Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day       
Today, May 30, 2011, is a day set aside to reflect and remember the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation of ours.  These men and women did not set out to do so, but through their courage we enjoy the freedom to live as Americans, bicker about our political differences, and protest whatever cause we feel needs to be defended or abolished.
So who were these hero’s?  Simple farmers who abandoned their plows for a year to serve with Washington and perhaps die at Valley Forge.  We should not forget the women who portrayed themselves as men so they too might serve the nation during the revolution serving with honor and courage.
Long silent now are Lee, Grant, and all the others from West Point, who served with General Winfield Scott during the war with Mexico in 1846.  Proving to the nation that a military school along the Hudson River could provide the future leaders of an American Army.
The great civil war took a generation from this country, but even today it shapes the dialogue of our nation.  In this struggle the nation fought itself for a variety of ideals, from the rights of the states to control the nation to the rights of all men to be free from slavery.  The men of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers lost two thirds of its officers and men in the assault on Fort Wagner in South Carolina.
The expansion westward in pursuit of our manifest destiny came at a steep price both for us, and the nations of the Indians we conquered.  The very same people who when the United States called for their help in World War II provided the most effective code encryption device known to that time.  The Navajo code talkers ( as part of the USMC island campaign in the Pacific were never broken by the Japanese or in any way compromised despite the racism of the day.
The ride up San Juan Hill made Theodore Roosevelt famous but clearly the battle was carried on the backs of the men 10th Cavalry Division the “Buffalo Soldiers” a segregated black unit in the Regular Army.
With the First World War, Americans learned to fight in the Air.  Eddie Rickenbacker was America’s leading ace, but he followed in the footsteps of Raoul Lufbery, Kiffin Rockwell, Bill Thaw and others who fought and died with the French in the Lafayette Escadrille.
From Pearl Harbor to the surrender on the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 the over 16 million American men and woman served this nation during the war.  Is it any wonder Tom Brokaw named them the “Greatest Generation?”  Sadly the inevitability of death is now overtaking them as even the youngest reaches his or her 80’s.
Korea and Vietnam unfortunately have their share of nameless hero’s who went forth when a nation asked and laid down their lives for their friends.

From Desert One, Urgent Fury, Just Cause, Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the list goes on and on.  It is hard to believe we have been at war for almost ten years now, with no end in sight.
Today we add to the list daily, it is a sad testament to the world we share that next year there will be more men and woman to remember.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


1. arrogant pride or presumption. 2. (in Greek tragedy) excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis. 
As I look back at today, and the groups claiming it would be the day of Rapture, this is the only word that comes to mind.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Direct and to the Point.

      In my line of work I review a lot of papers and briefings.  The primary purpose of these papers is to advocate for something, or to recommend a course of action.  Maybe it is just my style to cut through the issues to the heart of the matter but I see an increasing use of passive voice and big words that just obscure the writer’s intent.   
For example, we have a style for the papers that calls for a structure where you state the purpose of the paper, give the background of the issue, and then discusses the issue and finally make a recommendation.  Here is a typical example I see.
Purpose:  The purpose of this paper is to address the problems the contractor has found with the radar system, what has gone on to this point and how they think they will propose tentative solutions which would need the commander to consider before he is to approve.
I think the same information can be condensed to:
Purpose:  To provide the commander with an explanation of problems with the radar system and what the contractor intends to do to resolve them.
What is frustrating for me is my inability to convey the importance of clear, simple writing when you are trying to persuade someone.
Ah well, maybe it is my outgoing demeanor…  Perhaps I shouldn't start the critique with a question about how they got into college in the first place?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Are You Serious?

CBS News 
Just how much government is enough?  How invasive should government be and how much should the individual be ruled by the mob?  How about the constitutional rights guaranteed by the First Amendment?  Apparently these are questions the citizens of the independent city-state of San Francisco don't worry too much about. 

Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t

Sometimes there is a beautiful day, filled with life, waiting for you to wake up and experience all it has to offer.  Sometimes there isn’t.
Sometimes you meet someone who immediately becomes your friend, a kindred spirit alone and also looking.  Sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes you see things more clearly than those around you and become a guide for others.  Sometimes – not.
Sometimes life offers you success and fame, you are the person everyone wants to be.  Sometimes this is just an illusion.
Sometimes you are angry and don’t care why, you just want to vent and rage against the world.  Sometimes you shouldn’t.
Sometimes your problems overwhelm and you don’t know what to do.  Sometimes you should look beyond you.
Sometimes there is rain and the day is dreary and dark.  Sometimes there isn’t and life blossoms.
Sometimes there just is, sometimes there just isn’t.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I've Been Think'n

You know there has been a lot of talk about the Mayan calendar ending on December 21, 2012.  Some people believe all the planets will align pointing to the center of the Galaxy and the world will come to the end.  Here is my theory...

The Mayan's lived how long ago?  The calendar has to be at least 500 years old.  I think it was a government employee in the Calendar Department working on it.  One day his boss comes and says, "Where are you on that calendar project?" The dude says "I'm up to 2012, why?" The boss says "Well I'm not paying overtime, knock it off, we'll have time to finish it later..."

Next day they  show up and the royal advisor says "you guys have to knock out the human sacrifice invitations for the new kings next big event!"  Next thing you know the calendar gets shelved, the government runs up tremendous debt and the calendar department gets shut down!

And here we are 500 years later thinking the Mayans knew what was going on!

Just say'n

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


One of the things about being a part of a transitory organization like the military is everyone is either coming, or going.  They are just arriving and getting brought up to speed, or they are on the verge of leaving and transitioning to that next job.
By its very nature the military cannot be efficient and take full advantage of the human talent that is its core asset.  This is not necessarily bad as it means the organization has flexibility and its members learn to operate in uncertainty (a key element in conflict) and are able to adapt when necessary.  It is one of the key differences between the US Armed Forces and many of the militaries we must be prepared to fight. 
During the cold war, when the principle concern was the Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries they had a very regimented force, whose command and control was centralized.  This was the type of force the Iraqi’s had when we engaged it in Desert Storm.  That was why we spent the first couple of months bombing the command and control centers of Iraq before we let loose the ground forces.  Our leadership understood that if you could separate their centralized leadership from the main force we could sweep up the assembled parts much easier than if you had to engage a combined arms team.  That is, to a large part, why the ground war took 100 hours.
We are, in my job, in a time of transition where several of the Generals are leaving to be replaced by others who will have to learn their jobs while they attempt to lead the organization.   That uncertainty is creating stress for those who will remain behind and realize they will have to adapt their styles and approaches to the next leader.
As I look out at those that are coming into our little organization I am reminded of the Peter Principle, postulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book of the same name.  Simply put the principle states “in a hierarch every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence,” a position where they cannot work competently.  I have long believed the military takes this a step further based on our promotion system and people actually end up two levels above their last competent position.  I wonder if the transition will reinforce this belief or prove it wrong?

Sunday, May 15, 2011


If you are looking for music to relax to this is just the group you are looking for.

Peace Dividends

imgres.jpeg    After every modern war the US has engaged in, the Congress believed we could take the money we have been spending on defense and role it into social entitlement programs.  That is probably one of the reasons we have about 26.4 million people working in or for government in the US.  (
    So today’s question is:  Now that the administration has declared peace in Iraq, kicked out that war monger Mubarak from Egypt, turned over the bombing of Libya to NATO, cut the head off al Qaeda, and is promising to withdraw from Afghanistan, what “peace dividend” can we anticipate?  How much will the Department of Defense be reduced now that we live in a safer world?  What will we stop expecting of the military? And what will we spend money we don't have on?

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Rainbows always seem to lift my spirits.  It is amazing what the simple refraction of light in moisture can do for a person on a rainy day.

Keep your rainbows handy, because you never know when you will need them.

The Inevitable Release of Photos

Like a High School secret, the President is now inviting members of Congress to view the photos of OBL.  Now all the really cool kids will be privy to the secret and all the rest of the class will be left clamoring to be let in on it.
As my mom would say, “in for a for a penny, in for a pound.”  It now becomes inevitable the press will push harder and harder for release, those politicians who support release will continue to stir the pot, and those who’ve not seen the pictures will complain about their exclusion.
The only question now is when do President Obama’s advisors think they gain the biggest political bounce on the release.  The effect on the terrorist movement is probably not high on their list of considerations.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t

