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

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.

 

A mermaid’s take, reblogged

Post reblogged from   the Little Mermaid

“Religion and politics are nothing but a stinking by-product of man’s gargantuan greed for power. The two evils go hand-in-hand; if politics is the rich man, religion is his unchaste mistress, both having a discreet love-hate relationship. Terrorism only happens to be their spoiled rotten love child whom they can neither extol nor disown.”

-The Little Mermaid, MMXVII

I thought this brave post was worth retelling, particularly since I am both a disciple of Jesus and someone who studied political science at the university.   Whenever people discuss either religion or politics,  some duck behind solid objects, some have their own horror stories to tell, and still others mount a defense of the particular hill on which they are encamped.

Sadly, this is what both topics have come to – a cauldron that no good can come from for a majority of people who disavow politics and religion.  Yet it is exactly the human element that spoils everything.  I have never met one unflawed human being:  never made a mistake, never been critical, never damaged (emotionally or physically) another animate being nor misused a kindness shown them.  Politics is a game of control wielded by as equally-messed up human beings as those who put them in power.   Religion, when corrupted by these same corruptible human beings, rob the religion of the Spiritual truth and creates discord and confusion.

If religion is pure expression of LOVE, COMPASSION, and CARE, you would think everyone would want to adopt that.  We then could have a discussion of how one belief system expresses these better than another.   Yet people mess up the message.  I happen, late in my life, to believe in the existence of spiritual Truth as real as the field of gravity.  I know and have experienced its positive effects as certainly as I know that I am standing upon Earth due to the gravitational field it exhibits – in spite of not actually seeing it.

If politics was only about SOCIAL welfare – the natural freedoms that the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution talk about – everyone should embrace that.  But again, people mess it up with their own particular take on things.   And their own demand for power to deny others their power.   And so we have a “cold” as well as a violent war within societies to not become better people, but to deny others their opportunity to be better people.

Since I,  and those whom I have come to know as my “spiritual family”, believe in the inherent triumph of the unseen force that embodies Truth, Love, compassion, over the negative forces that plague our existence, I have Hope.  It has little to do with whatever human construct – religious traditions or political institutions.   I am still a corrupt being and a mess, but with a spiritual connection I endeavor to continually improve.

desinformatsiya

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

– Sun Tzu  (brainyquote.com)

It is quoted that Vladimir Putin, former KGB director and President (for life) of the Russian federation, said that his career with the KGB grew from his patriotism and romantic notions born of spy novels.    I wonder if any of these were about James Bond and FROM RUSSIA, WITH LOVE.   Given the revelations of “Russian meddling” in our elections, which to those in the business of national security understand that most nations engage in, with each other to some degree, this is still surprising to a lot of Americans.

Sounds like a movie plot: Machiavellian Government infiltrates another country with sleepers, distributes false stories to create chaos, invests in institutions and the young with the intent to neuter competition – intellectually, economically, politically and internationally. Patiently observes the breakdown of their target(s) racial, gender, religious, and social unity; calculates the right time to fund in ‘resistance movements”. Knows the emotional and psychological triggers from decades of espionage and ‘gulag’ research to manipulate populations.

And of course, their targets ignorantly participate as pawns of someone else’s chess game. It’s been happening in human societies since the hunter-gatherers banded together into communities. Except they did not have oil and gas monopolies, stock markets, biological agents, nuclear weapons and Facebook.

Lord help us.

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

– Sun Tzu

“10 – 80 – 10” might explain everything

I was once (still?)  a cynic.   I started to consider years ago that ten percent of people were the top intellectuals, philanthropists, inventors, artists, and warriors (I was in the military at the time).   That also got me thinking about all the gloom-ers, doomers, and desperado,  folks whom I likened to the bottom “ten-percenters”.  In the middle were the remaining eighty percent who either were sketchy, but not necessarily “bad” or the more reasonable just-trying-their-best-to-get-by folks.   In a world today where people determine the answer they want first, and go in search of, or create the evidence they need to support their pre-determined answers,  it seems unnatural to work the other way round.   So I came up with an 10/80/10 proposition.   I have not conducted rigorous research.  During my worst cynical days and weeks,  personal experience and social media provide me a predetermined answer in search of validation.   I often apply it to everything that humanity touches.   Continue reading

when stubbornness is not civil

Whenever there is authority, there is a natural inclination to disobedience.  – Thomas Chandler Haliburton
https://www.brainyquote.com

What is it about human nature that wants to disobey authority and then complain that the “authorities” do not give a fig about what people want?!

lakejennings15With the hot, dry weather of summer in San Diego upon us,  and following a very wet Spring generating a lot of brush and grasses,  fires can start and grow like mad.  Today,  one such fire was apparently sparked by a vehicle  traveling on the highway where grasses were very close to the roadbed.  What became four hundred acres ablaze were tackled by firemen, trucks,  fire-retardant dropping aircraft and water-dispersing helicopters from afternoon into the evening.    Now it is bad enough that reporters and cameras were present to chronicle this fire,  but these reporters stated, in the same breath,  a MANDATORY EVACUATION for nearby residents AND  some  remaining behind to defend their homes with garden hoses.  “Mandatory” had some meaning once upon a time.  But today, there is an overall lack of trust in authority of any sort.

