Jason is in Iraq and is painfully honest and completely without tact. Quick, read all you can before he has to take it back down…
July 30, 2004
July 29, 2004
We have civilian control of the military in our country, and this is a frustrating, beautiful, essential thing.
Some of the best wartime leaders in our country have been civilians who knew how to lead. Eliot Cohen has a wonderful book that touches on this. (Max Boot even reviews it!)
I was reminded of this civil-military split, and how the arguments about who served and who didn’t are pretty much irrelevant, when I got an email from Rich Galen of Mullings. (I’m not special; you can sign up on his email list if you wish.) Galen says:
I am writing this at 10:40 pm. I am watching John Edwards talking about the heroism of our young people in uniform – implying that they are not being honored as they should be under the administration of George W. Bush.
It is one thing for John Kerry – OR George Bush – to talk about men and women in uniform. They each wore one.
I was in the National Guard. The New Jersey and the Ohio National Guard.. John Edwards was – nowhere. He has never worn the uniform for one second.
I am offended by John Edwards’ implication that the administration of George W. Bush is not doing everything it can to support those young men and women.
President Bush proposed appropriate funding to support them. John Kerry voted against the necessary funds for the worst possible reason: Howard Dean was ahead of him in the polls.
Memo to John Edwards: Take the oath. Spend a day in a military uniform..
Or shut up.
See how that “served” sword cuts both ways?
It’s not about the time in uniform, it’s about what you do in the job. I sure have seen a lot of people telling me they support “the troops” but don’t like me much. Kind of like seeing those guys in college who were all for revolution to improve humanity but hated people…
My wife and I visited friends in Chicago and had a lovely time. I needed a break. When I went to my shore tour, I was in the hole on leave. (In the military you earn 2.5 days of leave a month, and I had taken a few more days than I had earned, which you can do up to a point.) As I reported to this tour, I was about to lose leave. (If you have more than 60 days of leave on the books, you lose the extra when the fiscal year kicks over.)
This means it’s been a long time since I had a day off.
So we toddled up to see a friend of mine, a guy who shifted over to training reservists after he wound up not on the XO submarine track, get relieved as CO of the reserve center nearby. It was a nice ceremony–and better than the one on his oncoming watch, where we sweated outdoors in the sun in a parking lot and he had to talk with the admiral for the day rather than attend his own party.
Immediately after the ceremony I went to one of my favorite record stores, Dusty Groove. I had only ordered from them on line, so I was surprised to see that their store was clean, pretty, and well organized, unlike other indie record stores I could name. I had a wonderful time in there talking records with the staff–who were more than a little freaked out that this old lieutenant commander in summer whites not only was in the store but knew who Fela Kuti’s drummer was and why Bob Dorough is cool. Everyone has stereotypes; it’s just that if you think you’re open minded, you forget you have them, I guess. Apparently military people aren’t supposed to be tolerable or music related. I traded tune tips with one fellow who was quitting next week to teach percussion in the Chicago schools, and congratulated him on his opportunity to contribute to his community in some worthwhile service. I guess he had never thought of it quite that way, but I’m not blowing smoke. I told him about how Howling Wolf used to distribute harmonicas in the Chicago school system and how his visits changed some lives for the better.
Feeling all smug and lighter in wallet but heavier in record bag I visited some friends with a new baby and a new job. I had a good time talking about his fledgling business (a hedge fund). I think the last decade or two while we’ve pusrsued different paths has given us some different frames of reference, and it showed. I understand engineering stuff but also what the business books this week call the art of execution–ways to look at a problem and find ways to not just solve the immediate crisis but also look at the process that needs changed to make things better. He spent many years in mathematics and then in the finance world, and understands a different set of skills than I.