Sometimes there is a beautiful day, filled with life, waiting for you to wake up and experience all it has to offer.  Sometimes there isn’t.
Sometimes you meet someone who immediately becomes your friend, a kindred spirit alone and also looking.  Sometimes you don’t.
Sometimes you see things more clearly than those around you and become a guide for others.  Sometimes – not.
Sometimes life offers you success and fame, you are the person everyone wants to be.  Sometimes this is just an illusion.
Sometimes you are angry and don’t care why, you just want to vent and rage against the world.  Sometimes you shouldn’t.
Sometimes your problems overwhelm and you don’t know what to do.  Sometimes you should look beyond you.
Sometimes there is rain and the day is dreary and dark.  Sometimes there isn’t and life blossoms.
Sometimes there just is, sometimes there just isn’t.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I’d Rather be a Hammer

What is worse than being tied to a tree, covered in molasses, in the middle of the Monongahela National Forest?  I would say there are a lot of things worse than that, but at the time they didn’t come to mind.  But you know I don’t recall fear being one of the emotions I felt at the time.  Sometime during one of my last two years in college the pledges of my fraternity abducted me and left me in the above predicament.
In today’s world they would probably be in a great deal of trouble, but back then it was part of the game.  An hour or so to contemplate my fate and I was retrieved and returned to the campus.  No harm, no foul.  But I remain scarred from this experience.  To this day I do not like being covered in molasses and tied to trees in West Virginia.  
After that evening I really came to appreciate this Simon and Garfunkel song.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Smooth as silk, quiet as a church mouse, and slicker than a greased pig.  Our language is a remarkable thing.  The images we paint with similies and the analogies we conjure must be made based on common understandings.   Without that common thread between writer and reader they are just nonsensical words strung together.  I know I am not the first to have these thoughts and probably most of what I will jot down truly originated with some teacher, mentor, or friend, but I think perhaps I shall play with these ideas anyway.
In a post-graduate communication class, offered in the solid, fundamentally faith-based, bricked confines of Abilene Texas, I learned about the links critical for effective, or at times ineffective communication.  If the sender transmits a message and the receiver does not have the tools necessary to decipher it then no matter how much the sender and receiver interact communication cannot occur.  We see clear examples of this everyday.  A mother with a new infant, at that stage Mom is not expecting to be understood but uses her voice to sooth and pacify.  Soon though, there is an expectation at least at the simple No!   How about between a Dad and his teenage son?  I think Charles Schultz’s Charlie Brown TV shows really captures that dialogue.  “Wa-wa, wa-Wa, Wa-wa, wa-wa, car, keys, wa-wa!”  Dealing with the differences in language can always be a challenge.  Try going to Paris with only English as an option.  I don’t think you will get the rewarding and enriching impressions of the “City of Lights” you would be expecting.  Of course speaking louder is always helpful.
One of the wonderful things about the English and a trait that shows a clear separation from the French is how the two societies have chosen to use and govern their language.  The French have the L'Académie française, established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, its 40 members are the authoritative source for the correct use of the language. (émie_française).  The English have been much more “laisseza faire” in what is acceptable in the language.  Perhaps that is why America and Great Britain have been described as one people separated by a common language (Winston Churchill).  I think because of this singular difference English adapts and moves forward, while the French just sit there smug in their superiority.  English was the original Spanglish, taking words from wherever it needed it, bending them to suit the immediate need.   So what is my point?  Why do I ramble on about such an obvious thing?  Why am I asking so many questions?  Dude, ‘cause I can!
Actually I think we are at a crossroads in the evolution of our language and I fear I shall miss it when it is gone.  Much as schools are now starting to drop cursive writing as a requirement, the ability to spell, to structure a sentence into a complete thought, and use grammatical marks like: , ; “”.?! are all going by the wayside.  In fact waysides are going away too, or to, or two.  If you know me you would find my writing on this topic has to be viewed with deep irony.  In school I received D in English, Spanish, French (twice) and German.  I should be considered illiterate in four (or for) languages.
But as I move into my seventh decade, I’ve come to enjoy this language of mine.  I appreciate the ability to put into solid form those weird, but sometimes salient, thoughts swimming around the synapsis of my brain.  Thanks to spell check I can almost spell now.  Even though accusation will occasionally become acquisition or some such thing.
I hope that texting does not change the foundations I’ve come to depend on.  I hope hoe remains a hoe and does not become a whore.  I dread the day when bitch’n is universally understood as good, and I don’t want “my bad” to replace “my fault” as an apology, although I have had to adapt to be understood by the rest of the people I work with.
I would leave you with my blessing.  You get two choices
Option a:  May the firmer mints of heaven shine down on you, may the rising waters not overflow your levies, and may the dawn through yonder window brake on your fare continuance in the mourning.
Option b:  May heaven shine upon you, may the levees stand firm against the rising waters and may the morning sun shine brightly on your fair face.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Respect and Civility?

