Sunday, June 30, 2013


It has been an interesting week if you consider all that has happened in this country, the controversies, the agendas, the drama, and the spin.  Each day I become just a little more disconnected from the government.  I find my positions becoming ever further from the morality of the young. 
When I was young, television was my escape; my way to shut out the problems in my life.  Today, with the exception of some sports and old movies, there is little on television that draws me to it.  It truly has become noise to blot out the croaking of the frogs in the backyard.
So there’s a priest and a spy on a plane.  What should be the opening lines of a joke is actually the headline in a news article about a Vatican priest who was arrested for trying to smuggle $26M in cash into Italy aboard an Italian military jet. 
Yes I’m Catholic; I just don’t believe what the Church teaches.  While I may disagree with some on the right to abortion, I at least respect those who hold a consistent position.  But when a politician plays both ends against the middle I see little to respect.  Over the past ten years I’ve probably attended Mass more regularly than 90% of the Catholics I know.  While I don’t agree with some fundamental dogma of the church, and have therefore remained separate, I don’t think you can argue that the Catholic Church has been consistent on its position that life begins at conception and man does not have the right to end it -- that is to be left to God.  Unfortunately this does not fit within the social construct of most liberal Catholics.  I have a hard time understanding how you can claim affiliation with an institution you so fundamentally disagree with.  Wouldn’t it be better to just leave the church and start your own?  Say the Pro-Choice Church of Roman Universal or something else where you can interpret God however you like to fit what you want?
DOMA Arigato Mr. Roboto.  I wrote a blog post once; at least I think I wrote a post, as the Supreme Court was hearing the case of the United States v Windsor dealing with the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.  Like most of the country I had a non-lawyer opinion on what I thought should be the outcome.  I felt DOMA violated one of the basic rights of the States and should be overturned.  I wasn’t concerned about federal funds, or income tax, or even gay rights.  My singular position was DOMA overrode the prerogative of the state to fulfill its obligations to its citizens to enact laws that the majority of the state electorate agreed with.  Well this week the Supreme Court returned its decision.  I’ve read both the majority opinion by Judge Kennedy and the dissent by Judge Scalia.  While I agree with the finding, that DOMA is unconstitutional, I certainly appreciate Justice Scalia’s position that the injury that led to this case was, in fact, resolved by the lower court, and could have been just as easily addressed by not accepting the case and letting the lower court judgment stand.  It was obvious in the opinion the desire of the majority was to send a political message for future civil action opening an ever-widening definition of marriage, as Roe v Wade did for abortion.  This is why I am not a lawyer.
“In confusion there is profit” (from the movie Operation Petticoat) I really believe this must be how the Government runs, since we are spending so much more then we take in -- giving millions of dollars, we don’t have, to people will not benefit from them seems almost sensible.
I close with this quote from Joseph Heller.
“Destiny is a good thing to accept when it’s going your way.  When it isn’t, don’t call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery or simple bad luck.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Can We Change?

Society evolves, do we?  Yesterday was not a good day for me.  Because of my position, I had to lead the mandated Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training for my division.  It is a step forward to begin addressing an issue that is affecting the morale and welfare of the US Military.  As I led this session to address the issues of date rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and violence against others I had to work to keep my emotions in check.  My Air Force is damaged, my Chief of Staff was hauled in front of the Senate to explain why this problem exists in the military and what is the Department going to do about it.  It was an ugly, but necessary, event -- a bunch of four-star generals, all older white men, trying to figure out what is going on with the young people who could be their children and grandchildren.
We will do something, we will address it, we will focus our senior leaderships attention on the issue, but will it change?  Most seem to think the US Military is different than the rest of the nation.  I don’t know why they think that but they do.  In reality we are a microcosm of our society.  What you see in the junior ranks is exactly what you see in society, whether it is in commercial business, the social scene, on a college campus.  We have men and woman who are sexually active, who care more about their needs than their partners, have been taught by society it is okay to get someone drunk and continue on without consent.  How are we as a service going to change when the people we receive from society are preconditioned to be who they are?
We are going to deal with this issue exactly the same way we dealt with racial inequality in the 70’s.  We will train people on what to expect, how to protect themselves, how to become intolerant of the violence, how to look out for the weak.  While I am sad for my Air Force, I have a much greater concern for society at large where no such standards or education will be applied.  I believe colleges will continue to down play the statistics of date rape so not to scare away prospective students.  I believe women and men who are raped will continue to under report crimes for the humiliation that comes, police and prosecutors will not fight aggressively for victims and at trial the defense will continue to portray the victims as the cause, not the rapist.
I know my Air Force will change, I wonder if my society can?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Shades of Gray.

