Election season is upon us. This is why you would never vote for me.


Fully 50-percent of the mail I receive nowadays is some sort of election propaganda. I don’t read it. It goes straight to the recycling bin. I feel good about recycling nearly everything I can. I’ve even been known to walk around youth baseball parks while picking up bottles and cans so I can put them in their rightful place. In certain states, people looked at me awkwardly when I did it. It never bothered me.

The people who send me literature clearly have no idea where I vote, or in some cases, where I used to vote. It’s irrelevant, though. No matter the state, it all goes to the recycling bin. Unread. I’ve no interest in what a candidate wants me to know, nor do I care how lovely his family looks by the Christmas tree. Or the menorah. Or the Kwanza kinara. It’s all fluff. When the time is right, I will do my research, I will make my decisions, and I will pull the appropriate lever.

Many of us, I presume, are frustrated by the requirement for candidates to pander to an extremist base and then move cautiously to the center in order to get elected. It feels too much like a game. I’d much rather you be who you are and take your chances. I know that’s unrealistic, and I don’t have a better method in mind. Still, it bothers me.

Since my days as a young child, I have always said that, were I to ever run for office, I would eschew negative campaigning. Isn’t it better to be for something than against something? Isn’t it better to publicize your virtues instead of attacking someone else? I thought so. I think so. Yet, there is a reason politicians use negative ads. They work. “We” fall for them. That’s not an encouraging sign.

  • I do not support the death penalty. I believe it’s morally corrupt to kill someone because they have killed. I understand the counter-arguments. I also understand the conflict this presents given my chosen profession. None of this has given me enough reason to change my mind.
  • For very personal reasons, I believe abortion is morally wrong. I further believe that it is not the right of our government to deny this option to women.
  • I believe that our government needs to formulate a grand strategy in order to determine what and who we want to be. It should be informed by the defense budget, but not driven by the defense budget. If the two don’t meet, we need a new grand strategy. The days of the US as world police are over.
  • I believe that if China wants to be on the world stage, as they clearly do, it’s time for China to step onto the world stage. That includes containing Ebola in West Africa and stabilizing the regions where they temporarily sate their unquenchable thirst for energy.
  • I believe that multi-national organizations should not be assisting the US. Instead,  the US should be assisting multi-national organizations.
  • I believe that every penny we give to foreign countries should come with conditions. Firm conditions. In case you don’t know, we still give money to Russia and the West Bank/Gaza.
  • I believe that private companies can outperform the government in nearly every endeavor. Private companies are good at making money. Governments are only good at spending money. There is no government incentive for thrift.
  • I believe that money does not make schools good. Committed students, involved parents, and inspired teachers do. Money only helps.
  • I believe that our government should incentivize the conservationist movement, with the ultimate goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Completely, if possible. I understand that stands in stark contrast to my other views on government.
  • I believe that, through no fault of their own, people need a leg up at times. Any assistance the government provides should not come without condition or end-point.
  • I believe that our judiciary needs to stick with the Constitution and precedent. There is no room for personal beliefs or ideology.
  • I believe that our tax code is beyond ridiculous. It needs to be simplified. If that means I pay more, I’ll live with it. By the way, my father is a CPA. Sorry, Dad.
  • I firmly believe that our citizens have the right to bear arms. Restrictions apply. Caveats do not.
  • I believe that our citizens have a right to privacy, even if that results in increased danger to the populace at large. Without that right, there is nothing left worth defending.

That is why you would not vote for me.


Yiddish. Hoodish. What’s the difference?


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Take no offense where none is intended. You and only you are in charge of your emotions. If someone wants to hurt your feelings, you must give your consent. Don’t do it. A random person who walks by you on the street and says, “You’re a loser” is irrelevant unless you already believe you are a loser.