My friend and I imposed on the wives and went to the other shopping paradise for losers like me, Sam’s Wine and Liquors. Why was I so excited about a darn liquor store? Well, it’s legendary in the scotch whisky business, and they were the only ones to buy a barrel of Springbank and bottle it themselves until the other places called them on it. The proprietor spent a little time talking with me, and grokked that I was buying bourbon in anticipation of a new duty station, and knew a little of which I blathered–and sent my friend and I on a spectacular tasting odyssey, sharing stories and samples of thirty-five-year old special bottlings, fifty year old cognac that would cost a month’s salary for a bottle, and expensive versions of some of my favoritest stuff out there. They had cognac from other than the Big Four producers, like Brillet, which almost tempted me to secure my personal boycott of French products. Lucky I couldn’t find a bottle of Astralis or Penfolds Grange in the five minutes I had left after spending two hours talking spirits in the bourbon section, or I would have been seriously short of pin money for a while. I will go back to Sam’s as soon as feasible–these folks were wonderful to talk to, and I learned a lot and had fun.
After our visit with friends we trundled back to the airport. One thing you might not know about Chicago is that O’Hare is the airport closest to the Navy’s boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. At the airport we met three generations of folks on the bus; a new grandmother, a new mom, and new young’un. Grandmother had one son in the Army, and the mom’s husband had just graduated from boot camp on his way to Seabee schools. Grandmother’s husband had just passed away, and you could tell the load on her shoulders was heavy.
Back at work I found that I had picked a good time to go on leave–we’re still in schedule limbo.
July 28, 2004
…is that the last time before the funeral that I went to one town with family in it, it was a nonstop argument about politics. Hey, it’s not like you are doing anything about it, and you can see what I do for a living, so lay off already, will you? I’ve got an opinion honed from working with
I mean arguing with intellectual European students for a year, so I’m ready for a flame war, and it won’t be pretty. Just stop already or get some knowledge before you tell me what to do.
Of course one of the other side of the family drops by for a visit en route and casually mentions that they’re making professional signs for one presidential campaign. After they passionately declaim the cost of drugs for the grandmother, they call for a national health care program–and then complain about how much they pay in taxes in the same breath.
Professor Cori Dauber eviscerates journalist Nick Kristof for all the right reasons.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I was one of those who seem to have gotten reports of SGT Donald Walters’ heroism in a fatal, desperate situation–attributed at the time to PFC Jessica Lynch. (That happens, you know. War is most assuredly not fair.)
Nicholas Kristof writes a column this morning about a soldier who died in the early days of the fighting in Iraq, and who, without a doubt, has not gotten nearly enough attention from the media.
But, of course, this is Kristof, so we can’t just celebrate heroism. We have to tear it down by arguing that it was an empty sacrifice.
There is also a Sudan link there too. Dauber’s rant is spot on and I urge you to read what she has to say on this. I am not happy that one aspect of our war is that a significant part of our chattering classes don’t get it and may never will.
So all over the ‘sphere this week has been the Airplane Lady. The good Rev doesn’t think she did the right thing.
On the other hand, I also remember the guy who refused to board a plane with that same kind of gut instinct, and notice the chatter I’m hearing around…and maybe Rev. Sensing protests a little too much. I’m not sure he’s completely wrong, but maybe he’s not right, either.
In more definite news, his son is now at Parris Island. Congratulations, future shipmate!
July 25, 2004
Commissar is wrong, wrong, wrong. His maps are okay, but where are his nautical charts, henh? Why disrespect Admiral Gorshkov?
Ann Cloyter says it best, remembering what happens when you let a thousand flowers bloom. They get mowed down:
His call is a very clever commie tactic to discover heretics by pretending to welcome disagreement, only to purge them all when the phony “amnesty” period is over. Go ahead, openly argue with the Commissar, but don’t be surprised when holdover KGB thugs come visit you at night.
What do think this is, free speech or something?
Lex has a post about going to captain’s mast from the higher-ranking side of the “green table”. His Haloscan comment thingy doesn’t take more than 1000 characters, so I’ll post a response here. Acronym alert, and you probably should read his post first.
Looks like I won’t have the privilege of dealing with convening masts, but I’ve seen my share of being at the side of the green table. Lex focuses in his post about those we can’t save and who go back to a harder life. I hold as a small comfort that there are those we can bring back from the brink in time.
