Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Former CMS on Obama's Non-Visit to Wounded Troops

I haven't blogged about Senator Obama's overseas trip. There's been sufficient comment from so many sources, all of them saying much of what I wanted to say. However, I did see this nugget of sanity at The Tank at National Review On Line that was too priceless not to note.

Former CSM of Landstuhl on Obama [Gregory S. McNeal]

The former Command Sergeant Major of Landstuhl from 2003 to 2005 released this statement today regarding Senator Obama's decision to not visit wounded soldiers in Landstuhl:

Having spent two years as the Command Sergeant Major at Landstuhl Hospital, I am always grateful for the attention that facility receives from members of Congress. There is no more important work done by the United States Army than to care for those who have been wounded in the service [of] our country. While Americans troops remain engaged in two hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a steady stream of casualties to the hospital, and a steady stream of visitors who wish to meet with those troops and thank them for their service.

Senator Obama has explained his decision to cancel a scheduled visit there by blaming the military, which would not allow one of his political advisers to join him in a tour of the facility. Why Senator Obama felt he needed an adviser with him to visit U.S. troops is unclear, but if Senator Obama isn't comfortable meeting wounded American troops without his entourage, perhaps he does not have the experience necessary to serve as commander in chief.


UPDATE: Check out this tongue-in-cheek video about Senator Obama's trip to Germany from the Republican National Committee.

Nanny State

Why does the LA City Council believe that they must step in and make individual choices about what people eat and where they eat it? They've passed a year long moratorium on building any additional "fast-food" restaurants in South LA because they're concerned that the people in South LA (an ethically mixed and low-income area) are considered too fat. Does anyone else have a fundamental problem with this? I thought this was a free country, where people have the right to make bad decisions, as long as those decisions don't hurt anyone else. Deciding to eat food that may be served in bigger portions (super-size it, please) or have a higher-fat content may be a bad decision, but it hurts only those who actually eat the food. Now I understand that obese people generally have more medical problems, that may lead to higher medical costs; most of which are carried by the government for those without medical insurance (like many low-income folks). But, rather than try to regulate what and where people eat, why not do something to educate folks on healthy choices or advocate diet and exercise? It seems to me that by taking away a person's ability to choose, the LA City Council is really saying that the folks in South LA are too stupid to make intelligent decisions. Now why isn't that considered racist or elitist?

Jay D. Homnick wrote about the ban on The American Spectator's Website. I agree with his comments:

At moments like this, people who believe that constitutional government is the foundation of our nation experience culture shock. It seems absurd even to be debating the merits of such a statute. Unless the obesity "crisis" has reached proportions that call for instituting martial law and suspending habeas corpus, there is no conceivable theory by which a government has the power to a) prohibit fast food restaurants anywhere, b) prohibit any kind of restaurant in a particular zoned-for-business neighborhood, or even c) determine a category of food as being officially "not good for you."

The particular legislation will either succeed or fail to be enforced and will either fail or succeed to make a difference in the habits of individual citizens. More important to public policy and political science is the arrogation of volition. The sheer gall of believing that elected officials are better equipped to make private life choices. The staggering effrontery of coercing such choices. And the stupendous audacity of employing the law as a vehicle to implement such coercion.

Perhaps it is time for folks like you and me to throw in the towel and pick up the handkerchief. Let us suggest more laws in this spirit. People waiting for public buses may no longer read Archie comics, only War and Peace. Movie theaters in low-income areas may no longer show Kung Fu, only Bambi. Longshoremen may no longer marry women with tattoos, only librarians. Construction crews after work may no longer guzzle beer, only Pinot Grigio. If those pigs can play Pygmalion, if those burghers can ban the burgers, if those flies can ban fries, why can't gentlemen cultivate gentility?


I just can't wait for the law requiring ranchers to raise only low-fat emu and stores to sell only fresh vegtables, no artifical perservatives please! Apparently, we all need the government nanny to tell us what's good for us because we're too dumb to figure it out for ourselves or too much of a victim to live with the consequences.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jon Voight's Concerned for America

I usually don't pay much attention to opinions from members of the entertainment industry. Their job is to entertain, and unless they plan on running for office, I normally give their opinions about as much weight as I give an opinion offered by anyone else. Just because they're good at what they do (entertaining) doesn't mean they're automatically smarter than anyone else. Having said that, I did find this Op-Ed by Jon Voight in the Washington Times to be interesting. I'm not sure I give it any more weight than I'd give other people expressing their opinion . . . what I find interesting, though, is that Mr. Voight has the courage to express his in such a public way. After all, by expressing the opinion he has, he might be blacklisted by the entertainment elites. Check it out.

Military Death Penalty Case

Because of what I do, I deliberately avoid discussing court-martial cases. It would be improper for me to do so. However, this development in a particular military justice case is sufficiently important that I want to mention it here, without any comment from me.

