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A New Year’s End of a Career and a Resolve to Speak the Truth and Fight the Enemies of America’s yet Unfulfilled Ideal of a New Birth of Freedom




Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Marcus Aurelius wrote, “If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”

But before I say anything else I just want to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to read, comment and even share what I write. That matters to me and a good number of you have followed my writings for years. So I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart, and if you like what you see please comment and share with others.

As I get older I realize how valuable time is. There are few commodities that truly cannot be replaced or conserved, time is one that is always fleeting. As Dr. Suess said:

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

That being said I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, in fact I generally don’t make any because frankly I think that most are a waste of time. However, I do not think that the pursuit of truth is a waste, and as Benjamin Disraeli noted so wisely; “Time is precious, but truth is more precious than time.”

This New Year has driven that home as I experienced and am still experience various medical and dental situations that disrupted my retirement preparation. At 11:59 and 59 seconds my 39 year, 4 month and 6 day military career comes to a close. Judy and I will toast in the new year with a French Rose sparkling wine rather than a Champagne. Likewise I will follow that up with a dram of 18 year old Glenfiddich Scotch Single Malt. Retirement after a career such as mine should be savored and what better way with a dram of than beautiful nectar of the Scottish Highlands, but I digress…

But before I go on I have to say that I count my blessings even in the midst of one of the most disastrous years in recent world history. While I completely expected soon to be ex-President Trump and his Cult to try to destroy the country and Constitution to attempt to keep him in power. That being said, I think that I might have underestimated their continued attempts to overthrow the humiliating election loss that Trump experienced. However, he and they are pathological in their underhanded, unconstitutional, disingenuous, and treasonous attempts to overthrow our system of government and replace it with an authoritarian and theocratic dictatorship as the country goes through its greatest crisis since the Great Depression and the 1918 Great Influenza Pandemic.

These damned people are sociopaths. During the Coronavirus-19 Pandemic have done all they can to increase the infections and death count, and they don’t care. As of tonight a minimum of over 350,000 Americans have died from this virus. Over TWENTY-MILION Americans have been infected. Many of those no longer infected still are afflicted with the conditions that COVID-19 brought on. Likewise there are nearly Eight Million open cases with a new mutation that spreads significantly faster than the original now spreading in the United States, which ensures that more deaths will occur because even if it is not more deadly, more people get infected and thus more people die.

To that end, being retired from the Navy and military gives one a certain amount of latitude than being on active duty. So this year the batteries are unleashed and I will be able to speak the truth without fear of retribution. I get to be a whistleblower, activist, and spokesperson for those under attack because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, lack thereof or anything else. I get to be an unabashed defender of civil rights and speaking openly for the truth. Damn, I am happy to have that freedom.

So as I did last year and in previous years I am going to endeavor this year to commit myself to continue to seek truth and to speak truth, wherever that takes me. Truth matters to me. In my life I have seen so many lies, especially by political and religious leaders that I trusted that I now devote myself to the pursuit of truth. As Captain Jean Luc Picard told the young Cadet Wesley Crusher in Star Trek the Next Generation episode The First Duty: “the first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth, historical truth or personnel truth…” 

So, I will continue to write, especially about historical subjects that have an impact today: civil rights and social justice, faith, military issues, PTSD and military health issues, the Middle East conflicts and a number of other topics. Of course I will write about baseball, which is often my refuge when things are too much for me and music. I will write about Bayern München Fußball. The German Bundesliga, the European Champions League and International Football including the World Cup and Olympics. 

I will continue to be as transparent as I can about my own struggles with PTSD, Moral Injury and faith in the hopes that my journey will help others who struggle like me. In fact this was a major reason that I started this site back in February of 2009.

Expect me to continue writing about the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War. Likewise expect me to deal with  I have a feeling that that is going to become a life work. The American Civil War is so pertinent to who and what we are as a nation and the more I study it, the people, the issues and the ideologies involved I see many parallels with today; some of which are positively frightening. So expect a lot more about these subjects. In fact the Civil War is one in which debunked myths still hold sway over many, especially among the defenders of the Lost Cause who predominate the Christian Right.

I really do look forward to the publication of my book “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!” Racism, Religion, Ideology and Politics in the Civil War Era and their Continued Importance” by Potomac Books, a division of University of Nebraska Press.

In addition to that I expect to be going back to some of my older research and writing about the social, religious, political, and ideological dynamics of Weimar and Nazi Germany and how similar that are to some things going on now in our own country. I have the outline of a draft book “Walk, Remember, Bear Witness:” Ensuring the Holocaust is Remembered as the Surviving Witnesses Pass Away.”