This immutable truth has been on display altogether too often in recent years. It’s painful to watch. It’s even more painful when you see the first indication that it’s coming, and all you can subsequently do is brace for impact. There was the Donald Sterling ridiculousness, which was nothing more than Donald Sterling being Donald Sterling. More recently, there was Ted Bishop, the president of the PGA of America being “relieved of command” because he referred to European golfer Ian Poulter as a “Lil Girl” on his Twitter feed. The grand irony here is that Ian Poulter is no newcomer to the world of controversy or inflammatory comments. He’s made a living at it. Being called a “Lil Girl” is a significant improvement over the names he has been called in days past. This is the same Ian Poulter, an Englishman mind you, who lives in Orlando and has accumulated nearly $34M in career winnings. Never mind that he used an anti-Semitic slur in referring to a rival football team in the English Premier League. It’s easy to see how he would be so easily offended. Here is his apology:

“So didnt mean to offend anybody with my Football tweet last night,” Pouter wrote, “very sorry if i did. I am not racial in anyway.”

No. Nor sexist. Because being called a “Lil Girl” is just like…. so offensive.

This is where we find ourselves with Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Guber. Pay no attention to the fact that “Golden State” is possibly the worst connotation of locale in all of American sports. They are home-ported in Oakland, thank you for asking.

In this installment, Guber replied to an e-mail that was extolling the virtues of the Golden State roster’s international flavor.

Guber replied to the email on his iPhone by saying, “I’m taking rosetta stone to learn Hungarian Serbian Australian swahili and hoodish This year. But it’s nice.”

There are a number of ways to highlight the foolishness of this comment. Racism is not one of them. Apple is due some of the credit. I type what I want to type; Apple decides for me. Sometimes I catch it. At other times, I do not. Given the likelihood that someone clued Guber in to the fact that he might have offended the entire world, you could not be blamed for believing that he might have thence proceeded with more caution. If you did, you would be wrong. Here is his mea culpa:

“Someone just brought to my attention that an email I responded to earlier contains the word ‘hoodish,’ which I don’t even think Is a Word, and certainly not the one I intended to use,” Guber wrote in the email. “I intended to type Yiddish. Either my mobile fone [sic] autocorrected or it was typed wrong. In any event I regret if anyone was unintendedly [sic] offended.”

Sorry, folks. That entire paragraph is a train wreck that I’ve not the energy to even begin picking apart. Horribly written? Yes. Hateful? Absolutely not. If anyone can tell me why he chose to randomly capitalize “Is” or “Word”, I would desperately like to know. What is clear is that he has not mastered the art of communication.

Let us dissect the angst. Any reasonable person would easily conclude, by way of his remark about needing to learn Yiddish, that he hates Jews, and isn’t that just awful? Except that it isn’t, because no on cares. In fact, it’s en vogue to hate Jews, especially in Hollywood, where they are derided for the sin of retaliating against Hamas, which is a terrorist group with a well-chronicled penchant for lobbing rockets into Israeli communities. How dare they?! Different topic for a different time, but I’d love to know why American Jews so overwhelmingly support the Democratic party.

We all know that Jews aren’t the cause of this ruckus. This is all about the term “hoodish”, whatever that means, and the perceived slight against African-Americans, who comprise 78-percent of the NBA’s personnel. Are you offended because “hoodish” is not an actual language? If so, then why weren’t you offended by Guber inferring that he needed to learn Australian, which last I checked, is the same as learning English? You and I both know the answer, and there is no need to talk about it.

My advice to anyone in a position of authority, or in any position where they have something to lose, is this: delete all social media accounts. Say nothing to anyone, ever. Sit alone in your house. Eliminate all contact with the outside world. Make no decisions. The only way to make sure you offend no one is to come into contact with no one. Become a recluse. Hope for the best; expect the worst. How is that for leadership?


WMD in Iraq


Discard for a moment, if you will, whatever pre-conceived notions you have of the New York Times. I’m not judging. I harbor some notions of my own, be they fair or otherwise. The journalists do their homework, and the articles are well written. Those two traits are on  display in remarkable fashion in this piece: The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons. Please note, as a former high-ranking boss of mine adamantly maintained with the assistance of his Arabic-speaking advisors, it is “eh-Rock”. Not “I-rack”.

