Monday, August 25, 2003
I apologize for the break in the basic training blog. I know most of you current readers are here for that, but this is something that has enraged me to the point that I need to write something. So for this post, I am going back to my days as a political blogger.
This is continuation of a story that started back in January. I was reading Little Green Footballs and learned about a certain film festival that Columbia was hosting. As an alum, I emailed the school to voice my displeasure at their decision and posted my letter here. Unfortuantely, I was about to leave for basic training and although I received an initial response before I left, the "dialogue" had not ended until I had left. I was not going to post it because it was about 3 months after the original post. I figured it would all be too much in the past to worry about it. Well, today, Im on LGF again and read this:
At the New York Post, Jonathan Calt Harris examines the appointment of anti-American, antisemitic professor Rashid Khalidi to the “Edward Said” chair at Columbia University: Anti-Israel U.
Screw them. Immediately below is my original post followed by the response I received.
SLOPDEYDOPE "FILM FESTIVAL"
I was reading Little Green Footballs earlier today and was dismayed to learn that there is a Palestinian "film festival" about to take place at Columbia University, my alma mater. I put "film festival" in quotes, because judging from the poster of the event and the short descriptions of each film, "propaganda festival" or even "victims of Israel on film festival" would have been more appropriate. Here is a copy of the letter I am sending to the university president, Lee Bollinger:
I have recently come across some deeply troubling information that the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures is hosting a Palistinian film festival entitled "Dreams of a Nation". While some may see this as a chance for the Palistinians to get their side of the debate heard, one only has to take a cursory look at the group's web page to see that it is simply going to be a vehicle for the usual propaganda. As an alum, I feel it my duty to express my disappointment and outrage.
Take, for example, the poster of the event. It shows what the organizers of this event think of the "Two-State Solution" to the problems in the Middle East: it is merely a first step toward total victory. The image is what they see when they look at a map of the area: a single combined entity made up of the country of Israel and the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Add to this the fact that the color they chose for this "nation" is blood red and one does not have to be a student of art to know that they are advocating turning the ground red with the blood of "martyrs", and whoever stands in the way of a single Palistian state stretching from the banks of the Jordan to the shores of the Mediterranean. Finally, the doves on the poster do not represent peace, as they would in the West; they symbolize the souls of those so-called "martyrs" ascending to heaven.
As for the content of the festival, one example of a film being promoted is, "Jenin, Jenin":
A few days after the April 2001 invasion of the Jenin refugee camp by the Israeli military, a camera crew shoots at the site: it captures the camp at a time when the people still have not fully understood what happened. The film is not an informational report about these events, but a description of the traces left by the events on the inhabitants. It depicts resistance, heroism and victory despite death, disasters, and destruction."
Even the description of this film admits that it is pure propaganda: "The film is not an informational report about these events". There is no way this could be an informational report because even the United Nations now admits that there was no massacre. In fact, an interview with a Palestinian engineer who was there shows which side really committed the war crimes. I will admit that I have not seen this film, and thus cannot truly make an informed critique, but I highly doubt they will mention how the Palistinians dug up their own municipal water supplies for the pipes needed to make the bombs with which they boobytrapped everything they possibly could. Nor have I much faith that they will discuss the strategy of using women and children to tell IDF soldiers that the coast was clear, only to have these men ambushed when their guard was down.
There is also a biographical film about Hanan Ashrawi. This is a woman who feels that America's actions are to blame for the attacks of 9/11. I will not even begin to discuss the moral depravity of this viewpoint, but it should not be lost upon anyone capable of critial reasoning, especially those in the employ of a center of "higher learning" whose official name includes the phrase "in the City of New York".
One final curiosity I wish to question is why this event is not listed on Columbia's calendar of events? Nor have I heard about it from any other alumni outlet. Is this because the school knows what the content of most of these films is, and does not want to publicize something that would bring it bad publicity? If showing a differing viewpoint than convention is something to be proud of, why does Columbia seem to want to hide the fact that it is doing so?
President Bollinger, I believe in every American's freedom of speech and expression. However, I also understand that the 1st ammendment states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech." There is nothing there about requiring private institutions to provide a forum for lies, deception, and outright incitement to murder. Fortunately, however, Columbia relies upon donations from its alumni to survive, and I am one of the few who can actually have his point heard by you in more ways than writing this letter. I have been demonstrating my displeasure with the school's continued employment of America haters such as Edward Said, Hamid Dabashi and Joseph Massad and since the day I graduated. This "film festival" will simply be added to the garbage heap of reasons for which I will continue to abstain from giving any of my personal financial resources to the school. I will consider changing my mind in the future if Columbia shows that it is actively trying to become a true center of critical thinking, logic, and reason, rather than a cesspool of Politically Correct equivocation and a tool for those who would destroy Western culture and thought.
