Another Ignominious Departure

August 2021

Our country didn’t deserve this. Our soldiers and their families didn’t serve this, neither did our allies or those Afghan nationals who supported us for the last 20 years.


Our departure from Afghanistan was inevitable. After 20 years it’s taken the same toll on the US as it did on Russia before they stopped beating their heads against the wall and retreated back to the Motherland in 1998. Most Americans somewhat understood the reasoning in 2002 for us to go there in the first place but this reasoning had evaporated a decade later. The end game was nebulous and never assured nor was it properly explained to the American people as time went on let alone delineated in milestones for what counted as success. What most Americans only knew about Afghanistan was that it was a god-forsaken wasteland of a country on the other side of the world best known for its terrorism sanctuary, opium production and medieval warlord society.

From the outset, the US realistically had virtually zero chance of success in a nation-building effort or whatever it was we were doing over there. Sure, we made some allies, kept the violence to a dull roar, exposed some bad guys, and merely sedated the enemy. The problem is the enemy has played this game on their home turf for centuries, they are very patient, and knew from the start that all they had to do was wait for their time. They also knew Americans would eventually grow tired, restless, and would demand their politicians find another way to spend their money.

Their century’s old strategy beat the most capable and technologically advanced military in the world. Lives lost, bodies and minds irreparably damaged, and trillions of dollars is a terrible report card for our effort.

This is not new stuff. Sun Tzu (circa 500 B.C.) wrote:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.(emphasis added)

It doesn’t take much hindsight to recognize the intel specialists, strategists and tacticians sitting in their air-conditioned Pentagon conference room never really knew the core of the enemy in Afghanistan; Taliban or Al Qaida, their culture, their history, and how they succeeded in previous battles. Sadly, anecdotal evidence will show the soldiers on the ground knew the real story but their unique understanding and perspective became perverted as it was passed up the chain to DC where it was edited to fit the changing political narrative. Over the last 9 months our military leaders have concentrated more on gender, equity, and diversity in the military when they should have been focusing on the peaceful and successful transition out of harm’s way.

I simply wish those Americans who reflexively say to a veteran, “Thank you for your service” really understood the sacrifice made by our soldiers that got us to the point of futility where we watch helicopters pulling Americans off the roof of the US embassy – again. If you’re younger than 45 years old you may not even know we’ve been down this exact same road before when we left Viet Nam.

The ruling class, politicians and their advisors, along with factions within the intel community are solely to blame for what has transpired in Afghanistan over the last 30 days. As well, any military brass that advised the course of action taken by the administration needs to be exposed. Our officers and enlisted men and women deserve much better.

The experts say ….

Commander in Chief Biden is in a tough spot but he’s the one that put himself there. He and his team will likely try, but they cannot be allowed to cast this epic failure of leadership, policy, and decision-making on his predecessor.

I am in the camp of those who thought it was past time to terminate our Afghan policy and applauded President Trump for beginning the process despite the warnings and abject haranguing he took from the professionals at the Pentagon. There was a plan in place on January 20, 2021. Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo had given Afghan leaders and warlords distinct milestones for the process and consequences that awaited for violating the terms of retreat and security. The Biden team disregarded everything and did it their own way. It was their right to do but as it turned out, it was a terrible decision of epic proportion.

Former Defense Secretary under President Barack Obama, William Gates once said of Joe Biden “…he’s been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Afghanistan in August 2021 pretty much solidifies that assertion.

It was another American ignominious departure and while we’ll survive as a nation there needs to be an accounting for this disastrous chain of events. Pay attention Americans, the smartest guys in the room are making some pretty poor decisions.

The Gaslighting of American Culture

May 2021 

…. To manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity

Hey Americans; does this ring a bell? Every day seems to present itself as a new opportunity to excel in words and actions based on inanity and stupidity. Ironically (or possibly sarcastically) the leaders in this ever-tightening downward spiral are the exact ones our culture has deemed to be the smartest guys in the room. Namely, corporate heads, state and national politicians, kindergarten teachers to university faculties, celebrities, and news media personalities.

The saddest part of this action equation is the way those in the wake of these ‘smart guys’ have bought into their drivel. And why not, we’ve idolized and revered these exact people for our entire American experience because we actually thought they were the smartest guys in the room. They aren’t.

Gaslighting … Is someone manipulating you?

They tell you we’re a racist country, that vaccines work … but maybe not really, that riots are mostly peaceful demonstrations, that certain demographic groups aren’t smart enough to know how or when to vote, that boys and girls are simply an abstract idea, that cops are evil, that the Constitution is an outdated set of rules constructed by simple men, that fences around Capitol Hill work but border walls don’t, that words spoken by some are okay but inflammatory when spoken by others, that illegal entry into the country really isn’t illegal at all but rather compassionate and humanitarian (someone needs to tell the Customs and Border Enforcement folks at all our airports), that inclusion and diversity in the workplace trumps merit, experience, and quality from the Operating Room to the cockpit and everywhere in between, that the earth is doomed within 12 years, that laws, rules, rewards, and consequences are made for some but not for others  .. Had enough yet?

“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” (Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda). Ironic? Not really.

Our country has lost its collective mind. To realize that a 31-year-old, totally inexperienced person in the political realm can be elected to the US Congress is, in and of itself, a really good thing as it acts as an example of the opportunity this country presents. But it also exposes a malleable insecurity within the political class of leaders in our society. It becomes an enigma to see how proficiency with social media and its inherent ability to form a consensus – rather than a certain depth of critical thought, has propelled this figure into positions of power where what is said actually sets the stage for broadscale conversation. One has to wonder how we got here.

Listening to the same media talking heads, medical authorities, legal analysts, political pundits, social activists tell us what we think we need to know without realizing that the words coming out of their mouths may not have your best interest in mind doesn’t seem to be an exercise in rational thought. The very definition of gaslighting.

There are very good reasons why rates of drug overdoses, suicides, depression, social disengagement, anger issues have sky-rocketed. The easy and most popular answer would be to blame it all on Covid or Trump. Its so much deeper than that and everyone and everything previously mentioned are ingredients in this horrible stew. The world has become so cluttered and noisy with all the wrong stuff that we seem to have forgotten the important human elements.

A good friend recently expressed to me that he knew many more people that have succumbed to suicide than from Covid. From personal experience I had to agree. Interesting to note that Covid ranks far above suicide in the US cause of death rate calculations. The CDC reports a dramatic rise in overdose rates in the early months of the Covid era. My state of Maine is already outpacing the terrible record set in 2020. Behavioral specialists and psychologists will tell you the single worst environment for someone going through addiction or depression issues is isolation. The FAA recently reported that airborne misconduct incidents thus far in 2021 are ten times higher than for previous full year reports. Civil unrest, property destruction, and public lawlessness is at a level not seen since the 60’s.

So, what’s the point? Maybe it’s time to take back our lives, to think for ourselves, to make decisions based not on what the smart guys tell us but on what you know is clearly right and wrong. Maybe it’s time for Americans to get back to basics and stop putting so much faith in people and institutions that don’t deserve it. In essence, it’s time to reject the gaslighting and retrieve our sanity.

America has been in crisis mitigation and regulatory restriction mode for as long as the smart guys have told us it was the thing to do. Good Americans have done what has been asked but those given the power and control continued to move the goalposts to the point where they have lost their credibility and our respect. Power and control have legitimate and recognizable limits and Americans cannot lose their ability to discern where those limits exist. At the most basic level it’s just not part of the traditional American gene set to have personal freedoms and liberties taken away by executive fiat as has been done in many states. Elected officials claim they want everything to get back to normal but whose definition of normal will it be?

Isn’t it time we get back to thinking, discerning, and assimilating what is actually true and not everything you’re being fed based on their perspectives … and not yours?

I reject gaslighting not because I’m the smartest guy in the room but because my common sense seems to be a whole lot more well educated.

Your Inner Hero; Accidental or Otherwise

Your Inner Hero; Accidental or Otherwise

                                                                                                                                                       Scott Ruppert  November 2015

Our world is broken; not because of any environmental theories emanating out of East Anglia University, shifting tectonic plates, or ice cap buildup in Antarctica. The fact is it has always been broken. Broken on a human scale going back as far as, well … Genesis. Don’t hang up yet; this is not a religious appeal but rather a humanitarian one to those willing to stick their necks out to rescue it on behalf of those that either don’t know how or simply lack the ability. This is about first responders for a broken society.