President Bush, for the first time in 46 years, has acted under Article 71(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and ordered execution of a death sentence handed down by a military court-martial . The former-soldier, Ronald A. Gray, has been on death row since 1988, when a court-martial convicted him of two murders, an attempted murder, and three rapes. Former-Private Gray's conviction was the end result of a 8-month crime spree in the Fayetteville, North Carolina area while Gray was stationed at Fort Bragg in the late 1980s. According to a FOXNews report, the White House press secretary Dana Perino said,

"While approving a sentence of death for a member of our armed services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander in chief, the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted."

Identity Politics

Why do pundits and people of the press always jump to the conclusion that voters will vote for people that have the same sex, or the same skin color, or the same religion? Now I know that there are some voters out there who don’t take the time to become educated about the issues and the candidates. Some of those lazy voters will pull the lever (or push the button) for the candidate they think is most like them. After all, we do want someone in positions that can impact our lives who think like us. The lazy voter apparently believes that if someone looks like us or worships like us, they think like us. Nothing can be further than the truth!

Personally, I get somewhat offended when someone thinks I’ll vote for particular candidate because I’m a woman, or because I’m a veteran, or because of my religion. It makes me feel like I haven’t got the smarts or the gumption to find out for myself what position the candidate has on the issues that are important to me. I care too much for this Country to shortcut my civic responsibility. Voting for someone based only on their identity seems to me to be like picking your favorite sports team based only on the color of their uniforms or buying a car based only on a flashy ad. Stupid!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hot Buttons and Red Lines

I think everyone has a hot button that shouldn’t be pushed; that one thing that will change everything. Once it’s pushed, there will be a reaction and there’s no going back. For some folks, it’s one thing. For others, it will be something else. For me, one of those hot buttons is hurting my kids. If someone or something hurts one of my kids, I’ll react. It’s just a fact of life. I don’t always know what I’ll do . . . but you can be certain I’ll do something.

The Air Force has something like that button, it’s a red line painted around some areas of the flight line. Everyone knows that if you cross the red line, there’ll be a reaction. Chances are better than good that you’ll find yourself face down on the ground (or cement, or whatever), in a spread eagle position, challenged by a member of the Security Forces carrying a weapon and ready to use it on you, if you don’t cooperate. Not a pleasant position to be in. You learn to look for the red lines and you learn not to be stupid or test the system.

So, why am I talking about hot buttons and red lines? Because terrorism, of any kind, needs to be one of those hot buttons that gains a nation-wide reaction. If anyone, whether a state-sponsored actor or an independent operator, commits a terroristic act on our country, they should be treated as if they’ve crossed the red line and committed an act of war on this country.

Before the attacks on 9/11, this country treated acts of terrorism as criminal acts. Of course, they’re criminal acts, and sometimes the right response is criminal prosecution of the terrorist. A good example is Timothy McVay and his terroristic act of blowing up the Morrow Federal Building in Oklahoma City. It was the right thing to do to prosecute McVay and his co-conspirator, and then carry out the authorized punishment by executing him. However, criminal prosecution should not necessarily be the only response option. As the 9/11 Commission Report recognized, our law enforcement system may not be the best mechanism to deal with terrorism. In discussing the response to the first World Trade Center bombing by Ramzi Yousef in 1993, the Report said, “an unfortunate consequence of this superb investigative and prosecutorial effort was that it created the impression that the law enforcement system was well-equipped to cope with terrorism.” (9/11 Commission Report at page 72.) Unfortunately, we seem to default to the criminal justice system more often than not.

There are several things that contributed toward the bias for using the criminal justice system. One was President Clinton’s Presidential Decision Directive 39, issued in June 1995, which called terrorism both a matter of national security and a crime. It is. There is nothing wrong with that statement. However, when the only response is to seek criminal prosecution, you’ve ignored that some terrorist acts are so serious that they cross that red line and must be treated as acts of war. Nevertheless, as the 9/11 Commissioner’s recognized, before the attacks on 9/11, “The existing mechanisms for handling terrorist acts had been trial and punishment for acts committed by individuals; sanction, reprisal, deterrence, or war for acts by hostile governments.” (9/11 Commission Report at page 348.) The problem with using the criminal justice system for punishing individuals and elements of national power, like sanctions, reprisals, or war, for punishing hostile governments, is that you don’t take into consideration terrorism committed by or sponsored by organizations like al Qaeda. “The actions of al Qaeda fit neither category. Its crimes were on a scale approaching acts of war, but they were committed by a loose, far-flung, nebulous conspiracy with no territories or citizens or assets that could be readily threatened, overwhelmed, or destroyed.” (9/11 Commission Report at page 348.)

So what do you do with a “lose, far-flung, nebulous conspiracy” that pushes that national hot button or crosses that red line with a terrorist act? Obviously, you do everything you can to deprive them of support and sanctuary. But how? Do you play “whack-a-mole” and seek out its leaders, where ever located, and bring them back into our criminal justice system for prosecution? Do you prosecute the moneyed-middleman who funnels funds into the organization’s coffers? Do you keep your response focused on investigation and prosecution of terrorism as a crime? Or do you use a military solution, like a pre-emptive strike to attack the organization’s training or logistics areas, or military action to deprive the organization of a sanctuary? I know that criminal prosecution and military action are not mutually exclusive. But is it the right thing for this country to default to criminal investigation and prosecution for acts of terrorism?

