Sunday, December 23, 2007

Career Army Officer to Run Against Murtha!!!

Today’s post may be a little scatterbrained. I am a bit distracted by my attempts to keep tabs on a wild Eagles game. However, I just got the heads-up on a story that surely will go unnoticed by the mainstream media but is of great value nonetheless. I think this is a news story that fellow conservatives can (and should) really get behind.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to encourage you all to spread the name of William T. Russell. Mr. Russell is running for the House seat in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. This is the seat currently held by Democrat John Murtha. Murtha, despite being a former Marine himself, has delivered more rhetoric on behalf of our enemies abroad than nearly any other individual. Regardless of the service that Representative Murtha dedicated to America while in the Corps, the damage he has done while in Congress has been far more influential. I feel I need to digress no further on the damage that has been encouraged by Murtha save stating emphatically that he must be removed from power!!

And Mr. Russell seems to be a wonderful choice to replace him.

Russell is a career Army officer having served around the world and in the Pentagon. His tours of duty include time in Iraq. He understands the military of TODAY. Moreover, Mr. Russell’s website depicts a platform deep in conservative values: adherence to Adam Smith-inspired free-market values, implementation of the fair tax, dedication to the right to bare arms, willingness to give charity rather than welfare, etc.

Most importantly, however, one should keep in mind, again, that Russell is a modern Army officer. Representative Murtha served in the military of YESTERDAY. Murtha served in a military where commanders denied ground-truths to, instead, better serve the whims of individuals in Washington. And yet, amazingly, Murtha has developed into one of those very individuals in Washington trying to influence a war that has dynamics that Murtha continues to be ignorant. I sense that Mr. Russell will be a needed voice of change.

Pennsylvania’s 12th needs an individual like Bill Russell. And America’s troops abroad need the removal of Representative Murtha. Please spread the word! I think this is a cause worth supporting!

Here is an ARTICLE concerning Mr. Russell’s upcoming bid.
William T. Russell’s website HERE

Yesterday’s Educated Soldier post about the current standards of higher education accessible HERE.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Semester's Reflection

It has been a while since I have written here at Educated Soldier focusing on the sort of subject matter that follows. I know that many people that read here, do so because my situation in life allows me to provide a fresh glimpse on American academia that many have either missed or are far removed. So, today, I would like to reflect and talk a little about higher education (from the perspective and experiences of the minority – the conservative, war veteran student). If you are more interested in reading my current views on politics (which, of course, I love to discuss) please check out my two latest updates, accessible HERE and HERE.

I would encourage you to continue reading with an open mind. While reflecting upon the courses that I completed this past semester, I am also attempting to present questions for reader consumption. I would hope that these questions would be intriguing enough to stimulate broad, intelligent, and interesting discourse. PLEASE, feel free to comment at the conclusion.


First a self-congratulatory note: I received my grades from this past semester yesterday and was happy to see that I had received the full 4.0. So, to date, I have completed around 65 credit hours and have maintained a cumulative 3.8 GPA. I am proud of my collegiate success and genuinely enjoy all that it means to be a university student.


Besides a course in Arabic that I took during my freshman year, this past semester has had the most demanding classes. The most challenging was also the class that I found the most interesting, “Development of Religious Studies.” Because of budget constraints, the class was actually a combined graduate / undergraduate course. Both levels read the same texts; the graduate students simply had more demanding work requirements.

The dilemma that developed with this class: I tackled such a large selection of material that I left knowing too little about too much. The course was designed to introduce the budding religious studies scholar to the interdisciplinary dynamic of their chosen academic field. In an attempt to meet this objective, students were directed to read material from a wide arrange of contributors; from sociologists to anthropologists, from psychologists to phenomenologists, and so on. I read excerpts from many famous scholarly thinkers including Hume, Tylor, Spencer, Frazier, Freud, Jung, Berger, Otto, etc. However, with minor exceptions, I can no longer recite with confidence any of the particulars of the individual proposed theories. Instead, I left the class with this all-encompassing thought:

Everyone has a theory concerning what religion is, how it should be studied, where and how it developed, and what affect it has on society.

