I am an active duty officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. All views expressed in this blog are my personal views as an individual and not those of the Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Looking back (at OCS) and looking ahead

So it turns out that some people actually read these posts, and those 2 or 1 of you who do may have been wondering why I abruptly stopped writing around the middle of OCS. Sorry about that - all I can say is it couldn't be helped. But anyway, I'm back, and I thought I'd try to give you a general idea of what the past few months have been like (and for prospective candidates, what to expect), and what lies ahead for me.

The first few days of OCS are in-processing. You do lots of paperwork, run your inventory PFT (our platoon dropped 3 candidates right there) and do gear issue and gear purchase. You're given a lot to do with zero time in the schedule to do it, so you end up staying up most of the night squaring away your stuff, marking gear, etc. Get used to it.

Then comes pick up. Pick up has a well-earned reputation so I won't go into much detail about that. Suffice it to say that there's lots of yelling and running around. The whole thing is just theater, and I remember my main feelings were calm, mild entertainment and, as the day wore on, fatigue.

But there was a lot of yelling, and that continued for the next few weeks. It started the very second that lights came on at 0500 (sometimes before) and didn't stop, except during class, until the minute they went out at 2100 (and often after). And that led me to experience an interesting phenomenon.

If you've ever done something intensely for many hours during the day, whether it's driving or playing Tetris or whatever, you've probably had the experience of closing your eyes at night and seeing that thing in your mind's eye. Well I had a weird and similar experience at OCS. After the first day of yelling, I was walking to the head (the bathroom) after lights out and I realized that every sound I heard - every muffled cough, every toilet flush, every toss and turn of a candidate in the rack - sounded to me like the sound of top-of-the-lungs yelling, far off in the distance. I mentioned it to someone, and it turned out a bunch of other candidates were experiencing the same thing. That lasted a few nights, but eventually we got used to the yelling.

Those next few weeks until our first liberty were both easy and hard. I remember the PT was easy, the days were extremely long, the classes were like drinking from a firehose. Our entire existence was confined to the squad bay, the parade deck, the PT field, the classroom and the chow hall. With no watches, TV, Internet, radio, cell phones, etc., and with 16 hour days (or longer) where every minute was scheduled for us, we quickly found ourselves arguing over what day of the week it was, and whether something had happened that morning or three days ago.

Then came our first liberty. If you brought your cell phone, it was returned to you from the contraband locker. If you followed the rules and didn't (I was the only one), you used the payphones outside to call collect, get a calling card number, and call other people, until you could make it into DC and recover your cell.

That first liberty was like the deepest breath of fresh air you could imagine, after three weeks of breathing in car fumes. At that point we were all starting to get a little worn out, we almost all had the "candidate cough" (mine was pretty mild), and a good number of us were battling injuries. Mine was a middle trap strain on my right side. In week 1 I was doing the O-course and as I jumped up to haul myself over the wall, I heard a riiip in my right shoulder. I of course said nothing and the next week while doing a regular push-up I heard a pop and couldn't even support my own weight or lift my rifle over my head. At that point I couldn't hide it anymore so I went to medical, but I refused to be put on light duty (5 days of light duty and you're sent home). Somehow for the next month or so I faked it - one-arm push-ups, using my legs more, etc., and by some miracle, my shoulder healed. Persevering through that month of pain was one of the things I'm most proud of. But believe me, I wasn't the only one. Almost everyone who graduated OCS with me was nursing some kind of injury; one guy did some of the most painful and miserable training with a cracked rib. I don't know how he did it for as long as he did, though after two weeks it caught up to him and he went home (week 7).