I get it.  My house.  Memories.  Possessions.  Stuff.    But WHOSE life gets put on the line when the “stuff” hits the fan – and the fire threatens to envelope the homeowner and home?   It’s the same response from those who live in the hurricane zone along the Eastern seaboard and Gulf of Mexico.    Are first responders required to go after people who refuse to leave their property?   I believe it is part of the oath they take to protect and serve.   In the meantime,  it looks like it is going to be a flaming Summer and Fall.  I might want to buy another garden hose,  or up my homeowner’s insurance.

 

Born in the USA

On the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Americans are set to commemorate the day with barbecues, parades,  pool parties, and  family gatherings.  And fireworks.  (And hopefully, neither the Emergency Rooms nor the firefighters and paramedics across the nation will be overtaxed today by injured or sunstroke-suffering revelers.)

When I began writing, I wanted to comment on the state of America’s unique history to unite diverse people into an economic power that changed the world in the last half of the Twentieth Century.   Continue reading

In memoriam

Their feet rush into sin;
    they are swift to shed innocent blood.
They pursue evil schemes;
    acts of violence mark their ways. Isaiah 59:7

Prayers go out tonight to the victims of yet another terror attack in London.  Mayhem and murder committed by corrupt men.   In London, Manchester, Kabul or Manila the violent seem to strike randomly.

What these acts of terror have generated however is a resolve among the population to oppose evil.  While many, myself included want to take up arms to defend against these monsters,  those who prowl around looking to shed blood (1 Peter 5: 8) are ultimately opposed by love.  When children no longer are taught to hate from remote corners of the world, then terror will have no power here.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  

-1 Corinthians 13: 4 -7

 

Popeye’d Off!

I  sort of “lost” it today, in a manner of speaking reading a blog post.   There’s all sorts of pain, dismay, anger and ranting about the shape America is in.

I have loved and respected America and Americans all my life. I served in the military 26 years.  The ugliness and anger in this country is due to failure of the country, following anything and everything but God and the letter/ spirit of  moral values;  some pick or interpret what to believe; some actually try, fail and try again to follow a peaceful path;  however, there are more than a few who practice a faith whose God is Self.

Second, the failure of the Family to instill a self-respect and respect for others. Single-parent families, absentee dads,  dysfunction  or disinterest in raising children.  A lack of training from earliest childhood.  FB_IMG_1491759647178 And third,  a failure of a people to have ethics, education, and motivation to hold ALL levels of leadership accountable.  Laziness, godlessness, and self-indulged people looking to blame and hate others is what causes this country, which had been the pinnacle of UNITY in the world,  pain.

May memories

A lot changes in forty years. In  May, 1977,  prior to my departure for Boot Camp at Naval Training Center, San Diego in October,  I was graduating high school.   Jimmy Carter was President, a fact that I thought, being a former naval submariner officer, would make him an excellent leader.   People didn’t want Gerald Ford as he had pardoned ‘criminal’ Richard Nixon, but I remember him for sending in Marines to retrieve the Mayaguez, which had been seized by the Khmer Rouge a month after the last battle involving U.S. troops of the Vietnam War.

In those last two years of the Seventies,  the Zumwalt-era of loosened grooming standards – longer hair, mustaches and beards worn by Sailors were okay.  Dungarees (bell-bottom style) and dixie cups, were the working uniform.   Pot was a problem on military bases including San Diego.   A community that now is marked by the upwardly-mobile, well-heeled beach crowd, Ocean Beach, was then a place where druggies and ex-military,  tattoo parlors and bars were less restrictive than up the coast near the UCSD campus.

A visit over the Coronado Bridge to the Naval Station Coronado, where carriers were berthed was my first view of a ship – the USS Recruit was a wood and metal reproduction on the Recruit Training Command, to introduce us to naming convention, etc – so did not count.  The ‘aroma’ of the interior of the USS Kitty Hawk was the first ‘knock out’ that I will never forget.  Jet fuel, grease, human sweat, urinals and generally,  the stink of at times, 3500 men (no women then) wafted fresh new sailors who had more recently been accustomed to PINE SOL clean scent.

At the time, I was a student learning to work on complex electronics and mechanical maintenance of teletypes.  Where I now cannot see without at least one or two orders of magnitude, I was able then to discern two from three centimeters adjustments.  The instructor was quite ADAMANT about that ability before graduation.   We had Iranian military students – this was prior to the Iranian Revolution – and when they were recalled by their government,  we were relieved.   Suffice it to say that American and Iranian hygiene were on different tracks.

In May of 1982,  with several of my fellow Russian Language students and the professor – I was able to travel  to Russia – prior to the end of the USSR (1989) – visiting cities – St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Tbilisi.  If only for all but one – a socialist-  the trip was very informative and probably saved them and their future families from the ‘snowflake’ sensibilities, the mantra of “coexistence” and “socialism’s great”.  The people may have been interesting and interested, but the economy was a shambles. Ambition was reserved for the underground economy — some of whom are today’s Russian millionaires and billionaires.