The totality of the article referenced above will be longer than my blog post. In channeling my inner-Commander Salamander, I strongly suggest you read the entire thing. It is worth whatever level of effort you are willing to invest. If you are wondering why I am just now writing about this, you are justified. Those who have visited this site long enough well understand that I’m wont to allow certain topics to steep. The flavor is much better that way. Some might even say I allow them to ferment. Fair enough. I put fingertips to keyboard when the time is right, for me at any rate.

Come to find out, in spite of long-standing insistence to the contrary, Iraq had WMD. A fair amount of it, actually.

From 2004 to 2011, American and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and on at least six occasions were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier in Saddam Hussein’s rule.

In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

5,000. That’s not a small number. For those waiting to hear apologies from those who opposed this as a premise for rolling (back) onto Iraqi soil, I have some advice for you: don’t hold your breath. It’s not going to happen for two reasons. Firstly, those bound to what they believe is ideological supremacy never reverse course or admit they were wrong. Ever. Secondly, they will maintain that Hans Blix and his posse were only looking for evidence of an active program. So there. What the world repeatedly fails to acknowledge is that you can’t prove a negative. The inability to discover something doesn’t prove that it isn’t there; it only proves that you didn’t find it. A compelling case with supporting evidence is not airtight proof.

I’m admittedly perplexed (and mildly irritated) by the lack of interest in this story. I don’t understand why it has not dominated the news media for two straight weeks. I’m further perplexed by the perceived need to keep these incidents so tightly under wraps, even classified.

The secrecy fit a pattern. Since the outset of the war, the scale of the United States’ encounters with chemical weapons in Iraq was neither publicly shared nor widely circulated within the military. These encounters carry worrisome implications now that the Islamic State, a Qaeda splinter group, controls much of the territory where the weapons were found.

The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors. The government’s secrecy, victims and participants said, prevented troops in some of the war’s most dangerous jobs from receiving proper medical care and official recognition of their wounds.

Congress, too, was only partly informed, while troops and officers were instructed to be silent or give deceptive accounts of what they had found. “ ’Nothing of significance’ is what I was ordered to say,” said Jarrod Lampier, a recently retired Army major who was present for the largest chemical weapons discovery of the war: more than 2,400 nerve-agent rockets unearthed in 2006 at a former Republican Guard compound.

Participants in the chemical weapons discoveries said the United States suppressed knowledge of finds for multiple reasons, including that the government bristled at further acknowledgment it had been wrong. “They needed something to say that after Sept. 11 Saddam used chemical rounds,” Mr. Lampier said. “And all of this was from the pre-1991 era.”

Others pointed to another embarrassment. In five of six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been designed in the United States, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies.

Had these results been publicly disclosed, they would have shown that American assertions about Iraq’s chemical weapons posing no militarily significant threat could be misread, and that these dangerous chemical weapons had Western roots.

If I understand this correctly, we are perfectly willing to release the images and text-content of someone’s personal cellphones with only mild prodding, but the existence of massive, unguarded stockpiles of munitions containing sulfur mustard and sarin in territories now controlled by the latest target in our game of whack-a-mole is a huge government secret? I’ve looked at this from every perspective, and I can’t come up with a single good reason not to readily share this with Congress, the public, the guy working the counter at 7-11, and my cat.

Public disclosure might also have helped spur the military’s medical system to convert its memorandums into action, and to ready itself for wounds its troops were bound to suffer.

Within two days lesions formed in Petty Officer X’s nasal passages and upper airway, according to his medical records, which noted exposure to “chemical vapors — mustard gas” from a “terrorist chemical weapon.”

But the care he would receive proved to be much less than that mandated under the Army’s treatment order.

The clinic did not perform the required blood and urine tests on Petty Officer X, according to his medical records.

