Sunday, November 27, 2011

Character





I have shared Bill Whittle’s videos before, and I probably will again, but this one strikes a nerve with me, because it aligns so closely to my own belief set.  When personal responsibility leaves us, and we believe the government will take care of our every need it is inevitable that we will lose our right to self govern. 
It has been left to institutions to attempt to provide the moral basis for society.  When I joined the Air Force it was assumed we shared a common set of values, and it wasn’t necessary to write them down.  Now we do, because so few receive them at home.
·      Integrity first
·      Service before self
·      Excellence in all we do

Black Friday


Sometime last week, or perhaps the week before, someone passed along a blurb in the news about Target workers complaining the stores would be opening at Midnight, Thanksgiving night, and they would have to come in a couple of hours early to set up, giving up a part of their Thanksgiving.  Of course several of my FB friends complained about how this “greedy” company could ruin the holiday for their employees.  Some hoped for action to teach Target a lesson.  I think the action they hoped for was an employee boycott, the action they got was increased sales for Target.
As I pointed out to the person who accused Target of being a greedy corporation, they are only reacting to consumer demand and its consumer geed that is, in this case, the controlling factor.  If shoppers were to leave the stores vacant until 7 am on Friday the next year they would open at 7 am.
So what happened on Black Friday, or Black Thursday night and Friday?  I think this video is probably pretty typical.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks


It is so easy for us to be caught up in the moment, to think this instant in time is the most important.  Often it is, and it must be, for if we are not in the living in the here and the now then how are we to chart our futures?  But there are times when it is good to step back, to view our lives, or conditions, and our world with the perspective of time.
As trying and tremulous as our time, imagine how it must have been for those refugees from Europe who set out in a small boat, risking everything for a different life, free of the persecutions of the established churches and kingdoms of Europe.
Aided by the natives they survived that first year.  They learned new ways, and in that year of 1621 commemorated their harvest with the Wampanoag Indians in what has become our annual celebration.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#$%^ Occupy Someplace


As the occupy someplace movement goes along I think my sympathy has moved beyond waning, due mostly to the whining.  I believe individuals have a right to assemble and to protest, but at what point does this protest movement provide anything beyond a generalized whine about the disparity of wealth?
Today’s news is filled with the stories of how police at UC Davis, sprayed pepper spray on students who were peacefully demonstrating and this unprovoked action should lead to the firing of the UC Davis Chancellor.  All the liberal blogs are alive with the recollections of this attack, with affected students recounting how they were attacked without warning.
Since I wasn’t there I have no opinion on whether the officer was justified or not.  That will determined in the investigation that will come, but there are certain truths in any protest.  When authority is confronted it will react, sometimes with undue force, to not expect that is beyond naivety.  In this case the officers used a non-lethal weapon, I am old enough to remember a protest at Bowling Green College in Ohio where the young men in the National Guard were not equipped with non-lethal weapons and when tensions boiled over young people were killed.
You know the movement is running out of steam when shows like the Daily Show are able to find the foolishness inherent in this activity. 




The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Occupy Wall Street Divided
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In the Night


In the night it is easy to lose your way.  The paths become uncertain, and the landmarks you are familiar with unseen.  How is it then that some find their path through the darkness while others struggle and lose their bearings?
At times when all around us is clouded in the velvet blackness of a long night we have to look to the heavens for our guiding star.  The secret is choosing the right guide to lead us. 
Some stars are fickle and will move through the heavens, if we follow their path we will end up returning to where we started, stumbling without progress.  All save one are like this.  The North Star stands firm in the heaven, as an anchor for our path, with it we can know our direction home.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Presidents


