maybe I shouldn’t

 

32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;  – Proverbs 1:32

Another blogger I follow published a story of a workman in a farming community who ignorantly, but purposely, set a blaze to burn cut brush in very dry conditions.  It was a day with a light breeze.  And it was next to fields that provide this blogger’s animals’ feed.   Another quick-reacting farmer cut a fire-break that minimized the destruction that would have been – to the surrounding fields and forest.

My wife recounted by phone to me mid-day a terrifying encounter on a highway with a fool speeding behind her by inches, screaming, throwing the “finger” around, and swerving around and slamming on brakes.  Worse still, he was taking pictures of her with a cell phone.  A maniac on a mission to kill himself or others.  She was shaken but unscathed.  And her passenger, returning from a cardiac treatment, safe as well.  And the often-maligned law enforcement officers were not present to intercept “road rage”.

A train operator in a large metropolitan center on the U.S. East Coast was distractedly using a cellphone while a train was traveling through an area too rapidly to navigate a turn.  Of course it crashed.  Because the automated speed-control feature of the track had not been installed at that time.  In the IOT (Internet of Things),  we are not yet at the future our futurist movies depict.  But then fallible humans design them.

A Navy ship with a highly-advanced navigation console, but relatively unfamiliar operators and overly confident command authority, collided with a commercial ship. It resulted in death, destruction, and ruined lives and careers.  This week, a social media post by a popular American television star, blatantly and undeniably abhorrent, resulted in firing and the show’s cancellation.  A  fool’s big mouth resulted in lost jobs for all those behind the scenes.

Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil. – Plato

People are often responsible – or irresponsible – for many problems that beset us.  Many times, of course, the things that plague mankind including influenza or wildfires, earthquakes or volcanoes are beyond human control.   But then, building a community on an active earthquake fault or on an island (Hawaii) created by an active volcano is by human design.

These behaviors and consequences are reasons to find comfort and instruction in the Proverbs of the Bible, wisdom of the ancient Greek philosophers, or other contemplative authors.   Human behavior has been the same for thousands of years. Only the technology has changed.

Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ~C.P. Snow, New York Times, 15 March 1971  via http://www.quotegarden.com

Quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquote.com except where noted

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

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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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.

 

walls, poets, and strategy

Good fences make good neighbors…  -Mending Wall, Robert Frost

Walls keep some things in and some things out.  While rivers, oceans, mountains and forests are natural boundaries, it is the inventiveness of men to construct un-natural boundaries declaring to all “this is MINE”.  Trust and brotherly love seems to have been lost with Cain setting out after killing Abel.  Fear and desire for control supplanted harmony.  Men created walls.

The Great Wall of China

Originally started in the Third Century BC, by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, this series of walls and fortifications was started with labor comprised of soldiers and convicts.  In the interest of security,  that labor had a terrible cost in lives.  History.com  states that perhaps 400,000 died during the construction.  Over the last millennium, a series of sometimes parallel walls fifteen to thirty feet in height and up to fifty feet thick at its base, the Wall was not really keeping anyone out.  Though often stated that is was intended to keep the barbarians – Mongols and foreigners  – out, it served mostly as a symbol.  Ironically, the Mongol rulers of China manned the wall to protect commerce along the trade routes of the Chinese empire.  It’s the only tourist attraction of the 21st Century visible from space.

The Maginot Line

Following the horrific casualties,  mustard gas, trench warfare and devastation of the First World War,  leaders in France, in the 1930s decided to build fortifications on the French-Germany border to prevent future incursion by Germany into France.  Part of the wall was not a wall at all, but a series of fortresses and used the natural steep terrain  thought to hinder the advancement of an enemy force.  Part relied on the thick Ardenne forests and did not wall off the complete border.   While the German army did penetrate the Ardenne forest and circumvented the Maginot Line,  the French also failed to seal the border with other nations.  Ironically, from the French side of the fortified line,  the Allied troops found that the defenses were difficult to penetrate as they advanced toward Germany in 1944.

Macnamara’s Line

President Trump’s insistence on a wall is another in a series of fence strategies – Russians partitioning Germany, the French in Algeria, and even during the Vietnam conflict.   On September 7, 1967 then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara  announced that an electronic barrier would be constructed to signal our forces when the North Vietnamese Army infiltrated south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the South Vietnam border with North Vietnam.  It was the second attempt in Vietnamese history to separate political entities of rival factions, for political and economic reasons.  Each faction was supported by a European power, one Dutch and the other Portuguese, seeking to expand their economic interest in the region.  That was in the 17th Century.

By the time the French were losing their colonies in Indochina to the Communist forces under Ho Chi Minh, they had successfully re-deployed their forces to their Algerian colony and were implementing a wall there that combined a lethal electric fence with anti-personnel mines.  It was a very successful effort, but the cost in personnel and public sentiment in France to the conflict resulted in the French withdrawing.   In Vietnam, by the mid-1960s, the United States strategy to oppose the infiltration of South Vietnam through troop deployment was not working.  And so an idea germinated to build a wall. While the military supported expanding the war into the countries bordering South Vietnam and the North, another group supported deploying technological means along with huge numbers of mines , against personnel and vehicle traffic, to impede the infiltration of troops into South Vietnam.  Through surveillance and aerial bombardment, the US attempted to thwart the use of the Ho Chi Minh trail.  Considering the issues that impeded the surveillance, detection, collection and dissemination of the intelligence gathered,  and the war’s huge cost in personnel, and political unrest at home, it was a failure.

Mexico’s  “wall”

Mexico -Guatemala

Studies  do not get a lot of attention in the media when they do not enhance the current pro-immigration ( in Orwellian newspeak, illegal is blotted out by those who ignore law that does not suit them)  sentiment about a border wall along the southern US border,  cite the abuses that tens of thousands of migrants passing through the border with Guatemala and Belize. Drug traffickers, criminals, migration officials and corrupt local police are chiefly responsible.  Workers are exploited at very poor wages from the migrant population at the border.

For any worker who complains to the government about the exploitation,  the process is  typical of bureaucracy – requiring paperwork, a series of hearings attended by the complainant, and any finding in favor of the worker,  put responsibility on him to report the findings to the employer.   As for the Mexican government response,  they deport illegals or arrest them.  In the article this information was described, then -President Vicente Fox – seventeen years ago – stated how he was implementing a development corridor and better conditions including amnesty for illegals working in Mexico with forged documents.  For a government and its proxies, the lobbying groups in the United States,  to hold America accountable for trying to stop illegal migration,  a metaphor of dwellers in glass houses throwing stones at the United States is readily apparent.

Lost in all these historical perspectives of walls and borders are the people who suffer from the criminals, profiteers, corruption, unkept promises, fear and cynicism.  And that is from those who are living legally within a nation.  Walls have rarely been effective for very long in the history of civilization.  And the political systems that rely on walls, when everyone else is trying to dig under them, bribe the guardians at the gates, go around them, go through or encourage rebellion within the walls will not have security.

While politicians debate walls,  consider Robert Frost, neither political nor a polemic, on the nature of walls:

Mending Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”

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.

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.