In May of 1984,  I had been out of the Navy four years, attending the university in Tucson, Arizona.  Four three of those four years I had been actively involved in the Veteran students organization on campus,  and while peers were pursuing commissioning programs,  I was looking toward a government job after graduation.  Strangely,  in my second year after graduation,  when my graduate school plans went unfunded – I re-enlisted in the Navy -Reserve – that is.  The entreaties of one of my friends finally had me join his unit, only to see him quit!

After petitioning to resume an Active Duty career in 1987,  the next major May milestone I recall was May of 1997 when I was transferred from Norfolk, Virginia to San Diego, California.    1970 Dodge Chargers, if you could find one in decent shape were then ten thousand dollars or more,  homes which had been an unheard of, eighty thousand dollars – for an ocean view, were nearly eight hundred thousand,  and NTC was closed but for a few administrative medical functions.

And in the twenty years since that time,  friends and mentors went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq,  the Soviets became Russian trade partners, the Chinese became the world’s second-most powerful economy, the Islamic world tried to separate the economic need for the non-Islamic world – from the ideology that wants to reduce infidels to ashes,  and we are again at some form of odds over military preparedness against the adversaries that were no longer adversaries?

 

 

Treading water

dont-tread-300
Gadsden flag, 1775

 

As I get older,  I wonder what has become of my military-physique – the early one, not the rounder one of my last year – and what became of the ‘forego the mission, clean the position!” fanatical routine with cleanliness.   Not that I don’t love the smell of PINESOL in the morning,  but leaving the house all day with two big hair-shedding dogs results in a truce between the advance of dirt and actual boot-camp standards of clean.

Attitudes that once were socially and fiscally conservative,  I generally vote in every election, hold ‘personal responsibility’ in high esteem — welfare is for the most-desperate and least able to work,  and believe military service is beneficial to everyone between 18 and 50 years old.    Now, I hold fast to my church family, my spouse, and keep my personal values fairly close to the chest — outside the street I live on.  Fortunately, I have neighbors who were also military or police, and are now retired.  A neighbor on a street where I walk the dogs has a “DON’T TREAD ON ME” flag above his door.  Another proudly has a TRUMP sign.   Both have pickup trucks with Marine and Army stickers on the former.   Then again,  I wear “VFW Life Member” and Navy Chief t-shirts to work.   But I am mellowed with aging.

I have YOSEMITE, bicycling, and Grand Canyon hiking stickers on my car, a VFW license frame and a Nature Conservancy brochure on my car seat – I contribute to purchasing wildland around San Diego to preserve it.   What happened to the guy who owned firearms, enjoyed target plinking,  and was a fan of talk radio?  Gone.

I need to get out of California.  I’m starting to love it here.

 

http://www.gadsden.info/history.html

Burial at sea

 

One of the privileges that a Navy man can request,  when the end time comes, is to be buried at sea. While I was on board the USS PETERSON in the mid-1990’s,  I was on the honor detail when we performed the last rites for (ashes of) a veteran of World War II. The ceremony was a solemn, set on the fantail of the destroyer.  Taps was rendered.  The Navy Hymn was played ( we had a boom box with a recording).  An officer, selected by the duty roster, read some words about the veteran and the tradition.  And everything was recorded on videotape for the deceased’s relatives. This was 1994 or 1995, so there was nothing like today’s live streaming technology.   When the time came to commit our Shipmate into the deep,  the wind shifted.   Our brother went partly into the briny — and also across the fantail.  A little splicing that evening in the Media center edited the re-shot final images of the burial at sea.   No need to stress the family with the ‘Sweepers’ call that was mustered up.

A burial — and a rebirth at sea, was exactly what occurred for me personally when I spent eight years on sea duty assignments with three different ships.   As I continue to read letters written in my first two years in the Navy, and from time when I went back into the Navy seven years later, I see a person that I no longer recognize.  I had tackled one of the most-rigorous technical skills the Navy offered,  but it took trial, error, failure, and opportunity that unexpectedly resulted in a review that medically discharged me.   At that time  I was an introverted teenager trying to escape Arizona and a negative self-image by joining the Navy;  in the Eighties, as a twenty-something stuck in a rut, with a challenging relationship, and poor job outlook,  I was able to re-enter the Navy, but only in that same field that had so challenged me previously.   The grass, or rather the salt air was beckoning me and I chose selfishly.   As my letters from this period show, I markedly changed as I matured.  When my personal life fell apart- my then wife took up with someone else,  I became more callous, even cynical at times, and a workaholic.    The go-to guy if something needed to be done.

However , San Diego changed all that.   I, metaphorically, died again, and was reborn –while I was still on active duty and assigned sea duty.   My new spiritual chain of command started with God and Jesus.  You listen when your ISIC (Immediate Superior in Command)  wears actual stars on his uniform. As stuck as  I had been in my past lives and self-interests,  I enjoy now a real freedom with my wife, family and church.  My skills, passions, and commitment is focused positively.   For almost twenty years, I have found that a burial at sea, and resurrection into a new life is truly freeing.  Thank God.