Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018 (Life as we know it, or the end of life as we know it.)

Everyone seems to be reflecting on the year that was, the celebrities who have died, or even the ones who’ve self-destructed.  It is quiet in the house; the sun is not yet up and I just told the cat he couldn’t sit on my keyboard -- so I’ll spend a moment or two reflecting on this past year as well.
It seems, thanks to social media and the press, we continue to drift into a bi-polar state where each segment attempts to define their own reality, independent of the facts before them.  Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, has an interesting theory on why this is in "Scott Adams' Blog".  He believes President Trump has exceptional persuasion skills, but the disconnect between what he says, and what the opposition hears is so great they cannot understand him.  Adams suggests when the President talks what the liberals hear is akin to the sounds of adults talking on the Charlie Brown TV movies.  All they hear is wah, wah, woh, wah, and absolutely no communication takes place.  While I wonder why this is, I’ve come to accept it won’t change until something dramatic happens to totally destroy one sides reality.
2017 began with the changing of the guard at the White House and the rioting of those Clinton supporters who were so upset when Candidate Trump in one of the debates refused to say he would accept, without question, the results of the election.  The term “not my President” became fashionable among the urban elite, media celebrities, and mainstream news people.
I expected to see February news filled with reports of the mass migration to Canada of all the A-list celebrities who had threatened to move if Candidate Trump were elected.  Alas, if they moved, they moved so quietly as to not be noticed.  Apparently, their threats to move were not enough to overcome candidate Trump’s persuasion skills for enough voters to make a difference for their candidate.
The New York Stock Exchange’s Dow Jones Industrials average began the year at 19,942 and ended the year at 24,719.  To add some context for this, when Barrack Obama assumed office, after the crash in 2008, the market was at 7,689 (almost at its nadir from the crash) and just before the election it had climbed to 17,888, gaining a little over 10 thousand points in almost eight years.  It closed election day at 18,847.66 and hasn’t looked back.  This despite the professional opinion of what would happen from no less than the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.  Which brings me to my next point.
The reality of the opposition this year seems to be anything, and everything, the President, and the GOP do will cause people to die.  If we change the PP/ACA (Obamacare) – people will die, if the Congress passes a new tax law – people will die, if the President doesn’t stop calling the mainstream media “fake news” – people will die, if he confronts North Korea – people will die.  Well, that last one may actually cause people to die, but it gets lost in the “little boy who cried wolf” syndrome that seems to be so popular by the victims of the left.
The GOP and the DNC failed the American people again this year through their arrogance and negativity.  They both demonstrated a lack of concern with the poor and lower middle-class by holding pretty rigidly to party lines, although the GOP has always had a problem with that concept and lost a couple of key votes when some Republican senators chose not to follow the party direction.  The DNC, on the other hand, was pretty much in universal agreement to not support any Republican legislation, period.  We will see how that plays out in 2018 with the mid-term elections.
2017 saw the fall of some powerful men in entertainment, media, news, and politics.  They were called to task for their abuse of power and the harassment and sexual demands of women whose lives they controlled or affected.  This was not a bad thing, but it quickly grew into a mob mentality with the #metoo social justice warrior movement.  Of course, the feminist movement that so closely identifies with the DNC as their political organization of choice was quick to climb on board, until such time as some of their favorite politicians started to be identified as sexual predators.  Then they had to make a choice as to the value of the politician over the need to believe the accuser.  While I wasn’t keeping real close score, it appeared to me that more Democrats then Republicans were swallowed up by the mob, but the numbers were pretty close.  Does anyone think this will change the sexual dynamic between men and women?  If morality is relative to a society, then once the hyper-sensitivity calms down I expect we will return to the idea the powerful dominate the less powerful and that is okay until the next round of victims comes forth.
Well, the sun is up, and it is time to prepare for church so I will draw this to a close.  I expect 2018 will be pretty similar to 2017, at least until the left is able to gain enough traction on some scandal to attempt to impeach the President, but they won’t control the house until 2019 (best case) so that will probably have to wait.
I will note a couple of milestones for my blog.  I have passed the 1,000-post milestone, and in December I had over 10,000 visitors.  For those who’ve stopped by and read my posts.  Thank you. 
May this next year be filled with joy and happiness.  Have a great New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

It’s All Just an Illusion

I’ve railed against reporting polls as if they are real news in the past, and this is another of those rants.
In the end of year news, Gallup is reporting that Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Oprah Winfrey are the three most admired women in America.  In the same poll, they find Hillary Clinton’s favorability rating is down to 36% -- so how can she be the most admired?
When you look at the poll data Gallup is reporting, only 9% of those responding put her on the top of their list, with Michelle getting 7% and Oprah coming in third with 4%.  So, while she is on the top of the list, less than 10% of the poll takers believe she belongs there.  Name recognition seems to play a large part of Gallup’s process, and does name recognition really equal admiration?  You decide.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Why is That F-14 Sitting on Our Wing?

