Still Delayed: Aviation Major Command Slate

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“I can’t believe she did that!”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“That was great. Just great. Karma will come around.”

Don’t you hate those attention-seeking Facebook posts? You’re left thinking, “If you have something to say, just say it.” Since they didn’t come right out and say it, you can either snoop through the comments without commenting and see if the poster spills the beans. You can take the bait and ask, but that encourages similar behavior in the future. Or you can abstain entirely, which is tougher than it sounds.

I used that lead-in because I’m going to provide some information that won’t tell the whole story. The story is not completely written. It may yet have a happy ending. I want to be wrong. I hope everyone does the right thing. Everyone.

The Aviation Major Command Screen Board results came out 57 days ago. Nearly two months have passed. There were seven guys selected for air wing command. That particular slate probably took the worker bees in Millington 20 minutes to write, if that. I readily admit that other parts of the slate are undeniably more challenging, especially when guys/gals turn down the opportunity for major command for whatever reason. And then there is the approval process. It’s not short. Two months, however, is plenty of time.

On the other hand, if you screen for major command, but feel as though you are on the wrong part of the list, there is apparently a process through which you can petition for change and hold up the entire major command slate. I had no idea such a process was available. If it is, I’m very surprised more folks haven’t put it into motion.

Again, I want to be wrong. The sanctity and integrity of the entire screening process hangs in the balance.

Photo Credit: freerepublic.com

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Sony Takes a Beating from the Hermit Kingdom

When faced with a startling revelation, or a crisis of sorts, we have two options. We can respond with emotion, or we can respond with reason and logic. There is a time and place for both. My emotional response to Sony canceling the Christmas Day release of “The Interview” is, by my estimation, in lockstep with 90-percent of Americans. Even though there is no chance I would ever watch that movie (not even on cruise!), it’s embarrassing. We caved. We conceded our precious right to free speech because we were threatened by a third-rate, Communist dictator who likes disco music and Dennis Rodman. In retribution, we should jam the North Korean airwaves with an endless loop of “Family Matters” reruns and “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” until the Great Successor capitulates.

If your emotional response was similar to mine, let’s get our arms around this thing before we succumb to the 30 character sound bites that scroll across the bottom of the TV screen.

Speaking of screens, this is what simultaneously popped up on the computer of every employee at Sony’s Culver City Entertainment headquarters on 24 November.

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This wouldn’t scare me. It would, however, unsettle me. Here is the remaining sequence of events.¹

24 November – Sony employees go without computers, voice mail, or e-mail for six days. Mil-bloggers make snide comparisons to life on an aircraft carrier.

The hackers – the “Guardians of Peace” – lift 100 TB of data from Sony’s servers.

27 November – Four unreleased Sony films are dumped onto file-sharing hubs.

29 November – A North Korean website calls the movie an “evil act of provocation”. Offensive? Maybe. Terrible? Probably. Evil? No.

1 December – Leaks begin. The salaries of Sony executives and over 6,000 other employees are released.

3 December – Leaks continue. Now it’s copies of passports, usernames, passwords, film budgets, film critiques and workplace complaints.

5 December – All Sony employees receive this e-mail threat: “Many things beyond imagination will happen at many places of the world. Our agents find themselves act in necessary places. Please sign your name to object the false of the company at the e-mail address below if you don’t want to suffer damage. If you don’t, not only you but your family will be in danger.” A for hacking. F for grammar. Terrible. F.

9 December – All of Amy Pascal’s e-mails are released. Pascal is the co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment. A number of her exchanges are derogatory (toward Angelina Jolie, President Obama, and others), and ultimately embarrassing.

12 December – Medical files of employees, their spouses, and their children are released.

15 December – Aaron Sorkin, who wrote several movies for Sony, released an Op/Ed in the New York Times. “Because I and two movies of mine get a little dinged up, I feel I have the credibility to say this: I don’t care, because the minor insults that were revealed are such small potatoes compared to the fact that they were revealed. Not by the hackers, but by American journalists helping them…If you close your eyes you can imagine the hackers sitting in a room, combing through the documents to find the ones that will draw the most blood. And in a room next door are American journalists doing the same thing. As demented and criminal as it is, at least the hackers are doing it for a cause. The press is doing it for a nickel.”