Anyway, when I made it to that first liberty, shoulder strain and all, I knew I was going to make it. From then on I lived lights out to lights out and liberty to liberty. Around week 5 I came down with a high fever but somehow sweated it out in a single night and didn't miss any training. That was the low point for me - I was sore all over (the first few weeks, my soles were swollen at least 1/2 an inch and on fire from all the standing and marching), I was sick as a dog (though luckily without a fever) and I was falling asleep standing up. Again, I was hardly the only one. I remember around that time a bunch of us were sharing descriptions of the color and sheer volume of our snot. But I also felt good. I hadn't failed any tests, I was doing average or above average in the physical events, and my leadership score was high. I was meeting the challenge.

Well, maybe that's a good place to pause - I gotta run. I'll try to pick up soon to let you all know what's next for me. Let me just say that your support, your letters and postcards and greeting cards and phone calls (on libo) meant the world to me. Whatever I've accomplished so far (which is not much) and whatever I go on to do in the Marine Corps, you helped make it so. Thank you.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Half way there; DC next wknd?

Made it through another week. It started out moderately challenging with a long run and some misery-inducing activities but I felt pretty good at first. By the next night though, I was running a pretty bad fever - this is not a good thing. If you get SIQ (sick in quarters or basically restricted to your rack) you better get better fast, and even if you do, you're on the radar. Somehow, with some vitamins and lots of layers, I sweated out my fever overnight and had none in the morning, thus avoiding a visit to the corpsman. Still felt crappy but gradually got better and I'm feeling great now.
Your mail has been a blessing so please keep it coming (see earlier entry for the address). If you haven't written me yet, please do! I want to know what's going on in your lives!
Ran the PFT again today - fastest 3-mile time ever for me, but I dropped four (!!) pullups. Most people dropped a few, though others actually increased. My body, while not nearly as sore as earlier in the week, is just run down. Looking forward to the break between OCS and TBS.
Also, we got fitted for uniforms this week. I look good in those service alphas. If you don't believe me, graduation is Dec. 12. We're permitted to bring a few friends in addition to family so if you're interested let me know and I'll see what I can do.
Not much time to write so I'll have to wrap it up. If you want to e-mail me or leave comments, feel free - I'll check them every wknd and get back to you - writing back regular letters is obviously a bit harder for me to do though I hope to get caught up on that soon.
Oh one more thing. I'm going to be the Candidate Platoon Sergeant on Monday and Tuesday. This is the most visible and dreaded billet, in charge of the whole platoon (which is now down to 40 candidates...from 62 at the start!). But I've been looking forward to getting it. I'm not ready yet but I will be by Monday morning, and I've been craving the challenge. Until now I've only had one real billet - squad leader.
So anyway, it's going to be tough so wish me luck!
Oh one other more thing - I'll try to make it to DC next Sat. night to hang out for a while at a bar. We'll say Rumors at 8 PM - if it changes I'll post it here next Saturday during the day. So if you can stop by for a while, I'd love to see everyone and catch up a bit!
Have a great week.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

4 weeks down, 6 to go

Four weeks into OCS, and I'm feeling pretty good. I'm on liberty now for a few more hours, sitting in a tiny cafe in Q-town, and wanted to post something briefly just to let everyone know that I'm doing well.

The first three weeks or so were exactly what they're described to be - a transition from a civilian mindset to a military one. That transition is far from complete, of course, but the foundation has been laid. It's difficult for me to describe without getting into specifics, which is probably not appropriate in a public forum like this. I'll just say that OCS is more or less what you'd expect - long, long days, every aspect of one's life regimented, and plenty of noise. You can use your imagination. The last week has begun the switch to the "mentoring" phase, after which come other phases, but so far it still feels more or less the same as the rest, only with more enjoyable and challenging leadership opportunities.

The physical training has for the most part not been that hard. Does it push you far beyond what you thought you were capable of? Sure. Does it hurt? Sometimes it does. Are there moments of sheer misery, even despair? I've had one or two. But you do it, you find a way to keep up, and when it's over you feel great. I even injured my shoulder and for a while couldn't even do a push up (not a good thing) but I just pushed through it, refusing to go on "light duty", and in our last PT session I didn't feel any pain at all.