In late April 1980, our crew was flying over the Arabian Sea in a big, black and green, C-130 without any national markings, when all the sudden an F-14 was sitting off the right wing.  We were about FL 180 minding our own business, just killing time until we could RTB so this came as somewhat of a surprise to us, especially since we had an EWO who was supposed to alert us of such things.

We had taken off from Masirah Island about an hour earlier and had another hour or so of droning before we could go home.  We’d been on Masirah for about a week or ten-days and the routine had become somewhat loose.

As we stared at our new friend (he seemed pretty friendly because he was waving at us), and wondered why he was there.  Then it dawned on the pilots and me that perhaps those weren’t waves, so much as numbers, as in a UHF frequency.

We dialed up the UHF to say hi, and they came back with a simple question.  “Did we happen to know the IFF/SIF codes for today?”  Duh!

In our scramble to get out of the heat and into the air someone had forgotten to set the codes or to even turn on the set.  It had been turned off for a mission a couple of days earlier.

Once we turned on the set, dialed in the codes and told him we should be good now, he waggled his wings, selected AB and went screaming off towards the heavens.  About 30-seconds later his wingman came over the top, also in AB, and also climbing for the stars.

About this time the EWO woke up and asked what all the excitement was?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Launch the Fleet

I think it was a quiet Saturday sometime in 1983.  I was assigned as an instructor navigator to the 452 FTS at Mather AFB, California and lived on base.  The morning started with a call from my DO or CC asking me if I had been out partying Friday night.  After some assurance I had not, he asked if I had anything planned for the day.  Again, I told them I didn’t.  We were planning just a quiet day around the house.
At that point, he said he needed me to meet a couple of pilots at base ops to take a T-43A to Illinois and pick up the Wing Commander.  Being a nav school we had a rule that any time the aircraft left the local area it had to have a nav onboard, even for a simple airways flight within the US.  I asked if we were carrying students – he said no, it was just me and the pilots, with the expectation we would pick up about a dozen passengers coming from Chanute.
About 30-minutes later I was at base ops where we laid out the flight plan, briefed the mission and took the bus to the jet.  We completed preflight, launched, and departed for the east along one of the jet routes.  About three hours later we arrived, had the jet gassed, ate our box lunches, and waited for the O-6 and his party to arrive.  Once on board, we headed home. 
The passengers were mostly senior enlisted and a few Colonels who asked about the navigation equipment but were otherwise not too interested in anything other than catching some sleep.
Total day was about 8-hours from phone call to pulling back into the driveway.  The pilots had my info for the 781, we were Alpha 1 with no write-ups, so after saying goodbye at base ops I headed home.  We weren’t gone long enough to file a travel voucher so I didn’t think about the day’s adventure other than considering it a nice break from the routine.  I guess I was wrong.
This was just one of the events that led to an IG investigation and ultimately the dismissal of the Wing/CC.  The flight had been written off as a training flight, even though we had no students, and when the copilot attempted to file a travel voucher for reimbursement the questions started coming up.  All I know is I logged NN time and the IG never bothered to ask me any questions.
Sometimes it is the weirdest things that get you into trouble.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Towards What End?

One of my favorite quotes is supposed to have come from Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL), although it is probably more likely a misquote or misattribution.  “A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.  For me, this speaks to a central issue with our government.  The scale of the money we print and spend is inconceivable to the average American (including most of our politicians).  We have reached a point where the questions “What is the right size?” and “What are the right costs?” for our government are no longer questions we consider, we only argue about how much of the promissory paper (i.e. money) we print should go to this or that government program.  But, towards what end do we do this?

Why do we have a government at all?  Why does anyone have one?  Could the United Nations ever be a world government, and if so would that solve all our problems?

These and a hundred other questions rattle around in my mind, and while I may have some opinions so does everyone else.  Some of those with opinions make a living out of espousing them in the hopes of influencing others to believe as they do.  I live under no such illusion.  I’ve come to believe we each must decide for ourselves the answers to every why question you can ask.  There are some that are so big there can be no definitive answer we can prove or disprove with certainty, and your personal choice becomes the basis for other answers. 

For example, how was the universe created?  We have, on the one hand, a scientific theory that suggests it started with a “big bang” where everything originated from a single nothing.  We have proved some of the supporting science to argue this is a fact, but not enough to say it is the only fact of origin.  Then, of course, we have the theological explanation, God created the universe and its creation is beyond our understanding.  Those who reject the idea of a God naturally aspire to the scientific explanation, even though their theory is filled with more questions than answers, they assume they will someday find all the answers, it is only a matter of time.  But towards what end is a man a part of the universe, why do we exist?  Although science has gone to great lengths to explain how man exists, it does not seem too concerned with answering the why.