What are the qualities of a great President?  Can they be discovered in the current state primary system?  One of these questions is almost impossible to answer and the other in my opinion is, unfortunately, easy.
If we look into our history I think the great Presidents make up about 10 percent of the total.  I know this is just a superficial exercise and true historians would take issue with the obvious choices I make, but this is after all just a simple blog.  Just to note, for the military schools 10% equals distinguished graduate status so that is about right in my mind.  If I were doing the grading, my list would be George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, maybe Franklin Roosevelt, and maybe Ronald Reagan, each for dramatically different reasons.  There are two maybe’s on the list and I will explain why when I get to them.
George Washington, father of our nation, the first President, elected through popular consensus and with no party affiliation.  Why great?  He took opposing views and melded them into a unifying approach.  He was able to get the most from his advisors, and the cabinet.  He listened to Alexander Hamilton (a war time aide) and moved to solidify the solvency of the nation and create the monetary system we have today.  He had no precedent to work from, and he turned down being the King, setting the standard for those that were to follow.  He realized when it was time to head home to Martha and his stills.
Thomas Jefferson, an advocate for a weak central government, yet when elected President he expanded the power of the Presidency well beyond what John Adams had done.  Why great? When it came time to make the hard call about buying the western territory from the French he was not constrained by what others recommended, but made the choice he felt right for the nation.  Without that decision, are we still the United States?
Obviously Abraham Lincoln makes the list for his dogged determination not to let the great experiment called the United States come to an end when the Southern states tried to pick up their marbles and go home.  In spite of an incredibly poor set of Generals and friction in his own cabinet he made some hard choices that kept the union together despite three and a half years of losing efforts.
Now to the maybe great presidential choices, as a native New Yorker, born and raised in Hyde Park all my educational experiences reinforced the greatness of Franklin D. Roosevelt and how he saved the nation in the great depression.  The older I get the less convinced I remain that he truly led the country out of the depression, instead his policies extended the suffering, but many of the infrastructures his administration built, like the Tennessee Valley Authority serve this nation today. But then he chose to remain in power despite the long-standing tradition of only serving two terms.  Through out his terms his popularity and connection with the nation was and remains unmatched by any of his peers.
Finally, Ronald Reagan.  He was swept into office after four failed years of the Carter administration where interest rates on loans were in the teens, inflation was in the teens, unemployment was at 9+% and we had 54 Americans held hostage by Iran.  In the course of his two terms he ended the cold war, restored America’s position in the world, and the economy returned to with the lowering of the interest and the unemployment rates.  Yet he increased the political divide between the two parties, and greatly expanded the size of government, despite promises to do otherwise.  I think the book is still out on Mr. Reagan, but I think overall he will be recognized as one of our better Presidents.
So, what qualities to they share?  First and foremost it is an optimistic vision for the future of our Nation.  Next they have the courage to standby their convictions despite severe opposition, and they reacted well to the conditions presented to them.  To measure their greatness, they left the nation better off than they found it.  Are these the qualities that make great Presidents?  I don’t think that can be assumed.  Each President will enter into his/her term with conditions and challenges unique to that period of history.  Each will attempt to bend the nation in the direction they see for the future.  It is in that bending and forging their true character will come out and only then will the most important qualities be manifest.  Some will rise to the challenge, some will survive, and some will fail miserably.
How does today’s primary system help us understand the human qualities of the candidate? 

Monday, November 7, 2011

On Unions


I made an observation on Facebook about Connecticut Power and Light, and the State Regulators who oversee them.  It has taken CP&L over a week to restore power after an early season snowstorm blanketed the state.  As of 11/6/11 they still had not restored power to over 77,000 customers.  I wondered if when the investigation on why CP&L responded so poorly began state regulators would be held accountable.  It was my guess they would not.  Along the way someone I don’t really know commented “What, no comment about overpaid ,(sic)lazy union workers?”
What I find irksome in that comment is it reflects the typical pro-union (i.e. liberal) belief that every conservative is 100% anti-union 100% of the time.  Our first thought is to blame the union for everything, just as they blame big business for all the ills of the nation.  Is it that liberal’s see the world only in black and white, there is no middle ground for discussion?  This jaded view of mine seems to be reinforced by a number of my high school acquaintances now conversing on Facebook.  One has been so narrow as to say greed did not exist before Enron.  Others have talked about all that is good and right with the #OWS protest.
So as a fiscal conservative what do I think about Unions?  The more I consider them I come away mixed about their need and their value.  I am not so na├»ve as to believe all corporate management is benevolent and makes corporate decisions with regard to its work force.  Left on their own management of today is, I believe, every bit as likely to revert to the same despotism that led to the original creation of guilds.  Every company would replace its entire manufacturing process with robots if they could.  But so far, unions seemed to have cared little about protecting the jobs of the workforce, concentrating instead on wage and benefit demands.  They have allowed millions of jobs to be outsourced to offshore manufacturing with little criticism leveled at their role.  Union rules have led to the best qualified being passed over or eliminated based on seniority alone.  Union stewards have protected the incompetent at the cost of the skilled.  Union leaders have drained the coffers of union retirement plans, yet still they lead the unions.  All in all I think unions serve a purpose, I am just not convinced it is a universally good purpose. 
This has been heavily reinforced with the public service and teachers unions, whose protest centers exclusively on protection of their taxpayer funded benefits.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

How Far Away is it?


I wonder if politics are something that people grow into?  When I was younger I think my first real political awareness came with the impeachment trial of President Nixon.  I can remember sending a telegram to Representative Hamilton Fish, R-NY, to vote for impeachment.  Beyond voting, I really didn’t get involved.  Lately I can’t seem to escape the political implications for everything around us.  Politics affect everything, from the simple need for clean water in a nearby poor neighborhood to the politicization of the climate change debate.  It affects simple discussions like the banks decision to charge for use of the debit card, or whether President Roosevelt’s D-Day speech should be placed on the World War II Veterans Memorial.
Within that context, how destructive the political pundits, paid for the controversy and ratings they generate, become.  How inflammatory can speech become on a national and international basis before all civil discourse ends?  Can all of this divisiveness come from today’s President or is he just a clever politician who plays into the hands of the dynamic?  He came to office promising to bring unity and has done nothing to further that goal.  He has sided with unions against state governments in what is clearly a state issue.  He has argued for, and drove home, one-sided legislation.  He uses the press to pit one group of American’s against another.  When the congress does find something to agree on, he blames the other party for wasting time on the legislation he is hanging his hat on.
This post was not going to be about politics but it kind of flows out of me these days.  So, how far away is the possibility of change? By the way, what is the National Debt today?  National Debt Clock