The academics are challenging in so far as there is a ton of information thrown at you, and you're basically expected to know something after you've heard it once. But other than the massive amounts of fast memorization, that part isn't bad either.

Each of those two sections - physical and academics - count for 25% of your overall GPA. Leadership counts for the other 50%. So far we've had two leadership "tests", where you lead a fireteam in negotiating an obstacle of some kind, and I've done pretty well in both.

As a result of all this, my GPA is near the top of my platoon (so far) which I'm pretty excited about. I'll do my best to try to keep it there, and just keep pushing week to week, lights out to lights out and meal to meal. Almost half-way done!

There's lots more I'd like to share but I'm low on time and I'd rather tell you all in person or over the phone as opposed to this blog. The only thing I'll add is that it is AMAZING how much a little mail can lift one's spirits at the end of a very long and grueling day. I feel it myself, and as the "mail candidate" I also see it with everyone else every time I hand out the mail. So if you get a chance to write me, please do - and a BIG thank you to all who have! The address is:

Candidate [me]
Officer Candidates School, D Company, 3 Platoon
2189 Elrod Avenue
Quantico, Virginia 22134-5033

I promise I'll write back as soon as I'm able. In the meantime, hope you all are doing well!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dear Friends,
As most of you know, I am now at Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. It is a 10-week indoctrination training, the most difficult in the U.S. military – 40% of the candidates who start with me will not finish. For the first four weeks (or so) I won't have access to a phone or computer, so my only way to be in touch with the world will be via regular mail. Here is my mailing address:

[me]
Officer Candidates School, D Company, 3 Platoon
2189 Elrod Avenue
Quantico, Virginia 22134-5033

I would love to get letters from you, which will help keep up my morale during this challenging time. Please don't send anything but letters though – packages, pictures or anything else would be a bad idea. I'll do my best to write back but I might not be able to at first. Please know that I am still receiving your letters and that they mean a lot to me.

In other news, I hope everything is going well in your lives, and I look forward to catching up with you once I'm reconnected with the world!

Semper Fi

Friday, October 10, 2008

OCS First Impressions

October 4 2008

Everything is well, nothing has really happened yet except that I had to buy (like everyone else), 80% of everything we already bought. It’s not cheap becoming a Marine. I was given a set of paper and envelopes so time permitting I will try to write you and the family.

This is going to be tough but survivable. Looking forward to hearing from you.


2008 10 07

I am doing very well here. Of course we haven’t really started yet – we haven’t met our instructors even. But we ran our inventory PFT and I did far better than I’ve ever done before – 18 pull-ups (max 20), 100 sit-ups (max 100) and a 30mile run in 20:39 (max 18:00). That was good for a 274 out of 300, beating my previous score by 24 and my previous 3-mile time by over 1:20.
So what this means is that I will (probably) make it physically – this had been my biggest concern. I’m certainly in the top 50% - a good start. I’m also in very high spirits, notwithstanding 3 hours of sleep or less per night (including the 3 nights before the PFT!).
I thought it might be nice, if you have the patience to type them, to post my letters to you on my blog so others can keep up with my experience. It would only be fore the first few weeks until I get weekend liberty, then I’ll post entries myself.


In other news, I find myself one of the candidates that looks out for the platoon, making sure we’re doing things uniformly. I’m not a leader by any means – those are the prior enlisteds – but I’m a helper of sorts. I’ll get to the leadership part later, I’m sure.

Overall, the military is what you’d expect – a certain way to do everything (how to sit when eating, how to lace boots, how to stencil name on shirts, how to, of course, make the rack (bed)). The food isn’t half bad – all the things I’d been avoiding like cookies and Frosted Flakes. I attribute my performance on the PFT largely to Tony the Tiger. The men (boys, many) are mostly a stand-up bunch, looking out for each other, helpful, and, unlike in some other platoons, more-or-less competent.