So, why does our government exist?  What purpose does it serve? Our forefathers believed a government so far removed from the people could not serve the needs of the people and fought a war of independence to establish a more responsive government.  Their first attempt at government was a loose confederation of the 13 original states, with each state maintaining its own sovereignty[1].  After only a few years they found this form of government to be ineffective to the common good.

Their second attempt was and is what we have today, although I doubt the founders could have imagined the changes in power and control now exercised by the central government.  Their purpose was clearly intended to address what they found as shortcomings of the confederation, and are laid out in the preamble.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Here we are entering 2018, and the question before us is a simple one.  Do the various voices we hear yelling across the media still believe the government provides for the purposes intended by our founders, or would they abandon the framework for some other purpose?  To what end does the left rave about the character of the President while glorifying their own politicians, at least until they become a burden and are cast aside to maintain the illusion of moral superiority?

From my point of view, the political debate is now driven exclusively by greed and the desire of the political parties,  their politicians, and political activists to enrich themselves.  The illusion that a politician enters into the job as a “service” is thoroughly debunked by a simple review of net worth when they start the job and when they end it.  Of course, when someone comes into the job already wealthy the natural question is why?  Those who know only personal gain as a politician, of course, are the first to condemn them for seeking more personal wealth.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

9(ish) Gary Drive

I was reflecting this morning on my time in Hyde Park, and things I did as a young boy.  It got me to thinking about a massive tree we used to hang out under near my yard. I went to Google Map® and looked up my old home on Madison Avenue and then moved down the street until I could look in the direction of where the tree was.

It’s not there, but the spot remains, with young trees now filling in for what had once been a wonderful alcove to gather and plan the day's great adventures for a couple of 8-year old boys.

I wonder where today’s neighborhood kids hang out as they plan their days, or are those plans now made for them as parents fill their time with sports, dancing, and other organized group events?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Flying is Unforgiving

I learned very long ago that flight is demanding.  It does not forgive mistakes easily, nor does it tolerate poor judgement for long.  The same can be said of life, but there is a little more room for error when walking down the street than there is when traveling in a 70-ton cylinder at speeds that cover multiple miles in a minute.  I would like to share a story of one accident that took the lives of my friends, but remarkably spared one.
It happened in the early morning hours of February 26, 1981.  The place was the ocean waters near NAS Cubi Point, Philippines.
The aircrew were assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron.  The unit had recently moved from Kadena AB, Japan to Clark AB, Philippines.  They were participating in a demanding Special Operations Exercise with US Navy SEALS and Australian SAS.   For the year prior to the accident the unit had been heavily tasked as it trained for the rescue of Americans from Iran, while also going through a short notice unit relocation.
The crew involved in the accident were all experienced, although one of the navigators had just arrived at the unit, and was getting his theater checkout from the units Evaluator Nav.
The aircraft was a highly modified MC-130E, equipped with a dual mode terrain following/mapping radar, as well as IR lights for use during landing when using night vision goggles (NVGs).  The use of NVGs was something we had developed for the Iranian mission and had become a standard tactic for the unit.  Unfortunately, the standard night lighting in the cockpit washed out the NVGs and as a workaround technique the aircrew had taken to covering offending lights with duct tape with small slits for the important things like the fire warning system.  This “ad hoc” technique, although not standard, was approved for operational use.
The night’s mission was to infiltrate into an island landing zone, extract the special operations teams and return to Naval Air Station Cubi Point.  The low-level and night assault were the most demanding phases of the mission.  The exfil was thought of as being more administrative, although they would remain low-level until reaching the initial approach fix for Cubi.
The APQ-122 (v8) radar was a good system, but it did have a couple of known issues when operating over open waters with a calm sea-state.  Without good radar returns the system would begin a descent (assuming it was above the set clearance).  To keep from descending too low the radar altimeter was set to 80% of set clearance and was supposed to hold the glide path commands level until the radar had sufficient returns to resume guidance.  That feature was known as “altimeter override.” If you reached 80% set clearance the low altitude warning light would come on to alert the crew.  Unfortunately, the technique of taping the warning light would prove a dangerous and perhaps fatal technique.
The accident report indicated the aircrew flew a shallow, power-on, descent into the water not far from the Philippine coast.  On impact the aircraft broke up (I think at FS-245) and 8 of the 9 crew and the 15 passengers were killed.  Those familiar with a C-130 will recognize FS-245 is the point where the nose is joined to the fuselage of the aircraft during manufacture and is a structural separation point. 
The lone survivor was a young electronic warfare office who had his head down on the console and slammed head first into the EW equipment before being thrown out through the opening created when the aircraft came apart and sank.  His station was just aft of -245.  He was recovered by local fisherman in a partially inflated life raft that also was ejected as the aircraft sank.  The radio operator, right next to him was sitting upright in his seat, his neck was broken by the deceleration forces.
The IN and FE that evening were my good friends and crewmates on the Desert One mission we had flown almost exactly 10-months earlier.
Fatigue was cited as a causal factor along with the technique of covering important warning lights.  The hard lessons of accidents should be remembered, but too often they are put on the shelf unless captured in a WARNING or boldface.
If I could offer one piece of advice for someone coming into a new weapon system it would be to find the safety officer and try and read as many accident reports on your aircraft as you can find.  Since most accidents have crew error as a causal or contributing factor it would seem useful to understand how others have screwed up.  We don’t do that and unfortunately, I have seen avoidable mistakes repeated because in time even the “old heads” just don’t know.
Just food for thought.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Just a Few Thoughts on Trump Derangement Syndrome