I will also speak out against racial and religious discrimination, for the rights of African Americans, Hispanics, immigrants, the LGBTQ community and others who have been persecuted and marginalized by White Supremacists and theocratic Christians during the reign of the Donald Trump and his criminal cabal. These sons of itches want to twist the Constitution’s guarantees of religious liberty for all to support their discrimination in civil law against those who do not agree with them. I will fight them with wholehearted vigor without the restraints I had on active duty. Even this week I had one of these theocratic Trump cultists attack me in my comments section. After his second attack I put him on notice because I know who he is, where he lives, what he tweets and much more. These SOBs are so damned arrogant and stupid. Frankly they are lucky that God has much more forgiveness and grace than I do, otherwise I would gather my own band of paramilitary basterds and start taking scalps and carving Swastikas on their foreheads. 

Many of the theocrats and White Nationalists use the mantra of “cancel culture” to define their grievance. But that is a lie. What they want to perpetuate is a While lies are dangerous the myths can be more so, and the proliferation of lies, half-truths and myth have shriveled the brain cells of those who enjoy the comfort of opinion without the benefit of thought. President John F. Kennedy spoke of this in 1962, and his words are timely, especially when hordes of preachers, pundits and politicians, the Trinity of Evil, do this with abandon:

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” 

To do this I have to constantly challenge my own thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. So with that resolution I wish you a good day and a Happy New Year. Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting, and encouraging me.

I wish you all a happy and blessed New Year. I pray that you will remain safe and take all protections against COVID-19 for your sake and that of your families and loved ones.

That being said there can be no time off, there can be no stop to the fight because  our opponents will not stop their attacks on our Republic, Constitution, or the ideals that prompted our founders to write these words in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

In November of 1863 Abraham Lincoln appealed to the Preamble of the United States Constitution in his Gettysburg Address:

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Can I hear those New Year’s Amens? I hope so.

Until tomorrow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under anti-semitism, authoritarian government, civil rights, Coronavirus 19 Pandemic, COVID19, faith, History, holocaust, laws and legislation, leadership, ministry, Pastoral Care, Political Commentary, PTSD, racism, Religion

Living in the National Security State

Patriot-Act-HR-3162

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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Filed under Just for fun, Loose thoughts and musings, star trek

Star Trek, God and Me 1966 to 2009

star-trek tos castThe Original Series Crew

I grew up with Star Trek.  I remember as a kid when the original series was still on NBC and when it went into syndication I tried to watch it whenever it was on, or whenever I could get control of the television.  There was something that captured my imagination, a glimpse of a positive future, possibility and adventure.  Since I have always been seeking new frontiers, note my career in the military, Star Trek, the Original Series was an inspiration.  Kirk, Spock, Scottie, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Nurse Chapel became part of my life.  When not watching it I was reading Star Trek novels, something that I countinued with the Next Generation. I was fascinated by the Klingons and Romulans, the though of other planets with other intelligent beings was something that did not frighten me, or casue me to question my Christian faith.  Since I have always believed in a very big God, the fact that God did not have to be limited to just dealing with humans seemed, as Spock would put it “logical.”

No I know that some people could be offended by this, or could give me some flak for what I just said.  But I see no reason why God couldn’t be working in all of the gazillion galaxies, solar systems, planets and maybe even parallel or alternate universes.  Why not?  What if there was a planet where there was no fall and the inhabitants didn’t screw it up?  I think it would be cool.  My God is big, in fact the Bible and the Christian tradition is pretty clear that God is like really super duper powerful and capable of handling a whole lot of stuff all at once.  In fact we like to call God omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and a bunch of other om’s.  Likewise, we believe that God is a creative God.  So why would we look out and see this vast universe and say: “Nope Clem, just us out here.”  So since I am backed up by the testimony of Scripture and Tradition about some of the attributes of God I think it is safe to say that God indeed could well be working elsewhere in the universe.  If I believe that God is who Scripture state him to be, then I have to at least give some thought to this possibility.  Can I positively say this is the case? No, but I can infer it from what the faith teaches me about God and by what science has revealed to us over the past couple of hundred years.  None  of this takes anything away from God working his plan of redemption through Christ with humanity.