Perhaps most importantly, I haven’t gotten singled out yet. That will change, especially once we meet our instructors. Everyone gets screamed at – they want to see if you let it get to you (the stress) and if not, they move on to the next candidate.

That’s not to say I haven’t screwed up – I have, lots of times. A screw up is generally disobeying an order, like laughing (strictly forbidden in formation or pretty much anywhere else) or running when you’re supposed to walk, etc. etc. But I’ve been lucky – just haven’t been caught.

Speaking of laughing, this place is hilarious. I don’t know if it would seem that way to someone who hasn’t been here, but, for instance, I think anyone can appreciate the humor when a Gunnery Sergeant asks a candidate, “Are you fat?” And the candidate answers “No, Gunnery Sergeant, this candidate just has big hips.” That kind of stuff happens all the time here. There’s a candidate with a very Polish last name and the troop handlers (the sergeants, etc.) just call him alphabet. Another’s name is something like Psyhogium or something, so they just call him psycho. There is nothing like trying to keep your bearing (composure) when a huge, very angry Sergeant doing roll call calls out in a loud voice “Psycho!” and a candidate answers, “here, Sergeant!”

OK well I’ll stop because if you are posting this on my blog for me there’s already a lot to type. You can title the posting “OCS – first impressions” or some such.

Thank you in advance for that, and for supporting me in this decision. And try to get a good night’s sleep. I’m doing very well here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Off to OCS - write me!

I'm off to Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in just a few hours. Wish I had more time to share some of my experiences since my last entry and some of my thoughts about what I'm about to experience, but I need to get a few hours of sleep. So I'll just say that I hope to get lots of letters and if for some reason you don't get an e-mail from my brother some time next week with my mailing address at OCS, you can e-mail him for it at XXXXXXXX@gmail.com.

If you want to get an idea of what I'm up to at OCS, check out www.ocs.usmc.mil.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Preparation...

Shortly after I decided to join the Marine Corps (and even before I'd made the decision), I started searching online for accounts of OCS - Officer Candidate School - to try to get a sense of what it's like. I found a few such blogs, which I'll try to relocate and post below, but as you might expect, I found a lot more people like me, asking questions. So now that I've officially begun the journey toward being a Marine Officer by signing my contract, I thought I'd post my own experiences in the hopes that someone else considering this path can glean some useful info or details. The one thing I'd say beforehand, though, is that every person's experience will be different, depending on your background, your goals, and (so I'm told) who your platoon and company commanders are at OCS and TBS. None of that should matter much if you're committed to being an Officer of Marines.

So where did I begin. Well, the first step was a phone conversation with an OSO - that's an Officer Selection Officer (who falls under the Marine Redundancy Department). Basically, he's an officer recruiter. One question I had and that I'm sure others have is, "do recruiters lie?" My short answer is - Marine officer recruiters do not lie. My longer answer is - I've got no way to know yet since I haven't been to OCS and beyond to see if what they described was true. All I can tell you at this point is what I believe and what little I've seen - and I feel I've had every question answered honestly and fully.

So enough about that. My first conversation with an OSO led (when I was ready) to a visit to the, you guessed it, OSO - Officer Selection Office. I was shown some gung-ho videos that I believe are intended to give you a bit of a reality check on what you're about to get yourself into. They show very strong men (and women) doing very difficult things while clearly in some pain. I'd already watched lots of videos of OCS and other indoctrination trainings online so I wasn't surprised by any of that.

Then I met for a while with my OSA - Officer Selection Assistant. She's an NCO - Non-Commissioned Officer - which is an enlisted Marine who has risen to that level in the ranks. She's a Sergeant. I have no idea what the rules are about naming people so I won't use actual people's names but suffice it to say that she was (is) fantastic. This was my first chance to ask questions other than to a few friends who were former Marines or other services, and she patiently answered every one of them with an attitude that was both genuinely friendly and professional. She even gave me some advice about how to talk to my parents about my decision that turned out to be right on the money.