What does it take to bring these two terms into the political discourse?  That is my question for the day.  Over the past twenty-five years the rhetoric between the two mainstream political parties has become increasingly polarizing, fueled by media and the entertainment industry looking for copy to plaster across their products.
I realize now the politicians are caught up in this process and are powerless to alter it, swept along in the hate and pettiness, spewing forth from the extreme left and right.  New social media seems to encourage this extremism and is played for political advantage by many leading politicians.
We repeatedly see comments on twitter or other such stream of consciousness communications calling for someone’s death or dismemberment.  When tornados struck northern Alabama, there were several examples of people applauding these tragedies because they happened in a state whose Senators and Congressmen question the theories of Global Warming.  When Representative Giffords was shot we saw instantaneous accusations it was all because of Sarah Palin and the conservative movements.  In each case it was pure hate-filled emotional rampage by those who know nothing better.
Watching excerpts from television you routinely see people like Bill Maher, Lawrence O’Donnell, Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh calling important people idiots, fools, or worse.  You see them challenge the oppositions ideas, not on merit, but based on talking points developed by ideologues.  There is no balance in the discussion.  At least Jon Stewart has begun to realize there is humor on both sides of the debate.  We should ask why was Bob Hope so universally respected?  He would make light of the politicians but you always knew there was respect.  Certainly that does not appear to be the case today.
As young people grow up, and find their way into the public discourse they bring those qualities they have been taught.  We have taught them that undisciplined speech and personal attacks are okay.  We have taught them that if you disagree with someone the best option is not to see their point of view but to call them fools.  We have shown there are no penalties for hate speech, and that if you want to divert the discussion just call them racists.  Some of today’s graphic music encourages this bullying behavior.  I am sorry for us allowing that to happen.  While I have no desire to censor speech do we really have to report all of it?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's Funny How Life Turns Out

I wonder how many of us aging baby boomers accurately imagined how our life would unfold?  How many of our dreams were realized or how many of us view our lives as successes?  As I write this, a cat sits purring next to the keyboard.  Waiting, I assume, for me to give it some affection or more likely a treat.  The overhead fan moves the air and there are noises from the house as a roll-top desk is uncovered.  This gives me time to contemplate such things.
We each have two faces.  The one we show the world, and the one we see when we look into the mirror.   I can only assume there are a few people that are lucky enough to show and see precisely the same thing, but I believe those people are indeed rare.  As I grow older the two are coming closer together but I still see differences.
I have been blessed in this life, although I am not sure I would have said so as a 12 year old when, in the middle of the night, I was fighting with my father, drunk and abusive to my mother.  I have been able to find my way, when others around me were less fortunate.  I wonder why that is?  I do know that as a result of those formative years I am by nature aloof and an observer of life.  At a party I am far more comfortable sitting back and watching, than having to put on a happy face and be the center of attention.
As a child, my Grandmother and Grandfather favored me and I spent a lot of time with them.  I think perhaps far more then my sisters and brother, and my cousins.  They offered me a safe refuge when the strife of home built up.  In the summers they would camp in the Catskills and Adirondacks and I remember fondly the times at North Lake, Lake George, and Lake Champlain. 
It was during those times I remember being truly free.  I was running through woods, hiking the trails, swimming and exploring.  It was what summers were supposed to be like.  At North Lake I remember searching for Rip Van Winkle and looking for the site where he and the Kaatskill kegers played 9 pin.  At Lake George I was fascinated by Fort William Henry and its role in James Fenimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans.”  At Fort Ticonderoga I could see myself as a “Green Mountain Boy” with Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold as we took the Fort from a small British garrison.  I can remember standing in front of the statue of French priests on Lake Champlain and seeing their missing fingers from torture by the Indians.  It is funny how your mind works.  The song that summer was “yellow polka-dot bikini.”
Cooperstown is a wonderful place for a boy.  It is full of the stuff you build your memories around.  There is the Farmers museum where you can see what life was like in the 19th Century, the James Fenimore Cooper House, and of course the Baseball Hall of Fame.  I’m sure this current version is wonderful for todays fans, but I’ve been there as an adult and its not the same as the old brick building with dark wood floors and musky locker rooms I remember as a kid.  Seeing "the Babe's” uniform hanging there, the balls and bats of the game.  No high tech presentations, but the artifacts that brought our nation together.
On Facebook today someone commented on a class picture I had posted.  It brought me back to this point….

