Saturday, July 28, 2007
I love gadgets...always have. GUNZ sent me a gadget a while back that came in very handy during the recent typhoon. It's a flashlight with a built in AM/FM radio. The nifty part is that you don't even need batteries for it. It has a built in "dynamo," which you operate by turning a small hand crank. Crank it a few times, and you're good for five minutes or so. Call me crazy, but that's the kind of stuff that I get a kick out of (I suspect that GUNZ does too).
I started purchasing Compact Discs, or CD's, when that form of media was very new. Most music stores of the time didn't even have much of a selection of CD's. Needless to say, I've collected a large number of them over the last 20 or so years. Because of the size of my CD collection, I've been wanting an Ipod for a while now. My wife was going to get me one for my birthday but, fortunately, the PX was out of them at the time. An Ipod would allow me to "rip" all of my CD's onto one portable device that I can connect to my car stereo, home stereo, or laptop. Pretty handy. I'm happy that I didn't buy an Ipod.
After hearing about the above pictured gadget, I read about 80 different reviews about it. With one or two exceptions, the reviews almost rabidly praised the thing. It's the Iaudio A2. It's made by Cowon, a Korean manufacturer of high end MP3 players, and it's a fantastic piece of gear. It plays just about every format of audio and video that you can come up with. It has a much larger screen than a video Ipod, and watching movies on it is actually pleasant. The sound quality is amazing, and it's easy to use. It's significantly larger than an Ipod, but it makes up for that with an unusually long battery life (18 hours of audio, and 10 hours of video), and the very large screen. I've only had it for a couple of days, but I love it already.
I've been busily "ripping" my CD collection onto it, and took it for a drive today when we went to the beach at Camp Schwab (about one hour away). It performed well, and didn't have any hiccups en route. I love the fact that you don't need any special software to use it. Just plug it into your computer, and it is recognized as an external drive. You can just drag and drop files into it. Alas, for its size, its hard drive is a bit small; it's only 30 gigabytes. While that's fairly large for something this small, Ipod now has an 80Gb player out. Since I'll be using it almost exclusively for audio content, however, 30Gb should be plenty for me. I'll put the occasional movie on it, but I don't see a need to keep movies on it.
All in all, I think that I've bought a great piece of equipment, and I look forward to taking all of my music with me. My CD collection will have to get by without me for a while.
If you'd like to take a closer look at the Iaudio A2, you can do so at Newegg. Their shipping is lightning fast as well!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I wrote this a few months ago, but thought that I'd dig it up for fun's sake. The bibliography is included at the end. I didn't take shortcuts on my research; I simply didn't include a variety of emotionally motivated documents in the piece, or the biblio. When I started this blog, I decided not to venture into politics, as that makes for a much less enjoyable writing experience, as well as a combative comments section. This will be a rare trip into the political arena. The only reason that I can see for this piece actually offending anyone is if they are emotionally opposed to firearms. As most rational adults know, emotions are not a good basis for important decisions (unless we're talking about marriage; that's a different matter entirely). After reading what the far left had to offer, disgust and common sense took over. How sad. Enjoy the piece, pay attention, and take note of those that would deny us of our Constitutional Rights. They're out there; on both sides of the aisle.
The Fallacy of Gun Control
Guns are to crime as gasoline is to drunk driving. Both are elements in equations with many variables. Gasoline does not cause drunk driving. This fact is undisputed. Guns do not cause crime. This fact is not undisputed. Why? Are we ignorant enough to believe that there was no crime before the advent of firearms? Are we foolish enough to believe that the invention of firearms caused a spike in crime? Apparently so. The anti-gun crowd would have us believe that guns are the root of all evil. As much as the emotionally motivated folks on the left would love to believe this, it simply isn't true. Guns don't cause crime any more than gasoline causes drunk driving. The array of anti-gun laws has done nothing to reduce crime. Enforcing existing laws would do much more to curb crime than enacting new anti-gun laws would. The bills-du-jour of the far left would only inhibit law-abiding citizens. How deadly are these evil guns that the far left wants to ban?
In 2003 there were a total of 17,096 homicides (by all methods), and a total of 752 accidental deaths by firearms. That adds up to 17,848 deaths that could possibly be the result of firearms (this does not include suicides, as that is simply an asinine figure in this discussion). (Bureau of Census, 2005) In comparison, deaths from cancer of the colon, rectum and anus registered at 55,616. In other words, you were more likely to be killed by your own rear end than by a gun in 2003. If that's not enough, pneumonia killed 63,241 in 2003. Alzheimer's killed 63,343, and heart disease killed 901,753. (Bureau of Census, 2005) Mother Nature kills far more humans in America than guns do. In addition, since 1993, gun deaths have been on a steady decline. Why is the far left so adamant about their hatred of firearms? If they succeeded in repealing the Second Amendment, and confiscating the firearms of every law-abiding citizen in America, what would be the result?
