a veteran gets “Media” love

In the past week,  the tabloids and other media was agog over the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry of Britain.  The Duke of Sussex, KCVO (Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order ). Several of my friends on social media posted “enough already”- type memes and commentary.   I probably have a unique viewpoint among them,  in that a “Combat Veteran Gets Lots of Love by the Media”.

Unique among the current British Royal family,  Prince Harry served in combat, in Afghanistan, not just in uniform.  His presence was kept secret for several weeks by the British press.   In typical fashion, some in the media cannot keep secrets.  The Australian press revealed that the Prince was in Helmond province.  Against the Taliban and Al Quaeda,  publishing the whereabouts of a high-value target such as the Prince was unwise, yet the prince continued to serve in theater.  After serving in the British Army for ten years, he has continued to serve in a leading way but for charitable work.

Unintentionally,  I believe,  the news media has made a combat veteran a star.   For a guy with army service, and little chance of ever becoming King ( he’s fifth in line behind his elder brother and  family),  I think it is pretty cool.

image source: Esquire magazine

Biography

Charitable work, past and going forward:

The Telegraph

Wild About Harry by Remembering Lives

A culture of complacency?

Four American Special Operations soldiers who died in an ambush in Niger were reported to have died as a consequence of improper planning, training, and taking unnecessary risks – a “culture of complacency”.  Summarizing details in a classified Pentagon report, military officials found  “low-level commanders, eager to make their mark against local militants in Niger, “took liberties to get operations approved through the chain of command,”  ” according to the Wall Street Journal article today.

In the collisions between U.S. Navy warships and civilian freighters in 2017, the Navy found the same consequences of complacency,  not following procedures, and overconfidence.  In recent articles describing mishaps in Air Force and Marine Corps aviation,  both cite decisions regarding decreased training hours for pilots, as well as decreased material support and funding resulted in increased mechanical failures and pilot error,  particularly in the last several years.

For years, much of the attention paid to combat-action, training or mission-related casualties has focused on politics, funding (budget), and defense contractors, but less has been paid to warfighter training and culture.  In the last twenty years both the warfighters themselves and the military services have “adapted” by the social norms of the day.  Competitiveness, rigorous thinking, physical prowess, and unity of singular national identity ( e.g. American, not  hyphen American,  or French, not Algerian-French) has been debased internationally in favor of equality, fairness, tolerance, and individualism. Regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or spiritual concerns,  a warrior culture has to be obsessive and unyielding about unity, training, respect for and obedience to authority, to mission and to nation.   A warrior commander has to be  pragmatic about readiness, mission planning, and risk.   While there is always some acceptance of risk in any effort, there is no room for overconfidence, personal ambition, or politics in military operations.

However, with human beings comes human weakness.  From the American ambassador during the Barbary Wars (at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century) who diverted support from the U.S. naval commanders  interdicting pirates because he was not consulted, to the battlefront commanders who did not receive accurate enemy strength numbers when advancing on Tora Bora during the initial Afghanistan campaigns (with some fault from communication issues), character, training and planning shortcomings have resulted in unintended casualties.  While it is true that military forces, particularly among the NATO alliance, have become better trained, better equipped and more unified, particularly in communications (Blue on Blue, or “friendly fire” incidents declined), veterans, families of currently-serving members, and the public need to press our civilian leaders to make the necessary changes from the ground up. Better leaders make better institutions.  Better institutions makes better people. Better people make better warriors.  Better warriors make better decisions.

 

fiddling around

Sometimes you get assistance and support from your elected representative.  Sometimes you get a letter where they have miss the point the constituent was making entirely.

Thank you for your letter regarding your concerns about unsolicited calls and the enforcement of the Do Not Call Registry rules.  I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

I understand that you have registered your number with the National Do Not Call Registry, but that you have continued to receive telemarketing calls with disguised identities and phone numbers.  In your letter, you expressed your support for stronger penalties against companies that violate the Registry rules. …”

I actually studied Political Science at the university ages ago, as I had some fantasy about going into government service.   But that was before most colleges became a breeding ground of Orwellian thought control.    These days I think back to the movie and musical, Fiddler on the Roof.   Living  as best one can apart from the Government bureaucracy.

Tevye: And in the circle of our little village, We’ve always had our special types. For instance, Yente the matchmaker, Reb Nachum the beggar… And most important of all, our beloved Rabbi.

Leibesh: Rabbi! May I ask you a question?

Rabbi: Certainly, Lebisch!

Leibesh: Is there a proper blessing… for the Tsar?

Rabbi: A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar… far away from us!