No argument from me, pal. But the press has to execute the consistent application of ethics. To date, they’ve shown no such restraint, even on matters that impact national security. Especially on matters that impact national security. Assange doesn’t look like such a folk hero when his deeds are being carried out in your backyard.

Former employees file a class action lawsuit claiming that Sony failed to properly safeguard their personal data.

16 December – Hackers e-mail reporters and threaten to attack movie theaters that show “The Interview”. FBI and DHS indicate there is no credible evidence to suggest an active threat.

Leaks continue, this time with thousands of e-mails from Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton.

Former employees file a second class action lawsuit.

18 December – After major theater outlets declare they won’t show “The Interview”, Sony pulls the plug. Initially, it was to be a delayed release. Since then, they’ve decided that the movie will never be released anywhere at any time.

Rogue theaters plan to show “Team America: World Police” in place of “The Interview” on Christmas Day. Paramount decides that’s a bad idea and similarly pulls the plug.

20th Century Fox cancelled plans for a paranoid thriller set in North Korea, and starring Steve Carell, entitled Pyongyang. This troubles me a great deal.


Am I upset that the thugs just put one in the win column? Very much so. It’s disconcerting for a number of reasons. I’m very worried about the precedent this sets and the many possible downstream effects. Everyone knows what happens when you don’t stand up to bullies.

I don’t blame the theaters. Even with no credible threat, their box office receipts will be terrible if the slightest bit of fear lingers. I’m not particularly afraid of sharks, and I’ve seen the statistics, but I still don’t paddle out when I see one in the water.

I don’t blame Sony either. Not for canceling the release of the movie, anyway. Look at that timeline again. They are in the middle of a firestorm. Worse yet, the firestorm is still going. It’s not nearly over, even if their computers are again safe for use. The $44M they lost making “The Interview” will pale in comparison to the money they lose in lawsuits and infrastructure repair. Imagine the lawsuit they would face from other production companies if they stuck to their plan and the entire entertainment industry took a financial bath over the holidays. Hollywood principle$ only go $o far.

Contrary to what you might believe in reading most media reports, no one in the US Government has officially tied this cyber-attack to North Korea, or their Chinese puppet-master for that matter. If/when they do, we had better respond. We had better respond swiftly and firmly. And I’m not talking about a 10-minute speech that interrupts my weekly viewing of “The Mindy Project”.

It’s not just Sony that took a beating. We all did, to include our nation and the freedoms we enjoy and so often take for granted. How very disheartening.

¹Source – deadline.com

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Terror in Sydney: Are we hyper-sensitive?

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Disclaimer: All human life is sacred. I’ve previously stated my position on that account. Nothing I will write in this post is intended to diminish the value of human life. If I say only seven people are killed, I am doing so purely for the sake of relative comparison. I assure you that the family, friends and loved ones of those seven would never use the word “only”, nor would I in their shoes. It’s further important to note that I would never, ever attempt to denigrate the loss of a service member, who volunteered for duty, on the battlefield.

Just recently, some jack-wagon took 17 hostages at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney’s Central Business District and held them on the premises with the aid of his sawed-off shotgun. Two Aussie heroes lost their lives. One of them, the cafe owner, tried to wrestle the weapon away from the gunman. The other tried to shield a pregnant colleague. Based on the belief that swift, committed action would prevent the further loss of life, New South Wales police stormed the building and killed the attacker. Good call, in my humble.

Ironically, hostages were forced to hold up flags known as Shahada, favored by Sunni terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIL. The gunman was an Iranian refugee, and Iranians don’t generally dig the Sunni act. This guy was a wayward extremist lunatic and nothing more. He was facing more than 40 charges of sexual assault. He was also charged with accessory to murder in the case of his ex-wife, who was stabbed, doused with lighter fluid, and then set afire in an apartment stairwell. The press is calling him a self-styled sheikh, whatever that is. In accordance with the established policies of this site, he will remain nameless.

3,528 American service members have died in combat action in Iraq since March 2003. By way of comparison, there were 10,322 DUI-related traffic fatalities in 2012 alone.

