Tag Archives: romulans

Living in the National Security State

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Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges, in time of war the law stands silent…

James Madison wrote that “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”

After September 11th 2001 the National Security State went into overdrive with the passage of the so called Patriot Act. That act opened the floodgates for an ever expanding national security state.

I have a lot of apprehension when I read the reports about the activities of the National Security Agency, other intelligence and police agencies at all levels of government and the pervasive erosion of civil rights.  The national security state and the seeming all pervasive security and surveillance apparatus which demolishes any sense of privacy, especially the protections enunciated in the Fourth Amendment and to some extent the First Amendment. Of course the use of similar methods by the private sector, often in conduction with government agencies is another concern, but that needs to wait for another day.

I also understand from history and empirical evidence that many others, many from unfriendly countries do not share those apprehensions. Many of these competitors are willing to use whatever openness that we have as a society against us, using similar technology and methods used by our intelligence, police, governmental and private sector. It makes for an ethical, legal and even constitutional conundrum. I know that I am not comfortable with this, and perhaps maybe none of us should be.

It is very easy on one hand in light of history, our Constitution and democratic process to condemn the NSA, the FISA courts and other lawfully constituted agencies and those that drafted the laws over the decades that allow the activities which they now conduct. The same can be said of foreign intelligence agencies which all engage in similar activities including the British GCHQ, the German Bundesnachrichtendienst and so many others including the Chinese and Russians.

Likewise it is equally easy in light of history, current events and national security concerns for people to jump to the other side of the fence and not only defend the activities of the NSA and agencies like it, and to demonize those that protest or expose such activities.

When I see the talking heads on cable news shows defending or condemning such activities and not agonizing over the complexity and issues involved I get worried. Because there are legitimate concerns voiced by critics as well as defenders. But since we live in an era of soundbites, gotcha and half-truths being portrayed as all truth I find it helpful to use either historical examples, literature or fiction, and even science fiction to wrestle with the fundamental truths. So I find looking at such issues through the prism of Star Trek sometimes more interesting and provocative than simply doing the whole moralizing pundit thing.

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There was an episode of  Star Trek Deep Space Nine that aired well before the events of 9-11-2001, and the subsequent Global War on Terror, that I find fascinating. The episode deals with a secretive agency in Starfleet operating in the gray areas between the laws and ideals of the Federation and the threats that the Federation faces. Even when the Federation is a peace, Section 31, as it is called is engaged in activities against historic or potential enemies. In a way it is somewhat like the NSA or the Defense Intelligence Agency.

At the beginning of the Deep Space Nine Episode Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges the head of Section 31, a man only known as Sloan comes back Doctor Julia Bashir to involve him in an clandestine operation. An operation to on the Romulans who at this point are a Federation ally against the Dominion.

Sloan makes his approach and Bashir, who expresses his reservations:

BASHIR: You want me to spy on an ally.

SLOAN: To evaluate an ally. And a temporary ally at that. I say that because when the war is over, the following will happen in short order. The Dominion will be forced back to the Gamma Quadrant, the Cardassian Empire will be occupied, the Klingon Empire will spend the next ten years recovering from the war and won’t pose a serious threat to anyone. That leaves two powers to vie for control of the quadrant, the Federation and the Romulans.

BASHIR: This war isn’t over and you’re already planning for the next.

SLOAN: Well put. I hope your report is equally succinct.

BASHIR: How many times do I have to tell you, Sloan? I don’t work for you.

SLOAN: You will. It’s in your nature. You are a man who loves secrets. Medical, personal, fictional. I am a man of secrets. You want to know what I know, and the only way to do that is to accept the assignment.

I find the exchange both illuminating and riveting. The fact is that in the situation we face today the arguments of both sides should make us very uncomfortable.

Whether we like it or not or not, the incredibly rapid technical and communication advances of the past couple of decades have primed us for our present conundrum of liberty and privacy or security. That technology, as wonderful as it is  has enabled a generation to grow up in a virtual world in many ways detached from the moral and ethical balances between individual rights and liberties as well responsibility to community.

All the wonderful gadgets that we employ in everyday life, make it easy for enemies and “friends” to do things that were unimaginable to people other than science fiction writers even twenty to thirty years ago. Likewise they were certainly beyond the wildest imaginations of any of the founders who drafted Constitution.

The reality is, the things that make are lives so easy are also the things that have the potential to remove the very liberties that we treasure, either by our enemies using them, or those that defend us.

The truth is, that throughout history, even our own there have been operatives within the government in charge of secrets, as well as spies. In the Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges episode we see an operation that is full of duplicity and moral ambiguity all committed in the name of security. I won’t go into the details because it is too full of twists, and turns, you can read the plot of the episode at Memory Alpha.org http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Inter_Arma_Enim_Silent_Leges_%28episode%29

There is an exchange between Dr. Bashir and Admiral Ross of Starfleet command which is very enlightening because it practically mirrors how many on both the civil liberties and the national security side of the current controversy feel about the War on Terror.

BASHIR: You don’t see anything wrong with what happened, do you.

ROSS: I don’t like it. But I’ve spent the last year and a half of my life ordering young men and young women to die. I like that even less.

BASHIR: That’s a glib answer and a cheap way to avoid the fact that you’ve trampled on the very thing that those men and women are out there dying to protect! Does that not mean anything to you?

ROSS: Inter arma enim silent leges.

BASHIR: In time of war, the law falls silent. Cicero. So is that what we have become? A twenty fourth century Rome driven by nothing more than the certainty that Caesar can do no wrong!

ROSS: This conversation never happened.

In light of the controversy of today regarding the NSA, FISA Courts, government secrecy and intelligence gathering information on its own citizens, as well as allies, friends and and enemies we face a growing tide of reporters and others seeking to reveal those secrets. Back in 1989 ethicist Sissela Bok wrote something very important in her book Secrets: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life:

“…as government secrecy expands, more public officials become privy to classified information and are faced with the choice of whether or not to leak … growing secrecy likewise causes reporters to press harder from the outside to uncover what is hidden. And then in a vicious circle, the increased revelations give government leaders further reasons to press for still more secrecy.”

As we wade through the continuing controversy surrounding these issues we will see people do exactly what Bok said. These are the exact arguments are being made by the people and officials directly involved in such activities, as well as former elected and appointed officials, and members of the press.

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The interesting thing to me is that very few of the people or agencies, past and present, Republican and Democrat involved have clean hands. It is amazing to see former champions of civil liberties defend the NSA actions and those that empowered the NSA in the Patriot Act now condemn it. I find it both fascinating and frightening.

At the end of the Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges episode the mysterious Sloan pops back in on Doctor Bashir who is in his quarters, asleep and depressed by what he experienced during the operation on Romulus and with Admiral Ross.

SLOAN: Good evening.

BASHIR: Are you expecting applause? Have you come to take a bow?

SLOAN: I just wanted to say thank you.

BASHIR: For what? Allowing you to manipulate me so completely?

SLOAN: For being a decent human being. That’s why we selected you in the first place, Doctor. We needed somebody who wanted to play the game, but who would only go so far. When the time came, you stood your ground. You did the right thing. You reached out to an enemy, you told her the truth, you tried to stop a murder. The Federation needs men like you, Doctor. Men of conscience, men of principle, men who can sleep at night. You’re also the reason Section Thirty one exists. Someone has to protect men like you from a universe that doesn’t share your sense of right and wrong.