Despite the “fog” that remains from the depth of the class material, there are general principles presented by the scholars that warrant discussing. For example, I have found that the origin of religion is much more complex (and even more interesting) than one would first conclude. There is the suggestion, for example, that religion grew as a tool for man to use to manipulate nature. In this theory, religion replaced the shortcomings of magic. The end-result presented in this theory is that, eventually, science will replace religion as the only adequate tool in man’s desire to control / understand nature.

There are others that suggest that religion is a phenomenon that grew from the ancient totem worship. Totem worship, in turn, grew from the father-obsessions in patriarchal communities. Still others would describe religion in a wholly different manner. I do remember this: Berger described religion as the externalization of one’s inner self. Man needs “ultimate man” (my terminology, not Berger's) to endlessly strive after. So, in god, we have ultimate happiness, complete lack of sin; all the things that “regular” man cannot be in the presence of the omnipotent god (but could be, in fact, should the omnipotent god not exist as a measurement of the ideal).

And, of course, there are those like Hume. He - although a believer in a god himself - claimed that religion developed from early man’s fears. Man had to explain why he feared death and sickness and other not-apparently justified phenomena. Religion provided the explanations.

While I found interest and criticisms with all of the presented theories, I am in no position in my still early studies to make a conclusion with any sort of conviction. The origin of religion is something that will always be in debate. Perhaps, I will never be able to present a conclusion that I will be able to stand behind whole-heartedly. Are there any out there more candid in their theories? Please, direct your comments at the appropriate place below. I am genuinely interested in the available discourse.

It was in another religion class that I “learned” the most. “Introduction to Judaism” was offered as an upper-level course and was only an introduction in the sense that a completely Judaism-ignorant student could successfully tackle the course material. The workload, however, was that of an advanced religious studies major course (which it was). While Dr. Neusner has since left USF, I would encourage you to read about him HERE or HERE to see the legacy that he has left in the religious studies department here; especially in the field of Judaism. My professor for “Introduction” was, for better or worse, the young scholar following in the footsteps of the highly (and internationally) influential Dr. Neusner.

That Judaism-ignorant student described above was I prior to this semester. While far from an expert now, upon the conclusion of the class, I feel that I could enter a conversation concerning Judaism and at least listen with some level of comprehension. I gained the most knowledge from this class because I entered knowing so little about the subject matter. What’s interesting, however, is the question that was left to linger from the class:

What is the essence of Judaism?

The class was very thorough and, through directed readings, conversations, and lectures, we traveled through the many stages of the Jewish tradition. Study focused on the Israelites, the Temple eras, Exodus/Diaspora influences, post-Temple Rabbinic Judaism, Middle-Age Philosophical Judaism, Enlightenment Judaism, the effects of the Holocaust, the influence of Israel, and the modern traditions (Reconstruction, Orthodox, Conservative, etc). Because it is such a highly developed tradition, I again refer to the question above.

What is the essence of Judaism? And how would the different actors in Judaism answer this question? I am sure that the answer presented by Rashi would be vastly different than that suggested by Maimonides, both of whom would surely disagree with Mordecai Kaplan’s response. Is it about spiritualism? Is it about dedication to duty; the mitzvoth? How about common study of the Torah? It sure seems that the essence of Judaism is held at the level of the believer. This dynamic particular to Judaism (at least of the Abrahamic religions) is, perhaps, what I found most interesting this past semester.


Finally, I would like to discuss the most contentious of classes that I completed this past semester. As an international studies major at USF, a core class in our curriculum is “International Issues and Actors.” One can imagine the material covered in class: The influence of actors such as states (nations, countries), transnational corporations, non-government organizations, government organizations (think: the U.N.), et. al and the importance of issues such as world health, global poverty, international economics, etc.

What you probably could not imagine is how strongly my professor made the case for socialism throughout the semester. At one point, in fact, we were subjected to an hour-long video that told how badly capitalism has left the condition of third-world countries. Of course, the video skipped capitalism’s many successes: such as (among so much else) encouragement of growth, production, and research.