Both men were returned to duty within days, though Mr. X said his breathing remained labored and his chest hurt.

There are so many disturbing elements here that I almost don’t know where to begin. I’ll provide a number of options, all with merit.

  1. That someone in the WH administration and/or upper levels of the DoD decided this needed to be a closely-guarded secret.
  2. That no one cares about 1 above.
  3. That these weapons were made in close cooperation with Western nations, to include the US.
  4. That these weapons were so easy to conceal, even amidst conventional weapons that looked identical.
  5. That we are seeing further evidence of the perils of failing to ensure the security of a sovereign nation after breeching its borders.
  6. That there are likely more of these weapons about and that they might easily fall into the hands of ISIL or another terrorist group.
  7. That we did not properly prepare our personnel for the likelihood of stumbling onto these weapons.
  8. That we have all but abandoned the service members who will suffer life-long effects from exposure to these weapons.

Which of the above bothers you the most?

Photo Credit: Gulf News


FY16 AMCSB Results


Hearty congratulations to those selected at the most recent aviation major command screen board. Some folks are celebrating. Some are digging up their college calculus books. Some are praying: “Please, God. Just one more tour in Oceana. Just one more. I own a house there. My kids are in good schools. My wife has a high-paying job. I’ll be a good boy. I promise!”



A Black Day in the Great White North


Just 20 days ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canadian aircraft would participate in the fight against ISIL. It did not take long for ISIL, or in this case fools with questionable ties to ISIL, to bring the fight directly to Canadian soil. Given that, it’s hard to blame other nations for not showing eager willingness to get involved, isn’t it? The easy path would be status quo. It’s an American problem; let the Americans handle it. Our wonderful neighbors to the north didn’t take the easy path. They must have understood that backlash was utterly predictable, and they should be commended for accepting that risk.

None of that will serve as consolation for the friends, family, and military mates of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

Vincent was killed by a car in a parking lot hit-and-run attack near Montreal on Monday. The assailant, a Canadian citizen, was killed by police after a brief chase. He is one of 90 citizens Canadian authorities have identified as ISIL members or radicals who have attempted to become ISIL members.

Yesterday’s attack was more sensational and grabbed more headlines, but the outcome was identical. The unarmed Cirillo, an honor guard at Ottowa’s National War Memorial, was gunned down by another radicalized Canadian citizen, who was later shot and killed when he made a run at Parliament Hall. The lockdown and ensuing gun battle is captured on a cell phone camera. I don’t typically watch blood and gore video. Were I to make an exception, that one would make the cut.

Canadian leadership’s response has been impressive. It shows resolve. It shows that they understand who they are and what makes them great.

“We are also reminded that attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governments are by their very nature attacks on our country, on our values, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all.”

“But let there be no misunderstanding — we will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated.”

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair called the shootings “a cowardly attack designed to strike at the heart of our democracy, the heart of who we are.”

It reminds me of the response to a 2007 terrorist attack at the Glasgow International Airport. Airport worker John Smeaton threw himself into the fray and attacked one of the terrorists. He is interviewed here.

“You can come to Glasgow. Glasgow doesn’t accept this. Do you know what I mean? This is Glasgow. You know? We’ll set about you.”

Yes, John. I do know. I get it.

The contrarians have, to the surprise of no one, entered this discussion of terrorist attacks on Canada’s home soil. “It’s just two people”, they say. “Everyone settle down. You’re blowing this out of proportion.”

I don’t agree. Strict numerical comparisons rarely tell the full story. They are an easy distractor for people who can’t or won’t take the time to think. This has come about recently with regards to Ebola. It is now hip to point out that somewhere between 3,000 and 49,000 people die of the flu each year, which is why you shouldn’t worry about Ebola. Do you want to know the difference? if I contract Ebola, I am likely to die. If I contract the flu, as I have done many times in my life, I am not likely to die.

More than 6,800 American service members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since the global war on terror began. More than 32,000 Americans die in motor vehicle accidents each year. I don’t see any relevance in comparing those two numbers.

