lies, damn lies and politics

I started to think about Mark Twain this week, how I am at the same age when he began writing some of his most biting satire about politics, religious hypocrisy, bigotry and the nature of people.
Whatever he was as a critic of Government, he always believed in supporting the nation and his writing made people think. While I still see the fundamental good in people and role of a loving God to help change flawed humanity, I am sorely disappointed by and feel a powerless spectator to, the downward spiral caused by politics and politicians. What can a journalist do?

expose arrogance of power

A Senator chastised schoolchildren visiting the Congress who urged her to support legislation proposed by a ‘socialist’ Freshman Congressman and one of her colleagues. It could have been a moment to explain that legislation needs to be carefully studied as to the impact on the governed. But she would not be dictated to. In prior years, letters I sent her as a constituent in the Senator’s district, specifically urging support for issues she opposes, generated form-letter responses. A one-time Political Science graduate, I am angry that important issues are not often acted upon by our elected representatives. Increasingly, actions are opposed ideologically, becoming a test of wills between Legislature members and the Executive Branch. While many support “Progressive”national politics and condemn “capitalists” or “conservatives”, there are no substantive debates of the merits and the failings of policies, but often incoherent and confusing ‘sound bites’.

highlight ethical and unethical governance

Government agencies specifically charged with protecting the safety and sanctity of the nation’s citizens respond instead to political power brokers, lobbyists and vocal opponents of the nation’s fundamental principles. Elected representatives and un-elected bureaucrats refuse to operate on Constitutional and nationally-unifying principles, but at other times defend their positions using the same principles they previously refuted. Most unsettling, is that some politicians will use the formerly apolitical agencies of Government to investigate opponents or enhance political agendas, and when opposed, conclude that the victorious majority must either be “deplorable” and bigoted, clinging to outmoded ideas and philosophies, or have colluded with extra-national agents.

train people to “think” and debate

Public education over fifty years has steadily replaced literature, debate, and ‘controversial’, i.e. unpopular, topics like physical education, wood shop, and trades-based career preparation, for gender and sexual identity accommodation, activism, and uniformity. Children who are raised to question classroom stances on topics that contravene their parents beliefs (prayer, football, ‘binary’ genders, or other ‘conservative’-supported subjects) are subject to administrative penalties and peer abuse. Colleges, once institutions that provided the foundations for an educated population in everything from arts to zoology, produce impoverished liberal service-industry workers with billions of dollars in student loan-indebtedness. But teachers, professors, and college coaches have wealth and comfort regardless of student success.

expose incompetence and waste

Local and state government may demand revenue (taxes and ‘fees’) for actions that do not materially benefits those taxed. Transportation projects that incur billions in wasted dollars for “trains to nowhere”. Bureaucrats demand ‘carbon credits’ exchanged those who use personal transportation to go to work. They charge higher fees for delivering power and water to residents, due at first to ‘climate change’ which others perceive historically as periodic drought. But then the government raises fees when residents conserve too much. In the intervening years, there are no projects to collect additional water or energy.

Courts rule against voter-supported legislation that a minority oppose. Or they issue injunctions that increase the cost and delivery time of a particular resource for years. Politicians and bureaucrats deliberately obstruct law enforcement officers, both state and federal, when executing their duties. Others release dangerous criminals into the community based on alleged racial bias at sentencing, only to have them offend and be re-incarcerated.

journalism: be not a tool of politics

What, if anything, can journalists do to help expose the failures of politics and Government? Ideally, journalists are the agents of the governed, investigating and exposing fraud, incompetence, and abuse of power. Journalists must elevate their craft, to withhold biases and favoritism toward a politician, an ideology, or ‘sacred’ conclusions, and report everything that may support or refute the subject. Of course, the twenty-four hour media business is a profit-driven business, and ego, power, and prestige are just as driving influences for journalists as is determining fact from fiction. When actors create false scenarios, or others rush to attack (like the MAGA hat student and the native American) that became widespread calls for violence and condemnation, the lack of proper investigation fortunately only resulted in embarrassment and lack of journalistic credibility. It may still result in a civil judgement in favor of a maligned victim. Journalism as the vanguard of the public suffer a loss of integrity in reaching conclusions before investigating the facts.