In my opinion, our criminal justice system, with its legitimate focus on individual rights and due process, is not necessarily the best system in which to address terroristic acts. By its nature, use of the criminal justice system is reactive. Unless you have proof of a conspiracy to commit a crime, there must have been a crime committed before you prosecute it. It is hard to prevent acts of terrorism when you can’t prosecute the terrorist until they do something criminal, or take a step toward doing something criminal. The only prevention is the minimal deterrence that comes with punishment; something that will not deter a committed terrorist. If our goal is to deter future attacks, we must not rely on the criminal justice system as a means for responding to terrorism. We must be ready, willing, and able to respond militarily. Terrorism, of any type, against our nation, its citizens, or its assets, should be a “hot button” issue. We must consider any act of terrorism as crossing a red line, and let that “lose, far-flung, nebulous conspiracy” know that crossing the red line would prompt overwhelming military actions. Maybe then, terrorists would think twice about pushing the hot button or crossing the red line.

Congratulations Lt Gen Rives!

The Air Force has announced the appointment of Major General Jack Rives to the grade of Lieutenant General, effective July 23, 2008. Lt Gen Rives is the Air Force's Judge Advocate General, and is, in my opinion, the right guy, in the right place, at the right time. He's a legal scholar with an excellent mind; but most importantly, he's a leader. And leadership is something the Air Force, and in particular the AF JAG Corps, certainly needs.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"You're not a Peacemaker"

This video is truly an education. It's interesting to learn what anti-war protestors believe and see how they act. Aside from the chants and regurgitation of slogans and soundbites, it doesn't appear to me that the protestors have anything substantial to say. Some the comments captured on this video really demonstrate the attitudes and biases of those on the left. For example, some of the comments include,

"We should close Gitmo and turn it into a memorial for everything that is wrong."
" Surge in the troops accomplished an increase in Iraqi civilian deaths."
"Our country is sort of in the dark ages and we need to move towards enlightenment."



Other protestors call President Bush and Vice President Cheney liars and killers, and call for hanging the President. Another protestor tells an Iraq War Veteran to "go back to Iraq and kill people." Another protestor, one who is obviously not an American citizen, says the American culture is a "criminal culture" and says that the miltiary in Iraq rapes women. Another protestor actually spits on one of the Veterans. Watch the video, but take your blood pressure medicine before you do.

Monday, July 21, 2008

How do YOU define victory?

In the latest incident of mainstream media bias, the Drudge Report has an article reporting that the New York Times has rejected an OpEd written by Senator McCain responding to Senator Obama's OpEd outlining Senator Obama's plan for Iraq. (See my post on the plan below.) According to the New York Times, Senator McCain's OpEd didn't offer anything "new" and didn't "mirror" Senator Obama's piece. According to the editor who rejected the OpEd, "the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq." The article on Drudge also contains Senator McCain's draft (verbatim). In my opinion, Senator McCain's article does just that. He clearly says, "if we don’t win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president. Instead I will continue implementing a proven counterinsurgency strategy not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan with the goal of creating stable, secure, self-sustaining democratic allies." That, folks, is how you define victory in Iraq.

"So from the get-go that's just...."

Nine of our nation's Soldiers died last week in Afghanistan, and 15 were wounded, after a fierce firefight with the Taliban. From the first reports, we heard how the Taliban "overran" a new outpost, that the fighting was "inside the wire," that the outpost had to be abandoned, and that the attack signaled a new Taliban offensive. In an article published in Stars & Stripes the commander of the Army unit involved in the firefight disputes mainstream media reports that his command was "overrun," that his unit abandoned a base after the fight, or that the fight is sign of worsening conditions in Afghanistan. According to the commander, contrary to media reports, there was no base to abandon; just a vehicle outpost with defensive measures in place. As the commander, told the Stars & Stripes,

If there’s no combat outpost to abandon, there’s no position to abandon. It’s a bunch of vehicles like we do on patrol anywhere and we hold up for a night and pick up any tactical positions that we have with vehicle patrol bases.

We do that routinely.... We’re always doing that when go out and stay in an area for longer then a few hours, and that’s what it is. So there is nothing to abandon. There was no structures, there was no COP or FOB or anything like that to even abandon. So, from the get-go, that is just [expletive], and it’s not right.

The commander also disputed media reports that his unit was overrun. He said,

As far as I know, and I know a lot, it was not overrun in any shape, manner or form. It was close combat to be sure — hand grenade range. The enemy never got into the main position. As a matter of fact, it was, I think, the bravery of our soldiers reinforcing the hard-pressed observation post, or OP, that turned the tide to defeat the enemy attack.

I hope the mainstream media can eventually get it right! Or am I too much of a dreamer?

Of the 9 Soldiers who died, most lost their life at an observation post 50 to 75 meters away from the main position. On Saturday, Stars & Stripes had a great article giving a first-person account of the fight. There's also a multi-media link where you can hear the battle described by two of the Soldiers wounded in the fight.