Serious times continue to hang over us with no end in sight. It is unmitigated delusion to think that recent atrocities in Paris will remain on the other side of the Atlantic especially knowing that Americans are the ultimate goal. The reality is that in the diabolical minds of our enemy an attack on a European target is a good scrimmage in preparation for their big game in the US. As good as they are, our military and law enforcement are simply not equipped to cover every contingency available to this enemy and it falls on a cognizant citizenry to step up whenever and wherever they can.

When bad things happen, if the extent of your response is to be a bystander or place a teddy bear and flowers at the scene the following day; there’s always room for comforters after the fact. But somewhere out there we’ll need an army of regular folks like you and me that are willing to step out of their comfort zone and act on the spot. We never have too many heroes and most often their actions alter an outcome in very positive way. It puts into perspective the adage; See Something, Say Something.

Virtually every day we read about professional law enforcement running into harm’s way to save lives or taking some sort of action to limit the fallout from a tragic event. Our military men and women sprint toward a fight and engage our enemies. Healthcare workers refuse to abandon terrible conditions to stay and fight the good fight against deadly diseases. Missionaries in countries you’ve never heard of shield the innocents from evil. These are the citizens of the world that sign up to have a chance at being a hero. Hero was never listed in the job description but they likely knew and accepted the risk when they signed the application.

French Train Heroes

French Train Heroes

And then there are the accidental heroes. Think back to last summer when three friends on vacation in Europe subdued a terrorist gunman on a train and saved countless lives? They became accidental heroes because they saw the need, were willing, and acted on that inner instinct. Remember Todd Beamer and the band of brothers he enlisted aboard United #93 on September 11, 2001 to fight the bad guys while facing slim odds for success?

These are the types of heroes of which I write. My thought is to simply compel some self-examination into whether or not you have it inside of you if the opportunity ever presented itself.

United Airlines 93; Todd Beamer

United Airlines 93; Todd Beamer

When the time came none of the aforementioned people thought about themselves or their own safety; their loved ones maybe – but not themselves. Bravery with a total disregard to the potential for personal pain, an acute sense of right and wrong, and an inner voice that whispers “now is the time … let’s roll” are the only personal requirements to exercise heroism, accidental or otherwise.

One last thought. Because courage and bravery aptly describe the hero, I wretch when hearing them reassigned to describe someone undergoing gender reassignment surgery, the professional golfer staring down a 15 foot putt at The Masters, a politician standing up against his own party, or a celebrity admitting to destructive behavior that led to a fall. Let’s not do to ‘hero’ what we’ve done to ‘awesome’ wherein a stuffed crust pizza now has as much linguistic value as does a sunset, a 3000 year old sequoia tree, or the birth of a baby.

Looking forward, we could use some heroes; accidental or otherwise. It’s okay that not all of us are wired with the same circuits to become one. Some instinctively know however, that they have that capacity while others will realize it only when the time arrives and you become needed in a big way. Don’t hesitate to respond when presented with this honor. If not you, then who?

Calling all heroes, it’s your time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Abandonment of Truth

January 2015

The subject matter expert was trotted out by the 24 hour news station to present his opinion. He answered some peripheral questions establishing his credibility and then had the audacity to say he not only didn’t know what caused the plane to crash but wasn’t even willing to speculate until more of the facts had been vetted and examined.

What a relief! He actually gave me reason to believe him because he didn’t know something and wasn’t willing to offer even an opinion. For me, his key phrase was ‘until I have more of the facts to vet and examine’.

But what happens when other experts aren’t as disciplined and spout off an eloquent sounding opinion that makestruth them look good and sounds like it might make sense? Assumptions are presented as fact and form a narrative. The faulty premise becomes the story and judgments are made. Lines become drawn and emotions incited on a mere assumption not based on truth or any real digestion of the facts involved. The media is happy to put it above the fold, devote Op-Ed space, and make it the headline story every half hour on the cable news networks. Why? Because they know you’ll believe it.

Consider the Duke lacrosse team fiasco a few years back or the more recent Rolling Stone Magazine article chronicling a rape culture at the University of Virginia. It made great press, sold tons of copy and gained national attention and invective. Only one problem: both accounts were fictional, pure untruth. Thankfully someone had the energy to discover the real truth and bring it to light; after the damage was done.

Truth: the state of being the case: the body of real things, events, and facts: in accordance with fact or reality: what actually is or was

Pretty amazing in this day and age that a subject as basic as truth has to be defined in order to lay groundwork but we have come to accept so much falsity as truth it has turned our worldview upside down and our sense of reason into disarray.

Truth is one of the main cornerstones of a free and self sustaining society. Without it there can be no trust or system of beliefs among its members. In the end, a leaders is only as trustworthy as his word. When people lose their ability or desire to seek the truth, they turn into gullible flock of sheep willing to follow the shepherd with the loudest voice that pleases their own self interest. Too often we find out after the fact that the shepherd was more than willing not to let the facts spoil a good story.

Where we get our facts makes a huge difference in our frame of reference. Whether it be from the Fox, MSNBC, CNN, elders, friends, educational pursuits, The Daily Show or Facebook; they all require a level of examination that many in our society have either abandoned or never developed. Long ago when elementary and high school curricula traded away developing a students’ critical thinking skills for focusing on test prep and results – our intellectual culture took on a tabloid worldview. Students blindly consumed what was fed to them, never questioning origins and rationale; never mind seeking cause and effect relationships. Learning data is easy but finding and correlating an underlying relationship between data bits is not. A fact became anything said by someone respected.

In Ferguson, Missouri a false narrative was formed by eye witnesses who initially lied about what they saw only to recant their account under oath. Activists stirred the pot while emoting about grand jury deliberations they never privy to. This abandonment of truth and total disregard for inconvenient facts led to senseless violence in the streets.

In the New York City grand jury case, a video suddenly made everyone an expert on police procedure as well as an eyewitness to an event where context was totally ignored. “Never mind anything else, I know what my eyes saw!”. Those eyes made assumptions on everything from police knowledge, intent, and training to the victim’s mindset, motivation, and medical history. In both cases our 24/7 media jumped on the storyline as commentators began choosing sides.

I submit that in neither case did any of the purported experts ever take the extra time to examine and analyze the hidden facts as intently as they did the public video. Truth and facts became secondary.

The media, internet, and the streets aren’t the only places you’ll find the abandonment of truth. The 2016 elections are just around the corner and we’ll be fed doses of rhetoric from those who would like to lead our country. Insincere and grandiloquent language that will pass for fact and truth will emanate as political apparatchiks stray as far from facts as allowed by law (sometime farther). We not only won’t blink an eye but will  accept it as part of the political game. Consider this: A campaign will do whatever it takes to get someone elected and then be expected to do the right thing once they’re in. How’s that for twisted logic?

We would be a much better society if we took the time to get ‘more of the facts to vet and examine’. Don’t abandon truth, it matters.

The New Face of Gamesmanship

December 2014

In 1981 New Zealand was playing Australia in a hotly contested cricket test match. New Zealand had an opportunity to hit six runs off the final ball to tie the score. The Australian captain, Greg Chappell told his brother Trevor to do something strange; bowl it underarm. This act of gamesmanship made it virtually impossible for the New Zealand batsman to hit the required six. Australia won the game and the uproar began. While the maneuver was within the rules albeit through exception, it was seen as so egregious that no less than the Kiwi prime minister publicly denounced the tactic. That was gamesmanship; old school.

Gamesmanship

1 : the art or practice of winning games by questionable expedients without actually violating the rules

2 : the use of ethically dubious methods to gain an objective

# 1. categorizes the noun as being used to win ‘games’. # 2. focuses on ‘gaining an objective’. In today’s culture neither definition really captures how the mechanism of gamesmanship has evolved.

Corporations have long plied a gamesmanship mentality as part of their strategic maneuvering. Airlines routinely undercut competitors prices in certain markets in order to gain market share. Grocers offer specials and willingly taking losses on select staple products they know you need in order to get you in their store.keep calm

But what happens when gamesmanship tiptoes outside the lines where rules are stretched and ethics redefined. The element of trust in our institutions and heroes is lost. Lance Armstrong got away with his version of gamesmanship for seven Tour de France victories and millions of dollars in sponsorship compensation. His fans were none the wiser as he gamed the system to perfection. In the end he suffered, but all along he played everyone like a piano.

We used to be bystanders to tongue in cheek games of gamesmanship with relatively inconsequential results as they were carried out against an athletic opponent, business competitor, bureaucratic regulator, or a political adversary. Washington has become the new IMAX of gamesmanship and they’ve made us the saps on the receiving end. We used to call it posturing, partisanship, and more benignly, part of the game. One party’s parliamentary maneuvering to thwart the other, one branch flexing it’s perceived constitutional muscle against the other; PACs, consultants, and donors all have stretched the limits of any conceivable ethical standard to advance an agenda.