Then why are the recent events in Canada about much more than the death of two service members? Because they are not random. It’s that simple. The criminals who carried out these attacks were motivated by ideology, which means there are more of them out there, and potentially even more in the making. That’s not to say this is cause for panic, but it is certainly cause for concern. This concern will necessitate increased vigilance and action to stay left of the requirement to respond.

Kudos to Canada for getting into the ring for the latest round of this bout. Now maybe you could let us win a hockey game, eh?


ISIL Fighters Get US Weapons from Airdrop

Islamic State group fighters seized at least one cache of weapons airdropped by U.S.-led coalition forces that were meant to supply Kurdish militiamen battling the extremist group in a border town, activists said Tuesday.

The cache of weapons included hand grenades, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to a video uploaded by a media group loyal to the Islamic State. The video appeared authentic and corresponded to The Associated Press’ reporting of the event. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the militants had seized at least once cache, but may have seized more.

Ahhh narts.

The full story is here.

On Tuesday, Islamic State loyalists on social media posted sarcastic thank you notes to the United States, including one image that said, “Team USA.”

At least someone understands social media and strategic messaging.


Not Gay Enough for the Fringe Element

This is Jillian Michaels.

jillian-michaels-womens-health-june-2012- (1)

She is best known for her televised work on NBC’s The Biggest Loser. She is not, how you say, unattractive. She is also a self-described pansexual, which is a new term for me. Pansexuals differ from bisexuals in that pansexuals reject the gender binary. It opens them up to “relationships with people who do not identify as strictly men or women.” I had no idea. They even have their own flag.


Her current choice of partner is a female, and together they have two children. In this current day and age, that is hardly the makings for controversy, even in the military. Controversy only erupts when you talk about it in a manner deemed unacceptable by the fringe element.

I don’t know that I am [comfortable talking about being gay] now, to be honest with you. The gay thing has always been hard for me. When Heidi and I are out and somebody older asks, ‘Are you sisters?’ I say, ‘We’re friends.’ I guess it comes from thinking that they will be shocked or disturbed. Look, I wish I had some strapping football player husband. It would be such a dream to be ‘normal’ like that, but I’m just not.

That’s understandable. If you see two females with children, there should be little doubt that, one way or another, there was third-party involvement. I don’t find her comments offensive. Others did. In what way, you ask? Was it her inference that older people are intolerant and narrow-minded? Don’t be ridiculous. No one cares about the feelings of older people unless they need to be frightened into the polling booths by the threat of lost Social Security or Medicare benefits. Instead, the fringe element is outraged, calling her, of all things, homophobic.

Let that sink in. Homophobic. Ms. Michaels is a celebrity in an internationally-recognized committed relationship with another woman. Good for her, I say. How is it even possible that she be a homophobe, and why do people go so far out of their way to be offended? It’s crystal clear that she is very open about her sexuality, which can only mean that she is not loud and proud enough.

At some point in every movement, those with extreme views hijack it and do more harm than good to the cause they allegedly embrace.

Take the Republican party, for example. With the help of the far right, they have allowed themselves, unwittingly I hope, to be painted in the following light.

  1. Anti-woman
  2. Anti-minority
  3. Anti-immigrant
  4. Anti-gay
  5. Anti-environment
  6. Anti-poor people
  7. Pro-war
  8. Pro-big business (the evil types)
  9. Anti-civil liberty / privacy
  10. Anti-choice
  11. Anti-Islam

That’s anti-nearly-everything, which makes the Dem ticket the easiest sell in town. It worked in the last two Presidential elections, and unless radical changes are afoot, William Jefferson Clinton is moving back into the White House soon.

Not long ago, two guys from Greenpeace showed up at my front door. They were looking for someone else, but “Hey, since we have you here…”. I told them I was in the middle of preparing dinner (kinda true), thanked them for what they do, and turned them loose. “Greenpeace is committed to saving our oceans” they told me before exiting. I have a hard time seeing anything wrong with that. I have a hard time seeing anything wrong with most (not all) environmentalist positions. The earth is a really cool place. See for yourself.