I hope each who read these thoughts today, take time and enjoy their lives.  Don’t let the stresses of the moment cloud the joy that hides in each new discovery.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Just Some Thoughts After the Raid on Abbottabad

Its now been about four days since President Obama announced to the nation, and the world, that elements of US Special Operations Command had executed a Raid on a safe house believed to be the hiding place for Osama bin Laden.  In the ensuing 96 hours I haven’t watched too much news since most of it is pure speculation from paid consultants and journalists who really don’t know what they are talking about.
            What I have seen has been at times amusing and at other times pretty disgusting.  We have seen celebration by groups who want to cheer what they believe will be the end of al Qaeda, or who because of their level of maturity think the killing of a human, no matter how worthy that killing is, is something to cheer about.  We have seen the emotional accusations from pro-bin laden supporters that the US somehow violated his rights and eternal soul.  There has been speculation about top-secret organizations by people who should know better.  There has been discussion of this new stealth helicopter and parts being shipped to China.  And finally everyone with access to a microphone has weighted in on whether we should or should not show the post-mortem pictures of the three bodies.
            Should we show the pictures?  Everyone has an opinion but I will say in this matter I agree with the Presidents current position.  We as a nation have shown gruesome pictures when it suited the political need, but in this particular case (at least to my way of thinking) the cons far out weight the pros.  I hope this is one position he remains constant on.
            Additionally we have heard from the former President of Pakistan and several Pakistan government officials about how the US actions have seriously jeopardized our relations.  I fully expect within the next day or two we will hear from the women left behind how US forces terrorized them and the children because they are evil Americans who everyone knows are out to bring terror, death and destruction on the freedom loving Muslims of the world.
            My feelings on those concerns are pretty basic.  I am not sure what we are getting for our $3 billion dollars a year in aid, and perhaps that money would be better spent elsewhere.
            In those 96 hours the seamen who conducted this raid have returned home where they will provide their after-action reports, hug their loved ones and attempt to return to their routine.  The soldiers and airman who supported them will do the same.  America’s special operations forces will learn from what went well and what didn’t and they will prepare for the next challenge.  Hopefully they will slip quietly back into the shadows, because that is what they do.  The shield for USSOCOM holds a spear to represent that US special operations forces are the tip of the spear, the first point to threaten the enemies of the US.
            In these past 96 hours there are liberal commentators who have used this small victory to again complain about our past President and how many lives he cost over his term, and in some cases question why he has not been killed.  In those complaints not one mention of the increasing casualties in Afghanistan, continuing casualties in Iraq and the unmentioned casualties in other theaters of operation.  In the end, these shallow and empty souls know nothing but to look for political advantage or practice their demagoguery.
To the right of this post you will find a quote from Theodore Roosevelt I think captures perfectly my sentiments on all the news we see swirling around this endeavor.  Speaking from my past experiences I am proud of the way this team conducted this operation, and I am glad we will not be enshrining any of them in Arlington because of it.  The motto of the British Special Air Service “Who Dares Wins” sums up this effort.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I Must Be Really Simple-Minded

    I will be the first to admit I lead a sheltered life.  I go to work where I hang out with a society of Air Force officers, non-commissioned officers, and civilians (who mostly used to be officers or NCOs).  
    I come home where I am surrounded by neighbors I've known for years, a wife who I've slept with for years, and cats who just like to sleep.
    It is only recently I've come to realize my definition of what is racist completely misses the mark.
    I had grown up thinking that racism was the belief that one race was superior to another or that human abilities were determined by race, and you were a racist if you allowed these beliefs to guide you to discriminate against those races you felt below yours.
    Now I find that is totally wrong and that a racist is:
one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e. people of European descent) living in the United States regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.  By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities or acts of discrimination.
    Now I understand why anytime someone says anything that questions a position of a minority the questioner is a racist... 