In politics, gamesmanship and plausible deniability have always gone hand in hand as an accepted means to an end. More often than not it’s a way to buy time or provide cover. Was anyone actually gullible enough to buy the broken IRS computer theory to explain Lois Lerner’s missing email cache? How about the ridiculously exhaustive and repetitive environmental testing to stave off voting on Keystone? Or the parliamentary chicanery that each party in Congress employs to pass or bury bills?

The perpetrators begin by asking this question; How much can we get away with to advance our objective while staying in the general vicinity of boundaries, retain an appearance legitimacy, and not arouse the electorate to start asking questions that will be difficult to answer? They then establish the new boundary and quietly move the goalposts another few feet.

In the past one could shrug it off as politics as normal but even that weak standard has been lowered in the last few years. John Gruber, acknowledged co-architect for the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, recent revelations are prescient. His own words answers a crucial question; Was the Obamacare sales pitch a miscalculation or a strategy?

Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass. Better for the American people to be saddled with a law they dont understand than for them to understand the law and rally against it.”

Is this not the definition of gamesmanship gone wrong? To wit; the use of ethically dubious methods to gain an objective. We were played. This gamesmanship was so good it even got Chief Justice John Roberts to bite.

If not for his candor then for his cynical and arrogant mindset Gruber became the villain du jour. Had he used the word ‘lazy’ instead of ‘stupid’ to describe the American voter he could have helped himself by being a bit less indelicate and a little more accurate. Somehow just being lazy seems a little more palatable than being called stupid.

Regrettably, he was right. At some point too many did get lazy, bought into a sales pitch instead of value, became distracted, and stopped asking questions. He knew the media who are paid to ask objective questions and do the digging were also lazy and had fallen in love with the story and the story tellers to the degree that the content no longer mattered.

As with everything else in pop culture once the genie escapes the bottle he’s not going back in. The new face of gamesmanship is here to stay as new limits of “ethically dubious methods to gain an objective” are tested on us. Pay attention and don’t get played.

Mt. Kilimanjaro; The Backstory

Part 2

No, the trip wasn’t fun. It wasn’t one of those sappy Lifetime Channel dramas about aIMG_0512 dad bonding with his two boys on an awesome adventure. It wasn’t a case where we yucked it up from morning to night and then cried around the campfire to stories of past mistakes and misunderstandings. It was more.

First of all, for a father to be blessed with a skill and a job that provides the resources to take his sons on a 10 day excursion to the other side of the world is incredibly awesome. But to put a challenge at the other end whereby each of us would have to dig daily into our bag of life experiences to pull out solutions and renewed sources of motivation – was quite another thing.

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Mt. Kilimanjaro: Not What I Expected; Part 1

When I initially proposed the idea of knocking off a bucket list item it was to my wife forSummit Day: Made it to the first peak at 5am! 18,815 ft! a world class adventure. We were going to climb Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro. She’s a good athlete and a pretty sturdy soul however one look at the pictures of the bathroom facilities and I was advised to go and have good time. The next call was to our sons knowing they couldn’t care less about where the loo is and what it looks like. A week of father-son bonding; what could be better? Right? Part 2 posted in a week or two will deal with that aspect but first, the nuts and bolts.

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The Perils of Investing in Incumbent Incompetence

We can all relax now. The pundits assure us that the brave men of Congress have putPerils of incompetance the fiscal cliff behind us. The reality however is that its not only behind us but above us as well. We went over it some time ago but simply refused to come to terms with it. This forces us to go through the same charade of pending national insolvency every few months. Right now we’re just bumping through the Class 5 rapids at the bottom of the falls.

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12.14.12

My emotions are as low today as ever I can remember as I work through the tragic12.14.12 news born in Newtown, Connecticut. Another slaughter of innocent lives, this time little children, at the hands of a youth with guns, ammo, a damaged mind and a confused soul.

For me this isn’t like 911. Then I was angry; someone from some far away land was going to have to shoulder the blame and pay for what they did to us. Today, I simply feel lost because we, the American culture, are the ones that must shoulder the blame for what happened and begin paying back.

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Coming to Terms

I firmly believe the three most significant and effective words in our lexicon are; I WASbad situation WRONG. If more executives, politicians, lawyers, activists …. and spouses used these words we would have a more recuperative and stronger civil discourse.

A friend of 50 years chided me recently when he felt that the BasicMan’s recent satirical analysis of the political landscape as derived from A Message from the President was more sour grapes than it was satire. Okay, fair point – criticism accepted. But I learned something and it doesn’t give me comfort to realize that I’m not sure I know who my fellow Americans are these days. My contention that Romney would win the presidency based on my confidence in the American electorate’s discernment and their grasp of reality make me say: I Was Wrong.

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A Word from the President

letterhead

My fellow Americans,

It’s been a few days since my resounding reelection victory and Michelle reminded me to thank those that helped me receive another four years serving the American people from the Oval Office. The list is quite long so I will attempt to hit the high points. Continue reading

You Are Correct, Sir – It Was Offensive

During Round 2 action of the presidential debates, President Obama aggressivelyangry Obama scolded challenger Romney for suggesting that the president’s actions were inappropriate following the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi that left 4 Americans dead inside the US Embassy. To wit that the President, delivered a prepared statement on the situation in Libya at a brief Rose Garden appearance a few hours after the attack, then boarded Air Force One and went to Las Vegas for a high dollar campaign fundraiser and on to Colorado for more of the same. No big deal, right?

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The 47%

Much has been made about a certain figure – 47% and the supposed gaffe made by percentagepresidential candidate Mitt Romney. That number however has come into play a lot this political season. There’s the 47% of Americans that are excused from paying income taxes, the 47 million citizens collecting food stamps, the 47% that will only vote for Barack Obama, the 47% that will only vote for Mitt Romney, the 47% of the total population that won’t vote for anybody, and finally a political race that is tied at 47%. And all of it is within the pollster’s margin of error (an alibi of mitigation masquerading as a performance bell curve). It’s no wonder confusion reigns.

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Handling the Truth

Do you remember the climactic and contentious exchange between Lt. Daniel KaffeFew Good Men (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson) in the 1992 film, A Few Good Men? I’m beginning to think he was on to something.

 

Jessep: You want answers?!

Kaffee: I want the truth!

Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

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What’s Stopping You?

If you could do it all over again and choose what you want to do in life – without regarddreaming to ability, money, education or circumstance – what would you do? This is a conversational question I love to ask grown-ups when the drudgery of small talk and gossip at the dinner table begin to make my skin peel. After years of asking this simple question, the answers these adults give never cease to open the doors to what their dreams were once made of, where they got derailed, and why.

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Romney: “I’ve Got Them Right Where I Want Them”

Sitting 3-4 strokes behind the leaders on Sunday morning, remember the days whenmomentum you said Tiger Woods had the competition right where he wanted them? Whether or not those days will ever return is still in question however one had to take notice of the way he conducted business in such a measured, methodical, timed, and unflappable manner. I sense the same pattern with Mitt Romney and how he has conducted business in his world. In case there’s any doubt; the Woods – Romney analogy stops there.

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7 Habits for Rudderless Young Adults

Stephen Covey died last week. For millions of people he became the voice of7 Habits reason when they couldn’t seem to get things going in their own lives. His book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” steered people in all walks of life to accomplishment using very basic principles. If Covey spoke directly to the habits of adults, who then speaks to the younger generation regarding their issues of squandered opportunity, wasted time, and not being able to function efficiently in today’s society? I wonder sometimes if GenX or the Millenials understand that they now live in the ‘The Real World’; that cold and competitive environment where not everybody gets a trophy for participation and poor performance carries consequences.

 

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Immersion Therapy: Part 2

Words like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ used to roll off my tongue as just another figure ofwhy are you here speech. They weren’t laced with anger but retained their measure of derogatory descriptiveness. I’m not sure why that was because I had never known a ‘gay person’. When I allowed myself to open up some old chapters, I was afforded a fresh perspective in retracing my steps … and it was humbling.

 

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Immersion Therapy: Part 1

It began so simply last November over a cup of coffee and a flyer on the wall of aALC route Starbucks in San Francisco with the slogan “You Belong Here” – ALC11 (AIDS Life Cycle). From San Francisco to Los Angeles; 545 miles over seven days, 2500 cyclists would make their way down the coast to Santa Cruz, sweeping inland through central California wine country and snaking back to the oceanfront at Moro Bay to join the Pacific Coast Highway into Los Angeles. Sounded awesome.