What is so offensive about reducing oil dependence, limiting the amount of carbon dioxide we belch into the skies, and protecting our planet? Nothing, until the fringe element inserts itself. Once you start forcibly occupying oil platforms, setting fire to crops, and staging militant attacks against loggers, your mainstream support is gone. You got hijacked. Your good cause is a good cause no more.

I’m tired of the loud voices from the far ends of the spectrum dominating the dialogue. Stay in the middle, folks. I beg you. We are here, and we are here in large numbers. Let reason and logic guide us, not hyperbole and emotion. We have quite enough of that already.


Give Me Your Sermons!


As red-states go, Texas is about as red as they come. Much of that is based on their fiercely bred sense of independence and fondness for personal freedom. It’s not my favorite place for reasons more personal than political, but I admire it greatly. I love Shiner Bock. I love Tex-Mex cuisine. I love the state’s rich history. I loathe the weather.

I predict that the state will lean more blue in time. Maybe not fully blue, but more blue. The immigrant population will grow and cities will swell. Even California would be a red-state if were it not for her largest cities. They make up the vast majority of the population, so it’s irrelevant.

Clear evidence of this Texan transformation is underway in, of all places, Houston. Houston. Had you told me that when I was a resident of that state many years ago, I would have looked at you like you had a horn growing from your forehead. As it turns out, the time of unicorns and rainbows is upon us.


In June of this year, the City Council, spearheaded by openly gay Mayor Annise Parker, passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. I read it for you. Do you see how much I care? Go there if you’d like, but be warned. It’s mostly legalese. It is not, however, a terribly offensive document. As they do, opponents seized on an inflammatory part of the law that allows humans to decide which restroom (male or female) to use based on the gender with which they most readily identify. I suppose that could make for some awkward moments. I don’t much care. I’ve seen plenty of women in men’s restrooms, if only because the line for the women’s restroom was too long. The emotional argument against this particular passage is that a man could go into the women’s restroom and justify it by saying he feels like a woman that day. I might exercise that right just to unlock the shackles on the female conundrum via careful eavesdropping. What?! When she says the word “fine”, she doesn’t actually mean it’s fine? Sumbiscuit. And here I thought she was totally cool with my four-day Vegas golf trip with the boys.

Houston is not just the home of a recent progressive movement. It is also the home of the mega-church. The Lakewood Church alone has 43,500 weekly attendees. Yes, you read that correctly. No, I didn’t add any zeros. These churches can mobilize folks in a hurry, which is exactly what they did. To place a referendum on the ballot to propose repeal of this (or any) ordinance, the city of Houston requires a petition with 17,269 signatures. That is not an arbitrary number. It represents 10-percent of those who voted during the most recent mayoral election. The champions of HERO opposition got 50,000 signatures, some 40,000 of which were tossed aside by the city because of irregularity in the documentation. How convenient.

Shots fired in both directions. The skirmish is on. The city of Houston escalates the conflict.

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.


Perhaps the mayor is so principled that she doesn’t care about re-election. If not, she better enjoy her time in the seat. You never give your adversary a cause around which he can rally.

There are a great many distractors here. Don’t be like the American public at-large and fall for them. Any of them. Freedom of Religion. Freedom of Speech. States’ rights. Transgender equality. Tax-exempt status of churches. Don’t get me wrong. These are important matters one and all, but as they pertain to the issuance of subpoenas, they are noise, and they divert attention from this latest tactic. I implore you to see this tactic for what it is – government bullying. Nothing more, nothing less. You don’t issue a subpoena because you want to make sure all relevant information is on the table. You issue a subpoena to intimidate, indict, or both. The city’s message could not be more clear. You have to tolerate me, what I say, and how I live. The opposite is not true.

