Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reasoned Thought

Sometimes just sitting here looking at the blank page, wondering how to fill it is the most relaxing part of my day.  I close my eyes and think about a hundred things I would like to say, but most of them are thoughts too trivial to share, or best kept to myself.  I am under no pressure to write, it is done purely for my enjoyment, and to leave for my children, and others, a record of things I think worth sharing.
Unfortunately for our society there are far too many media types who are under a deadline, and who apparently feel no such compulsion to self-edit.  Yesterday I was reading the blog Legal Insurrection, a conservative political blog I like because it does stay pretty low key in its approach, it has a regular feature on Saturdays called “Saturday Night Card Game” that deals with someone who has used race for political purpose.  This past Saturday’s posting was particularly inflammatory [here].  In this video Ms. Finney points out that Mr. Cain is only a feel good candidate for the racist Republicans and a “black man who knows his place.”  It is an interesting observation from a liberal Democratic strategist, whose sole purpose is to destroy the opposition, not to build a nation.  Unfortunately she is not alone in the media, and the same inflammatory rhetoric is apparent on both sides.
When you have so many channels and so many hours in a day to fill up, reasoned thought does not seem to be a consideration for most media political discussion.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inspiration and Achievement

In the course of human progress we see periods of great achievement.  The question for me is what drives it?  This is inspired by a quote I saw in one of the cubicles at work.  It is attributed to Orson Welles. (I found it here)
“You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
Implied is that conflict leads to achievement. The lack of conflict leads to an acceptance of the status quo.  The question: is that true?  Has the United States become the nation we are because we have been in almost perpetual conflict since our founding?  I need to think about this a little.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I was listening to the Rudyard Kipling poem “If” this evening, it is a wonderfully inspirational poem from a father to a son.  It should be required reading in every school charged with helping young people become adults.  Its wisdom serves us to this day, and I wonder if in its simple guide it marks the separation of those who strive to succeed and those who don’t?
Those who read this, and who have read other short pieces by me will understand I am always in search of why things are, and how we can deal with our differences.  It is right to be different, as we are made to be.  If our world were homogeneous how boring life would seem.  But without the respect for those differences and tolerance of our faults we boil and bubble into a froth of hate and scorn.  The lines “Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating” seems to me the core to civil political discourse and what I believe separates the common from the radical.  Thank you Mr. Kipling.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Changing of the Season

As the coolness of Autumn settles on us, it seems only right to reflect on this this past summer, to consider how blessed my family has been and to consider the challenges that lay ahead.
By all standards this past year has been one of immeasurable fortune for my wife and I, our daughter, her husband and their expanding family, and my son, his wife and their expanding family.  For me fortune is not valued in dollars, but in the richness of a successful life.  In that aspect we are rich beyond measure.
I have a job I enjoy, a loving wife to come home to, and the ability to provide whatever material needs we may have.  My daughter and her husband are finding out what life is like with three small children, a 4 year old big sister, a soon to be 2 year old brother, and a soon to be 1 year old little foster sister.  My son was just accepted to medical school, so the next four and a half years will put a tremendous strain on him, his wife, and their children.  I am confident they will find a way to persevere.
Whenever I reach a point of frustration with the polarization of our government, or with some petty problem at work, I have but to spend a minute or two in reflection on our blessings for the annoyance to abate. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who Gnu?

Have you ever Googled Gnu?  Wildebeest doesn’t come up until page 3.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Decision Making

How the mind works has fascinated me for most of my adult life.  In college I studied Psychology, but I really leaned more to behavioral psych because of the concrete practical application.  Its approach was to target a behavior, understand why it occurred and then find the right tool to correct it.  It didn’t delve into the complexities of the mind, the uncertainties of environment, education, family and all the stuff that makes psychoanalysis so complex.   As I moved into my career in the military I would discover some of these understanding very useful in guiding me, as I became a leader and decision maker.
In my role now I am on a staff, providing information to senior officers who are the decision makers.   We have just transitioned from one Lieutenant General to another, along with replacement of a couple of Brigadier Generals and a covey of Colonels.  In the transition there is significant change in how the staff is to work, and how our new leadership makes decisions.  I have to admit I find much of this new way bewildering and worrisome, perhaps because it runs so counter to what I have found to be effective.
For example, there will always be uncertainty and risk in any decision you make.  If there weren’t you wouldn’t need to make a choice.  The critical point is to balance the risk against the reward.  To do this it is reasonable to gather as much information as possible, but at the same time realize you can’t gather information forever.  There is also a time when a decision must be made or it is overcome by events. 
Apparently the need to gather information on the issue at hand is no longer essential to making decisions.  It will be interesting to see how that works out for the organization and the taxpayer.  It will make my job a lot simpler as I just document the decisions as they come rolling down the mountain.
Have you ever noticed an organizational chart is kind of like a herd of monkeys in a tree?  The view from the top branch looking down is a lot different than the view from the bottom branch looking up.