Well, here is the response I got from Mr Bollinger. Apparently, he knew that I was in a low enough tax bracket that he could afford to alienate me:
I have been asked by President Bollinger to respond to your recent e-mail that questions whether a Palestinian Film Festival ought to be presented at the University.
It is Columbia's policy to encourage free and open debate and discussion of every kind of issue that is part of our society, whether it relates to the contemporary sciences (e.g. stem cell research, human cloning), arts (i.e., issues of censorship of exhibitions), humanities, social sciences, or historical events. The preparation of seminars, symposia, invited talks, public lectures, and even film festivals, is almost always left to our faculty and students. The central administration of the University only intervenes in these matters on the very rare occasion when public safety cannot be assured. Otherwise, we simply do not prohibit programs whose content may be offensive to some people or groups. We would not do this in the case of a Palestinian film festival or one sponsored by our many other student or faculty groups that represents other perspectives and points of view. Diversity of perspectives is part of university life and with it comes differences of opinion that may be offensive to some.
We would far prefer it, of course, if you were able to understand and accept our reasons for maintaining this open and tolerant policy as a critical part of a community that must value the presentation of ideas from many perspectives (even those that some of us will find opprobrious). This is part of the value system of great universities.
We hope to hear from you in the future praising events that you understand are being sponsored by Columbia that you find more congenial to your own point of view.
With best regards,
Jonathan R. Cole
Provost and Dean of Faculties
John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University
Sure enough, he pretty much said exactly what I predicted in my original letter. However, here is the incredibly arrogant and insulting part. The email address from which the mail was sent?
An anonymous address. Reply to this and you get a bounceback saying that the address is not valid (I was curious to see if it would actually go anywhere). Apparently, they think I am so stupid as to simply hit reply when anyone can go to the university web site, click on directories, and look up Provost Jonathan R Cole's direct email address. So here is the response I sent back to both Provost Cole and University President Lee Bollinger:
I am saddened by your response to my email. Since you do not respond to any of the points I made, and the only response you did make was one I addressed in my email (in exactly the same way I predicted you would) I have to assume that you did not read past the first few words of my email.
Free and open debate does not include incitement to murder. I think hope in your position at a major university would hold a less cliche understanding of the 1st ammendment.
PS: If you decide to respond to this email and engage in some constructive dialogue, please do not hide behind an anonymous temporary address.
That email was sent Wed, 29 Jan 2003 19:24:51 -0800 (PST)
I have yet to receive a response.
Sunday, August 24, 2003
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
I hate pulling fireguard on consecutive nights. We used to have it all the time, but I guess I am getting spoiled with the every other night routine. 2100-2200 last night, 0300-0430 tonight.
Hand grenades today. We learned how to throw them from a prone position behind a low wall and from a squatting position over a high wall. After a few practices with dummy grenades and some armed with only fuses, we did a qualification course (with dummies). We were in various situations and had to get the grenade within the kill radius of the various targets. First was a quiz to identify various types of grenades (fragmentation, gas, smoke, thermal, etc). The first target was a simple 35 meter throw. One was a foxhole 20 meters away, and the grenade had to enter the hole. Another was a vehicle and 3 people. Another was with a buddy who covered me as I charged a bunker and dropped the grenade in. I qualified with 7/7. Missed expert on rifle, but got it here.
After lunch, we got to throw a live grenade. A spotter sergeant walked us through a test before the real thing. It made me a bit nervous to hold the grenade after pulling the ring, but the cadre had put on a demonstration earlier on how if you hold the lever down, it will not go off. It was loud, but the concussion was much more impressive, even behind a railroad tie and cement bunker. We didn't get to see our own grenade explode, but we were able to watch others' through a bunker with bullet-proof glass windows.
We returned to the barracks, had our dinner, then went outside to begin preparing for D&C 8 [Drill & Ceremony], where we are judged and compete against the other platoons in marching and manual-of-arms. Let's say we need a lot of work. After jacking things up royally, the drill sergeant assigned new squad and team leaders. I am once again in a leadership position, a team leader. At least it's not one where I have to deal with a lot of people like before. I lead a team of 5 (including me). The bad part is my place in the formation means I am a running road guard. As the platoon marches, I run ahead to upcomming intersections to stop traffic. Someone from the rear runs up and takes my place, and I have to run back to my original position to await the next intersection. Normally, this isn't such a bad thing, but we have a 10K road march tomorrow. So I am now going to bed; I will need as much rest as possible.