This is an interesting month.  Who would have imagined that the right and the left could share anything in common but it has come to pass.  Those on the right are celebrating Edward Snowden’s release of intelligence collection secrets because it exposes the Government’s collection of massive amounts of information on its citizens.  While those on the left, who want the world wide web to remain completely unmonitored, view this as bringing to light the secret courts the administration runs to gain warrants to secure information they would rather keep private.
The Government has secrets; if you’ve watched the Nicolas Cage movies National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets you must be aware the government does not tell everyone everything.  If they did then they wouldn’t be secrets now would they?
There are some things we need to keep secret, and they should not be shared.  We live in a dangerous world and to survive in that world we must be able to make hard choices, have a candid discussion, look into the threats and determine their capabilities, or develop countermeasures to stop them, so as to provide the nation with a range of viable options.  For example, in World War II we had the Manhattan Project where we brought the best scientists and engineers together to solve the problem of nuclear fission, and create the first atomic bombs.  The President thought this so important a secret he didn’t even tell the Vice President about it.
Then there are things the Executive Branch keeps secret because they would be embarrassed if knowledge of the activity were to become known.  For example, between 1946 and 1948 Dr. John Cutler of the US Public Health Service infected Guatemalan sex workers, mental health patients and criminals with syphilis to see if penicillin was effective as a treatment.  This is the same official who later led the Tuskegee experiment where African-American men in Alabama were infected, but untreated, to observe the effects of the disease.
Finally, there are specific abuses of office that the Executive may try to keep secret to avoid the political and perhaps criminal ramifications from them.  We need look no further than the Watergate scandal of the early seventies, Iran-Contra of the 1980’s, or the Lewinsky affair of the 90’s, to see the impacts when those secrets were revealed. Which brings us to this present day. 
Thomas Paine, writing in Common Sense said, “A government of our own is our natural right: And when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance.”
Following his advice our founding fathers proceeded to declare independence from England, and upon the end of the war set out to establish a government to unify the colonies.  Ultimately leading to our Constitution; built on a realization that government exists because of the trust of the people, and that power must be shared or we would soon fall into the problems of Europe where monarchs ruled, as if it were their right directly from God.
We are a government that is based solely on the support of its people, although many selfish politicians and bureaucrats would believe otherwise and have, whenever allowed, furthered their own selfish interests.  There are also those who would sell out this government for their own interests. 
Usually they will claim some esoteric or morally righteous reasons, but at the end of the day all of them come down to a selfish act.  We can trace that lineage back to General Benedict Arnold, who perhaps felt the sting of indignation over the way the Congress had dealt with him.  Along the way we had the civil war where commissioned officers felt their loyalty to the state was stronger than the oath they swore to the Constitution.  Then there were the communists of the 20’s and beyond.  The Rosenberg’s sold America’s nuclear secrets to the Russians, and John Walker and his son turned over top-secret US Navy codes in the 1960-80’s. There have been dozens of other American’s who have sold their country down the river.
So we come to the question of Edwin Snowden, who some believe to be a hero, and others a traitor.  Unless we can know what kind of secrets we are dealing with, either a legitimate use of technology within the restraints of the US Constitution or an abuse of power, how can you even begin to debate him as a hero or traitor? 
This is yet another example of how adversarial politics has poisoned the ability to seek the truth.   At this time the whole issue is wrapped in shades of gray for me.  As each side jockey’s to blame the other, and the Administration once again attempts to blame the past administration I wonder how long this story will remain in the news.  But for the record, when one man holds himself above the law his actions are not noble and worthy of praise, no matter the outcome.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ben Franklin Had it Right