If the mayor and her thought police really want to know what is happening in area churches, all they have to do is grab a cup of coffee on Sunday morning and watch a live internet feed. They can also download most of the sermons from church websites. Better yet, maybe they could get off their collective arses and plop them in a pew. The hardest part will be finding a place to park.

Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s right. Just because something is right doesn’t mean it’s fair. And if you want to be fair, be consistent in your fairness. If you want to be consistent, subpoena the sermons from all Houston area mosques. When you do, set your watch and tell me how long it takes for the ACLU to arrive with Hollywood celebrities in tow.

Photo Credit: Dallas Observer


Dude, Just Put the Jacket on Your Lap


I’ve touched on this topic previously. For those who are new to the party, and for those who chose not to devote brain cells to my family lineage, I’ll share that my father was a career Marine Corps infantry officer and Vietnam Vet. Accordingly, I grew up around the military. It’s all I ever knew. My father was still on active duty when I went to The Boat School. Aside from a steady paycheck, reasonable health-care, the commissary, and a move every three years, I don’t remember many any ancillary benefits. That’s not true. When I was in high school, my dad had a unique on-call schedule that gave him more free time than he could handle, so he signed up as s substitute teacher at my high school. He knew, and still knows, more about history than most PhDs. As he was walking past the lunchroom, an unruly kid who very few of us liked tossed an apple that splattered on the cafeteria floor. My dad saw it, grabbed the kid, and made him do pushups in front of the entire lunch crowd. It. Was. Awesome. That was the first time I witnessed the birth of a cult hero. Dad never got invited back, nor did he care.

The point is, I never once went to an NFL game for free. We didn’t get 10-percent off at the hardware store. And we couldn’t go to Sea World once each year for the affordable price of zero dollars. I didn’t complain then, and I’m not complaining now. But regardless of how you look at military service in its current state, from the standpoint of perks and respect, times are good. Actually, they’ve never been better. We would do well not to take it for granted. I was once walking to a restaurant with a fellow officer from the UK’s Royal Air Force. We were both in uniform because it was required for this function. Someone stopped us in the parking lot and thanked us for our service. My counterpart, who had not been in the States for long, said to me with an astonished look, “That would never happen back home.”

If only because it’s been jammed in your face for a few days, you must know that a female flight attendant on a US Airways flight from Portland to Charlotte refused a US Army First Sergeant’s request to hang his jacket in the first class cabin’s closet. Reports indicate that she did not exude the kindness you might hope to find in a flight attendant. I wasn’t there, so I can’t verify her tone of voice or general demeanor. I can verify that he made a reasonable request, and that his request was denied based on company policy. I would consider it a reasonable request for someone flying coach who is wearing an expensive suit. The difference is that the guy in the suit knows the answer is going to be no, whereas the guy in the uniform expects the answer to be yes. Therein lies the problem, dunnit?

Do not allow yourself to build expectations of special treatment. Do not get upset when the guy at the check-in counter refuses to check your 50 lb suitcase for free because you are not traveling on orders. Do not eat lunch off-base and even allow yourself to hope that someone is going to walk over and pick up your check. Those who have served in the modern era, to include your humble author, have done so willingly. With that service comes great sacrifice, but also occasional benefits. It’s not occasional benefits that mark the beginning of the slippery slope, it’s a sense of entitlement. Be a reluctant hero. As a vet, you have earned a modicum of respect and absolute acceptance by society, not a free lunch at Carrabba’s.

We’ve had discussions here in the past about the LGBT crowd. I won’t arrogantly claim that I speak for all readers of this blog, much less the public at large, but I will say that the majority of those who spoke-up were clear in their opinions. LGBT crowd, we accept you, even in the military, but there is no need for cake and theatrics. Just do your job. Please don’t ask me to celebrate you, as I won’t ask you to celebrate me. Do you see the parallel?