use of Mark Twain’s image: no copyright infringement is intended

“Lies, damn lies, and statistics”, popularized by Mark Twain, was his restatement of the quote by the Nineteenth Century English Parliamentarian, Benjamin Disraeli

just Coexist they say


Yesterday, December seventh, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. We will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God. Franklin D. Roosevelt


https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/franklin_d_roosevelt_101223?src=t_infamy

Every generation has those who believe morally (spiritually) or  intellectually in  “world peace”. That coexistence of disparate ideologies are obtainable goals for mankind.  Others believe that economic interdependence among nations is the key.  Redistribution of wealth -generally that of political and social opponents – to those who have much less – by a paternalistic governing authority is a popular theme.  And still others believe that superior military firepower will thwart aggression.    In the last decades of the Twentieth Century and through the first two of the new Millennium, people have thought that accommodation, neutral stances and open-mindedness on everything from language to social services, gender and religion would bring about “coexistence”.   

It doesn’t matter what the topic is, but what is disturbing to someone raised in the last years of the American post-WWII  “Baby Boomer” generation,  that discernment, wisdom, dialogue, and critical thinking have been tossed away.  Feelings and hypersensitivity to the possibility that people may encounter ideas and attitudes that run counter to what they have been taught, have resulted in redefining “free speech”.   And in an age where the leader of our country is hypersensitive to criticism, narcissistic and uses social media to incessantly comment on his political adversaries,  we have other elected representatives refusing to obey legal statute, convention or address public safety concerns.  These highly insulated folks pander to an audience who are not citizens of the nation.   Judges do not rule on the merits of a statute based on the founding documents of the nation, but on interpretation and personal feelings.   In Government, universities, public education (K – 12), and almost all information and entertainment mediums,  the end goals of the broadcaster are fixed and unwaverable – with supporting data, “expert opinion”, and “statistics” found and scrubbed to present support for the “conclusion” reached.  Dissent is met with ridicule and occasional violence.

The latest examples of how improbable it is to coexist, except on the bumpers of socially conscious Western Europeans and North Americans vehicles, is the perpetual state of violence: against Jews, Kurds, Ukrainians, Syrians,  people in the Horn of Africa, Central Asia, and the Central and South America.  With warlords, drug cartels, extremists, zealots, and criminal gangsters,  there has been only violence, sex trafficking, child slavery, murder and anarchy, but no  peaceful coexistence.   International groups bring relief to hurting or starving refugees, risk being kidnapped, murdered, raped, or at best, had their aid looted and mission closed.   There are nation-states like Iran, North Korea,  Saudi Arabia, and Russia, who support groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Taliban, or the now-splintered Al Qaeda and ISIS. 

Sixty years after the world went to war over geopolitical ideology, and rallied to oppose and end genocide in the process,,  an ideology that has in its core tenets, an open hostility and warfare with Jews, Christians and – infidels,  executes a malevolent plan against the United States, resulting in the deaths of nearly three thousand people. Whether the barbarism of a faction or yet another example of how people cannot coexist with differing ideologies, this was only the last of several attacks prior to September 11th which killed numerous military members and civilians of many nations, carried out under the banner of “fundamentalists”.  And even as recently as today, more funerals, more anguish and more antagonism between rivals indicate that peaceful coexistence is as difficult to obtain unless one side is being buried and the other,  performing the eulogy.

I think, in the wake of Sept. 11, it’s important for the American public to understand that to the extent that there are individuals within the United States who would undertake terrorist attacks, that we are doing something to address that. Robert Mueller


https://www.brainyquote.com/search_results?q=quotes+on+Sept+11th

How the Clinton sex scandal shaped Brett Kavanaugh — and could give clues on his thoughts on Robert Mueller

Politics, power struggles, and scandal,  not necessarily altruism, common ground and ethics, fuel Progressive versus Conservative debate in America and elsewhere.  In this article published by CNN in the month prior to the sexual misconduct allegation in his high school years, brought against Judge Kavanaugh,  the article provides insight into his stance on prosecuting misconduct by a President.  It may be more of an indictment of his critics,  whose aggressive opposition of a sitting President’s exercise of his office, is far more bellicose and histrionic than prior Administrations’ critics.  It may well be that the critics are concerned that a more strict Constitutional-focused Supreme Court Justice, may rule for example, such that the Executive Branch has the Constitutional authority to set immigration policy,  or that the Court rules on cases based on established law and Constitutional basis, not by public opinion or lobbyists.  For those opposed to an elected member of Congress or the President,  the ballot box is appropriate venue for voicing a citizen’s disapproval. 