There are things I don’t care for in President Trump, but then I could say the same thing about Presidents Obama, GW Bush, Clinton, GH Bush and every other President I’ve served or lived under.  It is sadly amusing though to observe the ever-deepening nature of the attacks on his Presidency by those who oppose him and the agenda that carried him into office.

About 18 or so months ago the left became aware Donald Trump posed a threat to the anointing of their queen in waiting and began the vilification of someone they had loved for his money.  The propaganda arm of the Democratic Party (also known as Main Stream Media), began an all-out assault on Mr. Trump’s personality as well as attempting to influence the average voter with the fact he had little-to-no chance of being elected.  Their strategy proved ineffective, and Mr. Trump was elected through a political process that has sustained our country for about the last 83,823 days.  The fact the electoral college was a key to success somehow eluded the Clinton brain trust, but that is another topic.

Subsequent to his election we have seen those with progressive and liberal agendas push their points of view through riot, media propaganda, and ad hominem attack.  I find it next to impossible to find a Democrat who can make a reasoned or logical response on why the President’s policies or actions are not beneficial to the country.  It is as if a sizeable portion of the nation has swallowed LSD and are living in an alternate reality where emotion is the currency of exchange and cause and effect is the illusion.

Of course, Mr. Trump routinely fuels the media frenzy using its own tools.  He has boldly implemented the concept of instant communication with the masses and passed by the pundits who feel compelled to tell the average citizen what the President is really thinking, thus outraging those who seek to control him or the dialogue.  This will cause confusion on the world stage as foreign leaders are then forced to figure out what he really means and what he intends to do. 

Uncertainty can be a two-edged sword.  There are those who argue that uncertainty increases risk, just as others argue it is a useful tool in dealing with hostile foreign powers.  With the former President, there was little uncertainty.  We and our enemies knew, for the most part, his words and threats were empty.  Our foreign policies reflected that, and threats grew and flourished.  If we should have learned one thing in the years of President Obama, it is that appeasement of a hostile threat does not work.  It is a lesson brought again to the big screen with the movie Churchill.  Unfortunately, many on the left are unable to understand that, but that is not the point of this post.  Rather, I want to reflect on the increasing hyperbole and rhetoric of those who oppose the President and his agenda.

Today it seems every time counter-Trump messaging fails - the political leadership is compelled to ratchet up the hyperbole.  For example, just a couple of days ago Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the Republican tax bill “the worst bill to ever come before the House.”  You will forgive me if I find this a laughable statement.  I would think the laws Congress has passed that remove individual protections[1] are far worse than a law that lowers taxes for a majority of the nation.  During her time as Speaker, she helped pass the 2011 Defense Authorization Act that allows the government to indefinitely detain a US citizen on the suspicion he or she may be a terrorist.  Then, of course, we have laws like the Fugitive Slave Act that mandated escaped slaves must be returned to their owners.  This was pushed through by the democratic party in 1850.  My takeaway from those complaining about tax legislation is; safeguarding individual rights are far less important to the party than maintaining a status quo, condemning the opposition, or vilifying an individual while maintaining their hold on a dependent poor and their emotion-driven true believers.

So, let’s talk about the tax bill and what’s in it, or not.  Since I can’t seem to find the actual legislation awaiting the President’s signature I will refer back to the original House bill that was changed by the Senate and the conference committee for some points I’m pretty sure didn’t change too much. 

The liberal press is making a big deal about things like the mortgage on a 2nd home no longer being deductible, but seem to be leaving out the 2nd home part of the deal.  How many people have two homes they are deducting?  Will this be a loss to the lower middle class, or people who have summer homes, or RV’s and boats that have a toilet and a kitchen?  Maybe, but will this really be a tragic loss for most middle-class America?  Probably not.