Let us not malign the First Sergeant. I don’t know why he was traveling around the country doing job interviews in a dress uniform, but that’s his business, not mine. I would not make that decision, if only because dress uniforms are uncomfortable and flying in coach is miserable enough as it is. Plus, I’m a blend-in guy. “Yes, FA-18s are very fast and night carrier landings are very scary. Might I go on reading my book now?” The First Sergeant did not make a fuss; the passengers around him did. That was a mistake. They turned a non-news story into a news story, and turned a fleeting chance for short-term good into long-term harm. Now every flight attendant at US Airways, and likely other airlines as well, is going to feel compelled to roll out the red carpet for everyone they see in uniform. That in and of itself is not horrible. It is, however, less than desirable when you account for the fact that they are doing it because they fear backlash, not because they want to honor a service member.

Should the flight attendant have hung up his coat? Yes. For the rest of us, just be glad no one is throwing blood on your uniform at a parade or calling you a baby-killer at the airport.


Back to The Boots on the Ground Thing


Like many of you, and I’ll admit that this is supposition since I can’t know exactly what and how much you read, I have a list of websites I visit each day in order to stay abreast of what is happening in the world. Some I read thoroughly; some I browse. This is also self-serving since it churns my brain and helps me uncover topics that churn it enough to compel me to write. Of late, most every website, whether liberal, conservative, comical, serious, military or beatnik has run an article that expresses doubts about the long-term effectiveness of an air-only campaign. I’m not going to post links. These articles are ubiquitous, and many of them come from surprising sources. In spite of repeated uppercuts to the jaw, ISIL is holding most of its ground. Coalition aviation assets have thwarted attempts to seize further territory, which is good. We should not be afraid to celebrate and find encouragement in those minor victories.

Air campaigns find success against groups like ISIL because they are not just a terrorist group. Their stated goal is to re-establish the caliphate. That is not going to happen for hundreds of reasons, but it’s still important. It’s important because they want to govern. Governing requires much more than hiding out in safe houses waiting for the next opportunity to wield the blades of terror (Al Qaeda), or waiting for your adversary to leave (the Taliban). Governing presents certain vulnerabilities that can be exploited from the air. It requires centralized leadership. It requires the ability to generate finance.

While those vulnerabilities have given us opportunities to date, it’s becoming clear (isn’t it?) that a campaign limited to precision guided weapons will not deliver a decisive victory. Degrade and destroy. That’s what we said.

Let’s concede for a moment that ISIL and its constituents are not stupid. Misguided and evil? Perhaps. Dumb? No. They are going to find ways to mitigate the effectiveness of weapons raining through the skies. It is, quite literally, not rocket science. I could list dozens of methods, but I’ll not be a party to it. Just know that they will adjust, and most likely have already.

At some point, men and women with much more nerve than I have in my personal toolkit are going to have to go house-to-house and kick-in doors. Increasingly, that looks like an incontrovertible truth. I don’t see any way around it. The optimist in me wants to continue believing that our Arab partners will be the ones to do it. I wouldn’t bet my Roth IRA on it. I wouldn’t even bet an hour’s worth of wages on it. Meanwhile, we will use terms like “advisors” in order to avoid another sticky quagmire. The Generals and Admirals in DC can implore POTUS until they are each out of oxygen and red in the face. I can’t envision a scenario by which he will formally commit ground troops. We are, after all, in the midst of a military draw-down en route to more peaceful years.

Whether or not I agree with that approach, I can live with it so long as we are honest about it, and that requires us to first be honest with ourselves. Say it with me. We are making a limited investment to combat this problem, and limited measures get limited results. ISIL is just the latest actor on the stage, albeit a capable one. If not them, it would be the Khorasan. Or the specter of the Khorasan. The number of potential actors appears limitless, for this disease is continually fed by a malignant tumor.

Eventually, you have to find the tumor and treat it. The other option is to throw your hands in the air and accept the outcome for whatever it is.

Do you remember that earlier passage about men and women with tremendous nerve in their personal toolkit? This young lady has it in spades. If you watch nothing else, start at the 3:45 mark and view for a minute-and-a-half.