The professor, a scholar from Sierra Leone was off-the-wall. He was, more or less, a nice guy but he spent entirely too much time speaking “tongue-in-cheek” about the apocalyptic calamities confronting the world. “Tongue-in-cheek” with quotations because he was deadly serious. However, the professor recognized the level of absurdity in his beliefs and also realized that lecturing on such theories without doing so sarcastically would surely result in the termination of his tenure.

Worse, his mid-term exam contained such nuggets of importance as these questions: During the first six months following the invasion, Operation Iraqi Freedom had cost the U.S. how much? And: What is the name of President Bush’s foreign policy initiative in regards to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Which, I swear to you, the answer was “Wishful Thinking.”

At least international studies programs in America’s south aren’t pandering to the same left-wing biases as their counterparts at institutions in the north….

THE CONCLUSION (a.k.a. The REAL Value of a College Education)

Oddly, despite my objections to the professor’s personally held convictions, I still escaped the class with the highest grade of all students. I know this because he made it a point to post the grades after each test anonymously. The highest grade each time would be presented along with the number of people that received that grade. Each time, there was only one recipient for the highest grade. Each time, it was I.

Do I tell you this to gloat? Absolutely.

While I tend to gather a wealth of useful knowledge and intellectual stimulation from my religious studies classes, my international studies classes teach me a far greater skill: How to play the game.

Should I hope to be successful upon completion of collegiate studies I am sure that my proven ability to read those persons in positions to assess me and then perform adequately to their expectations will far overshadow my ability to describe Hume’s theories on religion.

That’s sort of sad.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Questioning the Motives of Roger Simon, et al.

Roger Simon, for those of you not aware, is the chief political columnist over at Politico. Typically, I head over to their site to read the work of Jonathan Martin. He updates multiple times a day concerning the latest developments on the Republican side of the Presidential race. You can access his work HERE.

However, it was Simon that caught my attention during my latest visit to Politico. On the front page of the site was another hit piece of his directed at Senator Fred Thompson.

Today, I would like to address characters like this Mr. Simon fellow. Individuals like Simon have a single criticism that they repeatedly express concerning our candidate of choice, Senator Thompson: He’s lazy.

And, I have a simple response: If true, so what?

What’s interesting is that none of the supporters of the other Republican candidates ever challenge Senator Thompson on any authentic, important, Presidential issues. Indeed, it would be reckless for Romney or Giuliani followers to question Thompson’s plan to fix the Social Security system because, quite frankly, their chosen candidates do not have plans of their own. Another example: Even Senator McCain, whom I generally approve of, fails to challenge Thompson on principle. Would Senator McCain like to battle over illegal immigration with Thompson with the conservative base at stake? I think not.

Time does not permit comparing conservative candidates soup to nuts, so allow me to summarize: Republican Steve King (Iowa) received a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union in its latest assessments. Congressman King endorsed Fred Thompson. Moreover, Senator Thompson, himself, maintained a near 90% lifetime rating from the ACU. Thompson is, unquestionably, the conservative choice.

Yet, failing to damage candidate Thompson on any sort of policy issues, critics like Simon continue to bring up this tried-and-failed connotation of “laziness” for the former Senator. Thompson has successfully overstepped this issue by citing a prolific career that seems to prohibit laziness by its very productive nature.

Yet, I will ask this concerning the deemed “laziness”: Are we attempting to elect the nation’s next best campaigner? Or, are we trying to find the individual best suited to be the next President?

Is a perceived “weak” campaign that effective of a criticism? It is not.

This is petty politics people. I beg of anyone that reads: Please do not permit the influence of individuals like pundit Simon to cloud the candidacy running less on showmanship and more on solid policy. Please keep in mind what’s really important when electing the next President of the United States.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Am I Taking Crazy Pills!?!?!