In my previous sea tour, our ship was seen as less than the normal studly SSN. This was because we carried SEALs, not Tomahawks, and due to START II no longer carried nuclear Polaris missiles. (It was one of the few times we in the Navy could either ‘confirm or deny’ such things, since we had a nice public treaty on it. Anything else and I gave the standard “won’t confirm or deny”.) We got more than the normal share of malcontents and guys who were failing on the other ships. In my department, we had a division that didn’t have a rate attached to it, Dry Deck Shelter division–and we put the guys who were having trouble in one division for whatever reason in there, with a couple of thefts from other divisions to add flavor.
Let’s just say I had a share of leadership challenges. But my little team, because I had some great first class petty officers and an occasional outstanding chief, did the toughest kind of work possible on a submarine–close enough to the coast I could swim to it, in seaborne traffic so thick we could not ever stop turning to avoid colliding or grounding, far from home and with a high op tempo. Some of those folks would have failed in life or failed in their job if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have leaders who would be able to take the time.
The proudest moment in my career didn’t have a ceremony. It was when I found out that every one of my “PNA eight times” first classes made chief, and my department “terminal rank” chief made COB and Master Chief. A close second is seeing one of my guys, now a second class and in school, who was on the brink of failing those years ago, or seeing one of the divers I mentored in ROTC. Hell, the second class “PNA forever” guy I somehow bamboozled the captain into CAPping to first wound up running the division when it made a bad mistake (another story, one time)
But if the kid takes an E, or drives drunk, or doesn’t give a suicide signal I can catch, there’s nothing I can do. Our society works partly because we can exile those who can’t hack it, or are just plain unlucky, and exile we do.
July 23, 2004
Click for this Flash site, disturbing in its depth of information and personal detail. As it should be. Well done to the St. Petersburg Times for capturing some of the essence of a man and the mark he made on the world in an instant of time.
July 22, 2004
I’ve noticed that the Berger document handling affair has been bringing howls of derision and humorous notes all over one side of the blogosphere.
As a person who has to safeguard classified information, I assure you that document security is no laughing matter. To explain and inform, I’ve found an old training film that shows how to safeguard information in a proper manner.
Please watch, as it may provide useful information in these troubled times. The large file is best, as you might need to see the captions on the instruction slides.
you want bigger, or different format? email or leave a comment…
Please let me know if you have trouble loading this film–this is the first time I’ve tried to upload video.
Update: Some of the original tools can be purchased here.
Ace of Spades HQ is just hoppin’. I thought you might want to know that.
Same with EjectEjectEject–looks like the groundhog came out of his hole for once.
Ralph Peters has a good screed in that bastion of leftitude, Frontpage:
Now, in late July of 2004, where is the Left as the Sudanese government conducts a campaign of genocide against the wretched of the earth in Darfur Province? Oh, yes, there have been a few crocodile tearsâ€”but where are the demands for intervention?
Where are the campus demonstrations against that great liberator, Robert Mugabe, who destroyed Zimbabwe, terrorized its peopleâ€”and is using scarce reserves of food as a weapon while his citizens slowly starve?
and of course, I fully expect a little counter on Counterpunch clicking away at the heat deaths next summer in France due to bad government…
From MEMRI, a translation of an interesting attitude from the Iraqi defense minister:
Question: “How serious is Iranian penetration into Iraq?”
Sha’lan: ” Iranian penetration is extensive and unprecedented since the establishment of the Iraqi state. The Iranians have entered the crucial junction points of the country as a whole and established many intelligence and military positions in Iraq. We have begun dealing with this matter in a way both subtle and exacting. The prime minister, the foreign minister, and I all make our voices clear against Iran’s blatant intervention in Iraqi affairs, which is a dangerous precedent. They admit to having spies in Iraq, whose task is to undermine the social and political situation. The Iraqi people, however, are immune to this.”
Question: “Haven’t you spoken with these countries on this matter?”
Sha’lan: “Yes, we have spoken with them, and we confronted them with the facts and the evidence, but they have not taken any measures to stop their support of the terrorists and their operations on Iraqi soil. When we reached a dead end, we started to issue statements and we said, and I reiterate it here, that we have the capability to move [the response] to assaults on Iraqi dignity and rights into those countries. We have the capability to move the assault into their countries.”