Oh a side note - when you go in for the first time, dress to impress. For guys, wear a suit, for girls, wear whatever the equivalent of that is. A suit, I guess.

Anyway, after I spoke to her for a while, filled out some initial paperwork to get myself in the system and had my picture taken in front of the US and USMC flags, I went in to speak to the OSO, a Captain. I didn't fully realize it at the time, but I was actually being interviewed. I really just had a million questions to ask but luckily I'd done my homework and had at least a foggy idea of what I was getting into, so that went well.

I left with a bunch of paperwork to fill out, including what are called PIQ's. These are references. They take a long time, sometimes, to get back from your people so get this part done early. In fact, my OSO's web site, http://www.dcmarineofficer.com/, has a link to just about all the documents you'll need so print them out and review them before you go in, and get started early.

Some time went by for me while I was collecting various documents, dealing with issues in my own life and of course training hard. I'll talk about training a little later so if you're looking for that, stay tuned.

The next step was MEPS - Military Entrance Processing Command. Mine was at Ft. Meade outside Baltimore. All the services are, um, served here so there's lots of young people running around, most of them with looks of mild panic on their faces. I'm positive I looked the same. Why? Well, two reasons. First, this was my first time on a military base in the context of my decision to join the Marines (I'd been to airshows and such but that's not quite the same). So I wasn't sure what to expect - would the hazing already begin? Would I screw something up or lose some document and look like an idiot? Second, while I've always, thank G-d, been in perfect health, I hadn't had blood work done in a while and who knows what might turn up?

As it turns out, going to MEPS is a cross between getting a physical and going to the DMV. You get your eyes and ears etc. checked, and you wait. You do the piss test and the blood test (I never heard anything about my tests so I assume everything checked out). Yes, the guy does glance over to make sure you don't have some tube contraption to squirt someone else's piss into the cup. But it's no big deal. I'd been warned about the peaking thing and I know I sometimes freeze up when someone is watching me piss (how I know this, I have no idea), so I drank about 7 gallons of water that morning. By the time I had to do the piss test, I couldn't have held it back if I tried.

Then comes some more waiting, then a nice conversation with a doctor while he listens to your lungs and heart and such. He's a really nice guy, so make conversation with him. After that is the dungeon. Ok it's not really that bad. It's a big square room with no windows that smells like stale BO. It's like a sauna but without the ambiance. My OSA had told me, be sure to wear briefs. I am a boxer guy myself, but I complied. I was the only one there wearing briefs. I have to remember to let my OSA know what I think of that little prank. Then this guy comes in who clearly hates his job. Like most of the people who process you, he's a civilian. (The other guy who really hates his job is the guy who has to take your piss cup, pour it into a little bottle and watch you apply the seal. For eight hours a day he inhales nothing but Eau de Urine. You'd be grounchy too).

ANYWAY, the guy in the dungeon makes you do the weirdest things. Walk like a duck, speed walk, move your arms and elbows in all kinds of ways. They're mostly testing for balance and basic skeletal alignment as far as I could tell. They're weird but they're easy so try to pay attention. It's amazing how many people can't follow simple commands.

Sadly, one big lanky guy just couldn't do one of the tests, I think the one where you squat on your toes and knees and then stand up without moving your feet. The guy was just built all wrong for it, and after a few tries, they said that's it, you're done. I don't know how much mental or physical prep he'd done, but that's a helluva way to find out you don't have what it takes.

So anyway, doing all those acrobatics in tighty-whiteys was a blast, but after that I was done. Somewhere in there they did pulse and BP and such and had you fill out some more paperwork (or to be accurate, correct the paperwork they'd already mangled up for you).

So that's MEPS - you should be no more nervous about it than you would be going to the dentist or some other annoying but otherwise harmless task.