    This definition does not seem to lead to free and open debate.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ode to de Corgi

Stout of heart this friend of man
A little herder much taller than his legs will allow
Fearless in the face of a world where everyone was above him
He brings a warmth that says
“Help me up on the couch will ya?”

From Peterbourgh ye did come
Down the M1 to Huntingdon
Dumped into a house of cats fresh from cat prison
You held your own, a rebel in your native land

Then wrenched from England in the belly of a plane
Into Atlanta on a summer day
It must have been a shock to you,
But you handled it like a champ

Four humans, two cats,
15 suitcases, two pet carriers
And you – the back window shelf was yours

Its no wonder you hated car rides from then!
Through Hurricane and Flood you guarded this home
Until it was time to leave
To that great herding ground in the sky.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Raid

Yesterday afternoon, central time, the US military engaged in an operation called a raid.  The purpose of a raid is not to take and secure territory, it is not to normally intended to engage in a pitched battle, it is to accomplish a specific tactical or strategic purpose.

I don’t know the individuals who were involved but I can tell you the following:

·      The forces chosen for this raid were men trained to a standard far above the average, and they were without exception volunteers

·      The ground force has been identified as SEALS.  SEALS stands for Sea, Air Land.  The SEAL team involved was specifically trained for this type of operation and has been employed for these type of missions since 1981.  They were among the first into Grenada, for Urgent Fury, Rio Haito, during Operation Just Cause, and in Desert Storm they took the hardest missions.  Since 2001 they have been involved in a number of take-downs (a raid intended to capture or kill a terrorist), and at least one of their members has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

·      The helicopter crews are equally well trained and come from the same group known best for its involvement in the Somalia operations made famous in the book and movie “Blackhawk Down.”

·      This mission was planned, rehearsed and executed based on solid intelligence and the men who executed it did everything they could to minimize unnecessary casualties.  They do this for practical reason’s.  They have a mission to accomplish and piling up unnecessary bodies make it harder to determine they’ve accomplished their primary objective.

·      The President made the decision to employ the force, to execute the mission, and what the rules of engagement were with regards to the primary and secondary targets.

·      If he keeps with the precedents he should formally notify Congress of the operation in accordance with the provisions of the War Powers Act, laying out the rational for action, although the public release may constitute that notification.

So now we have killed Osama bin Laden what will happen?  We should be prepared for a desperate attack somewhere, probably in Afghanistan, but not necessarily.

We can also expect the emotional reaction of joy being manifest in the crowds who react emotionally.  We see the fear of retaliation in the crowds that always fear retaliation and we see questioning from the crowds who always question American action.  What will take a while will be to see the reaction from those terrorists who attempt to retaliate.

·      US Forces will increase their force protection levels

·      Homeland security will increase its threat level

·      The FBI will up its investigations

·      The news media will go off half cocked trying to instill fear in the average viewer based on their need to outdo the others.

The thing to keep in mind in the short term is a terrorist network is like a hydra.  It is designed in a cellular manner so if one cell is compromised the rest survive.  We will see how well bin Laden did at building his network, but there will be a second in command ready to step up.  Will he have the  same authority as bin Laden?  Not likely, but he will probably attempt some violent act to prove his right to lead.  If the military hardens it’s facilities they will attack the weakest target.  The best way to counter this is vigilance.

I am told in the press briefings the strike force recovered a significant amount of intelligence material so perhaps we will be lucky enough to reach into al Qaeda and rip it apart, if so we would be most fortunate because it would be contrary to the security steps bin Laden took to protect himself. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Position (Part 5) What is the Role of the Government?

