Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It Has Been a Heck of a Century

So, here we are on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One and I look around and wonder if it’s possible for mankind to resolve our differences without war?  Unfortunately, there is only one answer and it is not a pleasing one.
I know it has been said by others the twentieth century should be called the Century of War.  Well it looks likely that trend in human evolution will continue for the foreseeable future.
The world first became aware of Islamic terrorism with the Palestinian Liberation Organization sponsored Black September group’s slaughter of Jewish athletes in the 1974 Munich Olympics.   America was directly affected first with the hostage taking of our citizens in Tehran in 1979. We have been engaged with these non-state actors, more or less ever since. At the same time we made a deal with the devil when we also supported their efforts against the Russians in Afghanistan throughout the 1980’s.  This provided the training and equipment that would come back to be used against us throughout the 1990’s, ultimately culminating with the attacks of 9/11.
So now we have been at war since then, and with our past and current chief executives have we achieved increased security?  Campaigning for the job President Obama made a significant number of promises on how he would make the world safer.  He has kept some, been stymied on others, and with the rest he has not seemed to make much headway based on what appears to be a lack of interest.  But at the end of the day I have to ask has he made the world any safer in the diplomatic choices he has made?
Did the US support for the overthrow of the Egyptian and Libyan dictators make Americans and the nation more secure through increased stability and sectarian rule?
Has the fact we have no presence in Iraq, or means to support the government we helped establish, made us more secure as Islamic extremists assault it?
Have we found a lever to help stabilize Syria?
Is effective diplomacy possible between Hamas and Israel?
How about Russia and China?  How are we doing there?

I’m sorry I don’t see a lot of positives coming from the current strategy and you can only blame the ills of the world on the man you replaced for so long before you have to own up to the problem, but then perhaps he is just another victim.  That does seem to be a line that plays well with the democratic base. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

There is a Difference

As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil said, “All politics is local.” This speaks to the human condition that puts self-interest first.  When given a choice it is reasonable to assume that unless there is some obvious gain to the individual they will oppose change if they perceive a personal cost.  This is where we are now, where our leaders no longer lead with a strong vision, but endlessly campaign based on selling to the selfish nature of man.  There is a difference between political self-interest and leadership.
On the one hand, we have a party that has moved far to the left, promising all the riches of the land to those who keep them in power.  To accomplish this they encourage those political activities that divide the nation, and create class warfare, denying any role in the creation of laws that set the foundation for that division.
I am reminded of the words of our founding fathers -- as written in the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Those on the left have twisted this idea to imply all men must be equal in all things.  Those with the courage to make these declarations did not say, nor did they imply, that all men must be equal in all things.  They did challenge the argument on the divine right of kings, but they realized that being created equal did not guarantee that equality through life.  These men represented their states, but were among the educated elite and upper social structure.  They were the 1% of the day.
As a youth, I was taught that America was a land of opportunity and you could rise to any station in life based on your talent, initiative, skill and desire.  We start as equals but have the opportunity to become more.  Now the left would have us believe that those precepts are wrong and it is the government that has made it possible for the few to rise from humble beginnings to great fame, influence, or wealth.  They rally around the cry from the junior Senator from Massachusetts “I hear all this, you know, ‘Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever,’” she said. “No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.”[1]
Those rich people deserve to be taxed at a much higher rate because they are successful so that those who are not can be subsidized.  In the past it was an individual’s sense of obligation that drove the successful to share that wealth, not the strong hand of the government.  I believe the junior Senator’s approach is at best insincere and most likely self-serving.  If she was indeed interested in equity she would look at all inequity, not just that that plays well with the poor.
For example, let us take the junior Senator’s former employer.  As a Harvard professor, she worked for a corporation that has millions in its endowment fund, has among the highest tuitions in the nation and continues to operate at a profit, paying its tenured professors 6-figure salaries, and yet pays no taxes…  Why aren’t we pushing to make all colleges pay their fair share of taxes?  Has being classified as a non-profit organization truly opened up the possibility of education for all, or has it led to massive income for those organizations based on the government pushing sky-high student debt as a means to an end?  I believe it because the voices rising up so loud about income equality come from those institutions and are acting in their own selfish interest.
On the other side of the political coin are those pulling far to the right, where there should be no new taxes, or better yet corporate tax should be lowered so those businesses become richer.  They propose we pay no welfare, abandon the modernization of our infrastructure, and return us to a time when we did not care for those who struggle in a time of need. Trusting in the sense of morality of the rich to share their wealth but is this legitimate.  As I look around I think of the politicians pursuing this philosophy, like those in opposition, who are looking for the rich to serve their self-interest with the purchase of political support they can afford.
What I see in government today is the dominance of political self-interest, and not leadership in the sense I was taught.  No one, in a position to influence the future of the nation, seems to be willing to move to a rational position and bear the criticism of those that oppose what is good for the nation.  Campaigning has become the full time profession of everyone from the President down to the lowest city councilman.  Leadership, if it exists, is an unintended consequence of picking the right campaign slogan and nothing more.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Thoughts on a Rainy Saturday.