via  How the Clinton sex scandal shaped Brett Kavanaugh — and could give clues on his thoughts on Robert Mueller

the Prince got the Pauper fired

Universities revel these days in being all about inclusion, “free speech”, minority rights, and “post-modernism”.   And people who have risen up the ranks to lead universities were all educated in this system for the last thirty or so years, so I would expect them to fight against “oppression”, “class”, working-people’s rights and other “ills” of  this society’s so-called anti-intellectualism. (All of which I believe has more to do with those wielding power and manipulation of those not in power -regardless of party or nationality)  I do not happen to like Rap music, but I never would get someone fired over it.   Yet a college senior administrator, at prestigious Duke University did exactly that.    

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one veteran’s delayed benefit

Serving honorably in the U.S. military, a veteran who was deported to Mexico, Hector Barajas, gets well-deserved news: U.S. citizenship. ( https://www.nbcsandiego.com/on-air/as-seen-on/Deported-Army-Vet-Granted-U_S_-Citizenship_San-Diego-478353393.html )   And he did not just while away his time in Mexico,  but served fellow deported U.S. military veterans – opening a Tijuana VA Clinic.   With all the nonsense about non-citizens demanding rights and privileges of citizens, as well as their supportive legislators and lobbyists who brazenly chastise this country and citizens, it seems that justice is finally at hand for someone who put skin in the game.  Barajas -Verela had been brought to the US when he was seven.   In 1995, he enlisted in the Army and served in the 82nd Airborne.  He had an incident with a firearm in 2002, resulting a year in prison and was deported.   After Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the United States has seen more veterans with substance abuse, civil and criminal issues.   A deportation should not have been punishment for an honorably discharged veteran.   After California Governor Brown, pardoned him last year,  it enabled Barajas to obtain citizenship.

150 year history: citizenship for service

In 1862,  a law granted expedited naturalization to foreigners serving in the U.S. military.  If you were willing to die for America, you should be able to become a citizen was the rationale.  Unfortunately, between 1875 and 1917,  racism clothed in a quota system hindered the Asian-born from the same privileges.  But the Spanish-American War brought change to that thinking.  For most of the 20th Century, ending in 1992 with the end of an American military presence in the Philippines,  Filipinos could enlist in the military.  They would gain skills, have a successful career and earn a retirement.  It was a path to citizenship due to a government immigration policy that serving during a conflict could enable naturalization.    In 1990,  an Executive Order by President H.W. Bush declared that any military member, Active Duty, Guardsman or Reservist could apply for citizenship without a residency requirement.  And since July 3,  2002, President George Bush signed an Executive Order that all non-citizens serving since September 11, 2001 could immediately apply for citizenship.  Its provisions included veterans of past wars and conflicts. But apparently, in 2009,  the U.S. again amended the policy of enlistment and subsequent naturalization to only those who were in legal possession of a Green Card at the time of enlistment.

It is a fairly complex issue when a state government refuses to follow Constitutionally-granted federal laws on immigration.  Worse, for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation continued support or calls for repeal,  persons affected are not just students at prestigious universities using scholarships, taxpayer support, and university grants,  but also  honorably-serving military member (s).   Many of these foreign-born enlistees have skills, particularly in certain language dialects, and received entry by virtue of the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program.

President Obama’s Administration is praised for DACA, under him began restricting the enlistment of those subject to the legislation.  By introducing more-stringent vetting, the Executive Branch wanted to identify potential security risks, those with a history of criminal behavior,  and those with ongoing foreign allegiances.   The issue now is under review by President Trump,  but ending the DACA program and potentially deporting the now-adult children will harm those who want to – or are now serving in the military.  Politics may again ‘trump’ the President.   While President Trump may truly want to treat “Dreamers” with respect and fairness, there are Congressmen who may force the issue. =

It is perhaps up to those of us who have served honorably in uniform, to let our elected officials -most of whom have not served in uniform – know that grandstanding about  DACA, is not just about rebellious state officials, lobbyists with agendas, and one group of students using resources that are denied to legally-entitled students;  this also affects our brothers and sisters in uniform.  With all the televised nonsense about foreign flag-waving, non-citizen students, laborers, and tenured professors demanding rights and privileges,  I will gladly support a foreign-born sailor, soldier, airman or marine who want to serve the nation he resides in, becoming a citizen before any of them.