Since OEF’s commencement, 1,852 Americans have given their lives in combat in Afghanistan. In 2012, there were 1,884 murders in California. Just California.

As I wrote recently, we feel better when sexual assault is pinned on the military or rich frat boys. It’s their problem, not our problem. Isolating an issue evokes an emotional response and permits us to shed any ownership. “Rich frat boys” sounds a lot better than “our sons”. Similarly, the hostage crisis created by a Muslim extremist grabbed press coverage and our national attention in a convincing, yet predictable way. Ugh. It’s those guys.

Why the non-sequiturs? Why have I made such seemingly callous comparisons?

A man killed six people in Philadelphia yesterday and is still on the run. By all appearances, no one much cares.

Photo Credit: express.co.uk

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If We’re Going to Divulge Classified Information, Let’s Divulge It All

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There are but a few reasons to fiercely protect classified information. One alone is quite sufficient. When we divulge classified information, any of the following are possible:

  1. People get hurt.
  2. Our capabilities are compromised.
  3. Our vulnerabilities are exposed.
  4. Intel sources are outed.

Although 2, 3 and 4 are critically important, they all point back to number 1. People get hurt. That should matter. In our increasingly voyeuristic society, it apparently does not. We have to have all the information all the time, and we have to have it now. Let the bell toll; privacy is dead. No matter how much you yearn for complete government transparency, that fact should make you uneasy. You aren’t getting transparency. You are getting very carefully selected transparency.

Many will instinctively want to add a fifth reason to my above list. 5 – To act in a manner befitting our republic in order to show the world that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. It sounds noble, I admit. Inasmuch as an investigation and ensuing corrective action were necessary, I fully agree. Telling the world? We’ll have to agree to disagree.

Consider the various factions that comprise our enemies in the Global War on Terror. Do you think, for one second, that they have ever conceded the moral high ground to our nation? If not, has the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report reversed their world-view? Not a chance. There is nothing left but damage, and no amount of lacquer can restore the luster. And don’t forget: people get hurt.

There exists a remarkably short memory regarding this concept of blaming the reaction of violent extremists on the public release of inflammatory material. Does anyone remember the name Nakoula Basseley Nakoula? He is an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian who released a YouTube trailer of his film “The Innocence of Muslims”. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and senior White House officials initially blamed him for the Benghazi attacks (transparency in action), all for the mortal sin of portraying the prophet Muhammed in an unflattering light. Secretary Clinton went so far as to promise the father of a slain former Navy SEAL that the video-maker would be arrested and prosecuted. Now, and suddenly, it’s all about doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences. You can’t be principled just because it suits you in the right set of conditions. It has to be an all-of-the-time thing, which is why you never heard President Obama or Secretary Clinton say, “We hope there is no connection between Mr. Nakoula’s trailer and the violence at the American Embassy in Libya. Even if there is, we strongly support his First Amendment right to free speech and equally condemn those who responded to his message with barbarity.”

If you find this report upsetting, and certainly there is upsetting material contained therein, you would be wise to consider whether the report is completely factual and unbiased. Is it factual? Maybe. Is it unbiased? I highly doubt it. If I was asked to investigate and write the report, I would surely question the interrogators themselves, and I would surely question senior CIA officials. That didn’t happen, and six former CIA directors and deputy directors took to the Wall Street Journal yesterday as a result. When you conduct an investigation and write a report to support a pre-determined narrative, such omissions become completely understandable. We’ve seen this play before.

How did the committee report get these things so wrong? Astonishingly, the staff avoided interviewing any of us who had been involved in establishing or running the program, the first time a supposedly comprehensive Senate Select Committee on Intelligence study has been carried out in this way.

The excuse given by majority senators is that CIA officers were under investigation by the Justice Department and therefore could not be made available. This is nonsense. The investigations referred to were completed in 2011 and 2012 and applied only to certain officers. They never applied to six former CIA directors and deputy directors, all of whom could have added firsthand truth to the study. Yet a press account indicates that the committee staff did see fit to interview at least one attorney for a terrorist at Guantanamo Bay.

