Monday, January 30, 2006

Career news

I did not get promoted. Look for me in the civilian world in a few months.

Yellow flags

There are 65 countries with yellow in their flag. I know, I counted them at mailorderflags.com. I went to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flags_with_yellow) which has a page ostensibly listing all the colors that appear on flags and the flags which have each color. However, that page is woefully inadequate. For yellow, Wikipedia lists 21 flags, but one flag is of Niue which is more or less a commonwealth of New Zealand, one is the Soviet Union, which doesn’t exist anymore, and there is one listing for the Gay Pride flag. Last I checked, Gay Pride is not a country, although they do have a motto: “Allow me to push in your stool.”

In a related story, the 82nd Airborne says only 7 of its soldiers are performers in gay pornography. I figured, them being Army and all, the number would be a lot higher.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Gregg Easterbrook responds

Thanks for your note. Am just leaving on a trip and want to reply in more detail later. But let me say this. I derive my faith from the Gospels, as opposed to from religion, if you get my point. Jesus said we should not worry about our food or clothing, or about the lengths of our lives, that these are matters for God. By this I take him to mean that the natural world had already been completed by divine power and we need not concern ourselves with it (though of course could study it). Human society, by contrast, is far from complete nor did Jesus view it as complete -- he constantly advocated reform of human society.

So to be a Marine and be willing to fight evil is not a failure of faith, there are times when evil must be fought. Fighting must be only a last resort; it was was the Nazi darkness was spreading, and we are all glad Christians of that era took up the sword. Whether Jesus himself would have been capable of doing so, I don't know.

Warm regards,

Gregg

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Email to Gregg Easterbrook

I listened with great interest to your presentation last night on CS Lewis and the Moral Imagination. As I understand your argument, you think Aslan fails as an allegory for Christ because Aslan never attempts to love his enemies, preferring instead to attack and kill them. Later, in your response to the question from the woman in the back, you asserted that we are nonetheless correct to confront and defeat the evil of Hitler and al Qaeda without recourse to negotiation.

It seems to me that a faith in Christ that is larger than a mustard seed would compel someone to love his enemies, even in the face of seemingly implacable hostility and even in the face of certain death. Given your view of the primacy of the Gospels, is the recourse to arms a failure of faith?

I wrestle with the question daily, especially given my profession as an officer in the Marine Corps. I see my service to the Corps as a troubling lack of faith since I trust not in Christ to deliver us from evil but instead take up arms myself. Daily, I pray for forgiveness. I would be interested in hearing your view of this.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Baseball conundrum

Consider the contradictions in the forced runner rule: Rule 7.01 A runner acquires the right to an unoccupied base when he touches it before he is out. He is then entitled to it until he is put out, or forced to vacate it for another runner legally entitled to that base. This seems pretty clear to anyone who has ever watched a baseball game and seen a runner on first base forced out at second base following a ground ball.

But read Rule 7.03: Two runners may not occupy a base, but if, while the ball is alive, two runners are touching a base, the following runner shall be out when tagged. The preceding runner is entitled to the base.

So, according to 7.01, a runner must vacate a base for a runner behind him who is entitled to that base. But, according to rule 7.03, if the runner on first base obstinately insists on staying there after the batter hits a ground ball, and they both end up on first base, then the batter is out if a fielder comes up and tags them both. Turns out, the runner is not actually forced to run at all!

Of course, I hear you saying, “But Ken, what kind of nitwit infielder would attempt to tag out the runner on first instead of just throwing the ball to second base to force him out.” Answer: it is hard to imagine this circumstance, except for the fact that I saw it happen. In a game I was playing, we had a runner on first, and a bouncing ground ball was hit to the second baseman who was playing in. He ran up on the ball and fielded it directly in front of the runner and tried to tag him. The runner, to avoid being tagged, turned and ran back to first base. The second baseman, realizing he would not be able to make the tag and get a double play, tossed the ball to the first baseman to force out the batter. The batter foiled this attempt by beating out the throw with a slide into first base. Meanwhile, the runner also slid into first base from the baseline. So, for an instant, both batter and runner were standing on first base. It was the perfect instance to show the inherent contradiction between 7.01 and 7.03!

Alas, the runner, not appreciating the deliciousness of the moment, bolted from the base and was tagged out by the first baseman. If he had stayed, and if the first baseman had tagged both runners, he could have forced the umpire to determine whether the batter is “entitled” to first base according to 7.01 or whether the preceding runner is “entitled” to the base according to 7.03. An opportunity to interpret and clarify the rule was lost.

Personally, I think that given how the game is played, a forced runner is not permitted to the preceding base since the act of touching the following base before he arrived means he is out. The preceding/following runner rule only applies to runners not forced. However, since the rule book is poorly written, this conundrum is open to interpretation. The rule should be rewritten for clarity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

White made its appearance this morning

FYI

We should take them at their word

Someone asked me if I was worried about going to Baghdad because of all the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and I said, "No, I have my insurance all paid up and frankly, IEDs are down near the bottom of the list in terms of threat to Baghdad." My interlocutor asked what I meant by that and I said "In the next year, it is much more likely that Iran will get a nuke and use it on Baghdad, because when they do, they will get a two-fer. Destroying the capital of the hated Iraqis and killing 100,000 of the hated Great Satans at the same time."