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The Current Tone of the Gay Marriage Dialogue

“What’s your view of gay marriage”? “Well, I think if you love somebody you shouldgay marriage simply be able to marry them – “what’s your opinion”? “Who loves whom is none of my business but redefining marriage for same sex unions is a really complex issue and …..” Hmmm, I never took you for a bigot”.

That’s about how it goes. I know. I’ve tried many, many times.

It is virtually impossible to have a thoughtful hearing on this issue without it going emotionally off the tracks before the end of  opening arguments.  And that is the first problem.

    “Those who demand the most tolerance from others typically exhibit the least tolerance in return”Basicman’s Axiom of Life #6

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Deep in the Rough

Watching Tiger Woods this weekend at the 2012 Masters I am reminded how fragiletiger and fleeting fame and admiration can be. There was a day not too long ago when Mr. Woods commanded every golf course he set foot on, especially Augusta National in the springtime. So much so that he became the catalyst for revered tracks on the tour to change their entire design and length so as to make it more than a pitch and putt for his brand of play. But then December 2009 happened and few things in the world of golf have been the same since.

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Angry, Divided, and Weak

The Set-up – The tragic case of Trayvon Martin has taken on a nationwide Selmadivision ‘65 civil rights fervor.  The  Jackson / Sharpton tag team arrived on cue to stir up racial discontent after the media irresponsibly injected race where it didn’t belong. Juan Williams, cable TV commentator and liberal political analyst wrote a scathing piece in the Wall Street Journal on how misguided Jackson and Sharpton’s action were and how it set back whatever gains had been made in reducing racial polarity that existed back in the days when the ministers could generate some level of compassion…..

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Our Love-Hate Relationships with Presidents

… We, on both sides of the fight, are a sorry mess right now. Rachel Maddow orrams butting heads Rush Limbaugh feed our emotions and the NY Times or the Wall Street Journal provide the talking points. For the sake of civil discourse and a truly rounded perspective of issues – minus the animus associated with a particular ideology or a personality it would be a good idea for us, the smart ones in the crowd – the populace, to take a deep breath and then do more reading and research and less shouting and partisan debasing.

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Paterno and Patton

Phil Knight, CEO of Nike delivered the eulogy for Coach Joe Paterno. In October, TheJo-Pa Basicman Perspective took to task the stone throwing administrative elites for their rush to judgment and repugnant phone dismissal of the coach for his miniscule sliver of the Sandusky mess at Penn State. (JoePa: The King is Dead, Long Live the King) Only now are we getting the exculpatory details of the bigger picture void of self-sanctimonious media spin and defensive finger pointing from PSU’s pathetic administration vainly trying to save face.

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Getting to … The ONE

…. Difficult as it is for republican supporters to watch in 2012, this is the way ourVetting political process is supposed to work. With even a shred of intellectual honesty , the Democrat party and the media would have to admit that had the current effort taken place in 2008, it is more likely that Hillary would be running for reelection and not Barack. For a number of reasons, candidate Obama was never truly vetted across the wide spectrum of salient topics to the degree that he needed to be. 2012 looks to be different as the Republican primary has been brutal for party members to watch.

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Education Pedigrees

A recent dinner with old college friends led to an interesting conversation aboutdipoma education and academic pedigree ….  I said very little.

….My conclusion: an educational pedigree is best served at Happy Hour where most lies are told and curricula vitae are swapped. But when people head for the door are they secretly wondering if you’re really as good as your diploma says you are?

 

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JoePa: The King is Dead, Long Live the King

… In essence, the institution and profession that Paterno has loved and been loyal toPaterno for close to half a century has issued him something akin to a death sentence. Something inside me believes that Coach Paterno has been dying a slow death since he received his first inkling that Jerry Sandusky had a problem. Quite assuredly now the coach realizes he should have acted more like the coach that annually cut his Division 1 roster to 105 players than the head coach that didn’t blow the whistle on an assistant. He will live with that lapse in judgment for the rest of his life.

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Occupy Reality

Having given the civil dissidents of the ‘Occupation’ a few weeks coverage under the watchful eye of the new media, it seems like a good time to weigh in. I’ve taken the time to read media accounts from all perspectives, listened to participant interviews, and routinely visited (and actually joined) the Occupy Wall Street website. Having tried to discern their specific demands, a sense of ideological structure, a vision of how they intend to legally pursue whatever their desires may be; I have come to a very simple and basic(man) conclusion. Continue reading

A Beautiful Sight

I saw a beautiful thing last night. As the airplane lifted off the runway at JFK just afterFreedom Tower sunset I could see above the buildings of Brooklyn all the way to Manhattan. There in the distance was a tower of light in what has been for the last 10 years – a dark hole.

It was such a wonderful sight that I took the opportunity to bring it to the attention of my 220 passengers aboard the evening flight to Rome.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. All is well and I don’t mean to startle you with an announcement at such a low altitude however I want to share with you a beautiful sight. Looking out of the right side of the airplane in the distance, you’ll notice a large tower of light. That is the first, clearly visible sign of the new Freedom Tower under construction at Ground Zero. For 10 years we’ve missed our old landmark and tonight’s sighting is inspiring. We’ve all been through a lot and I hope it will inspire you as well. Enjoy the flight, get some sleep, and I’ll talk to you before landing in Italy tomorrow morning. Thank you for your attention”.

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Good News for American Politics, Seriously …

Our bitter political partisanship actually has a silver lining as the 2012 presidential2012 campaign approaches. If one can overcome the hyperbole and spin associated with either parties’ ideology as reported by the opposition and dismiss how the talking heads analyze every piece of polling data – the 2012 race will provide the most disparate choice of political philosophies as there has been in decades.

Unlike the 2008 campaign when the nation labored under Bush fatigue (to a certain degree, me included) and needed a fresh face, ideas and personality, the 2012 race will be a referendum on issues and challenges and not personas and images. In this instance there will be a stark difference between the parties, their candidate(s), and the way they will attack the problems we face.

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Mr. Buffett, Enough Already

Is anyone besides me getting a little weary of the unsolicited tax advice coming from Warren Buffett? What a relief to read that some of his contemporaries are. Harvey Golub, former CEO of American Express airs it out in his Wall Street Journal piece as he breaks down the fact and fiction of Buffett’s assertions. One has to wonder if we would have to endure this current ad hominem if the entire tax code were rewritten to broaden the tax base (read: require the lower 45% to “invest” in running this country) reworked the current deduction loopholes that Messrs. Buffet, Soros, Damon, et al enjoy, and truly reformed how Congress appropriates tax revenues. I somehow doubt The Oracle of Omaha would be such a progressive tax shill for The Obama of DC.

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

One would assume that nobody likes the toxic atmosphere our civil discourse haswrong taken, except for media talking heads that make their money throwing fuel on social fires. So, I propose a hypothetical exercise. Since outspoken and important folks from the VP on down have taken to categorizing a certain American political group (read: Tea Party) as terrorists and hostage takers, and since nobody thinks a terrorist is a good thing whether it wears an explosive vest or a Congressional lapel pin, let’s take the liberal side of things and promote all the good stuff they would like to see in America if they just didn’t have to fight the “terrorists”.

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Moving Parts: Another Airline Story

It’s 94 degrees outside, the ship is full of hot people, the air conditioning cannot keepmoving parts up, thunderstorms are moving in and we’re #43 in line for take-off. It’s rush hour at JFK and I’m the Captain taking 172 people non-stop to San Francisco. We have 5 ½ hours of real estate in front of us – after we wait in the runway queue. The folks onboard probably think the toughest part for them is over; TSA security check-points, time constraints and long lines top their lists. Tonight, they are wrong.

We’ve been put in special penalty box until the bad weather has passed along our route of flight. The ATC system is already at capacity and in addition to those 42 airplanes in front of us there are four of them on a similar routing. We each need 20 minutes of spacing between us. Have you done the math yet?

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Frustrated and Fed Up

“Good Morning, Doctor”

… that’s where I am right now – frustrated, upset, and fed up … I’m mad … I’m irkedpsychiatrist … I’m outraged … I’m over … I’m affronted … I’m sick of …

Writing when you’re mad doesn’t usually convey much of anything positive and it surely doesn’t inspire anyone who reads to be anything but, well … mad. Good grief, I feel like Oprah when she figured out a few years back that she had turned into Sally Jesse and Jerry.

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Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom (in that order)

…. In a few hours it will be light and we’ll be able to see the damage. There will betornado damage. The weather forecaster nailed it with his forecast. He told us just four hours ago everything we needed to know to prepare; time, track, intensity and duration. We did. In a coastal New England fishing village like ours the frequency and accuracy of these forecasts is an essential part of our sense of security and planning considerations. We’re the geeks that listen to the weather band on portable radios.