Monday, March 17, 2003
Got drafted for post detail today. Basically, another private and I rode around with one of our drill sergeants and picked up trash on the side of the roads around the base. A nice fringe benefit: we were able to listen to the radio. Lots of country, not my thing, but I did recognize a few songs. We also heard some news and wow! Bush's ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was huge. It's about time, really. I am very disappointed with some of our "allies" in NATO. It will be interesting to see what comes out - any secret dealings that may have been made illegal by the 1991 sanctions, etc. I think we may be seeing the end of NATO. Then again, this isn't a political blog right now, so I digress.
Arrived back at the barracks around 1430 - just in time to get our asses smoked with the rest of the company because they weren't sounding off loud enough while marching in cadence. Week 6 and still some people do not get it.
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Free day away. Normal Sunday AM routine - wakeup 0500, clean, chow, clean barracks, church, continue to clean barracks, chow. Then our company and another (8 platoons, about 350-400 soldiers) got on busses to get away for the afternoon. No drill sergeants, and 40 miles distance between us and FLW. This is the 32nd year that the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Lebanon, MO has done this program. Almost every week, they bring a group of soldiers to their church to give them a little break.
There was a convenience store where were able to get all kinds of food that we can't get on base. My list: 1 liter of Sprite, 4-pack Reeces Peanut Butter Cups, a Butterfinger, 2 small packs of Smarties, 99-cent bag of Doritos, an ice-cream Snickers, and a newspaper. And my bag was one of the smaller ones... some people were giving away candy by the end of the day because we couldn't take it back with us.
Reading the newspaper, it was great to read the news about Elizabeth Smart. It is amazing they found her alive.
Across the street was the bowling alley, open Sundays only to soldiers from this program. The alleys were all taken by the time I got there, but they had music and video games - original Zaxxon and Asteroids included, believe it or not.
After about 1 1/2 hours, we had to go back to the church property for the remainder of our time there. We could play basketball, soccer and football. I was able to make a phone call home and find out that my father and stepmother will be comming to graduation - it will be really nice to have someone there.
Finally, there was a church service. It was very nice... until the end. The pastor got to a point and the message became something along the lines of "be saved now or go to hell." His technique would have made a time-share salesman proud. I was quite insulted and even regretted putting $10 in the collection plate, no matter how good the program. It made me believe the free day away program was more of a high-pressure recruiting station for the Tabernacle Baptist Church than a service to give some mental relief to some very weary soldiers. If there were another day away there during our BCT, I would choose to stay away and remain at FLW. I am currently not very religious, pretty much taking Einstein's theory of God, but if I ever do change, it will be on my own terms, at the time of my choosing, and certainly not under the threats of eternal torture and suffering.
Saturday, March 15, 2003
Wakeup 0400. First thing is Phase 2 PT test - the last one before the one that really counts. Pusups, I improved by 11 again and did 50. Situps, I lucked out. The drill sergeant scoring me was mine - the same one that let me drop down a running group that first run after the injury. He asked if my ribs were good to go and I said I would try. They didn't hurt much and I got 47 in the first 70 sec when he ordered me to stop. That is 60% for my age group and would pass me for the Army standard. He told me he wanted to make sure I could pass but he didn't want me to risk me hurting myself by pushing for more. The difference, I think, was that someone holds our feet during the tests. This results in us using our hip flexor muscles more as we do the exercise. When we PT and noone holds our feet, it is all abs. The run was an out-and-back instead of on a track. Not having to run in lose dirt, around corners, and dodging slower people helped me take a whole minute off my time. I ran 12:58 - 20 sec faster than the max. Total score: 234 - 13 better than last time. I am happy with that because I feel I could have done at least another 20 situps. I should be able to max all 3 events next time, but I need to work on my pushups.
Next, we had some testing on everything else we have learned. I was more of a review for our real testing at the end of the cycle, but there were a few things I have forgotten. I also discovered I need to practice putting on my gas mask as the requirement is 9 seconds or less.
We were supposed to do our land navigation course today that had been cancelled 2 weeks ago. We got out there and find out that the course is messed up somehow, and the guy that was supposed to brief us didn't show up. Good waste of a couple hours...