Mary Lou and I attended a retirement celebration last night for a man I worked with, and for, and whom I consider to be a friend.  He is finishing up 29 years of military service and retiring as a Colonel, just as his father did about 29 years ago.  The party was filled with laughter and quiet reflection among the various guests, many of whom I also consider friends.  I wish Jordie and Susan a long and successful post-career, career.
In chatting with a former AFSOC Commander we had an opportunity to reflect on the state of affairs both in his time, and now.  It reinforced one thing that keeps me coming to work – I love being a part of a dynamic and living organization at the forefront of quietly implementing the national security policy.  While there are frustrations, the sense of personal accomplishment at the end of the day, the week, or the month is something that lifts my spirit, because I see the future of the Command unfolding before me.
As another Commander pointed out in one of his last meetings, AFSOC is the only AF Major Command actively engaged and operating continuing missions on a global basis.  We have young men and women flying missions, maintaining aircraft, or operating as battlefield airman around the world from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and all points in between.   This is both something to take pride in, but also reflect on.  For Special Operation Forces are, as a matter of history, a force borne by war.  We have grown not because we wanted to, but because we’ve had to.
The Sphere, from World Trade Center, NYC
Despite the assurance of our leaders, we live in an increasingly violent world where non-state actors have access to the sophisticated technology developed by the military powers to fight wars on a global scale.  They have the most advanced surface to air missiles, rockets, and bombs, and unfortunately, they are not constrained by the historical respect for law and treaty, or even a respect for human life.  So the question then becomes how do we protect our nation?

I leave you with these words; perhaps misattributed to George Orwell.  “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

Friday, July 11, 2014

Reflections on HHS vs Hobby Lobby

I dare say less than one person in one hundred has read the US Supreme Court Decision on HHS v Hobby Lobby yet everyone is ready to leap to their support or condemnation of this decision based on what those they like put out as “truth.”  We turn rational argument into emotional war based not on what law and precedent establish, but on what we want the answer to be.  Things some of us don’t like are:  corporations are, in the eyes of the law, afforded the same constitutional protection as an individual, and that not all birth control has to be funded by a “closely held” corporation that is able to show a religious opposition -- as protected by the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.”
Interestingly, the RFRA was introduced as HR 1308 by Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and it had 170 co-sponsors (the majority of which were Democrats), was agreed to by the Senate on a 97-3 vote, and signed into law by President Clinton.
Just think, if in the early 1990’s Democrats hadn’t been worried about proving they a support a workers free exercise of religion, and obligated the Government to show a compelling need before it is restricted, the US Supreme Court would have ruled differently.  I guess the lesson here is laws that look good today, may have unintended consequences later on.
I wonder how many really understand that the issue isn’t centered on the funding, or its elimination, of all contraceptive methods, but on those specific to four methods that terminate pregnancy post conception.  If Congress had wanted to insure that all contraception was mandated they should have included it in the law so the will of Congress was unmistakable, but they didn’t.  They deferred to the Executive Branch to decide what to do.  In this, the Democratic party controlling Congress rolled the dice, or as Speaker Pelosi said, - We need to pass this law so we can read what's in it.
Writing in dissent, Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, seem to base their arguments on the issue that only the woman has a right to determine what is appropriate for birth control and  the corporation imposes on that right by their refusal to fund the four post conception methods.  They believe that the RFRA was not intended to influence this kind of exercise, and additionally Congress did not intend it to cover a “for profit” corporation.   Unfortunately for them, the Congress was not specific in the language of the law, leaving it up to the Court to decide what they intended.
As Ms. Meagan Kelly, Fox News, pointed out, there was nothing in this decision that made the four methods in question illegal, it just meant the corporations did not have to violate the religious beliefs of the families who hold ownership of the corporation by paying for them since alternative contraceptive methods are available.  Yet from the public outcry you would think we’ve condemned all women to slavery.