The Difference Between Conservatives and Liberals

I heard an interesting comment on the way to work this morning, and it made me think. I generally listen to WMAL, a talk-radio station, mostly for the traffic and weather, but I do enjoy the interplay between Andy Parks and Fred Grandy on the "Andy & Grandy in the Morning Show." This morning, former-Congressman Grandy described conservatives as being optimistic about domestic policy and pessimistic about foreign policy; while liberals were the opposite, pessimistic about domestic policy and optimistic about foreign policy. When I heard the comment, I thought his generalization was right on the money. After additional reflection, I think Congressman Grandy is more right than he knew.

Think about it. Most conservatives, as foreign policy pessimists, take the “trust, but verify” approach of President Regan when it comes to foreign policy. Liberals, on the other hand, as foreign policy optimists want to be “engaged” in the international community, and see acceptance and trust from other countries as necessary aspects of our foreign policy. Conservatives want a strong national defense, to deter those who may want to harm us and to enable us to respond, in force, to those who try. Liberals want to cut back on defense spending and limit military actions. Pessimistic conservatives see a need for a strong foreign policy, a “speak softly and carry a big stick” approach, while optimistic Liberals see a need for international approval and take a “dialogue will solve everything” approach.

On the domestic front most conservatives, as domestic optimists, believe that anyone can rise above the circumstances of their birth through hard-work and perseverance. Liberals, as domestic pessimists, believe that the Government must step in to help those less fortunate and that we all must pay (through larger taxes) to be fair and even the playing field. Optimistic conservatives emphasize the individual, while pessimistic Liberals emphasize the collective-whole. Conservatives want less government and are optimistic that less regulation and less tax will be an incentive for growth. Liberals want more government, more regulation and more taxes to fund them; because they’re pessimistic about our ability to govern our actions without someone telling us how to do it.

Now I’ve known for some time that there is a word of difference between Conservatives and Liberals (even though sometimes the lines become blurred), but former-Congressman Grandy’s comment this morning sure brought the blurry picture into focus for me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Big Government & Self-Reliance

I heard an interview of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, today. She (again) stated how off-shore drilling for oil would not solve today's energy crisis, since we wouldn't be able to take advantage of any drilling for at least 5 years. She had all kinds of reasons why the "oil man in the White House" and his plan to help the energy situation were worthless; but the only solution she offered was a call to open up the strategic oil reserves to increase the oil supply and (hopefully) bring down prices. This struck me as a good example of the difference in approaches to problem solving between those who believe the Government can solve every ill and those who believe in self-reliance (as much as possible).

Speaker Pelosi's proposed solution was for the Government to give away something put aside for true emergencies. (Yes, I know the cost of gas is approaching emergency levels; but come on, is it a true National emergency?) She wants to "redistribute" oil reserves as a short-term fix rather than take the long-term approach of drilling into the resources available to us. She proposes using the Government to alleviate the immediate need, without fixing the source of the problem; our dependence on foreign oil. This is the same type of solution Speaker Pelosi and those who believe in Big Government have for so many problems: use the Government to redistribute assets, create entitlements, and make people dependent on the Government to solve their problems.

We also see the same proposed solution to the "mortgage crisis." Certain lenders gave loans to people who couldn't carry the debt. The lender took that risk in return for a higher payoff on the loan. The people who signed the mortgage made a bad judgment in taking on more debt-burden than they could carry. That was their risk. Why is this now the taxpayer's crisis to resolve? Why must Big Government step in and redistribute taxpayer's dollars to absolve bad judgments on the part of the lenders and those who took the loan? I know I'm looking at this one-dimensionally, but doesn't a Big Government generated solution create sense that everyone is entitled to have the Government solve their problems? What happened to self-reliance?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Arrogance and the Plan for Iraq

In an opinion piece in the July 14th New York Times, Senator Obama lays out what he calls “My Plan for Iraq.” It’s interesting to me that he’s announcing his plans and policies regarding Iraq well in advance of his fact-finding trip to the area of operations to talk to commanders and others actually there. It is just another example of his basic arrogance, at least as it applies to foreign policy and the use of the military. Obviously, Senator Obama doesn’t care what those “on the ground” doing the job think or the assessments they’ve made. Obviously, he doesn’t care to see (with his own eyes) what is actually happening in Iraq. Obviously, he doesn’t care to hear (personally and not filtered through the media or staffers or special interest groups) what our commanders and our Iraqi allies have to say about Iraq. Obviously, he doesn’t care to gather essential facts before making a final judgment. Obviously, he thinks he knows better.

According to his “plan,” Senator Obama would end the war in Iraq. It looks to me like the surge has basically ended the war; with a defeat for Al-Qaeda in Iraq and a victory for the US and our Iraqi allies. By all accounts, the security situation in Iraq continues to improve, despite attempts to weaken it and despite some successful attacks. The Iraqi Army and police forces are taking more and more responsibility for their country’s security, as should happen. In his “plan” Senator Obama reiterates his basic opposition to the strategic decision to implement the surge. He says that the surge has placed too much of a strain on our military and caused the deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan. He claims the cost of the surge was too high, and that Iraq’s leaders didn’t invest in rebuilding their own country and have not reached political accommodations.

