Friday, December 28, 2007

Optimistically Pesimistic

Calendar year 2007 is fast growing to a close, and I don't know about you, but I'm not making any New Year's resolutions. In fact, several years ago my New Year's resolution was to never make New Year's resolutions again. It's the only one I've ever kept.

For your viewing pleasure this morning, I have posted a picture of the The Colonel and The Colonel's newest grandson. Taylor was born, if you remember (and if you do, it means that you waste precious time reading this blog and you have got to get a life), three weeks ago today. I haven't seen him, or his big brother, since his birthday--probably the only significant drawback to having moved up here to the Northern End of Southern Nowhere from the Redneck Riviera.

Added a new feature to my blog this morning. In the top right hand corner of the page, adjacent to the picture of the twins whose birthdays are separated by nearly 51 and 3/4 orbits of the sun, is the first of what may become an irritatingly common feature--a poll. Unlike most other insignificant polls (BCS, Iowa Straw, etc.), this poll has real meaning. First of all, it will allow me to gauge whether my readership has increased the forecasted 25% (e.g., from 4 to 5). Secondly, it will allow me to provide yet another method of wasting your precious time (maybe I'll actually provide a public service by using up time you would ordinarily use to see what Brittany Spears did last night). Last, but not least, it will allow me another avenue by which to subtly infer what are really the most important matters of our life on the big blue marble.

On another topic, I am pleased to note that my fellow Marine and favorite fishing buddy has returned safely from his third Babylonian Excursion in as many years. He reports that it is "much quieter" than was his experience two years ago advising the governor of Al Anbar Province. Seems the first few chapters of the manual that General Petraeus wrote regarding defeating an insurgency, and which the good general made required reading upon his assumption of command in Baghdad, are amazingly effective if followed. Now to see if the bickering tribal chiefs and megalomaniac mullahs will take advantage of the increased security to hammer out a lasting political agreement by which a New Iraq can govern itself in relative peace and stability. It took a relatively monolithic and demographically homogeneous late-18th Century America nearly a decade to come up with a workable national political system following cessation of hostilities with Great Britain. So, I'm not so optimistic that a hundred tribes and three diverse and diametrically opposed religions can make it work any time between now and the end of my parasitic existence on this third rock from Sol.

And, I'm an optimist.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning

It's Christmas morning on Eegeebeegee and for an hour or so this morning we'll be able to say that we have a white Christmas here at the northern end of southern nowhere. There's no snow, but a thick layer of frost is glowing white in the early morning sunlight. Frankly, that's all the white I want on Christmas, or any other day for that matter.

Miss Brenda and I don't tend to make a big fuss at Christmas. Most years since the kids left home, we don't even put up a tree. Some years our gift giving, in the name of Christmas, is already done before December arrives on the calendar. That's not to say that the holiday doesn't mean much to us. We prefer to channel the frenetic energy of the season into reflection on the reason we celebrate the 25th of December.

There are those who would rather we not dwell at all on the spiritual aspect of Christmas. Some challenge the date. Others wish to ecumenicalize the holiday, making it about anything but the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether you accept the date as the actual birth date of the savior is immaterial. I know the history of pagan seasonal rituals co-opted for Christianity's sake. So don't try to tell me that Christmas isn't really about the birth of Jesus. If you don't like celebrating the birth of Christ, then don't hypocritically celebrate Christmas Day. If you want to celebrate like a pagan, don't co-opt my holiday to do so.

What is most amazing to me is the power of God and His Son displayed in the conversion of their most virulent opponents. Saul's (thereafter known as Paul) conversion on the road to Damascus is one of the most celebrated from scripture. Paul, converted from his crusade to stamp out nascent Christianity, became one of the greatest spreaders of the Gospel in the first century following Christ's coming. Perhaps even more important to the spread of Christianity (and the subsequent celebration of the Christ's birth on December 25th) was the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine I in the fourth century A.D.

Constantine, visiting Eboracum (modern day York, England) with his father Emperor Constantius Chlorus, was proclaimed Emperor (by the Legion in York) following Constantius' death in 306 A.D. Meanwhile in Rome, Maxentius, the son of an Emperor deposed by Constantius, was proclaimed Emperor by the troops garrisoning Rome. Over the next six years Constantine sailed from Britain, marshaled legions to his side, overran most of Italy, and prepared to besiege Rome. Maxentius, rather than endure a siege, marched his forces out to meet Constantine in open battle. Prior to the 312 A.D. Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine received a revelation. Constantine later told contemporary historians that on the march toward Rome, he observed a cross in the sun and heard a voice proclaim "in this sign you will conquer." Constantine instructed his troops to paint the Greek letters Chi --Rho, the first two letters of Christ in Greek, on their shields. Victorious under the sign of Christ, Constantine made Christianity the Roman Religion, changed the December 25th celebration of the sun god Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun) to the celebration of the birth of the Son of God, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Having a Huck of a Time