Through this whole time (the past months, not the time at MEPS), I'd been continuing to train physically. If you can afford it, I highly recommend a gym and a trainer. Luckily, my gym, with a note from my OSO, gave me the military rate, and my trainer was a former (and future) training consultant to the Marine Corps. So I've been getting my ass kicked regularly. I ran my first official PFT about 6 weeks ago (so that's about 13 weeks before I ship). I scored a 190 - which is abismal. I did 10 pull-ups, 86 or so crunches and ran 3 miles in 24:46. Those scores should make just about any prospective candidate reading this feel much better.

I ran my most recent PFT a week ago. I scored better - 239, with 15 pullups, max crunches (100 in 2 minutes, I actually did them in about 1:40 or so) and a 23:55 3-mile. The run time is awful, still, but I've dropped over 1:30 from it in just the last week so my next PFT should be around 260. That's still not great but it's respectable.

And today, the fun began. My OSO and the one from Virginia got about 30-40 candidates together and took us down to OCS to see and practice the O-Course (obstacle course). That was fun. It's what you'd expect - a bunch of bars and logs of various heights and orientations to be overcome in different ways, a wall that's about 6 feet tall to get over (girls get a little step about 2 feet up to help), and at the end, the ropes. I handled the O-course fine (though I have plenty of room for improvement) but I need to practice my rope technique. The whole course is about conserving energy - a perfect score is 1 minute, passing is 2 minutes. I think I could do the whole thing in around 2 minutes now - but that's without boots and uts (pronounced yutes, stands for utilities) which obviously slow you down (except on the ropes, where boots will be a huge help).

That's pretty much it so far - a quick (or not so quick?) recap of the last few months of preparation.

Oh as far as that goes. Ideally, my impression is you should get to the point where you're running 5 miles almost every day. For pull-ups, Armstrong helped me a ton on endurance (which is what OCS is all about) but not as much on my max (which is what the PFT is all about, of course). The bottom line - there is no substitute for hard work. The thing I keep hearing from everyone is - thrash yourself. And they're absolutely right. It honestly doesn't matter during your preparation if you can run 3 miles in 20 minutes or 30 minutes. What matters is that in every workout, you leave nothing out there - you go way, way beyond what you think your limit is. Having a trainer helps you do that, so you establish new limits and then break those. The thing is all mental. There is no WAY I took 1:30 off my run time in 6 days, physically. I did do some things different, like pacing myself better, but mainly I just pushed harder and faster every time I felt I needed to slow down just to survive. And whattaya know, I survived anyway.

Ok I've rambled on long enough. For all my friends who actually read this far, thanks. I promise future posts will be more interesting, and much shorter. But I will try to provide details because that's what I was looking for when I was researching this. If anyone comes across this and wants to pick my brain (especially once I've actually done something) just leave a comment and I'll try to get back to you ASAP.

OOH-RAH.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Johnny's fate

When I first read Johnny Got His Gun, what captured my imagination most wasn't Dalton Trumbo's anti-war message but the idea of being a prisoner in one's own body, as is his main character, Joe Bonham. This seems to me to be one of the worst fates imaginable.

So I was shocked to learn today that an estimated 40% of people diagnosed to be in a persistent vegetative state, or PVS, are misdiagnosed. An article in the Sunday Times documents the jaw-dropping progress made by British and other scientists in understanding the various types of brain injury and in bringing some people out of what appeared to be PVS. It is beyond scary to think of how many people are currently "warehoused" who, with the right treatment, would be capable of returning to the land of the living.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On sports

This blogging thing is contagious - I've given it to myself. My blogging on sports, which for now consists of one post on the Yankees' Joba Chaimberlain, can be found at BleacherReport.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tibet - an alternate view

Most people are (I hope) familiar with the recent Chinese crackdown on Tibet. Because China is hosting the Olympics this summer, there have been a series of protests following the Olympic torch, and several world leaders have decided to boycott the opening ceremonies. There have been calls from the campaign trail for Bush to do the same.