BASHIR: Should I feel sorry for you? Should I be weeping over the burden you’re forced to carry in order to protect the rest of us?

SLOAN: It is an honor to know you, Doctor. Goodnight.

We live in this kind of world and maybe it is good to sometimes step back and look at issues using a different prism. I really don’t have the answers. I am a civil libertarian who places a high value on the openness of a government to its people. I also know that there are those that have no regard for such openness or, to quote Sloan don’t “share your sense of right and wrong.”

Maybe that is not a good answer. I really don’t know. All I know is that as uncomfortable as this all is that those on both sides of the issue have valid points and concerns. It is a debate that needs to happen if we are able to balance that a society needs to balance individual rights and responsibility to the community; openness and secrecy; civil liberties and national security.

But that being said. it is a debate that needs to happen, even if it makes us uncomfortable. I for one think that it is better that we be uncomfortable when looking at such an important debate than to be prisoners of our certitude.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under History, laws and legislation, national security, Political Commentary, star trek

Starfleet Gets a Communications Upgrade: The Tale of the Blackberry

Note: My inspiration for this story is my recent experience with a Blackberry Curve and its replacement provided by Verizon Wireless.  I have no complaints about the Verizon staff that have attempted without success to fix this problem as it is a fault with the blasted Blackberry. As I waited patiently for a very polite Verizon store staff to work with technician to solve the problems I was having I began to think about what it would be like if in the Star Trek Original Series if Starfleet had provided Blackberries to the Enterprise on a critical mission. I figure that I at least need to be able to laugh about this. Hopefully I tomorrow when I take my third Blackberry into the Verizon store in the space of three weeks I will get to experience the joy of a working communications device.

Peace, Padre Steve+


On the border of the Federation-Romulan Neutral Zone.

“Good morning Captain, we have reached Cheron and established orbit. There are no Romulan ships within sensor range.”

“Thank you Spock, must you always be so cheerful in the morning?” replied a grinning Kirk. “So what is our status?”

“Sir the away team is ready for the mission. Doctor McCoy, Lieutenant Sulu and Mr. Scott will beam down with you and the security team.”

“Good, so Spock I do hope that we can get out of here after checking the planet before the Romulans discover that we are here.”

“Patently sir, in light of the Romulan defeat here during the First Romulan War it would be inadvisable to remain here too long.” Spock’s crisp and matter of fact delivery underscored the potential threats to the Enterprise and the away team as they looked to determine if the Romulans had attempted to establish a new outpost on the planet.

“Captain” Lieutenant Uhura rose from her console on the starboard side of the bridge.

“Yes Lieutenant, is there something that I need to know?”

“Why yes Captain,” the pretty communications officer replied. “There has been a change in the standard communication equipment for away teams.”

“What, why wasn’t I informed of this?”

“Well sir, it is a Starfleet wide upgrade. We received the equipment on our last visit to Starbase 234 before our departure for this mission.” Uhara paused “It is a major improvement.  According to Starfleet the device is called a Blackberry and it will replace the communicator and many of the functions now performed by our Tricorders.”

“But why wasn’t I told?”

“Sir, it was an oversight, it won’t happen again.”

“Make sure it doesn’t Lieutenant, otherwise” Kirk paused appearing to search for his next words “otherwise there won’t be any chubby sex for you.”

“Captain, I don’t think that is appropriate” protested Uhura.

“Appropriate?”

“Captain, Starfleet regulations do say that the use of sexual terms with subordinates of the opposite sex is a violation of the Equal Opportunity and Sexual Harassment policies established by the Federation Commission on Equal Opportunity and ratified by the Federation Senate for all Federation government offices including Starfleet.”

“Okay Spock I get it, it was just the Mad Cow.”

“Mad cow Captain?” Spock replied raising an eyebrow.

“Never mind, just a quote from one of my favorite 21st Century television characters, Denny Crane.”

“I have never heard of him.”

“The show is called Boston Legal, I have all of the DVD’s.  Come by my stateroom and we’ll watch them from season one through five.” Kirk winked as Spock looked on with a hint of disapproval on his Vulcan face.

“So Lieutenant, that was out of line and I apologize. It won’t happen again.”

“Until the next time” whispered McCoy to Scott.

“Anyway, Lieutenant Uhura, before I was so correctly corrected by my First Officer, please tell me about these Blackberry devices.”

“This is one here.” Uhura pulled out a small device which had a tiny keyboard as well as a view screen.

“My I look at it?”

“Please Captain, you’ll find it quite handy.  You will be able to communicate with the ship, away team members, check your e-mail, messages and have the universe at your fingertips.”

“So I can surf the web and access my Face Space account while on an away team?”

“Well yes, Captain.”

“Good.  We’ll start using them on this mission; make sure everyone on the away team has one.” Kirk looked at Spock. “Spock did you hear that I can surf the web and access my Face Space account on this thing even on away missions? Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?”

Uhura interrupted. “Captain, I would prefer that we wait until the next mission.”

“No.  We take them on this mission.” Kirk paused. “After all what could go wrong?  Starfleet has tested them out right?”

“Well, yes sir, but the contractor says that we should wait.”

“Contractor?”

“Yes Captain, to save money Starfleet has contracted the Blackberry service to Verizon Universal.” Uhura sounded almost apologetic. “But we do have a contracting service representative dedicated to us and I can contact him anytime.”

“So let’s see, I have a device that replaces communicators and Tricorders that I can surf the web and check my Face Space on, which has been tested by Starfleet and that we have a designated technician dedicated to us and you’re saying that I should wait?”

“Well, maybe it’s just me Captain…”

“Lieutenant Uhura, if I recall I am the Captain, correct?”

“Well….” Uhura hesitated for a moment and continued “Yes Captain.”

“So if I am the Captain of the Enterprise; which indeed by Starfleet order I am; that means that I do get the final say on my ship?  Mr. Spock, do you concur?”

“Yes Captain, I concur.  However, I do not think that the Lieutenant is questioning your ability to command the Enterprise but rather her belief that we should test the devices on a mission that is not so close to the Neutral Zone.”

“But Spock, the best of Starfleet have certified these devices and Verizon Universal has over nearly 300 years of experience in wireless communications.” Kirk paused. “Wouldn’t you agree that this isn’t rocket science, Spock? This is communications, not the Warp drive. What could go wrong?”

“Captain I was merely posing as the Devil’s advocate. You are the Captain and the decision is yours.”

“Devil’s advocate, you have the ears for it Spock,” quipped Doctor McCoy eliciting a chuckle from Ensign Chekov at the helm and a raised eyebrow from Spock.

“Well if that’s the case Lieutenant, I want to have these on the away mission. I’ll let Scotty carry a communicator and Bones can carry a Tricorder,  but the rest of us will have these.”

“But Captain, one more thing….” Uhura paused and then continued: “Starfleet says that we might have intermittent problems with the old systems as we make the switch. The Tricroders are scheduled to receive new software when it is pushed by Starfleet. It was supposed to happen this morning. Starfleet technical says that it will be later, but they don’t know when.”