We can only conclude that the committee members or staff did not want to risk having to deal with data that did not fit their construct. Which is another reason why the study is so flawed. What went on in preparing the report is clear: The staff picked up the signal at the outset that this study was to have a certain outcome, especially with respect to the question of whether the interrogation program produced intelligence that helped stop terrorists. The staff members then “cherry picked” their way through six million pages of documents, ignoring some data and highlighting others, to construct their argument against the program’s effectiveness.

In the intelligence profession, that is called politicization.

It most certainly is, and unfortunately, it is not restricted to the intelligence profession.

Let me be clear: I’m not condoning inhumane actions. Instead, I’m challenging the report’s assertion that we never gained valuable intelligence and condemning the public release of the report. The rationale that everyone has a right to know, even with the risk of increased danger to our military and general populace, is far too specious. I can’t accept it. I won’t accept it. In the thousands of intelligence briefings I’ve endured, we always used the term “need to know”.

Using the rationale that the right to know takes precedent, we should immediately undertake the following.

  • Publicize the location of our entire submarine fleet.
  • Conduct live broadcast of the daily White House intelligence briefings.
  • Release the radar cross-section data of all our aircraft.
  • Remove all safes and cipher locks from secure facilities.
  • Cease background checks that lead to security clearances.
  • Provide live drone feed of all Special Operations missions.

Good idea? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

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Aviation Major Command Slate

Cleared for public release by Lt.Cmdr. Terry Dudley, USS Kitty Hawk Public Affairs Officer

Did you think I was going to post the Aviation Major Command Slate? It was unfair of me to lead you on in that manner, and for that, I apologize. The fact is, the slate is still not published even though the screen board results were released a mere 47 days ago.

Oddly, in the interim, CAG-selects are already at the FRS, ultimate whereabouts unknown (to the public, or them). At least two guys know which aircraft carrier they are getting, and yet another officer is en route to Nuke School, presumably selected as an alternate. All three are good dudes, in case you’re curious. I can only speculate that the alternate has since had time to interview with Navy Reactors, as the same is a general prerequisite for the Nuclear Power Training program. So you see, ruthless efficiency can happen when the appropriate bodies deem it warranted. The rest? It can wait.

Unsolicited pointer: Executing certain tasks in series can be mighty cumbersome. At times, it is required, but not at all times. If you’re taking a war plan to the SECDEF, the tasked Combatant Commander should probably see it first. An alternative is conducting the task in parallel, which would entail getting all the stakeholders involved simultaneously, via secure VTC perhaps, in order to execute with cold precision, even when the situation demands moderate deliberation.

Ever been to Chick-Fil-A? “It’s my pleasure.”

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FY15 National Defense Authorization Act

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I will warn you now: this isn’t sexy stuff. That doesn’t mean it’s not important stuff. A propos of nothing, but it was hard to find a suitable image for the NDAA that didn’t equate it with indefinite detention of suspected terrorists at GITMO. This was one of my favorites.

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So, anyway.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 is the comprehensive legislation to authorize the budget authority of the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.

The policy wonks in the crowd can read the actual text and its accompanying Joint Explanatory Statement here if so inclined. Embedded below is a fact sheet for those who prefer Cliff’s Notes (Do kids still use those?), which I assume will be the vast majority. I can’t blame you.

On 4 December, the House passed the latest revision of the NDAA by a 300-110 vote. It will be subject to Senate vote shortly, ultimately en route to the President’s desk.

The NDAA is a busy document that sets aside money for a great number of initiatives. For example, there is $795.1M to conduct the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) refuel. It also implements direction that affects benefits for service members and their families.

The NDAA supports current law, which is intended to ensure pay for our troops keeps pace with the civilian sector, but provides the President with latitude to make exceptions. The President has notified Congress he intends to use his authority to set the 2015 military pay increase at 1 percent. The NDAA upholds the President’s request, endorsed by senior military leadership, for a pay freeze for General and Flag Officers for FY15 and includes a Senate provision that removes a retirement incentive for general officers that was added by Congress in 2006. The NDAA rejects the Pentagon’s request for a 5% reduction in basic allowance for housing (BAH) and replaces it with a 1% decrease.