I think doing so would send a strong public message. But Fareed Zakaria, whom I find generally to be thoughtful in his writings, thinks that a strong public message is actually the wrong way to go if you want real results. His piece is definitely worth a read.

Repub and Dem get it right

Former President Jimmy Carter plans to meet with Hamas head Khaled Mashal. Republican Rep. Mark Kirk (IL-10) and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley (NV-01) state it best in their letter to Carter:

"Hamas terrorists are responsible for the murders of at least 26 American citizens—some of them teenagers, children and infants...these American voices from the grave beseech you – do not meet with the man who ordered their deaths."

Kudos to AIPAC (full disclosure: a former employer of mine), which is helping to publicize this effort, for their unrelenting bipartisanship in support of a strong U.S.-Israel alliance. Call or e-mail your Representative and encourage him or her to sign the letter by contacting either Kirk's or Berkley's office.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Krauthammer's "Holocaust Declaration"

A must read. Here's the statement by JFK to which he refers:

"It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."
-- President John F. Kennedy
Cuban Missile Crisis Address to the Nation

And his proposed statement:
"It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran. As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people."

Whether or not deterrence is sufficient, it is certainly necessary. Read it all.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Three Revolutions

Often I agree with him; sometimes I don't. Either way, I think Henry Kissinger is very good at getting to the essence of an issue and asking the right questions.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Preaching to the converted

Michael Reagan, son of the late former President, has an important piece today on the truth about the Haditha "massacre". He tells the story of how a Time magazine article and the rantings of Democratic Rep. John Murtha (PA-12) - a man who once responded to a bribe offer by saying "maybe I'll be interested, maybe I won't" but who is also a decorated Marine veteran who volunteered for Vietnam - led to what now appears to be the unwarranted prosecution of six Marines, five of whom have been exonerated to date.

This is an article that people who automatically assume the worst about our military, those for whom Haditha instantly became our generation's My Lai though the facts had not yet fully emerged, ought to read. This is especially an article that moderates and those without knowledge of or an opinion on the issue ought to read. It's so important that the truth get out, and I commend Reagan for telling it.

So what does he title it? "Haditha: The Collapse of a Liberal Fiction". Why?

I get it - most of the people playing jury before the investigation was complete were on the left - Murtha, Kennedy, Huffington. I get that there's a disturbing amount of reflexive America-hating on the left, and that it may even be more pervasive than the jingoism found on the far right. And I also feel outrage when courageous Marines are slandered. But are all liberals knee-jerk military-bashers? Are they all America-haters? How about the centrists? How about moderate conservatives (like me) - do we all assume the worst about our liberal fellow citizens?

They aren't, and we don't. But by holding every self-identified liberal responsible for the fiction of Haditha, all Reagan (or his editor, whoever came up with the headline) does is alienate the very people who need most to hear what he has to say. By implying that a whole wing of the political spectrum has been colluding to pull one over on the rest of us, he instantly loses credibility with all the moderates who say, "ah forget it, he's just another wing warrior." Those (like me) who came across it at RCP will just skip to the next article (I think), and his crucial message will not be heard.

Of course, none of that is entirely true. Wing warriors on the right, who likely make up the bulk of the readership of Human Events ("Leading the Conservative Movement Since 1944"), will read it. And that's the point, isn't it. To some, it seems, it's more important to bring the converted to a righteous fervor than to bring the uninitiated (in this particular controversy) into enlightenment.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Aftermath

Considering it wasn't just a party but a drinking game party, I'm more than a little impressed. I must confess that some time between rolling in the keg and setting up the beer pong table, I found the time to put the insurance adjuster on speed dial. Should have just invited him to the party.