What I don’t hear the press talking about is the doubling of the individual deduction.  While they talk about the loss of this or that deduction, it will be interesting to see if the average person making between $35 & $85,000 has historically had enough deductions to equal the new individual allowance.  Somehow that seems to be missed by the big city reporters who eke out a living on their high six and seven-figure salaries. 

-- Break, Break --

These observations are interrupted at this time to address a fundamental question.  Why do we pay taxes?

You know, the government didn’t always have a personal income tax, right?  For the longest time, it managed to get by with the money it received from import taxes and tariffs.  It is true that personal taxes were levied from time to time to pay for things like war, but it was not formally institutionalized until the government outgrew its own spending limitations and the 16th Amendment was ratified (1913).  Today, personal income tax is the single biggest funding source for the US government.

Therefore, we pay taxes to secure all the things we want the government to do for us.  Unfortunately, we have also created a government that does not believe it is necessary to live within its own rules.  It budgets and spends more money than we are obligated to give it.  We as a society have become increasingly demanding on the things we want from the government while in the meantime decreasing the number of people who actually pay into its funding program.

There is one truth.  The more money the government has, the more it will spend.  Usually, on stuff, only a small percentage of Americans think we need.

The one question that seems unanswerable is, who has the best idea on how to spend your individual wages?  Is it you, or is it the government?  This last question is really the heart of the fiscal divide separating the two political ideologies.

-- I return you now to the current discussion --  

There are a number of things, in the new tax bill, that I believe are flawed, but I’ve given up the notion we will ever achieve a balanced budget or find a path where the two political parties will again begin to hash out their differences and find reasonable compromise for the benefit of the American middle class.

On one side, we have a party that thrives on separating the various economic classes by singling out those who have achieved wealth through commerce and increasing the economic dependence of the poor on the government.  On the other, is a party identified as being made up of zealots and big business lackeys, whose every action is characterized as making the rich – richer.

Since this new law is a unilaterally approved effort with no Democrats voting for it, and we have mid-term elections coming up in about 10-months; those elections will tell us if the average voter finds the lower taxes to be a benefit, or if they buy into the ideas pushed by the DNC, and its media, that the Republicans are out to screw the county.

I’m betting the GOP will lose control of the Senate, and we will again enter the age of rule by fiat we first saw in the Obama administration.  I hope I’m wrong.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

So, Let Me Get This Straight

On 29 November 1947, the UN general assembly determined by a 2/3 vote to petition Palestine into a Jewish state and Palestinian state, recognizing Israel’s right as a state for the Jewish people.  Israel declared its independence immediately after the vote.  The Islamic world refused to accept that decision, and when Israel declared its independence the surrounding countries of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon invaded in an effort to destroy the country.
The Arabs lost and Israel came into existence.  Over the next thirty years, a number of wars were fought by the Arab states in an effort to eliminate Israel, without success.  In the 1970’s the Palestinian Liberation Organization, a terrorist group best known for killing Israel’s athletes at the Munich Olympics evolved into a political group seeking not a stable homeland, but the elimination of Israel. 
Each time a peace agreement is brokered it is the PLO who refuses to accept its terms.  Yet the media and those who view the Jewish people as a threat continue to fund and praise those who seek a continuation of violence against Israel.  For example, there is an active movement on the liberal college campuses that advocates for the boycotting and isolation of Israel from intellectual forums, where the issues could be openly debated, but that would not further the cause of peace because they are Jews and cannot be trusted.
So now that the President has signaled our intention to move our Embassy to Jerusalem and recognize this city as a state capital, it is somehow upsetting all possibility for peace in the region?
Give me a break!  Who seriously believes the Palestinians are interested in peace for their people if it means Israel continues to exist?
Of course, changing the status quo and ignoring the anti-semitic propaganda is something the left is never very happy about.  They still hate Reagan for defeating the Soviet Union and the great worker's society it represented with universal health care and empty store shelves.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My 1,000th Post

On May 12, 2008, I wrote my first blog post, here, I am struck by how little has actually changed since that first posting.  About the only thing different is the level of vitriol in the language as the two dominant political parties yell for our attention.

Notably, even then, there were sexual abuse allegations against members of the Congress, that resulted in their getting slapped on the wrist, but little else.  The government was at a stalemate as neither party saw value in a centrist path, and the average citizen was more concerned about what the government would do for them, than the fiscal deficit.  The same could be said for any of the members of Congress or the Executive.