The bold text for General and Flag Officer pay freeze was put into place by someone on behalf of the House Armed Services Committee, not by me. It’s a nice gesture, but that’s not real money in the grand scheme of things. If you cancel a single morning of flight ops on an aircraft carrier, you’ve covered that expense.

In May, the House voted for a 1.8-percent pay raise for members of the military. That number was beat down to 1-percent through HASC/SASC negotiations and Presidential / senior military leadership desires. Don’t be fooled. That’s a pay cut. And that bold text is mine. Annualized inflation over the past six years is 2.02-percent. Furthermore, as you can see in the block-quote above, the Pentagon requested a 5-percent cut in BAH. The House only approved a 1-percent cut in BAH. Oldest trick in the book. Are we supposed to cheer because service members are losing less money than originally proposed? I’m not cheering. I find it offensive. At least our Sailors can bank some tax-free cash while they are on a ten month cruise.

Another interesting aspect of the NDAA is that it provides an opportunity to impose policy guidance, wanted or otherwise, on the military.

The NDAA eliminates the “good soldier defense” – a consideration of general military character toward the probability of innocence in sexual assault prosecutions. Victims would also be consulted as to their preference for prosecuting offenders by court-martial or through civilian channels.

Whoa. Read it again.

Victims would also be consulted as to their preference for prosecuting offenders by court-martial or through civilian channels.

This is but another attempt to selectively wrestle judicial control away from the military to control a scourge that has been unfairly isolated to the military. It’s unprecedented, really. The accuser, who may or may not be a real victim (Rolling Stone magazine, anyone?), gets to decide where the case is prosecuted? This opens an interesting door. Why not make that option available to any crime that involves a victim? What if someone steals a laptop from a squadron-mate in the barracks?  What if, unprovoked, someone punches a shipmate in a bar? What if someone is driving recklessly on base and t-bones a family of four in a mini-van at an intersection? The possibilities are endless.

This finger-pointing at the military’s sexual assault epidemic is tiresome. Please keep in mind that “unwanted touching” is firmly in the category of military sexual assault. Take that one to civilian court with no physical evidence or material witnesses and see if the conviction rates sky-rocket. It won’t happen, and that assumes the case could even get to court. In the end, it’s just another recorded sexual assault that went unpunished.

Herein lies the friction with our national views on sexual assault. We feel so much better when we can isolate it to an institution. When it’s just a military problem, or a sports problem, or a rich frat-boy problem, it’s not our problem. It lies elsewhere, which makes everyone more comfortable. Dealing with this as a societal issue makes us uncomfortable, because that means looking in the mirror. Could it be that our societal issues are magnified when you put large numbers of 18-25 year-olds with raging hormones together in close quarters in high stress environments? No, it couldn’t be that. Just point the finger so you are blameless. It’s much easier.

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Major Command: Yes or No?

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Having already expressed my views on the matter, I will defer this round. They haven’t changed. My views, that is.

Instead, I will present you with the relevant information and let you form your own opinions.

After a wave swept a Navy helicopter and two pilots off the flight deck of a destroyer in the Red Sea last year, early reports described a freak accident caused by a “rogue wave.” But a recently released investigation points to the speed of the ship as it changed course, and the admiral overseeing the report has faulted the ship’s commander for the accident.

Navy pilots Lt. Cmdr. Landon L. Jones, 35, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jonathan S. Gibson, 32, died after their MH-60S helicopter broke its chains and slid off the flight deck of the USS William P. Lawrence on the afternoon of Sept. 22, 2013, the result of a large wave hitting the aircraft as the ship rolled violently. Both men were still inside the aircraft when it plunged overboard.

In a 10-page assessment of the investigation, which was released in April and recently made public by the Navy, Harris faulted a decision by the Lawrence’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Jana A. Vavasseur, to turn the ship immediately after the helicopter landed on the flight deck. Combined with the ship’s speed, the move put the vessel into rough “quartering seas,” he said, causing it to roll as large waves hit the deck.

“There was time to rectify the situation by simply reducing speed after taking (the helicopter) aboard,” Harris wrote. “[A] significant reduction in speed, thereby creating a more stable platform, could have been achieved in seconds.”