So where are we?  I’ve shared my beliefs on the philosophy of life, when it starts, and who has the authority to end life, a right held principally by the state, but on occasion delegated down to certain individuals.  Up until now I’ve included few references, except where necessary to explain a concept.  I did this because we were talking about fundamental concepts each of us must define for ourselves.  From this point forward I will alter that approach to take advantage of the wealth of material available on the web.
In the landmark decision of Roe v Wade the Justices did not enter into the debate of when life begins, to have done so would have forced them into determining if the rights and protections of citizenship were granted at conception and thus give the state to speak for the rights of the unborn placing those rights above the right of the mother.  The argument made by Texas in defense of its laws was a fetus was a life and therefore protected by the 14th Amendment, interestingly the very same amendment most people use to question Barrack Obama’s right to be President.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.  (
There are four additional paragraphs, dealing with apportionment of representation, limitations on holding office once you’ve participated in a rebellion against the country and payment of debts, excluding debts incurred in aid of rebellion (14th Amendment came into being following the Civil War), but it is the first paragraph at the heart of this debate.
Up until the foundation decision of Roe v Wade, the issue of abortion was a state issue.  It was not a debate on what the federal government should or should not do.  Most states had, in the 1800s enacted anti-abortion legislation, with the exception being when necessary to preserve the life of the mother.  The medical art being what it was then; there was little exactness in any procedure, whether medical or herbal, and the life of the mother and the fetus were always in question.   Even Susan B. Anthony, an early feminist, argued against abortion ( saying
“Guilty? Yes, no matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; but oh! thrice guilty is he who, for selfish gratification, heedless of her prayers, indifferent to her fate, drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime.” (
At the time of this court case in 1970 abortion on demand was legal in four states, Alaska, Hawaii, New York, and Washington.  In the remaining 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia, it was either illegal or legal within specific guidelines (i.e. rape, incest, danger to a woman’s health, or a damaged fetus).  With this decision the Supreme Court empowered the federal government to control the abortion debate.  This is roughly equivalent to saying to the states, we won’t take away your right to judge and execute someone, but if you strive to protect life that is a federal decision.  The assumption made was the right of the woman outweighs all other considerations, but the ruling doesn’t say that, it hinged on defining the woman as worthy of protection under the 14th Amendment, but not a fetus.
So what is the role of the federal government or really what should it be?  Can it, by default, value the life of one of its citizens above the rights of another, and if so does it maintain its legitimacy? Obviously by executive order or by legislation the government can establish any policy it chooses, as long as the Supreme Courts does not rule a violation of the Constitution.  That is the tricky part.  Everyone can find fault, can their lawyers form a convincing argument that will persuade the courts to overturn the law, the regulation, or the executive order?  Legitimacy is another question.  As the War Between the States has shown the government can force its will upon the subordinate parts, as long as the dominant political party and the electorate support that course.  Legitimacy is then relative; as long as the majority chooses to allow the government to do something the government can claim it is acting in the peoples interest.
It was a Nixon appointed Justice that wrote the majority opinion in Roe v Wade, so I think it safe to say in the 1960’s leadership in both parties were at best neutral on the pro-life/pro-choice debate. When I was growing up, the governor of New York was Nelson Rockefeller (1959 to 1973).  His positions more often aligned with the Democratic leadership than where the Southern Democrats who were far more conservative.
“Rockefeller supported reform of New York's abortion laws beginning around 1968. The proposals supported by his administration would not have repealed the long-standing prohibition, but would have expanded the exceptions allowed for the protection of the mother's health, or in circumstances of fetal abnormality.  The reform bills did not pass. But an outright repeal of the prohibition did pass, in 1970, and Rockefeller signed it. Further, in 1972 he vetoed another bill that would have restored the abortion ban.  He said in his 1972 veto message: ‘I do not believe it right for one group to impose its vision of morality on an entire society.’”  (
I have to admit I agree with Nelson Rockefeller’s last statement.  I do not believe it is right for one group to impose its vision of morality on an entire nation.  I would go one step further and say therefore it is wrong for one segment of society to force the rest of the nation to fund their vision of what is morally acceptable.
As the court has found in Miller versus California (an obscenity case) it must apply a local standard to determine whether something should be considered obscene.  That is to say something acceptable in New York, may not be acceptable in Boston.  I am not sure why abortion would be handled differently than obscenity, and there be one overriding standard for what had, up until 1973, been a states issue.
Bottom line:  The determination of a woman’s need for abortion in the first trimester has been given to the woman’s doctor, but beyond that the federal government should not be involved.  To do so usurps the rights of the states, whose rights should be protected in accordance with Article IV of the Constitution.

It's a Nice Day

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