There must be something in the water in the Diamond State. Arkansas gave us the most talented (and most flawed) political genius of the modern era in Bill Clinton. He now has a rival for that title in fellow Arkansan, Mike Huckabee. Case in point is Huckabee's absolutely brilliant guerrilla marketing attack in the form of a commercial that has sent the yammering media minions into paroxysm's of apoplexy. Ostensibly the commercial was aimed at influencing voters who will participate in the upcoming Iowa Caucuses. It only aired as a commercial in Iowa television markets, and was, on its face, a positive and relatively effective message. In and of itself, the message would have garnered little attention outside Iowa. But the controversy engendered by the not-so-subliminal inclusion of a cross shape in the background has catapulted the commercial and Huckabee to free hourly national airing on every cable news channel and constant discussion on every radio talk show in the nation.

The manic media talking heads are hyper-ventilating over the overt use of religious symbolism for political purposes and are incredulous that..., GASP!..., it's working! And they accuse politicians of being tone-deaf. The secular liberal media elites are so out of touch with their audience, it is little wonder that the only time they get true audience attention is when they broadcast live police chases on Left Coast highways.

The reality is that the vast majority of Americans are NOT turned off by religious overtones in politics. Frankly, with ethical influence lacking in all other sectors of society, a politician's religious adherence has become the last bastion of ethical credibility against which the electorate can measure. Not to say that all those who cloak themselves in religious trappings will automatically be of the highest ethical character--there are charlatans in the flock to be sure. But, I'll take my chances with someone who professes personal guidance by a supreme moral authority, over a leader who kowtows at the alter of political expediency cloaked in the garb of unlimited individual personal freedom.

Don't know if Huck is the man for the job, or not. But, I have to admire his principles and his political savvy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's Torture

"Waterboarding" is not "an intensive interrogation technique." It is torture. There is no doubt in my military mind on this subject. There is also no doubt in my military mind that we should not subject anyone in American custody to torture, no matter how heinous their crimes and no matter how "valuable and actionable" intelligence gathered thereby will be. Those who defend the use of torture to extract information from captured terrorists justify it as a means of "protecting American lives." If this has become official American policy, we have crossed a well-defined line that has heretofore divided us from the enemies of freedom. To "save American lives" we have tarnished our American character.

American servicemen captured by our enemies during the past century or so have been subjected to torture and we have always reacted in justifiable rage at such treatment. Heretofore we have been able to express our outrage at the torture of our warriors taken prisoner without fear of hypocrisy. Unfortunately for our nation, we can no longer do so.

It is not surprising that the most vocal critic of "waterboarding" is Senator John McCain. He calls it torture, and he knows whereof he speaks. Shot down over North Vietnam, then-Lt McCain, USN was taken captive by the Vietnamese communists and subjected (as were all of his fellow POWs) to incredible and brutal torture. Read the book "P.O.W." for an appreciation of the heroism of our fighting men in captivity and the inhumane brutality of the enemies of freedom. Senator McCain and his fellow captives drew untold strength in the midst of their trials from the sure knowledge that America would never subject anyone to what they were enduring.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The best defense is a strong offense. Let's take the fight to the enemy as brutally as we possibly can and destroy them. But let's not destroy our unique American character in the vain attempt to protect ourselves from attack.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Announcing Mr. T

Miss Brenda is a grandmother, again. My favorite daughter-in-law, she of the most high and exalted position granted by virtue of her delivery of grandsons, gave birth to our second grandchild this morning. Taylor Ray Gregory's arrival on this date that lives in infamy, provides me a positive reason to celebrate Pearl Harbor Day. Weighing in at seven pounds, seven ounces and laying in at 20 inches, Mr. T joins his brother Caleb (Mr. C) as my two favorite people on the planet.

Fair warning to the world: Mr. C and Mr. T represent a future force to be reckoned with. Until they achieve such maturity as will allow them legal exercise of their obvious potential political power and business acumen, they will remain under the tutelage, protectorate, and spoilage of one crotchety old colonel. Mr. T will soon join Mr. C on romps of wild abandon through the red clay of N. Mississippi, visits to Eegeebeegee thereto providing opportunity for such fearless boy development exercises as the "whooping indian down-hill run," the "too-high-for-safety tree climb," and the "critter-catching creek creep."

My sons exist under the mistaken impression that my recent acquisition of acreage at the northern edge of southern nowhere was intended to provide them hunting grounds. As I have been unable to make much of an impression on the grey matter encased in their thick skulls over the better part of three decades, I will not waste any energy attempting to dissuade them from that erroneous belief. However, the truth is Eegeebeegee is intended primarily as training area for my grandsons' attainment of excellence in the manly arts and sciences, for which only a fearless foundation of running wild will suffice upon which to build a man.

Welcome to the world, Mr. T. Get ready to rule it.