Although Senator Obama recognizes that the surge is responsible for bringing down the level of violence in Iraq, he doesn’t credit the surge strategy with success. Instead, he says that we must “redeploy” our troops to “press” the Iraqi government to reach political accommodations and to take responsibility for their own security. I’m not certain how leaving the country before the Iraqi’s are capable of maintaining their security and before the government is stable will force these goals; but apparently Senator Obama believes leaving with the job only partially completed will do so.

Senator Obama calls his strategy one of “ending this war.” He calls for a withdrawal of all but a “residual force” within 16 months. He says that any redeployment would not be a precipitous withdrawal and that he would consult with commanders and the Iraqi government to ensure safe redeployment. He also announces a “diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region” and a commitment of $2 billion to support Iraq’s refugees. What would this do, other than give Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other extremists a timetable for planning and securing attacks on Iraqi and US interests in the region? What would a diplomatic offensive do that hasn’t already been done, particularly with respect to Iran’s meddling in Iraq? What would providing $2 billion to support refugees do, other than spend money that Senator Obama says was wrong to divert from the efforts in Afghanistan? Senator Obama says he doesn’t want permanent bases in Iraq, but also says that he would leave a residual force to perform limited missions. I’m not sure he can have it the same way. Without permanent bases in the region, how would the US respond to Iranian threats and provocations? The need for permanent bases is only partially to help secure Iraqi security. There is also regional stability to consider, but apparently Senator Obama doesn’t think in the long-term or see the big-picture.

In his “plan,” Senator Obama wants to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, apparently forgetting that Pakistan is a sovereign nation that hasn’t asked for our help internally, and is purportedly one of our allies in the war on terror. Senator Obama wants to implement a troop surge of at least 2 additional combat brigades in Afghanistan. I agree with the need for additional US forces in Afghanistan, I personally think that a surge-strategy can also work in Afghanistan; but Senator Obama has failed to recognize that many of the problems in Afghanistan stem from NATO’s reluctance to actually fight the war on terror. Senator Obama’s plan would “take” Afghanistan away from NATO, because NATO’s strategy isn’t working. Perhaps that’s the only realistic thing in Senator Obama’s plan.

I see Senator Obama’s tunnel-vision and arrogance about Iraq as just another example of his lack of judgment and leadership. A true leader would get the facts before announcing change. A true leader would think about the ripple effect of any change. A true leader would make a decision based on what’s needed, not based on political expediency.

UPDATE: Check out what IraqPundit has to say about Senator Obama's plan!

UPDATE #2: Over at Hot Air, they also talk about Senator Obama's "Plan." Much of the plan is based on reports that Nouri al-Maliki wants a timetable to get US troops out of Iraq. But according to the BBC, Mr. al-Maliki really doesn't want a timetable for withdrawal, and may not even want a withdrawal at all. It appears that Mr. al-Maliki's office misquoted him. The Iraqi government has tried to clarify the quote, but no one in the mainstream press (or those advising Senator Obama) wants to hear the clarification. The Iraqi National Security Advisor has tried to emphasize that the Iraqi government wants a broad, general "timeline horizons" and that US withdrawal should be tied to the readiness of the Iraqi Army that would be needed to fill the gap.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Elitism

Russ Vaughn has authored a poem published at American Thinker. It’s so wonderful; I just have to quote it here:

We're Oh So... (a poem)
by Russ Vaughn

We’re hip, we’re cool and oh so arty;
We’re Democrats, the smarter party.
We’re sophisticated unlike you;
We understand merci beaucoup.
We’re urbane while you’re provincial;
We’re worldly-wise, so existential.
We’re cultured, complex, so refined;
We’ve left you ignorant serfs behind.
We’re witty authors of clever puns,
While you clods cling to God and guns.
Were you not so closed and clannish,
We’d have you peons speaking Spanish.
We say all this with knowing smirks;
We’re Democrats, you red-state jerks

In my opinion, this poem captures the attitude I’ve personally observed from those who consider themselves the “elite.” I went to law school in South Dakota, and maintain my bar affiliation (my license to practice law; not a place where I drink) in South Dakota. I spent almost 23 years in the military, holding several interesting jobs and was eventually promoted to Colonel. When I first entered the military, I was somewhat awed by those of my peers who earned their law degrees from Ivy League schools or well-known “elite” law schools. That didn’t last long. I quickly realized that, while going to school on a prestigious campus may open some doors to folks that aren’t opened to others, the quality of the education depended more on the efforts of the person being educated than the people doing the educating. I learned that this South Dakota girl could hold her own with the “elite.” Nevertheless, I still encounter elitist attitudes from those with foolscap hanging on their walls from schools like Harvard; particularly when they find out my law degree (earned more than 20-years ago) is from the University of South Dakota. Why is that? Don’t my years of experience and my body of work demonstrate I know what I’m doing? Why should my work and my opinions be discounted because I graduated from a small state law school? It’s beyond me. I tend to evaluate people based on what they do and how they present themselves, not on where they live or went to school. So, I have trouble understanding an “elitist” attitude; but I can sure see it when it exists.