Many will see this as a crack that will allow all corporations to do what they want, and will rise up in self-righteous indignation.  I think they are wrong, but my opinion and the words in the courts opinion, will count little as the masses are stirred in opposition to this violation of a woman's right.
So now we have the same people who rushed to craft the RFRA in the early 90’s rushing to push new legislation to address the SCOTUS ruling they don’t like.  I wonder how far that will get and what unintended consequence they will create for the nation in 10 to 20 years as they once again use their power to play wack a mole?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Reality -- Is it Real or Just an Illusion?

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, the 238th anniversary of our declaration of independence from King George, and the beginning of us as a self-governing nation.  Soooo, what’s going on for us to celebrate?  Is this a benchmark year, or one we should quietly remember for our past greatness, enjoy the hot dogs, watch the fireworks and move on something else?
I watch the news and social media for signs of the times, and I have to tell you I think back fondly of a time where our politicians saw the best in America and the American people.  A time where people sought equality based on merit, and where we shared a coherent vision of what the Nation could be.  Perhaps it is part of the aging process, perhaps something else, but for the past 14 to 20 years I’ve seen a move away from the optimism of America to accomplish all things towards a dark and uncertain future where class envy and economic uncertainty distort even the best of intentions.  It is unfortunate we accept this with a sense of inevitability.
Let's check where we are in our recovery from the economic collapse of 2007 & 08.  In 2000 we had an unemployment rate of around 4.0% out of a workforce of about 141,000,000 men and woman age 16 or older.   That meant we had 5,640,000 men and woman who wanted to work, but could not find a job.  Today we have an unemployment rate hovering at about 6.45%, down from the 2009 high of 10%.  If we assume the workforce has grown to about 161,000,000 (as estimated from, we now have about 10,384,500 who are not working.  Each time I hear the President talk about the reality that our economy has the fastest pace in job growth in our history, I look at the real numbers and scratch my head.  I wonder if those extra 5,000,000 unemployed, and those who are under-employed are happy being part of this fastest pace of job growth reality?  Both sides can spin the data, but at the end of the day more people are entering the workforce demographic than we are able to create jobs for. 
The democrats and social liberals would have you believe this is the fault of the evil 1% and if we could just tax them to pay for all our benefits it would be okay.  If we did that then what jobs would the government create with the money?  Would there be more regulators, more bureaucrats, more investigators, or maybe some better IT specialists to keep hard drives from crashing and being thrown out?  I know we are downsizing the military to save money to be used somewhere else so it’s probably not more soldiers, sailors, airman or marines.
How about immigration and our border?  As bad as we may think things are, millions from around the world still view America as a shining hope.  They stream into our country, some through the approved process, millions of others through whatever means they can find.  The fact that Congress has taken no action, and the Executive seems to encourage this migration will have unmistakable consequences for the Nation.  The President tells us the reality of the situation demands that he take action to allow all to enter.  I doubt either side knows what those consequences will be.  The left sees new voters who will support their agenda of an all-powerful central government and the right sees a potential explosion in welfare.  Both are probably right, but we have had population explosions in the past and we were able to assimilate them into the fabric of America.  I wonder what the fabric will look like as Spanish becomes the default second language for our Nation?  As job growth stalls, and the economy ebbs how will we deal with these new workers?  I suspect they will do the work our young people feel too superior to accomplish and they will become a vital part of our workforce but won’t be counted to reflect the growing disparity in employment opportunity versus need.
How about the reality of free speech?  How we doing with that?  For the past thirty years, in the name of sensitivity and correctness we have been destroying the English language through misrepresentation and evolutionary meaning.  We have reached a point now where naming something after someone or something is bound to solicit public outrage and scorn by some group seeking to find wrong in everything.  Let’s take the US Army tradition, starting with the UH-1 helicopter of naming their aircraft after Indian tribes.  The sensible approach suggests they do this out of respect for a proud people, but there are those who would twist this and suggest the Army is racist in its humiliation of a beaten enemy.  If that were true then why would we name the premiere attack helicopter after the Apache, a people that fought a courageous campaign against overwhelming forces and ultimately succumb to the inevitable war of attrition.  Although captured and imprisoned for the last two decades of his life, Geronimo set the model for great warrior chiefs.  So what is the reality, I chose to believe a modern Army recognizes the warrior spirit of the Native Americans in its naming convention.  The Iroquois, Kiowa, Chinook, Cayuse, Black Hawk and Lakota, all worthy of recognition and honor.

As you approach this holiday, remember the courage our forefathers showed when they led a divided nation away from the safety of England and allowed us to forge our own destiny.  Be courageous in your choices.
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