As the build-up to the Iowa caucuses develops and poll results become more closely scrutinized, one thing is becoming all too apparent: biases and “favorites” are quickly (and sadly) trumping rationality.

As I support this argument, I implore you to understand that I am doing my best to set my own affiliations aside. That is to say that while I wear my Republican association on my sleeve, I am also willing to concede that there are Democrats who would clear the filter that I am about to present; for example, Joe Biden.

Point being: petty politics of much too little value continue to hold too much significance in the context of the harsh environment that will confront whomever becomes our next president.

Unfortunately, while that sentiment seems all too plausible to me (and others), for some* (*many) the dangers of reality simply are not important enough to surpass the “significance” of political influence.

Allow me to put forth a premise that I believe should be perceived as true universally: the single most important issue in this upcoming election will be national security. All things considered, national security is the foundation in which all other issues develop. For example, the hot button topic of the recent debates has been illegal immigration. However, illegal immigration, at its core, is essentially a national security issue. At the topic’s fringes, it is an economic and moral issue. Even so, without sound national security, the most devastating of economic or moral conditions matter naught. Nothing will demand the attention of the next President with so much regularity as the continuous protection of the citizens that he governs. National security is the issue.

For the sake of argument (and, more importantly, because I genuinely believe that I am correct), let us hold this premise to be true. If candidates are more or less equal on all other issues, national security should be the delineating factor. At the very least, let us not support candidates whom express vast weaknesses in their national security abilities. It blows my mind that six years removed from September 11th, 2001 and the American people are rallying behind Presidential candidates such as Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama.

And let me state this forthright: the opposition to Huckabee and Obama is not the product of some long-steaming bias. For example, it is not the case with either of these candidates that I would suggest that I would forego my continued career in the military because of their hypothetical Presidencies. This is to suggest that, in short, neither of these two individuals is as bad for our country as Hillary Clinton. In fact, I will even go so far as to suggest that in a different time and environment either of these men could make for a fine President. Albeit, they would both be Presidents with traits (in one case socially and the other fiscally) that I disagree. But I imagine that in a world with far less prominent threats to America, these gentlemen could successfully lead the nation.

But not now.

Seriously, I spent nothing more than a couple years in the Middle East and South Korea and have studied international/religious affairs as an undergraduate. Yet, at 24 years old (yesterday) and wet behind the ears, I truly believe that I could hold my own in a debate against Mike Huckabee on foreign affairs. Senator Obama would probably fare better. “Better” in the sense that a Senator-turned-Presidential-candidate would only satisfactorily defeat a snotty kid in a debate focusing on the quintessential issue of the upcoming Presidency.

This is ridiculous.

And please, do not lob the “homer” title at me yet. I am not suggesting unequivocally that Fred Thompson is the strongest candidate on national security. In fact, if the measurement is international policy knowledge alone, I am sure that Duncan Hunter is the most qualified candidate. Of course, Senator McCain is also extremely strong on national security. And even from the Right, I must admit that there is merit to be given the man that is Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, (D) Joe Biden. And, surely, I do feel that Senator Thompson is also fully qualified. Any of these candidates could ably navigate America through the turbulent waters ahead. There is no proof absolutely to suggest the same optimism for Obama and Huckabee.

And, as an aside, I do not believe that successfully upholding a community and, yes, a nation following the worst terrorist attacks to be launched against out country necessarily makes one a strong defender of national security. Mayor Giuliani has been successful at turning his ability to crush Mafiosos and heal a city with rhetoric into some sort of amazing foreign affairs guru-type image. This immediate association that is so apparent to others escapes me.

Nonetheless, the “momentum” of national security juniors Huckabee and Obama builds. A voting bloc so ignorant to the enormity of the national security issue at hand has me screaming from the roof tops in confusion, “Am I taking crazy pills?!?!?!


To those that follow with any regularity, I am spending the holiday season in the D.C. area and am, in fact, staying on Capitol Hill currently and until the 27th. It is nice to have a change of the season’s weather for Christmas, and it is also nice to find a politically charged climate in which to engage in lively discussion.