I see it in Senator Obama. So does Rev. Jesse Jackson. For some reason, his whispered, overheard comment that “Barrack talks down to black people” has been overwhelmed by his subsequent crude comment about Senator Obama’s genitals. I don’t know if that is deliberate on the part of the mainstream press, or not (my suspicious mind thinks so). But I think the more interesting part of Rev. Jackson’s comment is right on the mark. Senator Obama does talk down to black people. He talks down to everyone. He is an elitist. While he talks about personal responsibility, he wants government to “fix” things. He thinks that he could meet personally with hostile nations and convince them to “be good.” He wants to fix the immigration problem by having us all learn Spanish, or French, or whatever. Apparently, being American isn’t good enough; we have to become cosmopolitan. We’re belittled for turning to God for help and guns for self-protection. As an “elitist,” Senator Obama believes that government, and those running the government, know how to run our lives better than we do. After all, they’re the elite. So he’ll tax us all to redistribute the wealth and make more entitlement programs so that those entitled will continue to support the elite in power. After all, they’re the elite and know better than us. Senator Obama is a good speaker. He does well hiding his elitism under popular words and a smooth delivery. But it’s there, if you know how to spot it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Leadership

Why is it that popular culture defines leadership in terms of who can out manipulate those around them? Take a look at how TV “reality shows” portray what it takes to be a good leader. In shows like the Apprentice or Survivor, those who “win” demonstrate leadership by stabbing others in the back, or somehow either manipulating or outright forcing those they’re working with toward a goal. Is that really good leadership? Aren’t these shows teaching our young people that a good leader is the person standing at the top of the pile when all others fall? That’s not what leadership really is.

In my military career, I’ve worked with a number of different leaders; some good and some bad. The good ones are those you’d (literally) go to war with. You know that they’ll put the interests of the mission (the goal of the organization) ahead of their own personal interests. You know that they’ll do everything they can to make it possible for you (and the mission) to succeed. You know they’ll support you when you’re performing your best and let you know when you’re not. You can trust a good leader. Good leaders come in all shapes and sizes; there’s not a one-size-fits-all mold for great leaders. Good leaders do have some characteristics in common. They’re strong-minded. They’re innovative. They have a well-grounded value system. They are tough and demanding, yet compassionate when necessary. They can evaluate people. They believe in themselves and in their followers. They are flexible when necessary, but can be iron-willed when it counts. It doesn’t matter whether the leader has a “kick butt and take names” personality or is a laid-back flower-child-type. What matters is that the leader has the good judgment to know when and how to act in any particular situation.

Our young people shouldn’t look to popular culture for examples of how to be a good leader. Unfortunately, more and more of them are. Instead, we should teach leadership; at home for certain and in the schools, maybe. I do know that we wouldn’t have to look very far for better icons of leadership than those brought into our homes through TV. History provides us with some great leaders to study, as does current events; General Petraus for example. Leadership is something that can be taught, and it should be.

President of the World?

Is Senator Obama campaigning to be President of the United States or President of the World? Why would an Illinois Senator, who looks like his party's nominee for President, want to hold a campaign rally in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany? To seek votes from Germans? I can sorta understand why a US Presidential candidate might want to do some information gathering in foreign countries. I can see where that type of information gathering would be helpful in formulating a coherent foreign policy platform to present to US voters. But what logical reason would there be to hold a campaign rally in a foreign country? I can't see it. I agree with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who's spokesman expressed “great skepticism as to whether it is appropriate to bring an election campaign being fought not in Germany but in the United States to the Brandenburg Gate.” Yeah, if I were German I'd be skeptical, too. I'm American and I'm skeptical. The only reason for him to give a political speech, or hold a political rally at the Brandenburg Gate is to associate himself with John Kennedy and Ronald Regan, who as sitting US Presidents gave important speeches in front of the gate. As the Chancellor's spokesman said, “no German (chancellor) candidate would think of using (Washington’s) National Mall or Red Square in Moscow for rallies, because it would be considered inappropriate." I agree. It is inappropriate. In my opinion, to even think about a campaign speech in a foreign country is the height of arrogance, bad taste, and worse judgment.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Have You Heard the News?

Have you heard the news? The US and Iraq removed over 550 metric tons of “yellow cake” (a concentrated form of natural uranium considered the “seed material” for making a nuclear weapon) from Iraq. As the AP’s “exclusive report” said, “in a symbolic way, the mission linked the current attempts to stabilize Iraq with some of the high-profile claims about Saddam's weapons capabilities in the buildup to the 2003 invasion.” Is that a way of saying that maybe President Bush didn’t lie? Other than the AP’s report, I sure don’t see the major media, or for that matter several politicians who claim they were lied to about the basis for the invasion of Iraq, reporting on or talking about this major story. While yellow cake uranium may not be an actual weapon of mass destruction, it is essential to creating a nuke. Why the big silence on this topic?