“I don’t see a problem Lieutenant, and I’m the Captain, James Tiberius Kirk. Don’t forget it.” Kirk chuckled as he looked at the Blackberry. “I can check my Face Space on this? what will Starfleet think of next?  Maybe they can give me the ability to book a trip on Priceline while on an away mission.”

Spock shook his head and McCoy grinned as Kirk started playing with the touch screen on the device. Kirk looked up at his staff and said “Scotty, Bones, Sulu, meet me in transporter room with a security team in half an hour. We have to get to the planet, see what is going on and get out of here before a bunch of Romulan Birds of Prey show up.  Spock you have the Enterprise and Uhura, make sure that nothing goes wrong with these devices while I am checking my Face Space…I mean when we’re on the planet surface.”

“Aye Captain” replied Scotty, his distinctive Scottish brogue echoed by McCoy and Sulu. Spock, Uhura and McCoy nodded their agreement as Kirk continued “Well what are you waiting for?  Let’s get going.”

A half hour later, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu and the 3 members of the security team met in the transporter room where Lieutenant Kyle the Transporter Chief awaited them. As the doors swished open and closed, Kirk approached Kyle.

“Mr. Kyle we are going to beam down to the surface. I need you to make sure that you keep a good lock on us in case the Romulans show up.”

“Captain, I will do the best that I can but the transporter lock application is not loaded on your Blackberry. I can, however maintain the lock on Mr. Scott’s communicator as long as that device is functioning correctly.”

“Scotty, why wasn’t I told about this?”

“Sir, I dinna really think that you would want to go to the surface depending on some newfangled contraption, so I didn’t say anything.  Besides Captain, when you started talking about your Face Space account, I knew that there was no convincing you.”

“Correct, that is why I asked you Mr. Scott.  Remember the name is James Tiberius Kirk.  I beat the Kobayashi Maru test. Besides, even if this doesn’t work right I AM James Tiberius Kirk and I will win. Besides, we booked this trip on Priceline and it’s not refundable.”

The away team muttered in agreement and Kirk continued: “Gentlemen, we will beam down to the planet and find out what is going on before the Romulans figure out that we are here.” Kirk paused for a moment. “Mr. Kyle,  tell Lieutenant Uhura that I expect that even if you cannot keep a lock on these Blackberries, that I DO expect to be able to check my Face Space account while on the planet surface.”

“Your Face Space account sir?” asked a confused transporter chief.

“You heard me Lieutenant. My Face Space account, and if you expect to get far in Starfleet you’d better get one too.”

“Yes sir” replied the transport chief as he looked at Mr. Scott who simply nodded his head.

“Well gentlemen, what are we waiting for?”  Kirk paused again, “it’s not Mad Cow or am I forgetting something?”

“What?…your Mad Cow?” asked McCoy.

“Bones, I know that I’m forgetting something and I can’t remember what.” Kirk paused again and continued “I remember now… where is Yeoman Rand right now?  She is supposed to be on the away team.”

“Jim you didn’t include her on the away team” replied McCoy.

“I didn’t include include her?  Bones, what was I thinking? Mr. Kyle, call for Yeoman Rand to meet us here.  We’ll wait for her before we beam down.”

Scotty interrupted. “But Captain, shouldn’t we get down now to be finished before the Romulans arrive?”

“Mr. Scott. I AM the Captain and Yeoman Rand is essential personnel on any away mission that I am on.  Besides, someone has to record my every thought for history sake, because after the mission I’m going to consume a few pints of Romulan ale and won’t remember a damned thing.”

“Well, that makes sense.” Replied McCoy.

“Well she is a girl, but even I can understand in some ways” added Sulu.

“Don’t forget Sulu, I am a real man, not gay like you…not that there is anything wrong with that, even if you are still in the closet. I mean, it’s not that you are in the closet or even out of it…but it’s none of my business or anyone else’s business or anything like that. You know, don’t ask don’t tell like Starfleet regulations tell us.”

Sulu glared at Kirk, while the others in the transport room maintained silence. Sulu looked at McCoy and said: “This will go in my autobiography.”  As the away team waited and Scotty and Kyle talked technical specifications, Yeoman Janice Rand entered the transporter room.  The doors swished open and closed as the pretty blond yeoman with stacked hair, clad in the Starfleet regulation red mini-dress female uniform and black high rise boots approached Kirk.

“Yeoman Rand reporting as ordered sir.”

“Yeoman Rand, I’m sorry for the late notice, but your presence is required on this mission.”

“Thank you sir, I will do what I can to help the mission succeed” replied the young woman.

Kirk looked at McCoy, who was looking at the deck and putting his hand on his shoulder whispered “it’s good to be the Captain, Bones; it’s good to be the Captain.” Kirk then looked about the room and continued “Gentlemen and Miss Rand, let’s get going, what are we waiting for?”

With that, the team stepped aboard the transporter platform and Kirk patted Rand on the behind as he said to Kyle “Mr. Kyle, energize.”

Kyle pushed the transporter lever into the transport mode and the team dematerialized from the pad.

Seconds later the team rematerialized on the planet’s surface.  Though a class M planet, Cheron’s surface was devoid of any meaningful foliage and very rocky and mountainous; much like areas just outside of Los Angeles or a sound stage at NBC studios in Burbank. Kirk looked around and as the team began to make equipment checks and their initial scans of the area.

“Captain, I’m picking up subspace transmissions from that hill,” interjected McCoy pointing the Tricorder toward the hill that rose about 500 meters from the team.

“Subspace transmissions, Bones?”

“Yes sir Captain, from that hill. I think they may be Romulan.”

Kirk looked at Scotty and Sulu. Yeoman Rand moved closer to Kirk and the three security team members fanned out around the team leaders, their phasers at the ready.

Kirk looked at his team; “I think that we have our smoking gun. The Romulans either have been here or are here right now. We need to establish that as fact, recover the evidence and get it out of here before the Romulans know that we’re here. We’ll move toward the hill. Sulu, you and crewman Jones take the left; Scotty and crewman Evans take the right. Bones, you Yeoman Rand and Ensign Smith come with me.  I’ll contact the ship.”

Kirk pulled out his Blackberry and punched the Enterprise icon on the touch screen. “Kirk to Enterprise, away team on planet surface, subspace emissions detected, moving to investigate.” The Blackberry remained silent. Kirk tired again. “Kirk to Enterprise, Uhura, Spock do you read me?” There was no response. “Bones, Scotty, Sulu, try to contact the ship on your Blackberries.”

The three officers each tried their Blackberries. Scotty looked up at Kirk and said “Captain, something has drained the batteries.  My Blackberry has almost no power left, and it registers a 1 X and not a 3G network.”

“What do you mean Scotty? 1 X, 3G what the hell does that mean?”

“Captain, I mean that you won’t be able to access the Enterprise or your Face Space account on this piece of junk.”

“You mean I can’t access my Face Space account?”

“Not that or anything else. Like I’ve said before, the more complicated they are the easier they are to break.”

“Can you contact them on your communicator Scotty?”

“I can try sir, it is a good thing that Uhura and Spock recommended that we have them.”

“Mr. Scott, if you will recall, it was I that said that you would carry a communicator, not Uhura” interjected an obviously irritated Kirk.