The admiral promised “appropriate administrative action” for Vavasseur. The former CO is now serving in Coronado, California.

The full article is here. It is but one of many. This is another.

Embedded below is the command investigation into the mishap. For the pedants in the crowd, please recognize that this is not the Safety Investigation Report, nor is it the JAGMAN investigation. It is not brief, but if you want to build an informed opinion, I implore you to read it.

Because your perspicacity knows no limits, you noticed in my block-quotes above that there was a promise of “appropriate administrative action”.

Embedded below are the results of the FY16 Surface Major Command Screen Board.

So in this case, “appropriate administrative action” might not represent what originally came to your mind. Screening for major command is, in fact, an administrative action. It’s just not the one you likely instinctively imagined.

I’d like to hear your thoughts. And please, no personal attacks on the person at the center of this story, nor any assault on her character or integrity. Should you go there, I will block you. If you’d rather hear it in passive voice, you will be blocked. Thank you in advance.

It’s worth reminding everyone that there are two guys who don’t get a vote. Prayers and positive thoughts, in accordance with your custom, for them and their families are continually welcomed, I’m sure.

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Ferguson – Exposing Our Widening Political Divide

I remember it all very vividly. I was on detachment to Bahrain flying mostly air-to-air sorties with their F-5s and F-16s. The detachment was from USS Ship, which made it all the sweeter. It was winter, so the weather was great. My lodging accommodations were sufficient. While my bros were eating chicken a la king, or what mostly passes for chicken a la king, I was eating lamb kebabs.

Bahraini military pilots come from extreme wealth, connection to the royal family, or both. As such, they are not known for their grinding work ethic. Let it suffice to say that there is no need for midnight oil in their squadron spaces. And who was I to argue? You want to fight in the morning, and be done by 1300? I’m your huckleberry. That leaves plenty of time for… you know… other stuff. Like helping out at the local homeless shelter and things of that nature. Only this particular night, the homeless shelter was closed, so we wound up at a British pub in Manama called The Warbler.

It was a strange but enjoyable place. An oasis of sorts. Although the barstools were mostly mounted by expats, there were plenty of men in traditional Arab garb hoisting mugs of beer with nary a care in the world. Fine by me. Unless you could get through the pub’s doors fairly early, you would have a hard time gaining entry, especially if the bouncers suspected you were a member of the US military. That always seemed odd to me. Apparently, the BCLU is less aggressive than the ACLU.

Our purpose that night was to partake, and while partaking, to watch the live television delivery of the OJ Simpson verdict. If you’ll recall, the jury did not spend long in deliberation. Whatever they had decided, they were firmly convinced. Not Guilty, as it turns out. Nearby, a table of four or five females, obviously not Americans, squealed with glee as though they were given head-of-the-line passes at a Prada handbag giveaway. I knew that engaging them was a terrible idea, which is exactly why I walked straight over to them. I wanted to know why they were so pleased that a man who killed his ex-wife and her friend was to go free.

“Because it was all just so wrong. He has a bad knee. It was a total set-up.”

I wanted to know how much they knew about the case. Not surprisingly, very, very little.

So I walked away. I wasn’t smart enough to avoid them in the first place, but I was smart enough to know that there was no chance of meaningful dialogue. They made up their minds months prior in a complete vacuum of factual information. They made an emotional decision to pick a “team” in the early stages of the Simpson saga. It’s so much easier than doing research and exercising critical, intellectual thought. Nineteen years later, we are no better off.

Bitter reactions and violent protests erupted before Officer Darren Wilson’s weapon had a chance to cool. I understand an emotional response to an emotional event. What I don’t, and will never, understand is the compelling need to not only take sides, but to take violent action before so much as a shred of evidence is made available. White cop. Unarmed black kid. Case closed. No further information required.

Equally bothersome was the sharp partisan divide at the announcement of the grand jury’s decision. It was as if the two sides were sitting in the middle of the gymnasium floor waiting for the whistle to blow so they could sprint to either end for the commencement of an epic dodgeball match. On the right side of the gym, Michael Brown simply got what was coming to him. On the left side of the gym, it’s all about racial injustice and somehow… white privilege.