Have you heard the news? There’s been a substantial decrease in US members of the armed forces killed in Iraq over the last couple of months. According to figures published by GlobalSecurity.org, 30 service members lost their lives in June 2008 (2 of the service members died in non-combat related accidents) compared to 111 members who died in June 2007. In May 2008, there were only 20 casualties. While even one American death is too many, the decrease in casualties is substantial evidence that the surge is working and that the war can be won. But have you heard any of this reported in the mainstream media? No. It would be counterproductive to their political agenda.

Have you heard the news? The US and Iraqi forces will bring to a successful conclusion “one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror.” It hasn’t been in the mainstream press or on mainstream television. The report is from a London newspaper, who reports that the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq is approaching its end. According to the Times of London, "The Iraqis and the Americans have got Al-Qaeda on the run." The Times attributes the success of the operation to remove Al-Qaeda from Mosul "to the “surge” strategy of General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces, who targeted Al-Qaeda in Iraq above all else after securing an extra 30,000 troops last year." So why haven’t we heard from US media about this stunning victory? Why haven’t we heard about the destruction of the terrorist forces in Iraq? Why haven’t we heard about this important victory in Mosul? Because reporting success in Iraq, and the possibility that we just may be winning this war under President Bush’s “finish the job” strategy, doesn’t meet their political agenda. Americans like a winner, and to show President Bush and those (like Senator McCain) who did not declare the Iraq war was lost and tried to “cut and run” as winners could just possibly sway voters.

Am I too much of an idealist to believe that news outlets should report the news of interest to the public; whether that news is good or bad? Am I too na├»ve to think that it is important for people to make their own judgments, based on facts presented without “spin?” Am I too independent because I don’t want some pundit or political hack to tell me what I should think? I started reading blogs and independent internet reporters in the first place because I realized that I couldn’t trust the mainstream media to report the facts, without focusing the facts through the lens of an agenda. Thankfully, we don’t have to trust in just one source for the news. We do have alternatives, and we should test, question, and make our own judgments. Hopefully, those with an agenda won’t be able to shut down the alternative media under the guise of the “fairness doctrine.” But that’s another post. . . .

Monday, July 7, 2008

Go for the Gold!

Congratulations to Dara Torres, a 41-year-old swimmer who has qualified for the Summer Olympics! It's wonderful to see Ms Torres, who is also a mother, reach for the Gold. Best of luck to her. She's a wonderful example to all of us who are "women of a certain age." She proves that we can do what we set our mind to do! I, for one, will be cheering her on in August!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

What a Celebration!

My husband and I (along with our granddaughter, Princess) visited Cpl Devildog and Florida Girl at Jacksonville, NC for the 4th of July holiday. The five of us went to Wilmington, North Carolina to celebrate Independence Day. We all had a blast! What can be better than family, fun, and fireworks? The City of Wilmington threw a wonderful party. The city's historic area, right on the Cape Fear River, is beautiful. We wandered the riverfront, shopped in some of the stores, and generally had a relaxing afternoon. But the best part of the entire trip was the celebration. The North Carolina National Guard band played a concert most of the afternoon and into the evening. The unit (the 44oth Army Band) actually had three different "bands" who performed; a rock group, a jazz group, and their concert band. All of them were fantastic. The rock group performed twice, and played a lot of crowd favorites (some folks were dancing). The jazz group was superb, and entertained us all. But the highlight for me was the concert band, who played a selection of patriotic and marching songs. They got the entire crowd (it seemed like most of North Carolina was there) ready for the fireworks display. I do have to say that I've been to a number of fireworks displays, and this one topped them all by a long shot! The display was set to music and patriotic words, and lit up the sky over the battleship North Carolina (berthed on permanent display in the Cape Fear River). WOW! The good folks who put together this party really did it right. What a wonderful way to celebrate our nation's Independence. Thank you, Wilmington!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Spirit of America

I've said before in this blog how much I appreciate and respect my Dad. He's a great guy! After serving 20 years in the Air Force, he retired and took a job as the Chief of Police in a small South Dakota town. (Once he used his police car lights to pull over his eldest child--me--as I rode my 10-speed bike down one of the town's main roads. At the time, this 17-year old girl wanted to die of embarrassment, and just knew she was the victim of police harassment. He just laughed and thought it was a huge joke. Now I agree . . . and my kids wonder where I get it from.) Anyway, in 1976, the local small-town paper published the following essay my Dad wrote to celebrate the Bicentennial. Funny how something written 22 years ago still resonates . . .

The Spirit of America

During this Bicentennial year, the people of this country have been hearing vast amounts of praise about our ancestors and how they, through their infinite wisdom, made our nation what it is today. Although our forefathers did initiate this system, I feel that it has been a continuing process on the part of all Americans that has made our country the bulwark of freedom that we now enjoy. The fundamental philosophy of the individual freedoms we now take for granted was not an instant process but rather one that has evolved over the past 200 years.