star-trek uss enterpriseUSS Enterprise NCC 1701

Anyway that rabbit chased back into the woods, I continue.  I followed the Star Trek movies, with The Wrath of Khan and the Voyage Home being my favorites.  Not long after I learned to drive in high school a friend and I went to a Halloween party.  I had made me a Mr. Scott uniform and my friend was dressed as an alien.  After the party we headed home. We had just gotten on I-5 and I looked at him and said  “set course 010 Warp 8” and being young and dumb took my 1966 Buick LeSabre 400 with a twin barrel carburetor up to about 90 MPH.  I noticed a pair of headlights coming up behind me.  I slowed down for the Benjamin Holt Drive exit and exited the freeway where a stoplight was red.  Beside me pulled a CHP cruiser.  The trooper looked at us, me with my Star Trek uniform and my friend in his alien suit, laughed and waved.  I watched my speedometer like a hawk the rest of the way home and prayed that the trooper would not turn around to get me.  Later in Germany I was driving my first German “beater” a 1976 faded powder blue Ford Escort, to my base on a Saturday with Judy.  Ahead of us a Mercedes crept along.  Since we were on a two lane state highway going through the hills of the Saarland along the bank of the Nahe River there was no way to get around this guy.  I have never been patient when people clog the road by driving well below the posted speed limit, which in this case was 100 KM or 62 MPH.  My little car known as the “Blue Max” had its emergency flasher located on the center of the dashboard. It was a red button about an in round.  I looked at Judy and said “fire phasers.”  I reached down pushed the button of and on and in front of us the strangest thing happened.  There was a boom, a flash and the guy’s muffler and tail pipe dropped off.  I avoided the debris and he coasted to a halt alongside the road.  Judy and I both looked at each other with looks of shock and disbelief.  Yet it had happened.  I have tried this again on every other car that I have owned with no effect.  I guess phasers are not standard on this side of the Atlantic.

tng_crew_season3The Bext Generation Crew

When Star Trek, the Next Generation, or TNG came out in 1987 I was a young Army Captain getting ready to go to seminary the following year.   I fell in love with TNG and its cast.  In fact during my clinical pastoral education residency my supervisor was able to use analogies from the TNG characters, Lieutenant Worf and Lieutenant Commander Data to help me gain insights into what was going on in me.  I had a lot of affinity for both of these characters as someone who wrestled with where I fit and where was home.  Something I shared with these characters.  Likewise there were a couple of episodes dealing with Captain Picard entitled “Family” and “Tapestry” which actually woke me up to a couple of things in my life.  I think I can say that the Deity Herself used them to help me through that time when I was still sorting through my life, vocation and issues of home and heart. I thought that the character development in TNG was great and I still will watch TNG whenever I come across it or want to pull out one of my DVDs.  I liked the darkness of Deep Space Nine and the fact that baseball was a part of it.  I did not take as well to Voyager or Enterprise as my life was getting really busy with military deployments and operations.  As was the case I ended up collecting the entire TNG series on DVD.  I also have a jacket similar to the TNG jacket in Science/Medical Blue with the communicator badge and Lieutenant Commander colar insignia. I also have a very rare Starfleet Chaplain pin with a white Greek Cross on it.  This came out of one of the old TOS Technical Manuals dealing with rank and branches of Starfleet.

niners_pennantDeep Space Nine “Niners” Pennant

When I first saw the hints of the new movie a couple of years ago I wondered about it.  I wondered how they could pull of the feel of the original series. I heard friends rave about it and every review I read was sweet.  So since there were no ball games in the local area, though the Tides continued their winning was with a 13-2 victory in Columbus against the Clippers, we decided to go to dinner and a movie.  We headed over to Gordon Biersch and had a nice dinner with great beer and went to the theater a couple of blocks away.  The movie was great.  The cast, most of whom I had seen very little of in other roles, had the feel of the old cast.  Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Qunito (Spock), Karl Urban (McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty) had great chemistry.  The supporting cast worked well too.  I was simply blown away as they pulled this off and managed to do a “prequel” which worked.  As a side note, my undergraduate campus, California State University at Northridge served as Starfleet Academy.   All in all it was a very satisfying experience and the crowd applauded loudly as the final credits came up, preceded by Leonard Nimoy  doing a voice over as the Enterprise went by saying; “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life-forms and new civilizations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.”  This was followed by the theme music of the original series as the credits rolled out.  That was special.

So I guess I am a Trekkie, or Trekker, depending on which Star Trek sect I belong, but nonetheless, Star Trek has been, and will reamin part of my life.  Thanks Gene Roddenberry, and all who over the years have brought the Star Trek universe to us.

Live long, and prosper my friends.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, Religion, star trek