This is a metaphor for the perfect storm coming our way in financial terms.

______________________________________________________________________________

It’s 3:32 a.m. I can once again hear the clock in the hallway ticking after waking to thunder, lightning and torrential rain at 3:04 a.m. The storm has passed as I can hear it rumble in the distance to the east. In a few hours it will be light and we’ll be able to see the damage. There will be damage.

The weather forecaster nailed it with his forecast He told us just four hours ago everything we needed to know to prepare; time, track, intensity and duration. We did. In a coastal New England fishing village like ours the frequency and accuracy of these forecasts is an essential part of our sense of security and planning considerations. We’re the geeks to whom Radio Shack sells those weather band radios.

This is a metaphor for the mounting storm coming our way in financial terms. At this point it is unavoidable. We’ve seen what happens throughout Europe. We now see it in our country as individual states attempt to come to terms with the financially irresponsible nature of our behavior of the past. Either we heed the warnings and take steps to prepare or simply wait until it’s over to survey the damage. For years we have been warned that the fiscal practices our leaders have exploited for their own political benefit are unsustainable in the long term and there will be a price to pay. The frequently updated forecast that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and a host of other tax financed entitlements are, or soon will be insolvent – has become old news. Instead of battening down the hatches we look for other windows and doors to open as the storm approaches. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Who can’t understand the forecast or recognize the signs? Who looks for reasons to blame the storm on something or somebody else? Who looks into their own empty wallet and the proceeds to order a Big Mac. Fries, and a milk shake?

Who entertains this sort of idiocy?

Regrettably, it’s the ones who have been called the smartest guys in the room. In this category we’ll put many of today’s bickering political wonks, a certain ilk of enlightened Ivy League intellect, the social justice crowd and anyone with their hand out. Is there anybody still out there with the slightest bit of confidence anymore in the medicine that Chairman Bernanke or Secretary Geithner are prescribing?

Add to this group a large portion of our population that couldn’t be bothered, is without access to information, or truly does not understand the totality of the financial mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. Into this group we can glom together debt ridden college age kids, senior citizens hopping from doctor to doctor on Medicare’s tab who still revere the days of FDR, or those standing in line at 8:59 a.m. enjoying a cigarette outside the downtown welfare office. Observe those in the Wal-Mart checkout line, singing hymns at the Sunday morning service, sitting next to you in traffic, or waiting to walk through airport TSA screening. How many of those folks comprehend, let alone have given serious thought to the serious financial situation in which we have ensnared ourselves? Most of them think a “bump in the road” like $4 per gallon at the pump is an imposition. Is this an informed electorate?

Much talk is being made about cobbling together a federal budget that will exceed $15 trillion or about raising the debt ceiling. For the average adult on the street what does this even mean? Imagine the response from American Express if you demanded more credit to pay off the interest on your Master Card when your credit score hovers near the Mendoza Line? Do you suppose there is a bona fide understanding of how much a trillion dollars really is (if a billion is the new million, what does that make a trillion?) or how much of what the government takes from those who actually pay taxes goes into the things that are bankrupting us? And finally, how much of what is in our federal budget can we actually pay for – just on tax revenue alone? These are pretty basic questions but it brings us back to the weather forecast metaphor.

We’re broke. Just the interest payments alone are enough to sink our ship if one looks just 10-15 years into the future. For many states it won’t be that long. Our debt won’t magically go away as it does when we routinely forgive other nations for the money they owe us. China isn’t as nice and won’t be forgiving as we are. The accumulated interest won’t get any smaller because we’re a good nation. The snowball just gets bigger.

We are a great nation but we have an attention deficit problem. The things that have the real potential to hurt us have a difficult time keeping our attention; you know, stuff like terrorists, national security, porous borders, and … debt.

What should we be doing?

“With all thy getting, get understanding”

This is the banner under which Forbes editorials have been published since the first issue of the magazine. It’s a translation from Proverbs 4:7. Knowledge leads to understanding which leads to wisdom. There are too many Americans that need an introduction to step one. Having an up to date working knowledge of the financial debate that is currently raging in Washington is essential to sifting through the political canards and hubris. Understanding the conversation, the opposing sides, and the overall implications are essential to joining the debate.

Secondly, put two and two together while watching the news. That legislative ruckus in Wisconsin over the winter, the economic news coming from individual states like California, New York, Illinois, aggressive budget reform measures undertaken by governors, and gaining knowledge of how the federal government tightens the financial noose on states with each unfunded federal mandate can give a pretty good picture of what we’re up against. Next, observe the repercussions of the disastrous European Union financial model and witness how the populations are dealing (not so civilly) with their new reality.

Finally, realize there is no silver bullet to this mess. For some the solution will be more painful than for others. Many won’t understand what is happening because they haven’t done their homework.

They will likely be the most astonished and vocal ones when they survey the damage in the morning.

Being Honorable in the 21st Century

…..Weiner, Spitzer, Woods, Schwarzenegger, and some French guy namedsend-button Strauss-Kahn … imagine the problems we would be wading through now if John Edwards would have found his way to the White House in 2008 … Alas, they all have a common denominator. They are human beings, not only capable of failure but prone to it.

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When Kids Grow Up

The seniors just graduated and received all sorts of congratulations for their (in somegraduation_hat_throw cases) hard earned victories. But parents, don’t expect too much from them; you’ve been the ones spoon feeding life to them up to this point (once again, in some cases). They remain immature, raw, and inexperienced on one hand and full of bravado and book knowledge on the other.

Life has yet to smack them on the side of the head. It will happen, it will hurt, and life seldom apologizes without needed course correction. 

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They Call Him BiBi

In case you missed it, a speech was delivered yesterday by a world leader that willobama-netanyahu-4 join a list of oratories that define leadership. It will be added to Churchill’s – “We shall fight them on the beach …”, Thatcher’s – “autumn of understanding … winter of common sense”, Kennedy’s – “Ask not…”, and Reagan’s – “Tear down this wall …” offerings. It came from a battled hardened statesman and was presented to a grateful audience. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (BiBi) Netanyahu delivered a primer on the icy truths of freedom, democracy, and love of country to the US Congress at a time when those sitting in the leather bound chairs could desperately use some remedial training on such subjects.

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A Bittersweet Victory

My oldest son who assures me weekly that Barack Obama hung the moon owes mebittersweet a cold beer for these words. Its been a bittersweet week having been put in the unusual position of sincerely congratulating the work of President Obama. That work of course, is the leadership he displayed in not only green lighting the mission to take Osama bin Laden but the way in which it was to be accomplished. Big risk, big reward. To be entirely honest this episode spoke more to the work of CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Pentagon apparatus, the quiet professionals of our Special Forces teams and most ironically, those ‘inhumane’ Guantanamo interrogators who extracted such actionable information. One would hope through this experience that President Obama would understand from here out that when one embraces the notion of American exceptionalism and allows it the freedom to operate ….. good things inevitably happen.

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Dozing in the Control Tower: The Rest of the Story

Somebody fell asleep in the control tower and a plane full of women and childrenATC were in peril. “Oh, the humanity”. Relax folks, you were never in danger of losing your life – if the pilots in the cockpit are napping when it’s time to land – then it’s time to worry. Trust me on this one; they won’t be.

The recurring questions I’ve been asked lately surround the spate of incidents where an air traffic controller has been caught dozing on the job. Having been a commercial airline pilot for the last 28 years, my take on issue at hand is a little less impassioned and lot more matter of fact. It goes something like this; yes, they dozed off much the same as you have at some point in your life – while on the job, behind the wheel of your car, or listening to your spouse. Like you, they’re human and at times succumb to the frailties of humanity.

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Fat, Dumb, and Happy

A fat, dumb, and happy man plunks down $8 for a bacon double cheeseburger, large5 Guys fries and a chocolate milkshake at Five Guys Burgers (best burgers east of In ‘N Out territory). The diligent grill crew quickly puts together his 1800 calorie snack but in their haste, four or five french fries fall from the bag. The crew deliberates at length over whether to put them back in the sack. They argue over fairness, company policy, and consumer rights when someone pipes up, “let’s make a deal and put all but one french fry back in the bag so it will be a healthy meal”. This is a metaphor for how Congress is dealing with the problems that make our debt the runaway  train that it is and how the media reports on it.

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Restrepo Awakens Old Emotions

I’m somber today. Actually it’s a blend of introspection, feelings of compassion, andkorengal valley gratitude, with a little confusion mixed in. I watched the movie, Restrepo last night.  It did little to guide me through the complexity and purpose of Afghanistan but it opened up memories of the isolation, solitude, and drudgery that befalls anyone who has served the country in a foreign place, thousands of miles from home where the locals don’t much care for you.