C’mon, man. We’re better than that. This is not a partisan issue, and it should have never morphed into a race issue. This is a human issue. A young man is dead. He didn’t need to die. Was he somewhat complicit in his own death? I think so. Could Wilson have taken other measures to de-escalate the situation? I think so. It didn’t go that way, and that makes this a tragedy. It’s one that plays out all over the country every day, but it’s still a tragedy. A mother lost her son, however wayward he might have been, and parents are supposed to die before their children. The grief is unimaginable.

While I firmly believe OJ Simpson was guilty, I respect the jury’s decision. Law enforcement and the prosecution botched the case. It happens. It happens frequently. Similarly, there was not enough evidence to indict Wilson. Lost on the mouth-breathing masses is the fact that this was a grand jury decision. It’s not just that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Wilson, there wasn’t even enough evidence to take the case to trial. Again, I respect the decision.

This guy did not respect the decision. Fast forward to 2:30 if you’re in a rush.

Granted, Michael Brown’s step-father had some skin in the game, but he is clearly not someone who was interested in facts or actual justice, nor were those opportunistic folks who turned a tragedy into a free flatscreen TV. They didn’t care about Brown or his family. They only cared about themselves and how they could profit.

I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh blaming the Ferguson mess on Obama. And I don’t want to get a lecture from CNN’s Sally Kohn on white privilege. It’s time to get out of our designated aisles. It’s time to get out of the rat race. It’s time to get out of the political race. It’s time to enter the human race. It’s the only way to see things for what they really are as opposed to seeing them the way we are supposed to see them based on a meaningless affiliation.

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It’s the best holiday of the year. Enjoy it.

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New Year’s Eve, et al = Overrated. Spend way too much money on an average meal because it comes with “complimentary” sparkling wine, a noisemaker, and a stupid hat. Bonus material: jeopardize your life by dodging drunk drivers on the way home.

Dead Guy Celebrations = Meh. This is Columbus Day and the like. To the vast majority of Americans, this amounts to little more than a day off from work or school. There is virtually no connection to the actual purpose of the holiday.

Valentine’s Day = Warning. Don’t screw it up. This is at best a break-even holiday with pressure adroitly applied by retailers such as jewelers and card-makers that know exactly how to strike sentimental cords via meticulously crafted advertising campaigns. $10K diamond earrings just because the TV told me to do it? Sure. Why not? Don’t even consider the possibility that a simple box of worthless chocolates will carry the day. Who ever thought putting awful orange nougat inside milk chocolate was a good idea?

Independence Day = Pretty darn good. Get up early and put a brisket on the smoker. Sneak a bloody mary over to the parade. Eat good food and enjoy a sunny afternoon with your family and friends. Find a cool place to watch an epic fireworks show. Hunker down with food, beverage and comfortable chairs so you can remove traffic and crowds from the enjoyment. Not a bad day at all.

Memorial Day / Veteran’s Day = Great. Never mind the annual confusion about which is which. Commit some time to honor and respect the target groups. Go to a parade. Visit a memorial. Take the rest of the day to do something you really enjoy, whether that’s a long trail ride on your mountain bike or an afternoon sketching in your notebook at the park. In the case of the former, celebrate the official start of summer. In the case of the latter, and if you live North of 36 deg N latitude, mourn the inexorable approach of crummy weather.

Christmas = Wonderful, but comes with pitfalls. If the retail markets had their way, Christmas would start in July and run for six months. This holiday has been hijacked, and many of us of are complicit. It comes with tremendous pressure to get just the right gifts. Psycho-parents will bare-knuckle fight others to get a rare toy that is flying off the shelves. Travel is hectic and horribly expensive. For all the aforementioned reasons, Christmas is a financial bloodletting that can leave you praying for a good tax return to aid monetary recovery. Don’t even think about tying this holiday to the actual birth of Jesus Christ. You are vulnerable to lawsuits. Moreover, news articles will remind you that 25 December is probably not even the day Jesus was born, so shove your faith and say “Happy Holidays” so as not to offend others who want to participate in a Christian holiday without that annoying “Christian” thing. In spite of all my whinging, it is a splendid day that I dearly love.