Enthusiastic gun owners are fond of saying that if guns were outlawed, only outlaws would own guns. As cliché as that may sound, it's entirely true. It is already illegal for convicted felons to possess a firearm in America, yet many still do. Many violent criminals are repeat offenders. Many violent criminals also obtain firearms in ways that are already illegal. If they disregard current laws, why would they abide by additional laws? Banning firearms would not affect criminals. Only those that choose to obey the law would turn over their firearms. What would have happened in the late 1700's if colonists had surrendered their firearms to the British? We would still be ruled from London. Why can the anti-gun enthusiasts not understand the very clearly worded Second Amendment?
The Second Amendment clearly states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." (U.S. Constitution, 1997) Some would say that a "militia" is a military body. Upon forming that militia, it would indeed be a military body. What would be the makeup of a militia? Would it be ordinary citizens? It was in 1776. Let us take a peek at what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say about a militia:
"The name of various military units and forces, raised locally (and usually for the purpose of local defence) from the civilian population of an area, and distinguished from professional standing armies as the latter developed." (Oxford English Dictionary, 2002) That's pretty clear-cut. A militia is made of the civilian population. In order to assemble a militia, that population would need to be armed. This is simple common sense. Yet another indication that opponents of the Second Amendment are motivated by emotion, vice logic. Various anti-gun bills have been proposed over the past several years. For some reason, the authors of the bills chose to label them as "crime bills."
One of the most infamous "crime bills" to date is the Assault Weapons Ban, or AWB, included in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. That sounds like a great bill. Unfortunately, it only created a definition of assault weapons based on mostly cosmetic features, such as bayonet lugs, folding stocks, and flash suppressors. (Caldwell, 2003) Let us dissect the impact of this law, one bit at a time. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, rifles and shotguns (the targets of the bill) were used in less than 10% of crimes in 2000. Handguns were the weapons of choice by criminals. (BATF, 2002) In addition, the Department of Justice also concluded that "the ban's impact on gun violence is likely to be small at best, and perhaps too small for reliable measurement." (Wikipedia, 2007) Assault weapons are scary looking. Perhaps that's the motivation for the left to condemn them. I will say from personal experience as a U.S. Marine, that I would much rather have a good hunting rifle if I were seeking to kill humans. Most assault rifles are inferior in both design and caliber of ammunition. They may allow the user to fire many shots, but they lack the accuracy and punch of a good hunting rifle. Still, Carolyn McCarthy decries assault rifles as "weapons of mass destruction" in an essay that emotionally claims that they increase the threat of gun violence. (McCarthy, 2006) Banning things has not worked in the past, and it will not work now.
Banning alcohol didn't work. Prohibition created even more crime. Illegal drugs are a problem, and they continue to flourish. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 23.7% of high school seniors report that they used marijuana in the past month. (Bruner, 1998) If banning drugs and alcohol don't work, why would banning guns work? They would still flourish, but only in the hands of the criminal element. Would any of us want to live in a nation where the criminal element is well armed, and we are not? We could certainly rely on the responsiveness of various law enforcement agencies, but that would only result in a thorough investigation after the fact. Police forces are very skilled at investigating crimes, once they've been committed. Cops don't materialize out of thin air when violent criminals confront us. During the 1990's, Americans used firearms to defend themselves from criminals at least 764,000 times a year. (Ruoco, 2005) Gun laws don't protect us. Guns do.
Vermont has the most lax gun laws in the nation. In fact, the Brady Campaign gives Vermont a "D-" on "laws shielding families from gun violence." (Brady, 2005) Vermont must be rampant with violent crime! On the contrary, Vermont had a murder rate of 1.3 per 100,000 in 2005. (FBI, 2006) In comparison, Washington D.C., which has some of the strictest gun "control" laws in the nation, had a murder rate of 35.4 per 100,000 in 2005. (FBI, 2006) In 1976, Washington D.C. enacted a virtual ban on handguns. Between 1976 and 1991, Washington's homicide rate rose 200%, while the U.S. rate rose 12%. (Ruoco, 2005) Restrictive firearm laws don't reduce crime. The idea of potential victims being armed reduces crime. Vermont demonstrates that fact.