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Wanted: International Leadership, Bring References

Just like a school yard bully, Moammar Gadhaffi tried to call a time-out recognizingUN General Assembly that his fortunes were changing as Europeans and the Arab League prompted stabilizing initiatives in response to his terroristic behavior. Alas, it was too late as it began raining Tomahawks over his forces in Libya.

He still owes Japan a huge debt of gratitude for temporarily distracting a media already known for their short attention span while he caused his own tsunami of death and destruction half a world away. Cable and network news journalists using experts du jour on speed dial evoked Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and picked apart heretofore hidden design flaws of Fukushima Daiichi while a madman hired mercenaries to complement his military in openly murdering his own people.

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A Belated Defense

My liberal friends will likely write me off totally and put me in the category of being abush eyes complete moron – the same one in which they put the subject of this piece. Frankly, my conservative friends may do the same thing. So be it; call me the village idiot. 

But I come to defend 43, President George W Bush, the most reviled man in partisan circles next to Dick Cheney when it comes to the White House.

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Stepping On Some Toes

Some people are about to get their toes stepped on …. We’ve been too nice for too long to too many people over too many issues. Thetoes Mediterranean and a large portion of the Middle East are awash with countries whose populations have grown tired of playing nice with tyrannical leaders who in return serve up nothing more than repression. Over in Europe, leaders once heralded as socially enlightened have publicly proclaimed that the multicultural social experiment has been a miserable failure in spite of their industrious efforts to make the melting pots work. At home, our political leaders face their own comeuppance as citizens have rediscovered the Constitution and demand that it be adhered to. Organized labor groups are finding out that there is only so much money to go around and their collective bargaining windfalls have ‘contracted’ them into a corner. Even President Obama, once immune from second guessers finds himself and his signature domestic policies under intense fiscal scrutiny.

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Middle East Freedom; An American Teaching Moment

Events over the last month in Tunisia, Southern Sudan, and Egypt should cast a brightTahrir Square light on things we tend to take for granted while going about our daily lives in America. It’s certain the citizens of those African countries and millions of others residing elsewhere under repressive rule don’t take freedom and liberty for granted.

The populations of the aforementioned African nations have experienced firsthand a lifetime filled with repression, corruption, and fear where individual freedom is a privilege only granted through the graciousness of government and society.

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Six ‘Shovel Ready Projects’ for Obama’s 2012 Chances

Six ways for Barack Obama to get reelected in 2012 and the soleshovel-ready reason he won’t use any of them.

Dealing effectively with any one of these six areas will play well with American voters that are truly paying attention. An effort to turn things around by turning ones’ self around (ideologically and methodologically) will have a major impact toward securing another four years for the Obama family at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Its that whole redemption concept that Americans love to see played out.

But none of them will ever happen because he is ……

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Repealing DADT

In the eyes of the military Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is not a gay issue, a witch hunt, a civilDADT rights or equality issue. Instead, it’s a social issue with far reaching organizational implications. Truth be told, the armed forces don’t care any more about a service member’s sexual orientation than they do about what religion they practice or the color of their skin. As in every other enterprise with critical responsibilities and deep investment in personnel, the focus is on the quality and maturity of the individual, how they do their job, and what their value is to the mission. Period.

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No One Laughs at God

Let’s get the fine print disclaimer out of the way early so I don’t get blamed for spektor proselytizing later on. I‘m one of those nut cases that actually believes there is a God (capital G) and all the baggage that relationship brings with it. With me, it’s personal, not complicated, and based on life experiences of failure and success that have led me to believe that some power, much larger than me, has had my back from the start and seems to know that I have the ability to be a persistent screw-up but worthy of second chances.

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late and their kid’s not back from the party yet

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Hey Dad, Are we going to be okay?

…. The truth is we’ve been here before, more than once. We know the holding handsway out. The question is: Do we, as Americans, still have the guts to make the tough choices and execute the plan knowing that the healing process will be more painful than our current condition, or will we kick the can down the road and leave it for our kids to take care of. Time is of the essence as we have levied some pretty high financial stakes this time around. Recorded history reveals what  prominent figures had to say about the crisis’ that surrounded them. 

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Close the Book on Covid

July 2021

Let’s come to an agreement that it’s time to close the book on Covid-19. It was a very bad virus of unknown origin although even moderately functioning minds have a pretty good idea from whence it came. Prior to the vaccines becoming available to everyone over the age of 12 in the US population I reserved a great deal of compassion for the families of those that succumbed to this virus strain; especially in the early days when we had no idea what we were dealing with. The reported death toll was far too large, but even those numbers have been in serious question based on pretty reliable anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

The front-line workers deserve our gratitude and respect for what they accomplished: the immunology researchers who studied the virus and developed the vaccine, medical professionals who worked tirelessly in the trenches, and first responders who put themselves in harm’s way not knowing the ramifications. Thank you, times 10.

With all that said; it is over. But some in our midst try desperately to cling to what was 2020.

credit: keepcalmandposters.com

Regrettably what we’re now seeing in American society is an event postscript as people in all levels of society who were given extramural power and authority in a crisis slowly see their stature and position go back to their original shape. Many took the opportunity to scare, scold, and preach instead of providing encouragement from a position of optimism. Now we watch them cling to the way it was for the last 16 months when anything they said was treated as gospel. Many celebrated medical professionals, immunologists, journalists, panic porn purveyors, governors, mayors, bureaucratic functionaries, et al had the world on their own little string. Their string doesn’t hold much weight anymore. They’ll continue to vainly try to keep it going with an ongoing global body count, news of some emerging mutant virus strains, or maybe an isolated report of rising positivity rates in some county you’ve never heard of. But, we’re onto them.

The disease experts from the alphabet medical mafia CDC, NIH, WHO, and their spokespeople had lost the confidence of rational Americans by the Fall of 2020. We stopped listening to them months ago. The ones we were told to revere had had their 15 minutes of fame but simply refused to move on either because they loved the spotlight or were told concurrently by an insulated group that they were beloved and their message was still important. Maybe it was both.

So here we are in 2021. Our once booming economy begins a shaky recovery mode under new management that appears misguided when dealing with the economy of capitalism and what businesses require to operate. Commercial enterprises are experiencing a labor shortage not because the workers aren’t available, but because our tax dollars continue to be used as a codicil for them to stay home.

In many states our school age kids lost ground in the areas of education and socialization. Whole sections of our stick and mortar commercial economy were shuttered. A drive through the retail center of any major city will verify this point. Suicides and drug overdose rates are through the roof as the Covid restrictions and imposed isolation became the worst enemy of someone already in an emotional hole.

Forget the incessant partisan political posturing and rhetoric; its white noise. President Trump and Operation Warp Speed team did an incredible job of bringing vaccines to the marketplace in record time while setting the initial stage to deliver it to the population. President Biden and his teams at HHS along with private industry have done an equally admirable job in delivering it to the masses.  As of this date over 68% of the US population has had at least one dose. We’ve reached the point where several of the large vaccination complexes and mobile facilities have begun to draw down their efforts as the supplies of vaccine has eclipsed demand. This is a great milestone for America for which we should celebrate. For some however, this victory is just not enough as the newest social divide is between those vaccinated and the staunch ‘non-vaxer’s’.

The persistent media coaxing, governmental incentive give-away programs to encourage the vaccine averse, and the “let’s be safe” social memes are feckless efforts as they relate to our health decisions. Americans cannot allow the virus to be the go-to cudgel dictating how we live our lives. 

 … We’ve reached the point where several of the large vaccination complexes and mobile facilities have begun to draw down their efforts as the supplies of vaccines have eclipsed demand. Everyone has had an opportunity …The decision to get vaccinated or not must become an element of personal responsibility wherein everyone gets to make that choice for themselves….

This is the whole concept behind social liberties, citizenship in America, and taking personal responsibility for your own decisions and actions.’

Personal Responsibility

The decision to get vaccinated or not must become an element of personal responsibility wherein everyone gets to make that choice for themselves. If you believe the science (isn’t that what we’ve been implored to trust) then it should be the guiding principle in terms of decision making and progressing on with our lives. I expect the daily recitation on mainstream media of death counts will continue but why should anyone care? If you believe the science and have been vaccinated, no problem, right? You’re safe. If you made the personal decision to not get vaccinated for whatever reason and you become symptomatic with Covid – it’s on you! This is the whole concept behind social liberties, citizenship in America, and taking personal responsibility for your own decisions and actions. How much compassion do you have for someone injured in a car accident only to find out they were not wearing a seatbelt or were driving under the influence? Personal responsibility.