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Farewell Andy


Farewell Andy
I am sure there will be a tremendous number of columns, blogs, and broadcasts over the next day or two talking about the passing of Andy Rooney.  This will be among the more humble of them.  I never met Mr. Rooney, did not regularly watch him, since I stopped watching 60 minutes a long time ago, and know only what I’ve read over the years about him.  But over the long course of his celebrity there are certain virtues many of his colleagues would benefit from.
He was a man from Tom Brokaw’s the “Greatest Generation” and shared the strengths of those he grew up with.  He was independent, thoughtful, confident, and literate, without being arrogant, conceded, and mean.  In watching him, or reading his work, you didn’t come away with the belief he had all the answers, or that his was the only right one, but he did show a surety that his position was a good one.
From his days as a correspondent in World War II, he has seen the world and America change, grow, explore the heavens, and face the potential of annihilation.  I suspect he knew about Presidential indiscretion well before President Clinton was caught, but knew that not everything an individual does needs to be published.
Good luck and God Speed Mr. Rooney.   

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Everyone Knows Pie R Round


As the political debate over Candidate Herman Cain’s reported sexual harassment rages on, there is an interesting observation, completely unrelated to this critical question.  John Pepple, writing in I Want a New Left has a nice post on academic fraud.
Although not as much fun as debunking the science of global warming it appears a Dutch Social-Psychologist tired of actually collecting data and found it much easier to just make it up so his theories were supported.  Gosh I wish I had thought of that when I was in school.
Seems to be a trend developing in the academic world where peer review actually means peer pass along.  It is just so hard to actually look into someone else’s work when you have that demanding 20 hour a week academic calendar.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Important Life Lessons


Once upon a time, in a land far away I was young.  The world lay before me and I was living my dream.   I was, in my opinion, one of the lucky small percent (probably not 1% but pretty darn close) who was doing exactly what they had dreamed of for all their childhood.
C-130 skimming the wave in Panama
 I was newly assigned to a C-130 squadron in Texas and was on my first deployment outside the United States.  We were in Panama, at Howard Air Force Base, when the Panama Canal was still a US territory.  I was single and for the first time making more money than I really needed.  I think my salary was about $12,000, but in the mid-70’s that was enough.
Howard AFB
I was responsible for all the administrative support for the squadron, but flew about every other week.  I got to see the major cities of Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.  We bought Mahogany furniture for pennies on the dollar compared to what it cost in the US.  We flew to Brazil and broke for a week, and I got to hang with some people I knew from college who showed me what life was like for the rich in Brasilia.
Cathedral of Brasilia
I learned then that life was like being 19 forever if you were a flyer in the AF.  Regardless of the drudgery of any job, you could escape it with a flight suit and an airplane.  In spite of being a newbie, when I returned home I was markedly different then when I left High School to strike out for College, and when I graduated from College.  It was on this trip where I started to grow into who I am today.
There were wonderful new lessons.  I learned how to make a water balloon launcher that could toss a balloon over 200 yards down hill to hit the Wing Commander’s white roofed staff car.  I learned if you bought a puka shell necklace in El Salvador you could trade it for a date in Panama, and I saw the little two-man submarine the Japanese intended to use to torpedo a ship in the canal during WW II.  I got to fly in a little Cessna O-2 and drop smoke grenades from 1,500 feet up. I meet some of the most fun people I’ve ever had the privilege to hang out with, but it wasn’t all fun and games.
The Flying Tigers from Myrtle Beach 
I watched as a peer made poor choices that led to loss of his career.  I saw what happens to countries without a middle class.  I saw what government oppression leads to, what abject poverty does to the human spirit, and why people shouldn’t be drunk when you pour them into an airplane.  I saw how, to escape the poverty that overwhelms the countryside, men and women will do almost anything they are asked.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Observations on Halloween


I don’t know if people on other computers can tell I sometimes write in different fonts, but in this case I am using “cracked” because it seems to fit the feel I want for what I am going to say.
Last night we had a traditional Halloween evening, our house had some decorations, we had Halloween music playing, and children and parents came to the door to collect their treats.  We live near a poorer neighborhood so many of those children come around too.  It might be I am just getting older and more out of touch, but there is to me a very scary trend with Halloween.  I assume it is necessary and now expected but so many more parents have to accompany their children to the door to insure their safety than when I was a boy.
It is sad this has to be, but a much bigger concern, like an order of magnitude bigger, is what will the long term affects be on those children, where they come to depend on their parents for every decision and are never allowed to set out on their own? 
Last night I held a Frankenstein head holding a mouth full of candy for the kids to reach into and take from.  It made noises, said funny things and had eyes that blinked red lights.  I understand how 6 and younger children would be a bit scared, but more times than I could count the 14 to 16 year olds were scared to reach in.  That scares me!  The fear of the new and unknown being manifest in those young people who are growing into adults does not seem a good thing to me.  Are we adults setting them up for failure?
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