“Sulu, you take crewman Jones and Evans and find out what is creating that subspace emission and get back here within the hour. We cannot communicate so it is imperative that you find what is going on and at least one of you get back with the information. Hopefully we will be able to contact the Enterprise by the time you return.”

“Yes Captain” replied Sulu. “Evans, Jones, follow me.” Sulu set off at a jog toward the hill followed by the two security officers.

“Bones, can you figure out what is going on with these Blackberries?”

“Captain, I’m a doctor not a service technician,” replied a sarcastic sounding McCoy.

“Captain, I have contact with the Enterprise,” said Scotty.

“Give me that communicator Scotty!” interrupted Kirk, grabbing the device from his Chief Engineer’s hands.

“Uhura, Spock, can you read me? This is Kirk.”

“Captain, I read you but not well. Can you tell me your situation?” replied the Communications officer.

“Uhura, what is going on? These Blackerries are rotten! Nothing works! I can’t access my Face Space like you told me that I would!” Kirk’s voice was excited and sounded perturbed. Spock noted this as he listened in on the conversation. “Captain, I would say that it would be wise to end the mission, return to the ship and worry about your Face Space later.”

“But Spock, IT IS IN THE CONTRACT! Besides I just sent Sulu with crewmen Evans and Jones to check the source of the subspace emissions.”

“Subspace emissions, Captain?” asked Spock.

“Yes Spock, subspace emissions.”

Spock turned from the communications officer station and said to Ensign Chekov and Lieutenant O’Reilly “Gentlemen we may have company. Scan for any subspace emissions of evidence of a cloaked ship, raise shields and go to Red Alert.”

“Aye Mr. Spock” replied Chekov as the Red Alert alarm was sounded.

“Captain, I have just set Red Alert and raised the shields. When you are ready to beam back to the ship, signal me.”

“Good work, Spock. I will contact you shortly but get me Uhura.”

“Lieutenant Uhura, stand by to answer the Captain’s questions.”

“Yes Mr. Spock” replied the Communications Officer. “Captain Kirk, what is your question?”

“Uhura, can you contact the Verizon Universal technician and let him know what is going on?”

“Sir, I did as soon as Mr. Scott contacted us on his communicator. The tech rep, Bob, told me that there is a known software problem and that the company would be providing a software push to all subscribers within the week and that when we arrive at Starbase 234 that the defective units will be replaced free of charge.”

“But Lieutenant Uhura… I am on a planet with a small away team.  There is a real possibly that Romulans are nearby, AND you’re telling me that my Blackberry won’t work and I can’t access my Face Space much less communicate with anyone?”

“Yes sir, that is basically what I am telling you.” Replied Uhura who was looking at Spock with an exasperated expression.

“Thank you Lieutenant. You tell Bob or whoever you are in contact with that I EXPECT this to be corrected as soon as it can be corrected.  I mean, it needs to be corrected….” Kirk paused” I think that this is ridiculous. If Verizon Universal doesn’t fix it now tell Rob or whatever his name is, that I will contact Admiral Shirley Schmidt at Starfleet Legal and have them to start proceedings against them. I understand that Commander Alan Shore is quite a litigator and will rip them a new one.”

“I will relay the message Captain.”

“Good” said Kirk “and I will contact you as soon as I can to get off of this planet. Kirk out.”

Aboard the Enterprise the bridge crew began to scan and look for any signs of a cloaked Romulan ship as Kirk and the away team continued the mission.  On the planet Kirk was talking with McCoy and Scott with Yeoman Rand beside him looking on while transcribing the conversation on her I-Pad 2265.  It was then that phaser fire was heard in the distance coming from the hill where Sulu and the security officers had gone to seek out the source of the subspace emissions.

“Take cover” ordered Kirk and the team sought cover behind the rocks surrounding their position. “Scotty, contact the Enterprise, Bones prepare to receive casualties, Ensign Smith move right and cover Mr. Sulu’s team as they return. Yeoman Rand stay close to me.” Rand moved close to Kirk’s side and Kirk put his arm around her reaching toward her buttocks. “I’ll protect you Yeoman.” Rand edged closer.

As the team took cover Sulu and one of the security officers could be seen maneuvering to get back to the rest of the team. Ensign Smith and Mr. Scott began to provide covering fire with their phasers at what appeared to be Romulan disruptor fire coming from the hill. As Sulu and the security officer got back to the site the security officer turned to return fire and was hit by a disrupter burst crumpling to the ground near McCoy.

“Bones, see if he’s okay! Sulu, what happened?” shouted Kirk.

Aboard the Enterprise the situation was tense. Mr. Scott’s message about the phaser and disruptor fire had been received and Spock paced the bridge.

“Mr. Chekov, any sign of the Romulans?”

“Sir, I am reading a distortion in space at 149 mark 916 distance 33,000 kilometers. I think it is a cloaked ship.”

“Lieutenant Kyle.”

“Kyle here sir” replied the transporter chief.

“Mr. Kyle, prepare to beam up the team.  Lock onto Mr. Scott’s communicator and beam at my command.”

“Aye Captain.” Kyle’s voice displayed no lack of confidence in his abilities.

On the planet the Enterprise away team returned fire as McCoy checked the fallen security officer. Sulu moved to Kirk to report the situation.

“Captain, we got to the hill and found a Romulan away team setting up what appears to be a sensor array. They took us under fire and crewman Evans was killed in the exchange. Jones and I returned fire and moved back to your position.”

“How many Romulans Mr. Sulu?” asked Kirk.

“Sir, there were at least a dozen, some armed with disruptor rifles. We downed several with our phasers, but I expect that there are more in the vicinity moving our direction.” Sulu wiped his brow but appeared calm even as he made the report.

“Thank you Lieutenant, take position over there and protect our flank.”

“Aye sir.”

“Bones, how is crewman Jones?”

“Jim, he’s dead.” As McCoy gave the report on Jones a burst of disruptor fire blasted the rock in front of Lieutenant Smith who took cover and cried “Captain I’m hit!”

“Spock, get us out of here.”

“Aye, Captain.” Spock continued, “Mr. Kyle are we prepared to beam the away team to the Enterprise?”

“Ready Mr. Spock” replied the Transporter Chief, his Australian accent showing.

“Mr. O’Reilly drop shield and raise them after the transport is complete.” Spock’s order was devoid of emotion even as he ordered Kyle to beam the team up. “Mr. Kyle beam the team up now.”

“Energizing, Mr. Spock” replied the transporter Chief. Within seconds the team materialized on the transporter pad. McCoy called for corpsmen to report to tend to the wounded Lieutenant Smith. Kirk approached Kyle.

“Excellent job, Mr. Kyle.”

“Thank you sir, my pleasure.”

Kirk began to bark out orders, “Scotty, Sulu come with me, Bones take care of Lieutenant Smith. Yeoman Rand report to the bridge with me.”

As Kirk, Sulu, Scott and Yeoman Rand entered the bridge from the turbo-lift, Spock yielded the command chair to Kirk.

“Mr. Spock, thank you for your timely intervention. What is going on?”

“Captain, we believe that a Romulan Bird of Prey is cloaked. I recommend since the Romulans attacked our team on the planet that we fire a burst of photon torpedoes at the location in violation of the peace treaty.”