Infringing on gun rights doesn't reduce crime. Doing so simply takes firearms away from law-abiding citizens, and potential victims of violent crime. Supporters of anti-gun legislation have shown themselves to be more emotional than logical, and they cannot produce evidence that gun "control" reduces crime. States that have the least restrictive gun laws have lower violent crime rates than those that have the most restrictive gun laws. In the face of this logic, the far left continues to rabidly cry foul over our right to keep and bear arms. This is disturbing, to say the least. If the far left is this adamant about abolishing the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, what other Constitutional rights will they attack next?
(1997). U.S. Constitution. Retrieved March 10, 2007, from U.S.
Constitution Online Web site: http://www.usconstitution.net/const.htm
(2002). Oxford English Dictionary . Retrieved March 10, 2007,
from Oxford English Dictionary Online Web site: http://dictionary.oed.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/cgi/entry/00309562?quer y_type=word&queryword=militia&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_t ype=alpha&result_place=1&search_id=nmm6-kM6qVT- 13155&hilite=00309562
(2005). State Gun Laws: Vermont. Retrieved March 10, 2007,
from Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence Web site: http://www.bradycampaign.org/legislations/state/viewstate.php?st=vt
Bruner, A.B. (1998).Adolescents and Illicit Drug Use. Journal of the American Medical Association. 280, 14-20.
Bureau of Census, (December, 2005). Deaths and Death Rates by
Selected Causes: 2002 and 2003. Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 2006, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://web.lexis- nexis.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/statuniv/document.htm
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, (2002, July).
Major Gun Types by Age Group of Possessor. Crime Gun Trace Reports (200) National Report, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://www.atf.gov/firearms/ycgii/2000/generalfindings.pdf
Caldwell, R. J. (2003, June, 16). Let Ineffective 'Assault Weapons'
Ban Expire. Human Events, 59, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/ehost/delivery?vid=3&1 0025966.htm
FBI, (2006). U.S. States Crime 2004 - 2005 . FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/vtcrime.htm
FBI, (2006). U.S. States Crime 2004 - 2005 . FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Retrieved March 1, 2007, from http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/dccrime.htm
Federal Assault Weapons Ban. (2007). In Wikipedia [Web].
Retrieved March 10, 2007, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_assault_weapons_ban
McCarthy, C. (2006). Assault Weapons Increase the Threat of Gun Violence. Gun Violence, Retrieved March 8, 2007, from http://galenet.galegroup.com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/servlet/OVRC
Ruoco, J (2005, December 30). Gun Control. Retrieved March 10,
2007, from Just Facts Web site: http://www.justfacts.com/gun_control.htm
Monday, July 23, 2007
Shouting to his fellow Marines on the muddy, blood soaked battlefield of
Box checkers represent a type of person that you might find anywhere in life. They strive to do the bare minimum in every respect. If asked why they joined the Corps, the box checker will give a response along the lines of, "I needed money for college," or, "My parents were going to kick me out," or, "I couldn't find work back home." While these may be nominal reasons for seeking employment, they are not the right reasons for joining the Marine Corps. The box checker almost seems to make excuses for joining the Corps. The Corps requires discipline, dedication, and drive, not mediocrity. The box checker is simply putting a "check in the box" on the checklist of life. They are killing time, and collecting a paycheck. Their glaring lack of performance, in every area, hobbles any desire they may have to succeed. Box checkers are not trying to excel, they are trying to merely get by. Their military appearance is pathetic, like a trash bag full of doorknobs. Their performance at physically demanding tasks, in comparison to traditional Marine Corps expectations, is laughable, at best. Thankfully, they are routinely out shined by their superior counterparts, the motivated Marines.
The motivated Marine personifies what makes the Marine Corps great. Ask the motivated Marine why he, or she, joined the Corps, and you’ll likely get an answer similar to, “Because I wanted to serve my country,” or “I wanted to join the best,” or even, “I’ve always wanted to be a Marine.” These are not always tangible reasons, but they leave no doubt that you are dealing with a motivated Marine. The motivated Marine shows genuine enthusiasm for their job, and way of life. These Marines are easy to spot, with their short haircuts, clean dress, and confident swagger. Enthusiasm for their Corps almost oozes from their pores. They show up early, go home late, and can be counted on to get the mission accomplished. Their uniforms are immaculate, with knife blade creases, and lovingly polished brass. They are the ones that you want at your side in a pitched battle.