Monday, October 17, 2011

When I Close My Eyes

When I close my eyes, I see a future where all people want to achieve.  Not because someone says they must, but because they think it the right thing.  A place where people believe they are responsible for themselves, and their children and it is their choice on how they live, not the states.  But then I open them to the reality that this can never be, because we humans come from an endless variety of backgrounds, are shaped by an almost infinite number of conditions, and at any one point in our life have differing desires and goals.
I also see a reality where we as a small family group cannot do everything we need to live in this modern world, we must band together in a larger assemblage, a nation.  Without this larger collective we would still be living as we did thousands of years ago; where survival was the driving force.
So at the end of the day the question of how to reach utopia is really one of finding the smoothest path through the reality that is us.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Life is full of challenge, how you adapt and persevere in the face of adversity is what separates the successful.  I learned this lesson many years ago, and it was, I thought, the most important lesson I could teach my children.  If you want something badly enough you will find a way to accomplish it.  If, on the other hand, you quit at the first sign of rejection or failure you will go through life seeking excuses.
Both my children have shown they have the strength and character to face their challenges and find alternative paths to their goals.  I can think of no greater accolade for them than to say they have risen to the barriers placed before them, and found the path through those obstacles.
To them I say… “Well done, stay true to your values and yourself, and Gods speed toward the future.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

To Deter or Not Deter, That is the Question?

In the news today there is an article about a billionaire convicted of insider trading in the stock market.  He was sentenced to 11 years, while the Government was hoping for 20 to send a clear message and deter future traders from violating the law.  That got me to wondering; does sentence length or even the death penalty deter future criminal behavior?  Have we seen a marked decrease in criminal activity as more people are placed into prison?
When we imprison people behind walls, away from the public, they quickly move to the “out of sight, out of mind” category and we move on with our everyday lives.  At least those of us not directly affected by their crimes do.  So how do we convey the lesson that criminal activity is wrong, when we don’t teach civics, or ethics, or morality in school, and so many parents don’t teach it at home?
With the abolishment of public stocks, flogging, or execution as “uncivilized” we have made punishment an abstract until someone is caught and then it is too late to have deterred anything.   Locally, shoplifters are now required to place their picture in the paper with the statement they were convicted of retail theft.  I wonder if it is the start of a trend that will bring back the old pillory, dunking ponds, scarlet letters and such?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

HR 358 The Protect Life Act

On the House floor is an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into Law by President Obama on March 23, 2010.  It is called the “Protect Life Act, H.R. 358."  As summarized by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress, the purpose of the act is to:
“Amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to prohibit federal funds from being to used to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services. (Currently, federal funds cannot be used for abortion services and plans receiving federal funds must keep federal funds segregated from any funds for abortion services.) Requires any qualified health benefit plan offered through an Exchange that includes coverage for abortions to also offer a qualified health benefit plan through the Exchange that is identical in every respect except that it does not cover abortions. Prohibits a federal agency or program and any state or local government that receives federal financial assistance under PPACA from requiring any health plan created or regulated under PPACA to discriminate against any institutional or individual health care entity based on the entity's refusal to undergo training in the performance of induced abortions, require or provide such training, or refer for such training. Creates a cause of action for any violations of the abortion provisions of PPACA. Gives federal courts jurisdiction to prevent and redress actual or threatened violations of such provisions by issuing any form of legal or equitable relief, including injunctions and orders preventing the disbursement of all or a portion of federal financial assistance until the prohibited conduct has ceased. Gives standing to institute an action to affected health care entities and the Attorney General. Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to designate the Director of the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to receive and investigate complaints alleging a violation of PPACA abortion provisions. Requires the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to ensure that no multistate qualified health plan offered in an Exchange provides coverage of abortion services.”
Go to HR 358 "The Protect Life Act" for the full act, it's only a page long.