“Mr. O’Reilly, fire a spread of Photon Torpedoes at the location.”

“Aye Captain,” replied the young Irishman as he pressed the firing key on his operations console. A second after he did this a number of Photon Torpedo bursts exploded in the distance.  A Bird of Prey appeared was seen listing heavily to Port as its cloaking device went offline. No fire was returned by the obviously heavily damaged Romulan ship.

“Uhura, hail the Romulan.  Onscreen.”

The communications console beeped as Uhura sent a message to the Romulan. On the Enterprise Bridge view screen the Romulan ship disappeared as a Romulan officer appeared. Behind him fires burned and Romulan crew members could be seen attempting repairs.

“Federation ship, I am Praetor Taev, you have attacked my ship. I cannot return fire or communicate with my away team.”

“Praetor, we stand by to assist you.”

“Your assistance is not needed or desired. We would not be in this situation if it were not for a communications failure between us and our away team.”

“It seems that we encountered a similar situation on the planet surface” replied Kirk.

“Some advice Federation Captain, if your fleet communications bureau attempts to replace your communicators with something called Blackberries have a backup plan. Our away team was trying to rig a mobile communication array on the planet, their Blackberries would not work.”

“We will Praetor, thank you for your advice. Who is your provider, Praetor?”

“Verizon Universal, the largest wireless corporation in the known universe with almost 300 years of experience. They even had a technician dedicated to this mission, but we have executed him. His funny looking black plastic eyeglasses are being returned to his family.”

“You have my sympathies, Praetor. Since it seems that this encounter is a misunderstanding, we will allow you to make repairs and proceed on our way. You are a worthy opponent. Kirk out.”

“You as well, Captain…. in another place and time we might have been friends.” The screen went blank and an explosion was witnessed. The Bird of Prey had blown up, the fireball extended out and the explosion was felt aboard the Enterprise which trembled slightly as the shockwave from the blast reached it.

“Mr. Spock, what happened?”

“Captain it appears that the Romulan ship is destroyed. I am not sure, but they may have scuttled her because they would have been disgraced for allowing themselves to be taken by surprise. The Romulans have a keen sense of honor and would rather suffer death than return home in disgrace.”

“Pity, Spock.  The Romulan was doing what we were doing and was a victim of the same Romulan Navy and Verizon Universal communications problem that we experienced.”

“Lieutenant Uhura, make sure that this situation is corrected. Mr. Spock you have the Bridge. I am going to my cabin to watch Boston Legal and book a trip on Priceline when we get back to Earth. Yeoman Rand, meet me later to take report. I’ll Face Space you with the time and place.”

“Yes, Captain” the attractive blond blushed and smiled as Kirk winked at her and exited the Bridge.

McCoy, Scott and Spock looked at each other saying nothing. Chekov, Sulu and O’Reilly smiled in amusement while Uhura shook her head. Sulu relieved Chekov at the helm.

“Mr. Sulu, set course for Starbase 234, warp factor 3.

“Aye Mr. Spock” as Sulu punched the coordinates into the helm music began to play and the Enterprise burst into warp leaving Cheron behind.

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A Tangled Mass of Emotions: Dad, the Boss, an ICU Death and the All-Star Game

The Big “A” that I knew

I am a mess the past day or so. Not that anything is bad or going wrong it is just that emotionally I am a mess.  As I try to get back into normal life I find emotions brought up by my dad’s death three weeks ago going all over the place.  Today was so strange; it actually began a couple of days ago when I finished the third chapter of my series on “Meeting Jesus and the Team at 7-11” entitled “A Death, a Rain Delay and a Visit from Saint Pete.” Since my dad’s death due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease I have experienced number of things that sent my emotions into overload because they somehow connected with dad and his death.  Over the past couple of days these intense emotional surges, I cannot call them swings because they are not swings, I am not going between depression and elation but rather experiencing strong emotional impulses as things remind me of my dad or of childhood.  I know that I am okay because grief and the emotions that follow the loss of a parent particularly your father if you are the oldest son are guaranteed to mess with you. They are normal, I am a highly trained pastoral caregiver but since I am not a Vulcan but a Romulan with probably a bit of Klingon mixed in the emotional surges that well up from under my normally cold and logical exterior are a real bitch, no wonder the Romulans wage war with such ferocity and the Klingons appear to be in a perpetually foul mood.  But I digress…

The past couple of weeks have been weird because I never know when something is going to trigger emotions that remind me of my dad.  Much of this of course revolves around baseball as it was my dad that taught me to love the game and through the connection between baseball and dad there has been, even when he was no longer himself due to the ravages of Alzheimer’s something that brought a sense of stability and peace to life, even when I was a post-Iraq PTSD mess.

Now I am a mess again as things that I see, hear and experience things that bring me back to dad.  At this moment my excrement is together but I have no idea what or when the next emotional surge will hit and I will be blubbering like I girl, not that there is anything wrong with that.

The past few days are a case in point. I went to Harbor Park on both Saturday and Sunday and had a great time, at the same time I felt like my dad was there. He never came to Norfolk during my time here because of his physical and deteriorating mental state but now since his death it almost feels like he is there with me.  I went to work Monday and had the on-call overnight duty at the Medical Center and was doing pretty well but in the late afternoon I was called for a cardiac arrest of an 81 year old man and off and on throughout the evening was called back as he continued to get worse to take care of his family, a wife of 63 years and a son a couple of years old than me.  I really wanted this man to live but it became apparent as the night wore on that he would not survive the night and his wife asked me to perform the Sacrament of Healing or what some used to refer to as “Last Rights” which I did with she and her son present using the rite form the Book of Common Prayer.  With his condition somewhat stable I went to our call room where I attempted to get a little rest on the bed from hell.   Of course getting to sleep on said bed is difficult at best and since when I am on duty the hyper vigilance factor is real and present it takes a while to get to sleep.  About 0215 my fitful sleep was interrupted by the pager going off and with it the message to come back to the ICU as the patient was dying.  I went back and was with the family when he died and until they left the building about 0315.

The next morning or rather later in the morning, but not much later I was back up and preparing for a meeting across the bay at the VA Medical Center. While I prepared I found out that George Steinbrenner had died.  When I felt the emotions well up in me, especially while I was watching ESPN’s Sports Center and various players, managers and other sports figures were interviewed about the Boss the emotions started coming in waves, funny how that happens.  As I reflect on this I guess it is because in many ways my dad and Steinbrenner were similar, passionate, outspoken, driven but also caring and good fathers who often showed compassion to others but in a private manner. Now my dad was not a fan of Steinbrenner or the Yankees, but the Boss engendered such emotions in people, positive and negative I am not surprised my dad had little regard for the American League after all he was a National League man.  When I heard Derek Jeter, Joe Morgan, Paul O’Neil and so many others talk of their relationship with Steinbrenner I laughed, cried and reflected on dad.  Strange connection but a connection anyway.