“the capability to move the assault into their countries” means that change in the Middle East is moving quicklike…
July 21, 2004
Via IraqNow, further proof that every Marine is a public affairs officer. In this New York Times article, a Marine captain recently back from a tour with recon has some great observations about his comrades. (The article is ostensibly about the draft, but most worthy for its discussion on demographics.)
The men in my infantry platoons came from virtually every part of the socio-economic spectrum. There were prep-school graduates and first-generation immigrants, blacks and whites, Muslims and Jews, Democrats and Republicans. They were more diverse than my class at Dartmouth, and far more willing to act on their principles.
So I think if I were an admissions professional at Dartmouth, I would be seriously rethinking what I was supposed to be doing there. We already know diversity of opinion is frowned upon in some academic circles–but here, the military even bests the academe in a supposed strength!
So you probably know about fan fiction, where folks use an existing framework and tell new yarns from the same skein. This, however, is fan movies–and this trailer here looks really good. It’s a comic book moment, but from all the drooling about the new Spiderman movie this might be well received.
The BTS stands for Behind the Scenes–it’s the filmmaker showing you the secrets behind his work. This guy knows how to go on the cheap like nobody since Hardware Wars.
I completely forget where I found this, by the way. Here’s the website for the film company.
July 20, 2004
No, back from sea, in Chicago.
no, back from Chicago.
No, traveling again.
I give up. Let this mess with your head for a while. Hint: drag the box.
If you like this you’ll like Boohbah over there on the right. If not then this will make the back of your head hurt.
Or maybe Rob Manuel’s more your style of head messing–B3ta says Manuel seems to have gotten the lyrics wrong.
July 16, 2004
I may have mentioned this, but before there were blogs, there were zines. I did a sum total of one zine, a “christmas newsletter” I put out every October or so. It went to five people.
There was a zine called Factsheet Five which delineated the total weirdness of the zine world: fan zines, kinky zines, music zines (my faves), political, you name it. One example: Gourmandizer, which interviewed various musicians in my indie punk rawk world. About food.
Paul Lukas wrote one called Beer Frame that was transcendent: he’d get this odd stuff and review it. He’d review records, like the other zines, but with one essential difference: he’d review the record, but not the music on it. He’d spend a page on the pros and cons of various fonts on the spine of a CD. He’d review different brands of sauerkraut juice, trying to figure out why in the world it was sold. He’d indulge in his love of old industrial things and ephemeral food and indie rock, and write in an intensely readable style that would make you actually want to read about silly stuff like sauerkraut juice.
When I was growing up, I would often take the train from my Long Island hometown to New York City, and my favorite part of the trip was when the conductors came by to punch everyone’s ticket. The hole punchers they used weren’t like the ones we had in school — they were heavier, more industrial-looking, and instead of producing a circular punch, they left a crisp, abstract squiggle, like the shape of some obscure third-world country. The conductors wielded these hole punchers as if they were highly sophisticated tools, and placed them in little leather holsters on their belts after completing a round of ticket-punching. It all seemed incredibly cool.
It shouldn’t matter, but it does. Paul Lukas was a genius in 1996, I tell you.
The link: Inconspicuous Consumption
Lileks is great again today, if only for this paragraph on feeling a wee bit, let’s say, militant:
I hate this; God I hate this. But I donâ€™t have any longing for normalcy, as Noonan put it the other day, because normalcy was a delusion, a diaphanous curtain draped over the statue of Mars. Nor do I want a time out, a breather, an operational pause. I want to cut to the chase. I want Iran in the hands of its people and leaning to the West again, I want Lebanon independent of Syrian rule, I want Syria isolated and cowed, Arafat dead and buried in the land of his birth â€“ or Paris, symbolically â€“ and the Saudi Civil War done and over with pragmatists in power. I’d like this all tomorrow please.
Noon is fine, if it works for everyone else.
July 15, 2004
Sashi Tharoor, the UN undersecretary for something or other, has an article in the International Herald Tribune.