As far as I can tell my writings have not reflected a massive change in the conscience of the nation or even the 68,678 people who’ve stopped by to glance at what I have to say.  That is okay with me.  I write to satisfy a personal need and desire, not to make money and certainly not to suggest I know the right answer.  If people occasionally find some enjoyment, or food for thought, on my blog that is reward enough for me, but even that knowledge remains an open question for most of my posts.

I’ll be busy for the next couple of weeks so I’ll think about post 1,001 when I get a chance.  Enjoy this upcoming Christmas if you don’t stop again by before it arrives.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Few Thoughts on the Idea of Banning Books

There is an article in today’s Northwest Florida Daily News discussing one mother’s attempt to have Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 removed from the reading list for 8th grade students.  As the paper points out there is some irony in having a book about book banning banned by people who want to ban books.  The mother came to recognize this book should be banned when her daughter was reading it and had to ask what the word bastard meant.  She also discovered there were other unsavory things in the book like reference to sex, drugs, suicide, murder and abortion, not to mention taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Her point is the school is supposed to be a safe space, and the students sign a pledge not to use profanity in the school, so they should not be allowed or required to read books with those same profanities.  She suggests several suitable alternatives, only a couple of which have been recommended by other parents to banned for their treatment of the language and the themes discussed.

Obviously, the idea of banning books is not a new idea -- if it was Ray Bradbury would have never written about it, but the question is how do we decide what books a school system should allow, and what books they should not.  Clearly not every book written gets to be included in the curriculum so how do we decide what is okay?  The courts have ruled that something called “community standards” is one consideration.  For example, Salem Massachusetts may be a little sensitive to books advocating that we burn witches so they might choose as a group not to use books that advocate for that practice.  That is not quite the same thing as recommending all witch-burning books be destroyed or otherwise made unavailable to the average reader.  But what is one to do if a single family disagrees?  Must we as a community make allowance for all who would question a decision like what books to read?

While I can appreciate a parent’s desire to protect their child from the ugliness of the world, I also believe it is a mistake to stifle a child at the exact time they are trying to formulate their individuality from seeing the world from a variety of discordant views. The role of a good parent is to acknowledge the differences of the world and guide their children into understanding what is of value and what is not.  I think the thing that troubles me most about this issue is the idea that knowledge is viewed as dangerous by so many on both sides of the ideological spectrum.

We hear that idea of “safe-space” thrown around all over the place.  Colleges are becoming infamous for their students demanding ideas, which disagree with what their teachers and peers have said is true be banned from the public forum.  At the same time, these young unthinking minds will condemn those who wish to ban ideas based on things like religion.  It is a curious social quagmire we find ourselves in. 
We have coined the term “hate-speech” to address language that may inflame people, yet we selectively allow certain groups to use those terms because they claim if they use them it isn’t a racial slur.  The problem with this concept is there is no authoritative body to approve or append the hate speech vocabulary.  Maybe we need something like the Académie française?

In this particular case, the school board reviewed the mother’s concerns and decided that Ray’s book was okay, especially in light of the court fiasco an adjacent county went through a few years ago over the same book. I look forward to the Letters to the Editor in the upcoming days, as various opinions are offered.

Friday, December 1, 2017


The heavens have always called to us.  We have studied the sky seeking answers to questions about this thing we call life.  The vast universe seems to offer us answers to all our questions, but does it?  When all we had were our eyes we would look to the stars and seek answers in their shapes or positions.  We saw in them the forms of the gods, foretelling the future.  Some of us still do.

Others saw a challenge in the sky.  If only we could mimic the flight of the bird, then we could move beyond the pettiness and conflicts we have always had.  If we could fly we would be free to compress time and distance, if we were free then we would be equal if we were equal -- wars would end.  The elusive challenge of flight offered us a utopia if we could but discover its mystery. 

On December 17th, 1903 Orville Wright accomplished what no one had done before, he achieved sustained powered flight for about 12-seconds covering about 120-feet.  Here we are approaching the 114th anniversary of that momentous day at Kill Devil Hill, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and sadly must recognize the achievement of flight did not alter the basic nature of mankind.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”  Proverbs 11:2
It is an interesting time as those who shape public opinion and the news fall like dominoes -- disgraced by their own transgressions.  It begs the question, will this current sense of outrage continue until we achieve a new equality where all are held accountable for their actions, or will we soon tire of these public beheadings, and the powerful will again possess the weak?
Call me a cynic, but I can’t imagine the celebrities of politics, entertainment, and the news now reaching deep within themselves for introspective and returning to a time when they held themselves to the same standard as the rest of us, or reported the news without a political and moral bias. It seems more likely they are now looking over their shoulders with the fear of what may fall out of their own personal closets. Perhaps, it never was fashionable to accurately report the news, or hold a moderate position, and I was just naive when I thought it was. 
It is almost cliché when we talk about the corrupting nature of power, but the original quote is attributed to John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, (AKA Lord Acton), who wrote in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men.”  
As long as those who report on the politicians enable them to hide their “open secrets,” we value celebrity above honor, and believe entertainers opinions are worth listening to I expect we will soon return to life as normal; or at least something that approximates the previous normal.
Perhaps, and this is just my speculation, if the feminist movement was really about empowering all women and not just furthering the cause of some women, there would be a chance we could achieve a more balanced relationship between the powerful and the powerless.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Due Process