Photo Day 1970 with Angels Manager “Lefty” Phillips

Later in the evening I went to Gordon Biersch for a salad, beer and to watch some of the Major League Baseball All-Star game which was being played at the home of the Los Angeles Angels, at one time th California Angels, Anaheim Stadium, the place where more than any my dad taught me a love and respect of the game of Baseball.  As I looked at this cathedral of baseball, now expanded and Disneyfied since I was a child shagging foul balls and collecting autographs I was taken back in time.  I remember the very first game that dad took us to at Anaheim Stadium as it was then known as the “Big A” like it was yesterday, July 4th 1970 the day after Clyde Wright pitched a no-hitter. On this day the Angels did not win, the A’s won 7-4.  I saw the first major league home runs that I can remember seeing in person that night as we sat in the lower level of the right field corner near the foul pole. At that time the bullpen was adjacent to the grandstand and there were no mountains, valleys, palm trees or whatever else is out there, a log ride perhaps, but I digress. Back then there was a warning track and a fence as well as an amazing scoreboard in the shape of a big block “A” with a halo near the top.

That night I saw home runs by Reggie Jackson, Bert Campaneris and Sal Bando for the A’s and Jim Spencer for the Angels.  Jim “Catfish” Hunter got the win and Jim “Mudcat” Grant got the save. Rudy May took the loss for the Angels.  The fact that I saw two future Hall of Fame players in this game was amazing, the winning pitcher, Hunter and Reggie Jackson.  Later in the year I entered a contest and wrote why Jim Spencer was my favorite Angel.  I had met Spencer at an autograph signing event at the local Von’s grocery store and when the contest winners were announced I was a runner up. I got tickets behind home plate and my name announced by legendary sportscaster Dick Enberg on the radio and my name in the Long Beach newspaper that sponsored the contest.  Dad took us probably to 30 or more games that year and I fell in love with the game.

Back in those days teams still had photo days where players would be available on the field for pictures and autographs and on autograph day in 1970 my dad took my brother and I onto a major league ball field for the first time and I was in awe.  The warning track was a red clay and the field was lush green as I looked back in toward home plate I wondered what it would be like to play in such a place.  From that season on the game had a hold on me. Dad and I did not have much in common, my brother I think is actually more like him than me but Dad taught me about the game at the stadium and in our back yard and gave me a gift that connected him to me more than anything else, something that I didn;t realize until much later in life.  I looked at that stadium on television and I saw the field, the main part of the stadium is still so much like it was when dad took us there and as I looked at it and remembered him I was in tears, I had a hard time keeping my emotions in, kind of embarrassing to be in tears at a bar during a baseball game but I was doing my best to hold it in.  Judy told me that I probably needed to talk to Elmer the Shrink about this but he is out of town until next week.  So I’ll wait, everyone deserves time off.

While we were still there and I was working on my second Kölsch style sömmerbrau a friend came up to me. He was a bit lit up having consumed his fair share and maybe more for the night but God used him and in his own way to bring comfort to me in what appeared rather earthy and even ludicrous manner but when he was said and done I felt better.  I think that he will need to serve as a model for some character in the Meeting Jesus and the Team series, I have no idea which figure from the Bible or Church history just yet but I will look around because what he said even though a tad under the influence of decidedly good beer was profound.  God does use people in strange and mysterious ways.

So I will continue I am sure to have emotional surges whenever something reminds me of my dad and I guess in the long run that is a good thing as my friend said it would make me better at what I do, I have now experienced the loss of my dad and am that much closer to the time that I will pass away, a generation has been removed between me and the end of my earthly life. This is something that so many people that I know already deal with.  It allows me to be connected to them in a way that just a few weeks back that I could not be.  It makes me a bit more human and more connected.

Dad, the Boss and the All-Star game at Anaheim Stadium, it is amazing what this concoction of images, memories and feelings can turn me into, a blubbering girl, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, faith, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, Religion, sports and life

Offensively Offending the Chronically Offended

bloom_offensensitivity

We live in a country that has transformed itself into one of the thinnest skinned, easily offended and offendable bunch of folks in the world.  It doesn’t seem to matter what political affiliation, religion, race, gender, socio-economic group or Dodger’s fan a person is now days they are bound to be offended at something.  However, we now seem to live where almost everyone is offended at something and it matters not a whit what it may be, hell I even offend myself sometimes.  There are some people who almost seem to live with a chip on their shoulder.  They are the chronically offended who are quite often easily offensively offended. While most of the time trying not to give offense I have been known to offend the chronically offended, the merely offendable, and even the totally unaware with twisted or sarcastic comments and oddball humor which Judy tells me is not always as funny as I think it is.  Nonetheless there are patently many people who are both chronically offended and very angry. I am assured by the Deity Herself that such is not a good and virtuous combination.  Especially on those occasions when I am one of the guilty parties questioning the parentage and Oedipal tendencies of the idiots who move across four lanes of traffic without signaling on I-264.  At times I wish this was Iraq in 2007 so my turret gunner or RP2 Lebron could shoot them.  Thankfully my newly honed skills using the force that I developed in Iraq, which I am told is actually hyper vigilance, does allow me to sense and avoid these Kamikazes before I even see them.

I remember once when I was a civilian hospital chaplain and stopped by a grocery store to pick up some food to take to work.  An older gentleman was going toward the sliding automated door and out of simple politeness I said “Sir, please, after you.”  Hell, the way I walk, which is as those who see me rapidly racing down the long halls of our medical center without breaking into a jog can testify is pretty fast, it was a safety thing too.  I could have run the gentleman down had I not stopped to let him through first.  That would not have been cool.  I could have seen the newspaper headline in that town:

LOCAL HOSPITAL AND ARMY RESERVE CHAPLAIN SLAMS ELDERLY MAN TO GROUND TRYING TO BEAT HIM THROUGH KROGER DOOR

That would not have been good.  The man, instead of smiling and thanking me stops in front of the door, turns around and says: “Why are you calling me sir? Why are you disrespecting me?” He said it very loud, very sharply and I was wondering what the hell was going on.  So I kind of defused the situation by using humor.  I said, “Sir, I call everybody sir, even ma’ams.”   The man cocked his head, gave me the most confused look that I could imagine shook his head and went through the door.  I didn’t know that being polite and respectful could be taken as offensive and disrespectful.  Maybe when some young guy does that to me someday I will understand.  Of course only after whack him with my tazer from my motorized scooter because I think he is being disrespectful and watch him writhing in pain and twitching all over the place.

I knew a young Chaplain who was spouting off in a public forum once in a manner that did not offend me, but which I thought if certain other people read it could affect him and his career in a negative manner.  This is no one that I have worked with past or present, only someone that I happen to know in passing.  I was concerned for the young man, so I contacted him just to let him know to be careful.  I was surprised at the venom with which he reacted to my comment which was only meant to help keep him out of potential trouble.  No good deed goes unpunished.  Maybe he will go to a self-help course, but then again, selves are very difficult to help.

Now I think everyone at some time has been offended by something or someone.  Crap we are human; we can’t help but be, though I do find the Romulan that resides in me very appealing.  However, to live my life is a perpetual state of offendedness is something that I refuse to do, even though I both give and take offense probably every day, especially during the morning or afternoon commute.  Hell, judging by the number of people I have lost as friends on Facebook after I have written articles on this site I know I give offense, even when I don’t mean to.  Mea Culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa, pray for me a sinner.