While both types of Marines have volunteered to serve their country, the motivated Marine seems to hold that ideal close to their heart. You can see their motivation and dedication in their every action. The box checker, however, is content to trudge along, doing the bare minimum to get by. Somehow, these two groups manage to co-exist, fight our nation's battles, and win against determined enemies. Even with a mild array of shortcomings, Marines stand ready to guard against the evils of tyranny around the globe.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Upon graduating from Recruit Training, I knew in my heart that I wanted to be a Drill Intructor. I idolized my fanatical, omnipotent DI's. They were dieties capable of anything. Much like my decision to join the Corps in the first place, I doubted my own ability to achieve the goal of becoming a DI. In late 1997, I convinced myself that there was only one way to reach that goal, and that was to simply take the plunge. I reported to Drill Instructor School at Parris Island, South Carolina in early 1998. I was a solid, aggressive, motivated Marine, but I found myself among an entire class of stellar performers. This was going to be no cakewalk.
I quickly discovered that my uniforms were sadly lacking. I needed to either upgrade or replace many of my items of military clothing. This was a costly venture, and my wonderful parents came to my aid. The irony of that is that upon graduation, I would not even be using my own uniforms, as the Corps would issue me "Organizational Clothing," for use as a DI. The highly demanding school, on the other hand, was a different story. We had countless uniform inpsections, and they were incredibly detailed. Everything was scrutinized, often with no notice whatsoever. We had to be "inspection ready" at all times. My roommate and I would take turns at lunch time ironing our uniforms with one hand, while slurping down a bowl of chili with the other. We even tried our hand at ironing the creases in our trousers while still wearing them. I don't advise anyone to try that...burns don't heal quickly. I learned a tremendous amount while in DI school, but some lessons cannot be taught in a classroom.
During the last few weeks of the school, all of the students are sent over to the different training battalions to "observe" with an actual platoon of DI's and recruits. The idea behind that is to give the students a glimpse of what they would be doing after graduation. After thinking that DI School was hard, the week of observation was yet another wakeup call. The hours were unbelievable. We'd be there at about four a.m. every morning, and leave at about ten p.m. each night. If we were lucky, we got to eat a meal during some point, but that was rare. A snack on the go was much more the norm. I lost almost twelve pounds in one week. I found out what the actual DI's meant when they told me to enjoy the "laid back," "easy" schedule of DI School. One thing became glaringly apparent: I had much more to learn, and it was only going to be learned by doing it.
DI School taught me many rules, regulations, and how to conduct very exacting uniform inspections. I also received a ton of refresher training in areas that I hadn't paid attention to since I was a recruit myself. History, customs and courtesies, military law, and basic infantry skills were all covered in great detail. What was not taught was the actual mechanics of training recruits. There was no class available that could teach us how to meld a young man into a Marine. That would have to be learned on the fly; much like being pushed into the deep end of the pool and being expected to simply learn to swim.
One of my instructors in DI School, who was also my "Squad Adviser," was a very refined man by the name of Gunnery Sergeant Franklin (name changed to protect the "innocent"). He was the one to help me discover that my uniforms were in sad shape by gently asking me, "Have you lost your fu#%ing mind?! Did you think that you could just show up here looking like a turd with legs?! Square this trash away today, or I'm gonna put my boot so far up your a$$ that you'll be smelling shoe polish for a month!" He was such a caring and considerate mentor...ahhh the memories. Needless to say, I heeded his warning, with some very appreciated help from Mom and Dad. I hate the smell of shoe polish, and didn't want to test the Gunny.
Gunny Franklin taught me many things in his gentle, tactful way. He was fond of reminding me that "recruits are miserable pieces of $h*t. It's your job to make a pitiful attempt to turn them into something resembling a Marine. Don't fu%& it up numbnuts!" The amazing thing about Gunny Franklin is that he treated everyone the same way. He would admonish actual DI's in the same fashion that he would admonish his students. We often had working DI's come give us various classes and demonstrations, and I once saw the Gunny whisper into a DI's ear, followed by the DI blushing and running into the head (bathroom). One of my fellow students had the cojones to ask Gunny what he had said to the DI, and Gunny replied, "I told him that if he didn't go tuck his shoelaces in, I was going to use them to cut his balls off." I would bet a month's pay that Gunny Franklin never graduated a recruit that wasn't qualified to be a Marine.
In the mid spring of 1998, I walked across the stage in the theater aboard Parris Island, and was handed the coveted Campaign Cover, or "Smokey Bear" hat, that I had been working so hard for for three months. I was a bonafide Drill Instructor. I was elite. I was a cut above, and I had no clue what I was in for.