noun.  An established course for judicial proceedings or other governmental activities designed to safeguard the legal rights of the individual.
In these days of instant communication, we now have instant judgment, but at what cost?
We see in the oft times ill-informed statements of individuals a willingness to ruin someone’s life at the first blush of a wrong-doing.  I wonder, would they be so quick to accept the condemnation of society if they themselves were the accused?
The legal system in the United States is a flawed system, it is not always just, it is not always right, and it most certainly is not always equal.  The problem with the system comes not from its design, but from the human beings who are the essential part of it.  We human beings are flawed, and because of those flaws, any system we create and run must account for those flaws.  But, for better or worse, it is our system and it has worked reasonably well for the last 228 years or so and appears to be as good or better than most of the other justice systems of the world.
So here we are in the world of 2017, where the political parties have divided us into two color groups and every news event now carries some sort of political implication.  The shrill public voices on the left and right define everything as good or evil depending not on a stable morality, but on the political gain or loss.
Almost 30 years ago the news outlets started to report public surveys as if they are factual news and we have a generation now who thinks if 60% of the people agree on a poll then it must be true.  If it must be true then we must convict the guilty and send them to wherever the guilty must go.  Of course, we do this without the accused having a right to defend themselves in anything other than edited 15-second soundbites.
To me, it seems like we are willingly surrendering our belief in the design of our legal system and seeking a return to mob-rule or the Roman Circus where all we needed was a good thumb.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

I Wonder, What Has Changed?

I am a “Baby Boomer.”  A child of parents who lived through the depression and the second World War.  When I first became aware of a world outside my family, my school, and my friends, I was introduced to a world where America was reaching for the stars.  A world where anything was possible, and we thought we could accomplish anything we set our mind to do.  After all, we had won the world war, we had an industrial base that was the envy of the world, and we dominated the world’s finances.

John F. Kennedy told my generation, “My fellow Americans ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

My generation failed to heed his advice.  When we came to authority we created a society that is self-centered and an America where the first question is what’s in it for me?  We have grown our political parties electing individuals who have no idea how to govern, but know only how to vilify those who disagree with them.

In the Kennedy era, the nation was divided by the racial prejudice and discrimination that had openly existed since the end of the civil war, a war fought to save the union.  Martin Luther King, Jr. showed a hostile and unrepentant America what equality could offer.  Today we see million dollar athletes taking a knee because of the racial prejudice and discrimination that still exists.

We now have a younger generation that sees America not for what it could be, but for the ills that still exist.  Yet none of them seem to have a vision for how to make us better than we really are.

I wonder if 10-years olds have the same sense of wonder and destiny that John Kennedy gave me when he became the President?

Where Does Our Morality Come From (continued 2)

I know I am entering into an area of deep political and emotional and divisive rhetoric with very little real concern with a common morality, but a significant percentage of us have accepted that it is morally justified for one individual to kill another, to end a human being capable of self-sustaining life independent of the mother.  Within the most recent Presidential campaign the whole issue of “woman’s rights” was a significant point of contention between one half of the country and the other half.  The political parties were both willing to make this a core of their political positions, and we have for at least the last 40-years been engaged in an escalating battle of what the government should allow, and now what the government must pay for.  Increasingly it has been the position of the liberal feminist movement, and their political allies, that the right to determine the intentional death of a fetus rests solely with the woman carrying the infant.  Of course they use more sympathetic terms and explain how problematic those lives would be if allowed to continue, but in the end there is one harsh reality.  We, for better or worse, have sanctioned the determination of life as a right of the mother, but only for the period of pregnancy.  If she ends that life one day after birth I think society and the state still consider it murder.  It seems just a bit convoluted to me as we wrestle with the law and moral choices.
The argument for determination of life or death is now moving on.  It is expanding to include the position that an individual with a diagnosed illness who wishes to end their life has that right and the state should approve of individuals who wish to assist in that choice. 
Couple these changes in our society with the development and popularity of violent game playing in computer simulations and alternate reality games and it does not seem to me to be a great leap to ask if we are creating a nation of young men and women driven by alienation, who see ending life as acceptable moral choice, and deciding that their 15 minutes of fame should be in the taking of another’s life.  It seems only a matter of time (and not too much time) before that argument will be made in their defense.
I believe we already see influencers in the media and entertainment industry beginning the virtue signaling that this is acceptable, as long as the targets are those they approve of.  For example, in the past year, we have seen liberal entertainers calling for the assassination of the President, going so far as to hold up a clearly recognizable severed head.  (As an aside, I find the whining of the entertainer who did this to be a fascinating study on denial of personal responsibility and outrage over the consequences of her actions.  Either she is a complete idiot, or she lives in such a sheltered world the reality most of us live in never gets in.)
Along the way should we consider the impact of the social media that has come to dominate the internet?  From our beginnings, the predominant position of this nation was that we must be a nation of law.  Where justice, based on the moral standards of the nation, is applied fairly across the society.  Today does that still remain true, or are we moving ever closer to the concept of mob rule, where those who control the dialogue now control the judgments of the many who become inflamed over the mere accusations of unknown voices?
-- to be continued --