While it is true that our country’s basic documents, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, spelled out what was desired in the area of personal freedoms, it took many years of constant refinement and hard work by legislators, judges, scholars, and others to make the system truly work. Even today, our judiciary and legislators are still refining portions of the interpretation of the Constitution by judicial opinion and legislative actions. This function is meant to constantly improve the system of personal freedoms that was first declared by our country’s founders.

The people of our nation enjoy more personal freedoms than any other country in the world. Basic freedoms that we take for granted could never even be envisioned in most other lands. A limited comparison will clarify my point.

This country employs no system of mandatory identification or identity cards, producible on demand by any public official. We need no travel permit to go to Rapid City, Chicago, or New York – stamped and validated along every stop. We have no barricaded borders between states, no concertina wire, or no checkpoints to track our travel. We can buy merchandise of our choosing from a retail outlet of our choice, based solely on our individual economic status, without a ration card or official permission. We do not have to wait weeks, months, or yes, even years for basic items such as refrigerators or automobiles.

We have no system of Secret Police to track and report our every move. Electronic eavesdropping or an encouraged system of “Neighbor Watching” is not our national policy. We are not guilty until proven innocent in our system of justice. We have safety in the confines of our home, never fearing a knock on the door, only to be taken away on a trumped-up charge and jailed without a public trial.

We can openly and without fear of retribution, criticize our leadership at every level. We can agree, disagree, or publicly comment on policies or procedures under which we live. If we dislike a program – local, state or federal, we can collectively change it through a ballot box or referendum. We can vote for our leadership without fear of retribution or retaliation.

We have guaranteed freedom of religion, free from any form of religious prosecution, contrary to systems in many other countries. We also have the right to protect our lawfully owned personal property, free from debtor’s court without due process of law. We are protected in our persona, property and beliefs by the consensus of the people, following the dictated rights as set down by our framers of the Constitution.

Yes, we do have laws, ordinances, and restrictions. We, as individuals, must conform to a set of rules. It could never be any other way. What makes our system unique is that those people, who formulated our nation, gave us the legacy of personal and individual dignity. Each person, no better or no worse than his neighbor, has the right to be treated equally under the law. Our rule book, the Constitution along with the Bill of Rights, guarantees each of us a fair shake anywhere and anytime. Freedom of choice, expression and dignity, so easily assumed, are basic to our way of life.

Yet for all of our basic guaranteed freedoms, we still have those who question our system or attempt to circumvent its meaning. Those people have the right, as we all do, to express their desires as long as they do so with within the law. Those that break the law, for whatever reason, must pay the penalty. Some seem to forget that respect for others, their property and person, must not be violated.

Let us reflect from time to time on our basic freedoms. We have a wonderful time-tested system, proven capable of working over the past 200 years. Let us change it only for the better, never taking away or detracting from what our heritage has given us. Take time to read our Constitution and our Bill of Rights and really feel how fortunate we are to live in the United States of America.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Vets For Freedom Open Letter

Vets for Freedom, a nonpartisan organization established by Iraqi War veterans, has published an open letter to retired General Wesley Clark. Go to their website and read it! In the letter, Pete Hegseth, the Chairman of Vets for Freedom, reprimands retired General Clark for his comments about Senator McCain and his military service on "Face the Nation." The letter refutes each of retired General Clark's statements, point-by-point, For example, retired General Clark said that Senator McCain "hasn't held executive responsibility." But the letter points out that Senator McCain commanded and revitalized the largest squadron in the US Navy. The General said that Senator McCain's military leadership doesn't count. But, as the letter points out Senator McCain volunteered to serve, was held as a POW, then endured months of physical rehabilitation in order to become a commander. Retired General Clark said that Senator McCain "hasn't been there [war] and ordered the bombs to fall." Senator McCain flew 23 combat missions and was "there" in Hanoi for 5 1/2 years. Finally, General Clark said that "I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be President." As Mr Hegseth says, "If serving your country, volunteering for combat, resisting the enemy, and receiving seventeen decorations for service does count for anything, then why are you [General Clark] on television, speaking as an 'expert' on national security matters? Your personal attacks came not from a General with respect for the uniform, but from a political operative dispatched to attack the military background of a political adversary." Mr Hegseth hit that nail right on its head! He then urges the General to apologize to Senator McCain. We'll see how far that goes beyond the normal, "I'm sorry I was misunderstood" mantra.

If I were a suspicious person, and perhaps I am, I'd wonder if retired General Clark's statements about Senator McCain were deliberate; despite Senator Obama's rejection of them. If I were a suspicious person, I'd wonder if the statements were designed to "set up" Senator Obama's speech about patriotism and give Senator Obama a "lever" to use to preempt any attacks against his own patriotism. After all, how can you attack the patriotism of someone who has a theme of "You're a great patriot. I'm a great patriot, too. We just exercise our patriotism differently. So if you attack my patriotism, you're really attacking the patriotism of everyone." His rejection of retired General Clark's statements about McCain is all for show. He could have stopped his surrogate well before the statements were made; if he had wanted to. I don't think he did. I think it was a deliberate move. But then, I'm a suspicious person who believes in all kinds of conspiracies. Just ask me about the grassy knoll and Roswell.