In short it is intended to reinforce the already in place  limits on the use of federal funding for abortion, and to make sure health insurance providers cannot force unwilling citizens to take coverage for a procedure they find morally unacceptable, and it would remove the mandate that to receive federal funding a hospital must perform on demand abortions.
So how does the Democratic leadership respond to this?  As usual with inflammatory statements and outright lies intended to inflame their political base.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How Not to Spend a Weekend?

Life is bewildering to me.  I bet I can live a lifetime and never figure it out.  This weekend my wife and I drove up to scenic Tennessee to see three things, the fall colors of the mountains, see what log cabins looked like, and visit our neighbor/friend who had recently moved up there for the peace and lower cost of living.  Apparently there were a couple hundred thousand other people who wanted to do at least two of the same things.
After nine hours we left Interstate 40 to travel the twenty miles to Pigeon Forge.  Two hours later we were almost there.  The next day we headed off for a bit of shopping before we headed up to the mountains.  Six hours later we had stopped at two stores, ate a late lunch, traveled 30 miles and made it home, never leaving the main road from I-40 to Pigeon Forge.  That evening we took an hour to travel five miles to see a show.  It took 10 minutes to return home because it was apparently after everyone else’s bedtime.
This was an expensive lesson on when you should avoid Pigeon Forge.  In the process of unloading on Friday night, my wife’s camera case fell out of the car and I didn’t notice.  In the process of moving the car I crushed the camera, so now I get to buy her a new one.
By the way, the trees were pretty in a fall sort of way, and the cabin we stayed in was pretty sweet once we found the "fork in the road" we had to take.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Protest

Our nation is founded on the principle of free speech, our founding fathers thought it so important to a healthy Republic it was the first of the Ten Amendments included in the Constitution after ratification.  The exercise of free speech seems to be a rallying cry for our citizens, unless someone is saying something you don’t like.  Then we seem to be all for suppressing it, either in the classroom, in politics, or even in routine life.
When I read about books being forbidden from the classroom I am emotionally torn about what is right.  On one hand I understand a parents right to influence what their children read, but on the other, I know in my heart that nothing good comes from forbidding a teenager to explore literature, even if it is something you find distasteful.  A book, once written and published cannot be undone.  The best that can be accomplished by its censorship is to encourage its sale to people who want to find out what all the controversy is.   That being said there must be reasonable bounds; for example, the average eleven year old is not emotionally equipped to read “Silence of the Lambs,” or the “Story of O.”
Today, cloaked in the guise of political correctness and racial sensitivity, free speech is routinely censored or condemned.  For example, ESPN just terminated its agreement with Hank Williams Jr. when he expressed his opinion about our President.  As a commercial entity ESPN was well within its rights to fire an employee, but it does speak to the whole issue of how our political parties and social media attempt to control speech in pursuit of their agendas.
So now we come to the protest going on in Wall Street, and spreading across our country to other business centers.  On one hand people like Nancy Pelosi and the President are encouraging this activity, while the municipalities are struggling to contain them.  The conservatives see this as a progressive led conspiracy to draw attention away from the failed politics of the President.  Certainly he has laid the basis for these protests with his whole Us versus Them approach to governing.  The fans of this protest are encouraged by the likes of Michael Moore and the other liberal elites’ who think they know what is best for the nation.
It strikes me as pure hypocrisy on the part of the liberal side to say this is a spontaneous uprising, when it has been shown paid progressive organizers are involved.  It is also funny that just two years earlier they were condemning the Tea Party movement.  But then in politics what you said yesterday shouldn’t really be held against you.  To be fair one of the interesting observations on conventional Republican politicians they condemned the Tea Party movement too, until they realized it would probably lead t0 being replaced if they didn’t climb on board.
So for me, I believe the protestors have a right to be where they are, doing what they are doing, as long as they don’t endanger public safety.  The thing to keep in mind is most of them don’t really know what they are asking for, for if we do what they want, they will inherit an anarchy because our government will collapse in on itself.  
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