But somewhere along the line those two words; Personal Responsibility collided with the attitude that one can do whatever one wants to do – without risk or consequence and with the added benefit that society will somehow find compassion for you despite your poor choices. Nah, it doesn’t work that way!

The mask issue? I really don’t care if you wear one or not. Either you’re; A. exercising a sense of personal responsibility because you made the decision to opt out of the vaccination program for whatever reason (that’s yours to make), B. you’ve had the vaccine and simply don’t understand the science or the math behind statistics, or C. you’re making a socio-political statement of absolutely no value to anyone besides yourself.   

Our society will eventually heal from the effects of Covid not because of any government or legislative action but because the American people are resilient enough to forge their way forward. Let’s hope our civic, state, national leaders, as well as our business leaders know enough about human nature to take a lesson in sanity from those of us actually living life, not fearing it. 

MEGA – Make Elections Great Again

Do we have that much time on our hands that we have to devise hacks, design creative systems, develop new technology, or spend more taxpayer money in order to make everything easier? To what end? So we end up with more time on our hands? Simpler, faster, more convenience and efficiency are all worthy goals but should it apply to absolutely everything in our society? Maybe, but not for everything in life. Voting happens to be one of those things that I believe should not be made ‘easy’.

Human nature teaches us that when something becomes increasingly easier over time, we tend to not pay it the importance it deserves or a certain diligence required to attend to it.

Fifty states make their own rules designating dates and deadlines for their documented citizens to register and vote. In my view, it’s a minor downside of Federalism. For most elections this happens on the first Tuesday in November. Okay so far. Special absentee voting rules are made to accommodate voters who know in advance that they will not be present to vote at their designated voting station. Becoming a little more complex but still good because one doesn’t have to know the rules of all 50 states, just the ones applicable to where they are registered.

It’s here where we started to go off the rails in terms of ease and efficiency as the introduction of expanded registration deadlines and methods, ever changing election day protocols, and voting methods have muddied the water for voters of every demographic. Add in Ranked Choice voting and your voice doesn’t mean much anymore. Interestingly enough, most of the complication of a straight forward process rose out of making it easier and more inclusive.

It’s ironic we hear phrases that connote ‘voter suppression’ and the need for more inclusion used more often these days in the era of easy voting. While we could also throw in the health safety excuse for changes in voting protocol it is presumed Covid will soon be a page in history – but don’t expect the changes made under this guise to be as transitory.

The obvious question to ask for people like me with a basic intelligence is; If we continue to go to great lengths to assure everyone has easier access to exercise their right to vote, who exactly in 2021 is being suppressed at the ballot box? Is it a basic voter intelligence issue, an elementary understanding of the rules that apply, or possibly a communication deficit? Is this an inner-city problem or a rural America conundrum? Either way it denigrates the exact persons it tries to address.

The 13th Federal Holiday?

The persistent use of the term ‘voter suppression’ leading up to the 2020 election followed by Georgia’s special election in January 2021 has become a fashionable trigger. The way media outlets played it left one assuming that there is still be a nationwide racial issue as if we still lived in the 1960’s. I, for one think this does an incredible disservice to every non-white person who is eligible to vote as it assumes they aren’t smart enough to access the system because it still remains way too complicated after all the efforts to make it … easy. I reject this, totally. Pandering is a kind way to describe this tactic.

So how does one make the system any easier so as to be effective? By making it more difficult. In doing so it shifts the message from ‘ease and convenience’ to ‘important enough to make the effort’.

1.  Limit the length of early voting. Currently there are provisions in many states to cast a ballot up to 45 days early. Alabama tops that figure at 55 days.

2. Eliminate unsolicited mass mail-in voting. Currently, there are five states that mail ballots to ‘a listed address’ for every registered voter on the voter rolls (dead or alive, in-residence or relocated). This elimination of mail-in voting does not apply to absentee ballot provisions where a formal request is delivered to the local election official by the published deadline.

3. Eliminate unmonitored, unsecured public ballot drop boxes.

4. In person voting limited to one 24-hour period across all 50 states, District of Columbia, and US Territories. This would require more voting stations, better technology, and additional protocols to provide adequate and equal access throughout the 24-hour period. Some districts may require up to 36 hours.

5. To accommodate #3. requires election day to be a Federal Holiday, 1st Tuesday in November. Schools, banks, businesses, bars, Federal services, etc. only open and operating for a short period, e.g. 9-12 a.m. Emergency services only. Add it to the list of Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’s that important. One day a year the focus should be on exercising your right to vote; not retail.

6. A voter arriving to accept a ballot on which to cast a vote must show a government issued photo ID that is crosschecked with the official voter registration listing. Think about the technology used to get through the airport TSA security checkpoint. If the crosscheck does not produce a confirmed eligibility the voter is given a ‘provisional ballot’ to cast. Determination of eligibility is accomplished within 24 hours so as to be accepted or rejected as per state rules. Government ID’s will be available free of charge up to seven days prior to 1st Tuesday in November at any state government outlet (DMV, VA, Social Services, etc.) for those needing one.

These ideas are not meant to be punitive, restrictive, or otherwise to be seen with any motive toward suppressing one’s voting rights. Rather, it is meant to draw more focus on what is the most important part of participating in a Republic; choosing who will be our leaders and presumably work in our best interests. Enacting a Federal Holiday, standardizing registration dates and deadlines across all 50 states, DC and territories, restricting the time to cast a ballot to a single 24-hour period, and requiring a photo ID puts all the responsibility on the voter and a direct emphasis on the importance of the act itself. 

Much of this theory comes into conflict with the Founders ideas of Federalism and how states determine how they will conduct their own elections. I admit to grappling with this conflict while pondering this issue. It remains unresolved to an extent.

The overriding thought is that as we continue to make life (voting) easier we tend to not pay appropriate attention to important responsibilities we have as citizens.     

The Incredible Shrinking POTUS

29 March 2021

One of the things that impressed me early on in the business world was the command that the CEO or someone in a similar position had over the whole spectrum of his responsibility. Finance, marketing, legal, personnel, market place numbers, stats, and strategic positions were all within his mental grasp. There were no notes, crib sheets, or teleprompters. Just raw memory and acumen. The ability to answer questions on a wide range of topics without hesitation gave the single impression that there was someone in positive control with a competent level of cognition holding the leadership position for whatever was going on. One didn’t have to agree with everything the leader had to say or positions he or she took but there was a sense of confidence that someone skilled was in charge.

I don’t get that feeling these days from America’s Commander in Chief and his team in the Executive Branch. President Joe Biden’s first press conference on 25 March, 2021 provided no relief from the uneasy feeling that I (and likely many others) have had about President Biden’s level of cognition, ability to communicate simple ideas, answer easy questions, or finish a sentence. Americans elect and then expect their president to command a presence of someone who is deemed to be the most powerful person in the free world. He failed on all counts. In fact, President Biden appeared to be a very small and confused man; a frail leader that had been coached extensively, had practiced but failed to deliver even canned answers, and exercised a beautifully composed cheat sheet of talking points prepared by his staff from which to display his command of the issues. Imagine shareholder concern if Elon Musk, Tim Cook, Satya Nadella, or FedEx’s Fred Smith conducted an important meeting with the same level of function that Joe Biden just conducted his first press conference as President of the United States.

New York Post 3/25/2021

But it really doesn’t matter anymore because everything in The DC Swamp is kabuki theater these days with the major media outlets and the Washington Press Corps acting as Executive Producers. It conjures up memories of the 1993 movie Dave, starring Kevin Kline who stands in as a stunt-double president after the real president suffers a stroke. ‘Dave’ holds the title but knows literally nothing about being the President. All ends well in the movie but sadly, this is where any analogy ends. The Biden tenure as President of the United States will not end well for the Republic.

Who is pushing what buttons in the Oval Office? What person whom nobody has ever heard of, let alone elected has access and is advising the President? Is this an administration by committee where the committee chair does not have an original idea, vision or a clue as to cause and effect relationships of his ultimate decisions and promulgations? One has to ask who is actually running the country right now? In any case, Joe Biden and his thoughts keep getting smaller and more irrelevant with each passing week.

This sense of unease started for me midway through the run-up to the November 2020 election. For a national campaign wherein, the presidential candidate did little to no substantive campaigning, often appeared confused and overwhelmed, never established a national vision for the future and yet won an election handily is weird in and of itself. To not look with a slanted eye at the inconsistencies and questions surrounding it is to divorce oneself from any form of objective reality. Kudos to the Biden campaign manager to have pulled off one of the most incredible political strategies ever. But then again, it may have been an easy decision based on what we have seen of Biden’s ability to focus, strategize, and communicate vision.