Our offendedness is not helped by the litigious nature of our society where lawsuits are as common as business suits.  Someone gets offended and someone sues them.  Then someone else gets offended and sues and pretty soon Anne Coulter and Keith Olberman are mud wrestling on Larry King Live, while the ladies on The View come to fisticuffs. Pretty soon offensensitivity reigns and it is like half the country are Frank and Estelle Costanza.  What is bad about this is that people are now so spun up by the loudest and most shrill accusatory voices in the media and society that it is hard to turn off.  Politics especially has become venom filled and hatred driven.  A lot of our electorate is now so polarized and offended by anything anyone else says that there is almost a civil war going on.  Albeit this is a without weapons marching armies and crashing cannon, but instead one waged with great energy on the airwaves and the internet. There is occasional talk of secession or armed revolt by one side or the other depending on who’s in power.  Politicians and political parties are no longer opponents, they are mortal enemies. Often times interest groups within the various parties opt for a no-quarter approach to how they do business to advance their cause and push their parties further to the extreme.  Caricatures and sound bites suffice for truth for many people regardless of them being on the left or right wing of the body politic.  It is true at least as far as practice that the extremists in both major parties have more in common with each other than they do the middle where traditionally most Americans live.

Thus with a highly divided, hypersensitive and easily offended populace we are heading for big trouble unless people stop taking themselves so seriously and get about with finding a way to cooperate and make things work.  I know that is important to remain principled, but there is also a duty to be civil and respectful even when critical of a person’s position or presentation.

I was reminded of this fact recently when I criticized a pastor’s non-theological remarks on this site.  My criticism was unduly harsh and cynical in tone.  When this was pointed out I modified the article to make the same point without purposely sky lining the individual in what could be seen in a disrespectful, uncharitable and even un-Christian fashion.  I may be a passionate moderate but it is important for me to keep a sense of decorum in what otherwise could be an unseemly brawl.  The criticism of how I handled the initial post was valid and sometimes I have to tell myself that restraint, respect and civility is a virtue, even if I think I am right.  So please don’t take offense if you deem me offensive or if I have offended the chronically offendable. After all, restraint, respect and civility are one the one thing that separates us from the Cable News Media, prickly pundits and Talk Show Hosts.

mass dandilion break

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: A friend sent me an e-mail which made a point that I want to ensure that my readers understand.  He reminded me that people “would really discern the difference between having a “bad day” response to a situation and those who, perpetuate the historical hatred both past and present of our nation….And then attempt to minimize actions/responses through humor or referring to others as “hypersensitive….this article missed the mark and seemingly inferred …a mocking of responses toward inequality and hatred.”

Of course I assured him that in no way was I at all minimize such actions or refer to those who have been the target of hatred, injustice and discrimination as “hyper-sensitive”  or mock actual repsonses to inequity and hatred, regardless of who it is directed toward.  That is something that I could never do.  The post is a more humorous look at how divided our country has become and how in our dividedness everything is now offensive to someone. Peace, Steve+

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Benjamin Sisko, Star Trek Deep Space Nine and the Less than Sexy Command of Military Bases

Note: I write this after Judy and I did something that we never normally do…no not that, whatever that is in your dirty minds.  For us this was to watch a movie in a theater a second time.  We did this tonight.  We went and saw the Star Trek movie again and enjoyed it as much as the first time.  As I thought about us seeing it this afternoon I was writing on another topic, but it was much too involved for my brain at this moment in time.  So I saved it and went back to Star Trek.  This is the first in a series about Star Trek Captains and deals with the only Captain on a Star Trek series who is not Captain of a Star Ship, but rather a Star Base. In this case, Captain Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine.  In some ways I dedicate this to those fine officers who do not get the commands at sea, or if they are in the Army or Marines those who command bases or garrisons rather than maneuver units.  I dedicate this particular post to Colonel Tom Allmon, US Army Retired who I served with at Fort Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania and who later commanded Fort Meyer Virginia.  This will be a first of a series that will appear periodically dealing with characters from the various Star Trek series and films and work them into what commanders and staff officers in the U.S. Military deal with on a daily basis.

“There is more to baseball than physical strength. It’s, uh… it’s about courage; and it’s also about faith; and it is also about heart. And if there’s one thing our Vulcan friends lack, it’s heart.” Captain Benjamin Sisko

Odo_ejecting_SiskoSisko being thrown from the game against the Vulcan Logicians

Star Trek Commanding Officers are interesting to compare and contrast and usually have a lot to do with how each Star Trek series was received.  I know a lot of people who like Captain Kirk over Captain Picard or Picard over Kirk.  There are those who prefer Kathryn Janeway to any of the men.  Of course all of these were the Captains of Federation starships.  Like any naval service it is the Captains of warships that have the “sexy” jobs.  Commanding officers of service vessels, auxiliaries or bases tend not to be the commanders who are being groomed for Flag rank.  The newer and more powerful the vessel is, the more likely that the skipper is being groomed for a higher level command.    This is true in any Navy and is certainly true in the world of Star Trek.  Thus we have the unusual situation for a us to deal with and perhaps the reason that some people do not care for Deep Space Nine as much as for the series involving Starships as the setting for the show.  Captain Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine doesn’t command a ship. In fact he is the survivor of the USS Saratoga, a ship lost when the Federation fleet was decimated by the Borg at Wolf 359 in which his wife is killed in action.

Having served at sea and ashore I can say that the divide between commanders of warships and those of bases is deep.  This is not a pejorative statement at all, but a recognition that the services tend to weigh command of a warship higher than that of a base.  Both situations require men and women of certain temperament and ability.  Good commanders can function and adapt anywhere but may because of the needs of the service find themselves in assignments that are less glamorous and maybe even less desirable from a career point of view.  Such is the case with Benjamin Sisko.  He is sent to an important but remote base with a small Federation staff off the planet Bejor which recently gained its independence from the Cardassian Empire.  The space station had previously been a Cardassian station.

Sisko’s assignment like that of any overseas base commander is an interesting weave of station commander, quasi-ambassador to the Bejoran government, small town mayor and overseer of security in the sector which becomes much more important with the discovery of a “worm hole” in space nearby.  In the process he must deal with the ever present Cardassians who through Gul Dukat the former station commander continually attempt to re-assert their dominance and authority over both the station a Bajor.  As the series moves along he is forced more onto a war footing as a race from a sector of the galaxy connected through the worm hole attempts to invade the sector which Deep Space Nine serves as the outpost and tripwire.

All through this Sisco must deal with a multiplicity of problems, not unlike commanders of US Naval bases in sensitive and potentially volatile regions do on a daily basis today.  Sisko must deal with the unique history, culture and religion of the Bajorans.  Likewise he has to deal with the divides between moderate and fundamentalists in the Bajoran religion. He also must deal with tensions between the religious Bajorans and Bejoran secularists all the while trying to heal the scars of the Cardassian occupation, physical, physiological and spiritual to the people of Bajor.

As if this were not enough he has a host of potential problems on his station.  The station has a strong presence of people who in today’s parlance would be called Third Country Nationals, or TCNs.  These individuals and their families run shops, bars and restaurants on the station, sometimes within not quite within the margins of legality, in particular the Bartender Quark and tailor Garak.  Captain Sisko deals with all of this in addition to normal issues that any commander would face dealing with his own personnel, operations and logistics functions.  While he is the base commander he has a Bajoran as his deputy and Bajoran personnel throughout the station who have to work with Starfleet personnel.

