Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday News & Notes: 49 Days to Football

Army's season kicks off the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend.

I don't know what the rest of football nation is doing, but it ought to be fun to see how Coach Monken's squad starts coming together after a full year in the system.  Here's hoping!

A photo posted by Army West Point Athletics (@goarmywestpoint) on

My daughter asked, "Why is there a moose?"

This is one of those things that confuses outsiders.  The Corps of Cadets is a brigade.  It has four regiments, each of which has three battalions, which in turn have three companies.  Company (and to a lesser extent Regimental) identity is one of the most important aspects of cadet life.  Each company has its own Army officer (usually a captain) serving as Tactical Officer, its own Cadet Commander and First Sergeant, and its own unique identity and culture.  Many have their own mascots as well, which is why there's a moose in the picture above.  The moose represents Company I-2 (Go Moose!).

At Army home games, there is usually some kind of mascot competition--a race or something like that.  These are full-contact affairs conducted by hyper-competitive young men and women who are perfectly willing to crunch and maim each other in front of a crowd of thousands for the honor of their companies.  It used to be that cadets spent all four years in the same company, which was great because it built a true sense of company loyalty, community, and identity in each of the 36 seperate companies.  They were each unique.  That policy was changed in the 90s, though, to foster a more uniform cadet experience across the entire brigade.  These days, cadets are "scrambled" from one company to the next after their first two years, which has made all of the companies--and indeed, all of the regiments--more or less the same.

If you're wondering, I was in Company E-4 and then Company E-1.  When I got there, E-4 had the motto, "Get drunk, see visions, go naked!"  This was clearly too politically incorrect for the Army of the Clinton years and was changed, initially to "Go Elephants!"  But "Go Elephants!" was too much like a serious motto for the traditionally hard-partying men and women of E-4, and my yearling year it was changed again to "Go Elvis!"  West-Point.Org lists the current motto as "Elvis Lives!", so at least some part of E-4's semi-serious, hard-partying past continues to live on even to this day.

By comparison, E-1 is now and always has been the Vikings.  Go Vikes!  My friend Matt and I started a company newspaper second semester of our cow year called, "The Viking Yellow Press," which we had the company's plebes put up in the urinal stalls on a semi-weekly basis.  We kept it going--with some regularity--for the next eighteen months, but I would be truly surprised to hear that it outlived our graduation.

For what it's worth, I really, really wish that I had called this blog "The Viking Yellow Press" back when I started it, but that didn't occur to me until late last year.  I suppose it's not too late, but I think brand confusion would be a serious impediment considering how long the blog has been a thing now.

For those not in the know, Chris Froome is an African cyclist racing for Team Sky.  He won the Tour de France two years ago and holds the yellow jersey now with what looks to be a commanding lead in the overall competition.

A photo posted by Army West Point Athletics (@goarmywestpoint) on

Not sure yet what I think about the nuclear deal with Iran.  On the one hand, I want to believe that wars end, that animosities are not always eternal, that we can move past our differences after enough time has passed and finally find common ground.  The alternative--that peace is an illusion and all wars eternal--is too horrible to contemplate.  Is it truly Unconditional Surrender or we just keep fighting forever?  If it is, then we've defined our aims incorrectly and badly over-estimated our capabilities.

Against that, though, is the reality that Iran is a nation with powerful regional ambitions that has shown a willingness to exploit the faith of its people--and its neighbors' peoples--in the basest ways for short-term regional and political gains.  In such an environment, nuclear weapons are the least important tool in the toolkit.  What Iran really needs is money.  Money to grow its economy and gets its people jobs, money to continue building out its state-sponsored mechanisms for interference in the internal politics of its neighbors.

This deal gives them access to that money.

I also worry that inspections won't be thorough, that the West is so eager for peace that its leaders won't have the will to do what they must if the regime cheats its obligations.

So.  Either this is a breakthrough in regional relations that will jumpstart the world economy by universally lowering energy prices, or it's the first step down a slippery slope that leads to Total War between Iran and Saudi Arabia, a war that will eventually lead to the irradiated destruction of the entire Middle East.  It may well be a chance worth taking, but in the words of Ronald Reagan, "Trust but verify."

 That's all I've got.  Happy Saturday!

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