One has to ask some pretty in-depth questions to ascertain where all those Executive Orders and cabinet nominations that rolled out in rapid fashion came from. The cynic in me thinks that powerful, anonymous Democrat pols working tirelessly behind the scenes persistently make their cases to forge Joe Biden’s malleable course. His well-documented history of changing policy positions based on wind direction gives the impression that he is less motivated by his own deeply rooted core beliefs than he is with the loudest voices that surround him. But then again, what else should one expect from a life-long politician?

I doubt anyone would say the same thing about the leadership of Barack Obama, Bush 41 or 43, or any other president including Donald Trump. All had their own vision and could command it with confidence.

So, who is running the country right now; Pelosi and Schumer? Kamala Harris? Special interests? Deep State? Administrative staffers? Who tells press secretary Jen Psaki what to say?

The days of Joe Biden being seen as the career political heavyweight from the smallest state are over. So are his tough guy days when he dreamed of taking bullies behind the gym to punch them in the face. It’s difficult to believe ambitious Democrat Party members see him as anything but their locum tenens. When they gather, it’s doubtful to think his own cabinet members and inner circle consider him the smartest guy in the room.

The countries of the world where the US remains in good standing are not oblivious to the current state of affairs in the White House. They’ll accommodate and play nice, albeit more nervously than they ever have in the past. But it’s those other countries with whom I become concerned; China, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria. The ones that watch our every move while they plan theirs as we show our weaknesses. They won’t be so accommodating.

Sure, this is all purely opinion based on the daily political observations I’ve made since Carter began his presidential downward slide in the late 70’s. Sadly, the smoke signals in 2021 don’t look good as I interpret them. When SNL devotes multiple bits to torch a new Democrat president, you know things aren’t on even keel.

The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

6 October 2018

You hear this oath every time someone is about to give testimony in a courtroom setting. I could add the rest of it; “so help me, God” but regrettably our culture has long since ceased to use God as a measuring stick for anything. The question then becomes; what version of the truth are we about to hear? The problem is that Truth (capital T) doesn’t have versions; it is absolute much like what happens when you accidentally try to pick up a hot skillet. There are no versions, just reality.

True: in accordance with fact or reality, what actually/really happened

Truth: the quality or state of being true. That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality

Pop culture tells us thatright hand truth is simply your own version of reality. The idea that truth is relative, pliable to meet one’s view of reality, or situational is a sad commentary on the human condition and how reality is perceived and subsequently valued. The absence of truth leads to no rights and wrongs, no true or false, no lies, no facts … no nothing. It becomes the springboard for an ‘anything goes’ society.

As a society we have bastardized the very essence of truth as a core element of civilization wherein laws are enacted, reputations are established, business is conducted, wrongs are adjudicated, information is disseminated, and common discourse is accepted. Our culture seems to have accepted not telling the truth as a normal course of human behavior. What is even worse is that in accepting whatever someone says as being true we exhibit an abject laziness in not seeking what is verifiable and thereby, truly real.

Several years ago I heard of an experiment which I proceeded to try on my own. I was to go about my normal daily activities and then, at lunch, review my conversations from the morning. I was to count the number of times I didn’t tell the whole truth but rather exaggerated, spun the facts, replaced fact with opinion, or flat out lied. I was amazed at how tragically I had failed in just 5 hours by simply not telling the Truth. My epic failure suddenly became a crusade for me. Truth became such a big deal that this introspection exercise became a persistent ritual. With a new perspective on my own behavior, I began developing filters while listening to others who hadn’t experienced their own epic failure.

Our culture has lionized certain figures; athletes, politicians, celebrities, business icons, media personalities. When they say something, we assume it to be grounded in truth. Trump, Obama, Clinton, Nixon, Ted Kennedy, Gen. Petraeus, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Bill O’Reilly, Brian Williams, Martha Stewart, Harvey Weinstein, Andrew McCabe, tobacco industry and big pharma all gave their versions of the truth when it appeared they could get away with it. As it typically does, the real truth eventually emerged and they all paid a significant price of some sort.

The recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for Supreme Court nominee Bret Kavanaugh was an embarrassing American spectacle by any definition but especially illustrative where truth and fiction are concerned. No matter which side one took there were conflicts in what turned out to be a ‘he said – she said’ battle of reality. Ironically, we were reminded how far our politics has devolved when an arbiter of truth was Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Dem-CT.). Listening to him lecture Judge Kavanaugh on the subject of truth was rich while remembering he played the lead character in a case of stolen valor.

Credibility and believability cannot become replacements for what is true yet we have reached a point in our culture where that seems to be the case. One has to wonder if we even care about truth anymore. People lie to each other with impunity; on TV and social media, to authorities, even in court under oath. Perjury, slander and libel laws and penalties have been on the books for a long time but indictments and convictions for lying are extremely rare. The reason? They’re very tough to litigate because the legal hurdles of intent, interpretation, and subjectivity swallow up the ‘whole truth and nothing but the truth’.

Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election with a theme of making American great again. He may be able to accomplish this on the economic and foreign policy front but on the social and cultural front, America has all the symptoms of a culture in decline when reality and truth become moving targets.

 

 

 

The New Standard of Critical Thinking

I was having a discussion with house guests over coffee one morning recently and the subject of the economy came up. Because no subject is truly complete these days without bringing politics into it I found it took an interesting turn. All three guests were in their early thirties, graduates from great universities with one of them having completed a masters in economics. Each has been successful in their own right since graduation and were engaged in jobs that would lead to very respectable careers if they so desired.

What became interesting was when the subject of the Trump administration came up in correlation to the economy. While not overtly anti-Trump; I think partially because they were being kind as they felt out my politics, it soon became almost unanimous that the current administration and much of what its policies had done were not responsible for the dramatic economic uptick over the last 18 months. Absent from their memory was the 7 years of status quo fiscal policy and dismal post-recession growth between 2008 and 2015. To them, it seemed simply a matter of normal economic progression over time. In their mind, the robust recovery since 2016 energized by the 2017 tax cuts and deregulation brought to mind a familiar phrase used by former president Barack Obama, …” You didn’t build that.

What followed next was a short dialogue that displayed a rather shallow root structure supporting their positions, surprisingly most evident in the reasoning from the economics specialist. Lost in reasoning was any connection or recognition of administrative policies geared toward corporate deregulation, repatriation of corporate capital held abroad, and tax policy. Much to the contrary these things were refuted as either ineffective or focused on big business and the upper-income earners. There was no connecting the dots between a bigger economy and larger tax receipt yields supported by recent governmental data. (The Corporate Tax Cut Is Paying for Itself, Wall Street Journal; 19 September 2018). All three claimed having never realized any advantage in their personal income taxes from 2017 after thorough examinations of their paycheck stubs and that in their minds all of it was geared to 1%’ers and corporations. This perplexed me as my recollection of being a thirty-something was that I wasn’t very cerebral about the taxes portion of my paycheck stubs at that age; my mind was on other things far from anything fiscal on the federal level.

So how did we get here, what is being lost in discourse, and is this the new normal for depth in terms of critical thinking? These guys were bright, well-schooled, not rookies in the business world, and had a refreshing ability to entertain a cogent conversation. But they seemed unable intellectually to accept some pretty evident realities that were not congruent with either their advanced education or the mainstream media loudspeaker.

Does reworking NAFTA matter? Is our trade imbalance important enough to the health of our domestic economy to try to renegotiate it? Was it not prudent to unleash corporate America from burdensome and mostly feckless governmental regulation? If you actually didn’t see any difference in your paycheck stub based on the advertised tax rate cut is it that it doesn’t exist or did you simply fail to exercise new credit or deduction advantages built into the new tax policy? Was it wrong for the most industrialized country on earth that also employs and produces the most, to also tax those corporations at the highest rate on the globe (OECD countries)? Does lowering that corporate tax rate not carry positives for growth and job creation? Is there an understanding of the impact that the repatriation of overseas corporate earnings does for the front-end health of a corporation that potentially translates to employee paychecks, job creation, and corporate growth?

These were the questions that were never asked. Had there been time I would have loved to peel back the millennial onion further to see their thought process and depth of reasoning on foreign policy, entitlements, immigration, etc.

I’m intrigued and care far more about ‘how and why’ one thinks the way they do than ‘what’ one thinks. Critical thinking is tough these days for anyone not willing to look past the persona of Donald Trump and give a fair assessment of his policies; good and bad. To do so, however, requires one to go past CNN, Twitter, and the water cooler, and not immediately revert to the reflexive reaction – ‘if it’s Trump, it must be bad’.