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
I had a brief exchange yesterday with someone who accepts completely the talking points of the Democratic Party.   Who, it appears, must without reservation rush to protect the perception that this President is a god, the Democrats can do no wrong, and those who disagree with them are evil.  The exchange has weighed on my mind all night.
In defense of the President the individual said the need for national security supersedes the US Constitution.  When questioned, they were quite positive it must.  That is what so troubles me.  If this is actually the position of a majority of like-minded politicians and supporters then we are truly a nation in decline.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What is Equality?

I was reminded today that somepeople feel victimized when they are not selected for promotion or tenured positions at rates they believe equal that of their male peers.  It took me back to my early days in the Air Force when I heard similar complaints by a minority.  Officers who were not afforded opportunity to command, and in turn were promoted at a lower rate then their peers.  While it would be easy to believe this was just another manifestation of racial bias, I am referring to a discrimination that had nothing to do with the color of a man’s skin, but rather the shape of the crest on his wings.  At the time the argument was public law forbid anyone but a pilot from commanding a flying squadron.  Navigators were second-class airmen not capable of commanding combat units in the Air Force.  As in all discrimination it took a number of events to change and there was resistance along the way, but as with the integration of blacks or women, it did.  I am sure we will see a similar change as we incorporate the skills and service of today’s newly recognized minorities.
But that is not what I want to talk about; it is about how those affected deal with the issues and climate before them.  What I saw from my peers were individuals taking one of three approaches to the restrictions we lived under.  Some accepted their lot in life.  They would grumble about the unfairness of the system, but make no effort to demonstrate they were better than those they flew with.  Others would rail against the restrictions to a point they would eventually separate from the service complaining they were treated unfairly.  Finally, others would go quietly about being the best officers and airmen they could with the expectation their hard work would be recognized and rewarded. 
I look back on my career and I have to admit I had tremendous fun.  I didn’t start off too strong, I was happy just to be flying.  But about the time I was a mid-level Captain I came to realize I could compete with anyone.  I never really got the first choice in my assignments, but I always got the best assignment for me.  For example, I wanted to move to Europe and the AF sent me to Japan.  I wanted to stay in Special Operations, and the AF sent me to instruct in Navigator School.  I wanted to come back to the 8th SOS and ended up in a specialized planning group.  But over the course of my career I learned to build teams, lead men and woman; never make excuses for my performance, or wonder why I was where I was.  I never worried about how I ranked against my peers; I just did the best I was capable of at whatever job I was given.  All of this has played out to make me who I am today.  I think more people would be happier if they would learn to make the most of their choices and worry less about what was going on with their peers.
Now back to what started this.  It is funny the hugely liberal academic establishment goes to such length to maintain their status quo, yet at the same time rail about how society needs to change to conform to what they are teaching their students.  How in our cloistered institutions of higher learning do we actually force the idea of equality of opportunity so that promotion is truly based on performance and not social networking? 
What separates us all from equality is natural selection.  Some are smarter, stronger, politically astute, or more charismatic than others, like it or not that is true and inescapable.  Should everyone have an equal chance to be what they want?  Assuming equal ability it is easy to say yes, but we are never completely equal in life so what is the right answer?  
My one piece of advice to anyone who would listen is; life (or work) is a puzzle those who figure out how to make the pieces fit together succeed.  Those who don’t -- complain about how unfair the system is.  Learn to be a problem solver.
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