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dangerous intentions

The Sunday paper, actual newsprint, is still read in my house.  Peruse is probably a more exact term, but I grabbed onto two stories today that declare what a dangerous world we live in, and how some are fighting back.

pexels-photo-272337.jpegNo, this is not a tale of evil-doers thwarted by good-guys,  but rather the story of how a book can get an entire Government flustered, and a raygun available to police forces.   Apparently, the Japanese on Okinawa are irritated that a BIBLE was part of a display honoring Missing In Action and Prisoners Of War in a military hospital.   We all should know the terrible things that this particular book stirs up. To one who sees self-improvement, it is Truth, Love, Honor,  Selflessness.  To them, it is the possibility of overcoming the weaknesses of mankind:  Hatred,  Fear, Doubt, Hypocrisy, and Betrayal.  To believers, it is voluntary primer from a supreme Intelligent Designer.  But for some who seek Power over others, there cannot be a still higher power.

 And then, a featured story of the drone-killer ray gun catches my eye.  This is a tool to prevent danger to the State, and its law enforcement, from the foolish person who flies a drone in the path of aircraft.  When drones are sold in 7-Elevens, online, and in department stores,  everyone has the freedom and means to be hazardous to others.  Law Enforcement has to police another misbehavior of some, to whom words (law or rules) or norms (common sense) have little power.

So which is it?   Words have Power, or they do not have power?  The State doesn’t seem to know either.  If someone reads and practices the Torah, Buddhist texts, Hindi theology, or Book of Mormon, my family and I are not threatened.  At least, in the western world, it is all voluntary.  The Word of Christ has never hurt another soul.  People, alone, are capable of that.

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.

dont-tread-300

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.

USNS Paltroon

I am trying my hand at some nautical fiction this month

April 20, 2021

As far as the world was told,  late in November 2017,  a rocky asteroid,  a visitor from interstellar space passed through the solar system.  But that was not entirely accurate.  It actually struck the Earth, landing in the Pacific Ocean in a hundred thousand-square mile area northeast of Midway Island.  That was not the unusual part – it decelerated before entering the atmosphere and landing in the ocean.  Our surveillance satellites, as well as the Russians and Chinese – and Elon Musk’s SpaceX (under secret contract with the US Government) were temporarily (electronically) blinded before “Oumuamua” entered the atmosphere.  So the approximate area is calculated and not confirmed.  It is almost three miles to the ocean floor in that area so finding even a large object is no easier than the search a decade ago for that missing airliner somewhere in the Indian Ocean. 

Now a Russian submarine we aren’t supposed to be able to track, we know vanished after it entered the search zone a day ago.   My ship is scheduled to enter the same search box tomorrow morning at 0600.

To be continued…..

creative writing

Any enlisted member of the military has undoubtedly encountered three styles of writing: one style encompasses instructions. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Department of Defense (DOD) Instructions, and a unit’s Plan of the Day (POD) are just a few of these that provide the boundaries of behavior we know as “military bearing”. Another involves “creative writing”, that is, the personnel evaluation, used to qualify a member for advancement.

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Periodically, an enlisted member is required to submit a summary of his or her performance, which provides in short concise bullet format, a skill or achievement, and it’s value to the evaluating senior NCO or officer. There are some individuals who may actually perform far superior to her peers, but without some “inside” information on what a superior in command, or a merit board is looking for, may not stand out. While experience is a good teacher, a mentor in the service provided needed polishing in the specific language the military uses.

INSPIRED MENTORING. 19 OF 20 SAILORS PROMOTED THIS CYCLE.

As the Navy has embarked on a “radical overhaul” ( per Navy Times) of the enlisted evaluation system, I thought it would be worth reminiscing about writing as practiced in the U.S. Navy. The last time the Navy overhauled the evaluation system, it was to refine a grading system that was less objectively-based and more subjective. As anyone from the period of the 1970s to 1990s can attest, there were certain Sailors who were deserving of promotions, but only the “4.0” Sailor was the rare crow who would get advanced. The grading scale rated on a scale from 2 and below, to 3.0 to 3.4 or 3.6 in several areas that were broken down on the evaluation form. In the passing years, more and more candidates learned “how” to write their evaluation, and their superiors learned “how” to get their sailors advanced.

TECHNICAL EXPERT. MACHINERY LUBRICATED EFFECTIVELY.