Come back to the barracks and did PT. We got killed. First, we ran laps up and down a 45-degree sloped hill - sprint up, jog down. A total lap was about 100 yards. If the drill sergeant blew his whistle once, we did pushups (feet pointed uphill); 2 whistles was flutterkicks, feet uphill; 3 whistles was lunge walking with our hands on our heads (each step is a squat to touch the back knee to the ground); 4 whistles was situps, feet uphill. I was unable to do the situps at all due to pain - on that slope, I literally could not do a single one, so I did flutterkicks. Except for situps, my ribs felt ok, except when changing positions from one exercise to another - that was hell. We did these laps for 80 minutes. Then we went to "The Pit": a several-inch deep expanse of shredded tires. Very tough to get a grip on the ground to do pushups, etc. Up-down-go's for 20 minutes, then a lowcrawl, backcrawl, highcrawl through the stuff. The looks we got from other platoons after they saw us was priceless: we were covered in sweat, water, mud, and little pieces of rubber. It actually felt like a badge of honor. I think I'm getting to like this stuff...
Tomorrow is free day away - a local church takes us and gives us an entire day away from our drill sergeants, Ft Leonard Wood, and all our training. I hear there is a gas station nearby where we can buy candy, soda, and newspapers. Phone calls, a bowling alley, and the church ladies cook us a dinner. I plan on calling in a pizza delivery, getting some Recess Peanut Butter Cups, Sprite, and a paper - I know nothing of what is going on in the world. I'm always wondering what is going on at LGF and Instapundit.[ed-Glenn and Charles, I actually wrote this in my longhand journal, it's not a not a troll for links :) ]
Friday, March 14, 2003
PT today was a platoon run. The entire platoon, despite running ability group, ran together in formation. It was a slow pace for me, but what made it interesting is that we called cadence while running. The result was an easy run made moderately tough by winding us more.
The morning was spent preparing for a wall locker inspection. It turned out to only be a warmup - our drill sergeants took a look and told us what was wrong without destroying them. Mine was fine. In fact, the drill sergeant told me to show my neighbor how to do his socks. To date, I have never had my bunk or locker tossed - only one time were my boots pulled. The rest of the morning was spent on general barracks maintenance.
The afternoon we had a sensing session with the company commander and 1st sergeant. For some reason, only half of our platoon was supposed to be there and I was pulled out. Didn't do much otherwise. We were going to get killed (this is how drill sergeants refer to smoking us) for some reason, but it was postponed until tomorrow.
After dinner, we got haircuts and went to the PX.
Got to bed early, where I write now, to rest up for our last preparatory PT test before the final. I am concerned about my situps - they still hurt my ribs alot. I hope the extra Ibuprofin I got at the PX helps...
Thursday, March 13, 2003
Started the day with code PT - all the injured PT together, doing the stretches and exercises that you are allowed to do. For me, pushups are ok and feel fine. Situps are allowed for me, but they hurt so much, I switched to flutterkicks - they use the lower abs more than the upper. Tomorrow, I am off code, but I'm still in a lot of pain. I hope it improves as much tonight as it did last night. Our second PT test is on Saturday and I will have to do the minimum possible situps to not get a councelling statement. I should be able to tough that many out by then - it's only 35 or so.
We were fitted for our Class A uniforms today! Now it really feels like the end is approaching - thank God! Got back to the barracks for maintenance as the females were fitted for theirs. That's pretty much it.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Not much today. Since I was on code, I was assigned to KP and missed warrior tower. Don't know yet if I will be credited, or I will do it with another company later. The most exciting thing to happen was when the floor drains backed up and flooded the kitchen.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
AGR run this morning. I am still experiencing significant pain when I breathe, so I asked permission to run with a slower ability group (bravo, one lower than my usual, alpha). I was surprised when my drill sergeant said OK; normally, when you are with a group, you can only move up. However, he was aware of my condition. It was a surprisingly easy run, despite the fact that I couldn't breathe all the way in or out. The difference between the groups is huge. I can see why people just moving into alpha hate their first couple workouts.
Today was originally supposed to be our BRM qualification day, but beacuse of the probable upcomming war and ammunition conservation, we did it yesterday. Today would be a chance for those who didn't make it yesterday to try again. The rest of us would do barracks maintenance and work on paperwork or equipment problems.
I took the opportunity to go to sick call and have my ribs checked out. After 3 days, they really don't feel any better at all. My run was ok, but I had taken an 800mg Ibuprofin, which halved the pain. I sat in the waiting room about 2 1/2 hours as they called in the quicker cases. They finally got to me and the doctor said he did not think anything was broken but he wanted to take some x-rays. Luckily, they confirmed his suspicion and he diagnosed it as a contusion. I have some pain killers/anti-inflamatories and 3 days of no running, jumping, or marching.
There were quite a few of us from our platoon at the CTMC (consolidated troop medical center) and we went to lunch after we were all finished. Instead of going all the way back, however, we stopped by an AIT engineering batallion's D-FAC. Sodas, cakes, and ice cream for all!