Friday, November 24, 2017

Door to Door Salesmen

When I was young, there were salesmen who would come to the door offering the women of the house all sorts of wares.  The ones that seem most prominent in my memory are the Fuller Brush, and vacuum cleaner salesmen.  Kirby and Electrolux were the two brands I remember my family getting sold by some stranger who offered to vacuum the entire living room to show off their product, but they paled in comparison to one memorable evening at our neighbor’s house on Madison Avenue, in the Holt Development.
I think I must have been about seven or eight, but maybe a little older since the memory remains so vivid.  It was a warm spring night and we (my parents, sisters and I) along with several other families were invited over to the house next door, where a stranger in a bow tie introduced himself and said he was there to cook us dinner.
He then set out cooking dinner for probably a dozen people including the kids.  As he cooked, he explained the wonders of the revolutionary new stainless-steel cookware and how it brought out the amazing tastes of fresh vegetables and meat.  After some time of getting chased out of the kitchen and into the basement we kids were all shuffled up to the living room and sat at small tables to enjoy the fruits of the salesman’s efforts.
I can still recall the moist pot roast, steamed potatoes and carrots, spinach (yuck), and a beef gravy. 
I can’t speak for the other families, but I know my Dad, always a sucker for door to door salesmen, came home with a full set of this revolutionary new cookware.  It was actually a great purchase as he and Mom used it until they passed away.
In these modern times of infomercials, and on-line shopping, I wonder how much we miss out on in our buying when everything is so impersonal?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Where Does Our Concept of Morality Come From? (continued)

Who or what fills in for the parents once a teenager begins to understand the concept of morality and how he or she must act?  Is it peers, teachers, ministers, entertainment celebrities, video games or self-assessment?  How about all of them?

Let’s start with peers since studies[1] have shown that peer pressure is probably the single biggest influencer on choice for most humans.  We hear anecdotal stories all the time where an individual is characterized as a “good boy/girl” by family as they are being taken off to jail for some felony.  The need to “fit-in” is one of the great human survival tools, and is probably a key element of why we have been so successful as a species, but it is also one of the great dangers for mankind.  Peer pressure and the need to fit-in goes a long way to understanding how populations tend to accept leadership that ultimately proves itself to be destructive and self-serving.  How else do we explain things like the rise of Communist dictators who kill tens of millions of their own people, or a National-Socialist regime that sets out to eliminate the Jewish population, as it moved to dominate Europe?

Today, we see in America two social phenomena that on the surface seem contradictory, but I believe are both symptoms of the same issue.  In the first case, we see the tremendous growth of gangs, beginning in the inner cities, flourishing in the prison system, and now moving to the suburban and rural parts of the nation. The gang recruitment is on-going and unfortunately reaching for younger and younger recruits to indoctrinate into their society.  There are black gangs, Hispanic gangs, oriental gangs and white gangs.  They all seek and offer the same thing, peer acceptance.  They, just like their underdeveloped country counter-parts, grow to dominate a particular region, and become self-sustaining through illegal activities, just like the infamous Costa-Nostra “families” J. Edger spend so much time investigating in the late 1940’s through the 1960’s.

The second case is “the loner” or social outcast who so often erupts, seemingly from nowhere, to wreak violence and havoc on some unsuspecting individual or group.  We see this in the increasingly frequent mass murders that make our evening news.  What leads these individuals to isolation, is it rejection from family, friends, or peers, or is there some other force at work?  Again, I suspect, although I’ve done little in-depth research that isolation grows from negative experiences with the social structure including peers.  Or from possible addictions to any of a number of devices or drugs. 

It is easy to say this is a manifestation of mental illness, but if we think about the increasing frequency of these events the question must be asked, is it mental illness that is growing uncontrollably, or a shifting standard of personal morality? Have we as a society made murder an acceptable personal choice?
-- To be continued --
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