Being an alumnus of the school I attended last year, and being a high up muckety muck in the U.N. auspices, he got to speak at my graduation. At the time my opinion of the U.N. was still moving out of the “apathy” category. Dr. Tharoor had a very nice speech–that sounded exactly like some guy on a ship that just ran aground but didn’t understand that his ship was a failure. I may have pulled the wrong lesson from the speech, but the impression I came away with is that the culture Tharoor was in was broken–badly–and not able to be fixed internally.
Tharoor, from the five minutes I talked with him (had no idea who the hell he was, just some guy with a sillier mortarboard than mine) seemed like a decent guy. In the article he’s complaining about the press and offers a corrective:
“Iraq,” Annan noted ruefully, “has sucked out all the oxygen and distorted the international agenda.” This has been true, of course, for some time – at least since January 2003, when Annan held a press conference to cover 16 different issues on his global agenda and every question addressed to him was about Iraq.
In response to the gap between what we at the United Nations thought the world should care about and what the media covering our work preferred to focus on, my colleagues and I came up with a list last May of the top 10 stories we felt were not getting enough media attention.
Interesting idea, that. If I were more cynical I would say it’s being corrective in a top-down, bureaucratic manner, but what I think he’s trying to do is find some way to offer a solution to his problem. I think some of us have seen a similar frustration, with other answers.
But in any case he’s going to need a lot of help to get where he wants to go. And he might not even know the help he really needs–fixing things other than this kind of media attention. The ships that run aground are paying attention, but don’t pay attention to their steering into danger….
In the early ’90’s I was a junior officer aboard a submarine homeported in Pearl Harbor. I had a big thick three ring binder I carried everywhere: my qual card.
Submarines make their own oxygen and water when underway, and the equipment to do this is temperamental and dangerous, so qualified personnel are needed to run everything on the ship. The book was many (over a hundred, maybe?) pages, each page with a blank signature block to be signed by a qualified man who certified with his own integrity that you had a competent amount of knowledge in the subject in which he checked you out. There were a lot of checkouts in all the quals needed to finish your book. Until I finished that book, I wasn’t worth the air the team made or the water I drank. You are not useful until you can stand watch, and the final qualification–those dolphins you see on the top of the website, silver for enlisted, gold for officer–is proof that you are worthwhile, an adult. For many young men, this is the first time they have completed such a huge project, bigger than themselves, and needed by other people.
And if you are careless enough to leave your qual card lying around somewhere, you get “Elmer J. Phudd” written in purple ink on your card–which must be scratched out or replaced. Or a system gets “scratched”, meaning you have proven not to know what you thought you did, and you are re-checked out on that system with more than a little embarrassment. Well, you learn to stow for sea when you hear it happened to another JO!
So my binder was something I had with me a lot. On the front of it I had this picture:
(link to image stolen from Ole Miss because I can’t FTP at sea)
Just an ordinary late fifties era photo of an ordinary looking guy. Nothing special.
Until you learned about the man.
Army vet. Served at Normandy. Broke some big barriers. Founded a chapter of an organization that at the time made strides to improve the lives of Americans. Died–some might say martyred–while just coming home to his family, shot in the back while he was getting out of his car with a box of T-shirts.
Some people die for their country without being in the military. Some people work for the good without the glory in the present. And that is why Medgar Evers, what little I know of him, graced my qual card.
I bring this up because I assigned this as a homework assignment to the junior officers in the watch relieving mine. They did not know of Medgar Evers. They must know of Medgar Evers.
For look at the people in the space where I made sure the watch understood their homework: one helicopter pilot. One surface officer, prior enlisted. One cryptologist. One staff pilot. One submariner.
Or looked at another way, five Navy people on watch.
Not as some would see: one white female, one black female, two white males, one Asian. Some might look and only see what group they’re in. The hell with that.
Medgar Evers did not die for just one group of Americans. He died trying to make all of America a better place, simply by trying to make his side equal. Not equally oppressive, not racist in an equally disabling way, but equal.
He may have died at my age, but he still fought the good fight and won.