around, learn something, and if you see what you like, come back tomorrow.