Iran is developing a nuclear weapon for one reason, to use it. Nowadays, sane countries develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent. The most recent example are the weapons developed by Pakistan and India. Both these countries saw the other as a real threat and worked assiduously to develop nuclear weapons to deter the other from an attack. Each having the weapons was enough to force the other side to peace negotiations, a peace that is holding. Rational countries recognize and welcome peace, even if it is the peace of d├ętente or of mutually assured destruction. Irrational countries, namely Iran, are unmoored from these concerns. These bad actors look at the destruction they can visit on their enemy, and discount the destruction they themselves will experience in return. In the words of Rachel Neuwirth; "Iran, with 70 million people, could absorb and survive any response from Israel while Israel, with only 5.5 million Jews, is vulnerable to devastating losses if only a few of Iran's missiles got through." This is the essence of the problem, Iran can effect the Final Solution at an acceptable cost, so we can be assured they will.

How is it that we know that? We listen to their own words. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in October call for Israel to be "wiped off the map." The President of the country, a supposedly democratically elected official, is calling for another country to be wiped off the map. I hate to make the extermination of Jews sound like a pedestrian electoral concern, but when an elected president makes a widely reported promise, he will be under pressure to fulfill it or face humiliation and defeat if he backs down. President Ahmadinejad promises to wipe Israel off the map. Once he gets the bomb, his constituents (the equally crazy Mullahs of Iran) will expect him to do what he says. We should give him the courtesy of taking him at his word.

This isn't a question of faulty intelligence or competing analyses. We have the president of Iran threatening one of the closest allies of the United States with nuclear annihilation. Intelligence analysts must resist the temptation to look beneath the plain words to discern what President Ahmadinejad "really" means. He says Israel should be wiped off the map and he is working to build a bomb. These are three really big dots you can use a crayon to connect.

Now to be fair, there are other reasons that Iran might want to build a bomb, other than to just exterminate Israel. Iran sees that they have three enemies in the world, the US (Great Satan), Israel (Little Satan) and Iraq. Building a bomb arguably can deter the US from conventional attack, and can menace and intimidate Iraq, in addition to wiping Israel off the map. These considerations hearken back to my earlier observation that Iran is unmoored from concerns about mutually assured destruction that restrain every other nation that possesses nuclear weapons.Israel is too small to worry about proportionate response, Iraq does not have nuclear weapons and the Iran does not have a delivery system capable of menacing the Continental US.

Assuming that Iran is full of rational actors, (something I certainly DON'T assume), and given "balance of power" theory, a nuclear armed Iraq can operate with impunity. And since balance of power theory (and practice) shows that countries will accumulate power until they are checked, Iran will not willingly forgo acquiring weapons. So whether you judge Iran as a rational or irrational actor, the rest of the world is faced with a situation where Iran's acquisition and use of nuclear weapons are in their own national interest.

So we are faced with a race against time. More on this later

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Daily Kos: "Marines are cowards!"

Markos Moulitsas, current star of the Democrat party, argues that I am a scaredy cat because I happen to think that it is a good idea for the NSA to intercept phone calls to and from telephones being used by al Qeida. He opines that I am so afraid of terrorists that I would willingly give up the rights fought for by the Founding Fathers. That allowing the President to hunt terrorists by listening to their phone calls means I means I support the man who “now resembles the very despot we fought in our war of independence.”

Give me a freaking break. Truly, the Founding Fathers possessed a lot more personal courage than I do. They willingly pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to secure the blessings of liberty. But to argue that the Founding Fathers would disapprove of the NSA’s program of intercepting communications of terrorists as a sell-out of the freedoms they fought for is, (how shall I put this?) STUPID.

Would George Washington have refused on principle to open a letter from the King to Cornwallis detailing the King’s plan because Cornwallis happened to be on American soil and therefore had “rights?” Preposterous.

Were the Hessians like al Qeida; nihilistic, sadistic murderers of non-combatants? Did they use a passenger ferry full of innocent civilians as a weapon in New York in an attempt to kill indiscriminately? Did the Redcoats march into schools in Boston and systematically murder children as al Qeida did in Beslan, Russia? I don’t recall the King’s troops behaving that way. Al Qeida, as an enemy, is altogether different from the enemy our forefathers fought. The Islamic Fascists are worthless in the face of force of arms, but are lethal to their targets of choice, children and other innocents.

So back to the NSA intercepts. Is it a cowardly delegation of my rights to exchange my freedom to converse with al Qeida in privacy for the chance that the US government might uncover and stop a plan to attack the elementary school when my children and the children of many other Marines are being taught? The Bush-hating minds of Kos and the Democrat party think it is. If the definition of cowardice is wanting the government to use passive means to reveal a Beslan-like attack on some elementary school outside Camp Lejeune or Ft Benning, then I am wear my yellow strip with pride.

But for me and my fellow Marines, who enthusiastically take up arms to exterminate those terrorists who cower from a fair fight yet who nonetheless plot to bayonet children, the real cowards are in the press and democrat party. Kos revels in the phony machismo that he is the courageous “Champion of Constitutional Rights” when the reality is: if he truly had to choose between his life and the sacred honor of defending “privacy,” he would dispose of the constitution faster than a guard at Guantanamo could flush the Koran. I will take courage lessons from Kos when his children face the knives of the killers of Beslan and yet he still opines that their lives are well spent if it means Osama in Karachi can plot in privacy via cell phone to Mohammed in Raleigh.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The climb rate of my underwear

I washed all clothes in the house on New Year’s eve, and realized that when I put my boxers in the drawer, my white one was on the very bottom of the pile. Hence, I have the perfect opportunity to determine the velocity at which my underwear rises to the top of the pile. I will keep you informed…