I actually reached out to Senator Feinstein to demand that the perpetrators of cell phone abuse: spammers, hackers (who masquerade as someone in your contact list — or when you receive a call from your own number! – and malcontents be the focus of more intensive prosecution and penalties.  I acted after my son received a call at his work number claiming that his mother had been injured in a traffic accident.  It was b.s.

So all my friends and family who truly believe that the proper political party leading the country will make the roads efficient, the cell phones free from telemarketers, and the social media free of Russian meddling have great faith.   Me,  I will continue to be

Tevye: A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask ‘Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!

 

Please be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind should the “Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone Calls (HANGUP) Act” come before me for consideration in the Senate.

 

Dust

Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, died this week.

Lots of people are voicing condolence.   Maybe people know of him due to the 2014 movie , Theory of Everything, that many who don’t understand his grand theories know his name.  A very intelligent being nonetheless, and one of the most celebrated brains who had ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).  (As an aside, I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed Hawking in stunning fashion in that movie.)  Not having read any of Hawking’s work, I nevertheless learned a bit about him.

He went to the grave an atheist.   Yet his religion was ‘science’, which for all the debate from atheists about facts versus myths,  is still human observation of the universe and its interplay on physical objects. With every passing decade, a “fact” gets refined, or refuted, or re-interpreted.  A deduced certainty – weather, tides, or planetary body is still victim to an “uncertainty principle”.   Of course, we have launched satellites and people into space, but these have finite parameters.  We cannot create an organism from a vacuum.  Science still cannot define origins.  It cannot define why – in our own solar system – life evolved to the scale it did from gas and dust.  It does not explain the origin of the gas and dust.  And science does not explain human thoughts.

Stephen Hawking for all his contribution to science wanted to determine a grand unifying theory for the universe.  It eluded him.

Some atheists who really examine evidence and limit their biased presupposing, have admitted that they just don’t know.  Those who believe what that grand unifying theory is,  and have empirical evidence – also from human experience and perspective – in their lives, will continue onward.  I do not pretend to know why some very intelligent scientists  and scholars do not embrace belief in God,  while other’s look at the same evidence and hold an awe for a Master Engineer at the center of everything.

Hawking may now return to dust from which he formed.   Sagan may be “star stuff”.  And it all may be a futile cycle of randomness that anything exists at all.    But what if Eternity is … a corollary of the Grand Unifying Theory?  And all that scientific dust….

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honorable service

The current President of the United States pardoned a sailor this week who had been convicted and sent to prison for violating regulations protecting national security. , He took pictures of his submarine’s propulsion compartment which is a classified area.   Without knowing the particulars, it seemed to the President that the punishment of imprisonment and a discharge,  in light of other government employees who also had taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution and nation, was  – in this current climate – oppressive.  In the last several decades, access to classified information and equipment  was granted to personnel specific to their position and job; it required thorough training, a thorough personal investigation, and continued exemplary conduct.  Individuals in the military who deviated from this lost their access, were subject to punishment, and in extreme cases, based on a courts martial, sentenced to prison.

Perhaps the President was taking issue with the previous Administration’s handling of cases in this regard.  As we all are aware there was a former candidate for President who had a non-government server with classified information (hacked?),  lied about it, and influenced those charged with investigating this breach of national security.    A member of the military who intentionally broke the law by transferring secret information to Wikileaks was imprisoned, but also was given ‘transgender’ treatment,  had his (her) sentence commuted and was released.  An earlier contractor employee, Edward Snowden,  who transferred classified information and fled to Russia, is still lauded by those who have questionable “honor”.

In 2014,  both the then-President of the United States and his National Security Advisor declared a soldier returned from Taliban custody, served with “honor”.  Bowe Bergdahl, was later convicted by courts martial for desertion, by walking away from his unit in Afghanistan willingly.  He was given a dishonorable discharge.  In these prior cases, the climate that was established by those critical of the United States and set about ‘radically transforming” the culture and laws, rewriting history,  only served to embolden adversaries and weaken American respect in the world.

From the bruhaha over the prior Administration’s FBI dossiers and NSA surveillance of  private citizens (then-candidate Trump’s staff),  backroom deals with cash for Iranian mullahs, to the still-implausible blame game for the murder of an ambassador and security staff  in Libya after Gaddafi’s overthrow, the term “honor” is not very apparent.   Career service members of the United States armed forces understand it.

If we as Americans can respect each other, resolve our differences through the ballot box and offer a hand up, it can change.    No human being has risen above the temptations of power, greed, lust, or other “sins”, but what is corrupting this generation is the added ambivalence to what served this nation’s unity for two centuries – family, a common language, common ideals, and a positive view of the future.