As a result, beginning in the late 1990s, a “5.0” scale was implemented to refine the process. Another period of ranking creep, and failures of subjective grading (combined with Congressional-mandated manpower levels) probably resulted in this 2017 revision.

My favorite excerpts from the Navy Times article explains this:

(Vice Admiral Robert) Burke says the system created “unwritten rules” and “grade creep” that have eroded the system’s effectiveness.

The Navy has developed an unofficial “code” for writing performance assessments. If you are a supervisor, “you have to be able to write in code,” Burke said. “If you are sitting on a [promotion] board, you have to be able to decipher the code. And each of our tribes — for example, surface warfare, submarines, aviators — each one of these individual communities has a slightly different code.”

Falling star

It is a stressful time to be a General Officer in the United States Armed Forces.  An Army Major General,  Ryan Gonsalves, was on the short list to get his third star,  or promotion to Brigadier General, when he abruptly inserted combat boot in mouth.  An article asserts he made some colorfully blunt and condescending assessment of a Congressional delegation and particularly offended a female staffer.   He should not have been so colorful.  Perhaps he could have watched “A Few Good Men” for insight in how not to be condescending.

One gentlemen I know summed it up well.  For millennia, men have used power to obtain sex; however, in the same time, women have used sex to obtain power.  At the extremes we have seen abuses. Effective warriors in history, such as Alexander, Charlemagne, Ulysses S. Grant and Omar Bradley were effective leading people and changing the course of history.   However, I would think that a general in the second decade of the Second Millennium would have some acumen.  For the last two hundred years, the United States military has had civilians making policy, authorizing budgets, and setting priorities for national defense.   Many times this has been contrary to the advise of the seasoned warriors who know that adversaries and potential adversaries respect the threat or the actual implementation of force.

Yet a parent’s advice to a child aggrieved about many things should still be a fundamental truth. Apparently, the wisdom of picking one’s battles carefully was not heeded by this general.  Perhaps he reflects the current Commander-In-Chief in that regard.  And unfortunately it seems, this general officer has learned that indeed, the “pen (to strike his name from consideration) IS mightier than the sword”.

 

Gun control begins on deck

While assigned to a naval ship, from the early 1990s till the late in the decade,  one of my additional duties was as a watchstander .   I was part of the Quarterdeck watch which controls movement of personnel and material on and off ship while in port.    The Quarterdeck watch is made up of an Officer of the Deck (OOD),  a Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW), and a Messenger of the Watch (MOOW), under the general supervision of a Duty Section Leader and a Command Duty Officer.  We all are charged with maintaining the safety and security of the ship – or station (Installations also maintain the same structure) while the vessel is in port.

To be qualified to stand a watch on  the Quarterdeck,  each person has to complete training requirements including firearms training.   This is normally managed by a Petty Officer from the Armory,  a Gunners Mate or Master-At-Arms.   On this particular day, were at sea,  and in calm weather.     It was a time to renew my  qualifications at a “range” set up on the fantail of the ship.  We would shoot at targets in the direction of the open sea.

EUCOM Image
image courtesy US NAVY EUCOM, 7 JUL 2011

This was a time for refresher lessons on firearms safety.  Handling of pistol, rifle or shotgun,  hot weapons,  jammed rounds and so forth.   Occasionally we received instruction in prayer.  Prayer?   On one memorable occasion,  a young Sailor, we thereafter called “Barney Fife”, was on the line with four of us,  and the Range Master standing behind and to the left of our group.   At the command to “Commence Firing”, after the first or second trigger pull, there was a “Zing!”, followed by an immediate   “CEASE FIRING!!!” and “UNLOAD!”  or something to that effect.  One of our group had somehow discharged his weapon such that a slug ricocheted off the deck dangerously close to the Range Master.

Billy.   This was the same young Sailor that one of the deck seaman with sound-powered phone ( for internal ship communications) had fooled into waiting for a shore-to -ship phone call  while they both were on a sea detail.  He was a good-hearted but slow-witted guy.

Thereafter, Seaman Jones (not his real name)  was permitted to stand the Quarterdeck watch only as Messenger – and was not allowed to touch a weapon.   We were assigned to the same duty rotation, and as I was generally the OOD watchstander,   I would allow him only to stand downrange of me.   While the Gunners Mate may have pronounced a saltier blessing in our young Sailor’s direction,   I think we all were generally very thankful to the Almighty that day!