It would similar situation to that faced by US commanders of bases in the Middle East who have to deal with very similar issues today.  That is what makes Sisko for me such an interesting character.  His job is not the wide ranging, high visibility “sexy” star ship Captain assignment.  This as well as the more dark underlying tone of the show makes it more of a mystery.  Sisko, who brings with him a love of Jazz, New Orleans cuisine and baseball is an interesting character, if nothing else from my perspective the subject of baseball.   He introduces baseball to the station, even forming a team which plays the Vulcans who are surprisingly good ballplayers.  It could be that baseball is a game that the analytical Vulcans would find an affinity.  Baseball is filled with intricate nuances and statistical probabilities that would numb the mind of a Klingon, who are most likely Football fans, but which are the delight of Vulcans.  If the Romulans were to take up the game they would probably play it with a harder edge and more emotion than the Vulcans but would appreciate the logic of the game.  Even still Benjamin Sisko and the ever present baseball on his desk are something that I appreciate.

The commanders of bases on the edge of empire that Sisko represents and the complexities of their commands are seldom recognized.  Their jobs are not sexy, and most do not get picked to be Flag or General Officers.  Those picks generally are reserved for those who command at sea or command maneuver units or if in the Air Force those who command Fighter or Bomber Wings.  The men and women who command bases both in the United States and overseas fill an important role. While not glamorous they are the people that tend to be the face of the United States military and government wherever they are stationed.  When they do their jobs well they go unnoticed, because what they do is not sexy.  At the same time if they screw up it can be damaging for the country if overseas, or for the services if in the United States.

God bless all the Tom Allmon’s and Benjamin Sisko’s who deal with complex situations often in obscurity who through their patience, diplomacy and people skills care for their people, accomplish the mission and balance all within the confines of dealing with local communities and political nuances that most people cannot fathom.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, philosophy, Religion, star trek

Going Nuclear….Kim Jung Il, Carlos Zambrano and Padre Steve get Sporty

This week we witnessed a couple of big explosions, that of a nuclear test conducted by North Korea and one at Wrigley Field conducted by Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano.  Both were pretty sporty.  However, there the difference is more than one being the test of a weapon of mass destruction and the other an emotional response after a close play at home.   One was a deliberate premeditated act and the other in some sense a “crime of passion.”  They are very different types of acts.

North Korea under the despotic Kim Jung Il decided to give the big fat flying middle finger to the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.  It is interesting that even the Russians and Chinese seem kind of pissed about what the boy named Kim did.  Kim now known as the “Great Leader” having been promoted from simply the “Dear Leader” is kind of wacky but in a dangerous sort of way.  The surly North Koreans then decided that they no longer considered the 1954 armistice valid.  This of course raised the pucker factor on the Korean peninsula and Japan.  Nukes are serious stuff, ask the Japanese.  I remember back in 2002 when my ship, the USS Hue City was deployed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom the Indians and Pakistanis came perilously close to a nuclear confrontation.  We were in between the Indian and Pakistani fleets and their patrol aircraft buzzed us frequently.  It was as my Captain said “A bit sporty.”   Back in my days as a Company XO and Company Commander in Cold War Germany we waited for the day that the Russian would come across the Fulda Gap.  While there I was trained as a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Defense Officer.  The training was kind of cool.  We got to learn how much radiation, measured in “Rads” that we could take and live.  We learned about blast effects, fallout patterns and decoding EAM’s.  The really cool yet scary thing was that the 1:50,000 maps we used to plot the fallout patterns showed our housing areas.  It really brought home that this was not a game.  When the nuclear plant at Chernobyl had its little meltdown the radiation cloud actually went over where we lived.  I think this is why some people refer to me having a “glowing” personality.  So what the nutty North Koreans have done is kind of serious.  Of course they do crazy stuff all the time, but this appears to be their first successful nuke test and significantly raises the stakes.  Of course I want this to pass as it is baseball season and for the first time I have season tickets.  I don’t want a huge war to screw this up.  Of course I want it to not happen at all, but if it does I would prefer it to wait until after the baseball season is over.

Speaking of baseball, Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano was suspended for six games following this meltdown.

http://cubs.fandome.com/video/112492/Carlos-Zambrano-Tantrum-May-27-2009/

Now I will not cast stones at Zambrano.  He plays with passionate fire and really strives for excellence. I have seen him pitch and he is amazing.  I love to watch him and only wished that he pitched for the Giants.  I have a passion for what I do and want to be the best at that I can.  Like Zambrano I have had similar meltdowns when I have felt like I was getting screwed, be it by an umpire or someone else.  I have been tossed from church softball games, pulled aside by coaches and when I watch Zambrano doing his thing I want to hide because I have done this before…well I didn’t take a bat to a Gatorade cooler, but had we had one I might have.  I have thrown things, kicked dirt on umpires and got in people’s faces.  As noted in a previous post when I was in the Army I got thrown out of the officer advanced course and did not help myself by having a Zambrano like meltdown in the process.  I was so lucky to have Chaplain Rich Whaley save me on several occasions both when I got thrown out and when I was the assistance course leader of my Chaplain Officer Basic Course.  With my PTSD I had a number of meltdowns at the tail end of my Iraq tour, before I knew I was whacked out, and have had my moments since I came home.

Now to be fair to me, I am not proud of those kind of outbursts. I usually feel worse afterward because I don’t like being out of control.  I like to control my emotions and stay calm.  I am like a Romulan in that aspect.  I try to keep myself in perfect control but can blow it big, unlike my Vulcan cousins.  I have been fortunate.  First I had people who helped ensure that I did not destroy my Army career.  Likewise, I have had a number of people in my life since I have come back from Iraq help me learn to manage this.  In fact I was able to step back from the brink at one Chaplain Conference where I thought the main presenter had ambushed me and violated essential facets of how cases are presented. I discussed the matter with my colleagues and run a plan by my Department Head on how to publicly address the situation, get my point across and not look like an ass in doing so.  It was like doing a “brush back” pitch rather than a “bean ball.”  I was controlled and afterward got out before I could do anything stupid while department head smoothed ruffled feathers.  The audience was pretty much in a state of shock when I did this, many in sat in silence as I finished and a number of my colleagues who felt the same way as I applauded when I finished.  I left the room and a colleague came out with me and walked with me for a while to make sure that I was okay.  I avoided going nuclear.  I didn’t get tossed this time.  It was a victory.  At the same time I know that when I start playing softball or old man baseball again I will get fired up, and probably like Zambrano tossed out.  If I go into coaching I will probably have arguments with the umpires and hopefully they will not be like this classic Minor League blow up…talk about nukes.  This one is for the ages:

http://www.fandome.com/video/102293/Mississippi-Braves-Manager-Goes-Crazy/

Anyway, I do thank the Deity Herself from keeping me safe from my own tirades and am glad for all those who help me stay in the game and keep my head now.  Because of them and others who have both helped and protected me in the past I hope to be able to mentor and teach others.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Foreign Policy, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, PTSD