I had 30 days of leave, or vactation time, after graduation. My wife and kids packed up and got out of our housing in North Carolina, and then headed west to visit family. My parents bought me my NCO Sword as a graduation gift; it sits in its cover as I write this, eager for use. After an enjoyable visit, we headed back to the South. I dropped my wife and kids off at a friend's house in North Carolina, and then headed to Parris Island to begin my fun filled tour as a DI. It was going to be a month or so before we could get housing, so I roomed with my roommate from DI school in the meantime. I was told that I would be given time off to move my family once housing became available. As much as I hate moving, I was looking forward to it, as I would get a break from the murderous hours at work.
I became a walking zombie. I wasn't sleeping or eating right, and I quickly came down with whatever crud the recruits had brought with them. I was a wreck. I had about an hour of free time one day, and I went to see Gunny Franklin. I had doubts about myself. I wasn't sure that I would be able to keep up the demanding schedule and work ethic for three years. He put my fears to rest: "Don't be such a wuss. Suck it up and get hard now! Those young men don't need some whiney little bitch; they need a Marine Corps Drill Instructor!" After chewing my ass for whining, he actually gave me some sage advice. He told me that I was going to face some unique challenges as a DI, since, like him, I wasn't a large man. "Recruits come from all walks of life. You're going to get thugs straight from their gang infested street corners. They're not going to be physically intimidated by a man of your stature. You need to convice them that you're the meanest, toughest, nastiest psychotic bastard that ever walked the earth," he said.
Gunny Franklin gave me a few tips, and I heeded them all. They served me well, and would have served any DI well. Some of his tips were:
1. Don't ever let them see you eat. If you eat, you're human. You need to be a monster. Eat when you can, but do it out of sight; granola bars and Power Bars are great.
2. Don't ever let them see you sleep. When you have duty (stay all night), keep the lights on in the DI hut and just put a tee shirt over your face.
3. Never smile.
4. Never laugh.
5. As much as the sand fleas itch, never scratch at a bug.
6. Never play favorites. Treat 'em all the same. They're all worthless, and you need to treat them as such.
7. Hate recruits. If you hate recruits, you'll love the finished product. Take every transgression personally; it will foster that hatred.
8. Don't ever forget that it's your mission to make 'em as hard as you can. They'll thank you someday.
I took his words to heart. I never let a recruit see me eat, smile, laugh, scratch a bug, or sleep. I vividly remember the sand fleas eating me alive as I was yelling at a recruit. I actually had a droplet of blood appear on his face from a particularly efficient sand flea on my face. He looked at me like I was a complete monster; I was pleased. I did everything that I could to convince my recruits that I was mildly psychotic. As far as they knew, I never ate, slept, or had emotions. I was there before they woke up, and well after they went to sleep. I would leave the light on in the "duty hut" when I stayed the night, and set my alarm for various times throughout the night. I would get up throughout the night and run the vacuum cleaner, toss a laundry bag full of padlocks into the dryer in the laundry room (that makes a hell of a noise), and tortu...I mean remediate the "firewatch," or the recruits that were on watch at night. They hated me. I became a recruit's worst nightmare.
I only had to physically defend myself one time, and it lasted for a fraction of a second. My fellow DI's came out of the woodwork as I put the young lad on the ground. The rest of the recruits were terrified of me after that; as they should have been. A few stitches later, the recruit in question was more than willing to toe the line. I developed a love/hate feeling for recruits. I hated recruits-- they smelled horrible, infected me with every manner of sickness that was available, took me away from my family, failed to do anything right, and cursed my name. That hatred would transform into love and pride as they made the transition into Marines.
No reward in the world can compare to seeing a group of men make that transition, and know that I had some small part in it. The look in a father's eyes as he thanks me for his son losing 90 pounds is remarkable. The rewards were not tangible, but they were huge. I vividly remember assembling my final platoon of new Marines on the quarterdeck the morning of graduation. I told them that, "The rewards for this job are few and far between. All of you, standing before me are my reward. The transformation that you've made is what makes this job worthwhile. You did it; I just pointed you in the right direction."
I never put my stamp of approval on a recruit that I didn't think was worthy of being a Marine. I never lost sight of the fact that I was entrusted with preparing somebody's son, somebody's child, for the rigors of battle. On one hand, I know that no parent wants their child to suffer abuse. On the other hand, I know that no parent wants their child to join the military and die in battle. I was not going to let someone die in battle due to being ill prepared. I only had a short three months to prepare them, and I put my heart and soul into it. While I never actually "abused" any recruit, I did everything that I could to train 'em hard, make 'em hard, and turn them into hard men. I hope that I didn't fail.