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So what does “serving with honor” mean in 2018?   Those of us who have served honorably know what it means.   If you perform your job to the best of your ability.  take care of those in your unit,  treat people with respect,  understand and follow authority,  practice self-control, and represent the best of an American (speaking to Americans) , a person can say they “served with honor”.  Those who have the added spiritual values, understand that theirs is a higher commitment but the same understanding of honor.   We have raised our families to know what it means.  Not everyone who has served  or continues today to serve the nation, in the armed forces, law enforcement, fire and rescue services, or in the spiritual “front lines” has the same understanding, when it comes to politics, economics, or community,  but those values that we trained to in the uniform of the United States still have meaning: Honor, Courage, and Commitment.

to boldly go

Space: the Final Frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations.To boldly go where no man has gone before!  – Star Trek

Watching the first episode of season One of a Sci-Fi drama last night, The Expanse, on my smart TV (via the internet),  I  was enjoying how this first episode piqued my interest.   Stories of  an unconventional cop,  political intrigue –  the 23rd Century is apparently just as full of plots, terrorists, and manipulation as the 21st is;  interplanetary social unrest, and human drama in space.  These are all elements of shows I’ve watched for decades.  It must continue to be well-acted and well-written as I find it is beginning its third season.

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image courtesy SyFy Channel

Perhaps it is the era I grew up in.   Star Trek (the original series),  NASA moon landings, Space Shuttles and the Voyager satellites that left earth in the 1970s are now (2018)  in interstellar space.  The future held great promise, but the vast expanse of space seems beyond the reach of humanity.  The solar system  and non-warp technology is much more credible.  What was the stuff of science fiction- tiny personal communication devices,  automated  purchases,  computer surveillance systems,  self-driving vehicles and electromechanical replacement body parts are reality or in development.   With Elon Musk’s plan, people living on other planets in our system are a soon-to-be reality,  or not too fantastic for the near future.   The future predicted by television shows and movies in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, was often visited by alien races that wanted to eat us (Alien franchise) or obliterate us ( Independence Day).

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image courtesy Wikipedia

The Day the Earth Stood Still in the 1950s, Star Trek, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET were the rare exception.  In the 1960s, 2001: A  Space Odyssey was another where people were the beneficiaries of an alien encounter,  but the technology predicted forty years ago for the year 2000 in the story and movie is not far-fetched for 2018. In the 1970s,  Silent Running, remains one of my favorites, if it was very heavy with environmentalist commentary ( the last plants on Earth were propelled into space on greenhouse spaceships tended by men who really didn’t want to be there.) The Terminator was a future of artificial intelligence that wanted and kept trying over several sequels and a TV series, to wipe out humans. And many Sci-Fi movies over the years were set in a post-nuclear war ravaged Earth.  Totalitarian societies controlled the future.  Or the Earth was polluted,  or frozen, or flooded,  or a barren desert.  While a worldwide epidemic that renders apes (or more likely, cockroaches) inheriting the earth, is also sci-fi,  I prefer thinking more down-to-earth.

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Image courtesy nasa.gov

 

 

culturally irrelevant?

it’s the kiss of death for a celebrity that is long past her or his prime: being ignored, or worse,  being mocked.

Madonna,   now 59-year old,  is that embarrassing icon of 80s music that lost her relevance twenty years ago, but refused to go quietly into producing other artists or cultivating wine on a French estate, etc.   She tried to drum up support for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid.  She was quoted saying some incredibly stupid, sexually explicit things.  She has been mocked for at least three years by radio stations in the U.K.  and their music awards.   Do the Millennials even know who she was?  And apparently this week she put herself out on Twitter in a bid that she may regret more than being forgotten, being mercilessly mocked.  

Nicholas Cage.   I generally watched his movies for the co-stars’ performances.  Even the cars were more watchable.

Mel Gibson.  Memorable movies. Memorable characters.  And then …. in person, a drunk,  a bigot,  given to tirades, abuse …..

Lindsay Lohan.  Mostly a celebrity for being such a human trainwreck.

For musicians ever since the music video fame is measured in months it seems.  A casual search on the internet revealed a whole lot of “irrelevant” performers who apparently rose and then flamed out in the last five or ten years.  Rita Ora is one according to one critic.  I never heard of any of them.

And of course, my “fan fave”,  William Hung, the rejected American Idol of 2004 who became an internet sensation for his lack of singing talent.  But he’s a successful motivational speaker now