But the real reason for this entry, other than the fact that it took me a grand total of 2 days to break my rule #1 (luckily, my attorneys inserted rule #2), is that you guys, my friends/adoring fans, are very funny people. Someone drew a heart with the word 'beer' in it on the kings-cup rules. There are multiple, inexplicable references to Thomas hearting me (among other people) on my whiteboard. Considering he was the last person to leave my party, I would like to state for the record that I do not recall confessing my feelings about him to anyone, and I was not so drunk I'd forget (I guess it could be unrequited love). In fact, it's gotta be worth at least two points that I even remember who the last person to leave my party was. There is also a lot more written and drawn on my whiteboard, not all of it PG-13, including some graffiti that looks like it was scribbled by a mildly retarded chimpanzee with a lazy eye. Improbably, all the graffiti was actually confined to an erasable surface. I mean what are the odds.

My favorite, though, is the to-do pad on my fridge, which was helpfully filled in by an unknown conglomeration of geniuses. It reads:

To Do List:

  • The Whites
  • Cap'n Crunch and the Crunch Berries
  • The Darks (Editor's note: ??)
  • Light menorah
  • Recycle
  • Dance off
  • J-Date (Editors note: I'd like to know who was responsible for this one)
  • Erase marker board
  • Spin dreidle and sing Hannukah song
  • Watch Yankees lose
  • Listen to Cranberries
  • Defrost, clean and eat tilapia
  • Call Danielle
  • Download more Aerosmith
  • Buy more pretzels for next year's party
  • Save Darfur
  • Go to Burger King for a BK Broiler
  • RSVP Hillary mixer
  • Humpty Dance
  • Color
  • Buy Ace of Base again

I'm not really sure about that last one, but overall, a very respectable list. Ambitious but achievable. A good balance of personal goals, public service initiatives and frozen fish.

Well that's all the time we have. If you need me, I'll be in my room with the shades drawn and the tylenol very close by. Just knock - but not too loud.

oh one more thing: people leave beer bottles in the strangest places.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Meden Agan

Meden Agan - μηδὲν ἄγαν - was one of three phrases carved into the ancienct Greek temple of the Oracle at Delphi. It means nothing in excess or as most people remember it, everything in moderation. I've been thinking about it today because there is (another) spate of articles out on Islam, radical Islam and public accomodation of Islamic laws and customs. And as readers of my pre-LoR rantings (there were a few here and there) know, I'm a big fan of articles that address a complex topic objectively, succinctly and with penetrating insight -- in other words, of excellent analysis. Who isn't.

An op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal does that on the intersection of Islam, Islamists and free speech. It's even more satisfying when you realize this thoughtful piece is by a sitting member of Congress.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Blogosphere, welcome to me

narcissism

Just what I need - a narcissistic, exhibitionist and addictive new hobby.

I'm not entirely new to the concept of transcribing my every banal synaptic flicker, but until now my intended audience has not included you. Bienvenue. Here are the rules:

  1. I will post at least one...uh...post every day.
  2. I will under no circumstances be bound by rule #1 after today.
  3. If I link to you, you must link to me. This rule is enforced by radar and overhead cameras.
  4. Class participation is 100% of the grade. So leave your comments. I reserve the right to edit them for content and to run in the time allotted.

I guess I should explain the title of my blog, Left of Right (here, for those reading this on Facebook). It means that the political bifurcation of this country leaves me unsatisfied. It's not just that I'm right of center on some things and left on others. It's that where these issues fall on the political spectrum often seems arbitrary to me. It's that I have an opinion on just about everything, most of them deeply held, but I'm sick to death of the wing warriors - the right-wing nut jobs and left-wing naifs whose ceaseless bludgeoning of one another perpetuates our country's chronic apathy.

I should give credit where it's due. I got the idea from, of all people, a Hollywood icon (probably the last time anyone connected to Tinseltown gets mentioned herein): Ron Silver. I also had help from a friend whose blog you should read, even though he's a Red Sox fan.

Well that's all the time we have. Possible comment topics include: Ron Silver, narcissism and the word "bifurcation". Also anything else in this post, anything in the collected knowledge of mankind, and any requests for future subjects upon which I should blog. Good luck students...you may begin.