Thanksgiving = the Holy Grail. The pièce de résistance. Retailers have been only moderately successful in over-marketing it. Instead, they would rather you get a head-start on Christmas. Their ploy hasn’t worked on me, and it appears as though I’m not alone. There is little to no pressure at Thanksgiving. Spend it away from home with family and friends, or spend it at home with family and friends. Your call. Wake up to the smell of onions sautéing in garlic and butter. Enjoy a good cup of strong coffee. I like to go for a long run in the morning as a down-payment on the glorious amount of calories I will later consume. It makes me feel better throughout the day and it removes what little guilt I might harbor, for Thanksgiving is not about guilt. While the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade plays in the background with no one actually watching it, cook a turkey in whatever fashion suits you. Even mediocre turkey is delicious. Revel in the aromas that waft through the house while watching football. Drink a glass of wine at 11 AM. Take a nap. Repeat this cycle as many times as you see fit. Don’t fight the tryptophan; give into it. It feels so good to drift off as the warmth overtakes your body on the couch. There is no call for judgment here. You can pay the bills tomorrow. As the evening wears on, pour a martini and have a turkey sandwich. I eat mine on white bread with mayo, salt and pepper. Nothing else is required or desired. I rarely eat white bread, and I don’t even normally like mayo. It just works. Don’t worry about it.

Above all, be happy and give thanks. Some more than others, I admit, but everyone has something for which they can be thankful.

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This Immigration Mess

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When the liberal-fawning entertainment industry pokes fun at the President on Saturday Night Live, you know things have taken a turn toward odd.

When the Washington Post decides to fact-check the satire piece in defense of the President, things are downright weird.

Illegal immigration is undeniably a tough problem. There is no solution either perfect or easy. By some estimates, there are between 7 and 20 million illegal immigrants in the United States right now. That’s a wide margin, but the nose-counters can be excused for not estimating with more precision. It’s not as though they are counting the number of kids registered for school.

To the purist, sending all illegal immigrants back to their country of origin is the only answer. It is the only position that is completely consistent and fair to everyone with something at stake. There are two problems with this approach.

  1. We’d never find everyone. The manpower requirement alone would be untenable.
  2. The agriculture industry, heavily laden with undocumented workers, would be temporarily crippled. “Then the agriculture industry should never have hired so many undocumented workers” you say. I hear you.

Which is how you wind up in positions of compromise. In a compromise, everyone gives something and everyone gets something. It is rare, however, that this middle ground benefits everyone equally. Usually, someone makes out like a bandit while someone else gets screwed. This is certainly true of the President’s recent Executive Action on immigration.

At a glance…

  • Offers a legal reprieve to undocumented parents of US citizens.
  • Offers a legal reprieve to residents who have been in the US for at least five years.
  • Offers a legal reprieve to those who were brought to the US by their parents as children in 2009 or earlier, regardless of age. (Previous policy capped the age at 30).
  • The above groups must pass background checks and re-apply for deportation deferral every three years.
  • The above groups are eligible for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Lest you be misled, “parents of US citizens” sounds more innocuous than it is in reality. The “US citizen” in question is a baby who was born to illegal immigrants while living on US soil.

So who gets screwed? Illegal immigrants who didn’t have children, and thus have no direct familial attachment to a US citizen. And illegal immigrants who haven’t been here for five years. In this case, you are actually rewarded for breaking the law for a long period of time. If you’ve just broken it recently, you’ll face the threat of deportation. It’s not entirely fair, but that’s what happens when you compromise.

Then again, this wasn’t really a compromise, was it? The President called it a “common sense middle-ground approach”. If you’re not careful, you could be fooled into thinking it was a compromise. What really happened was unilateral action, and that’s what makes me uneasy.

I have no major objection to the President’s plan as it’s currently laid out. I do object to the manner in which it came to be. The Democrats received a pretty good beatdown just a few weeks ago. In truth, the President received a pretty good beatdown. The voters’ ire was clearly aimed at him. You would be justified in believing that the President heard their message loud and clear. That this watershed event might usher in a new era of cooperation and permanently set hubris aside. That “hope and change” might actually mean something. Instead, we got executive action.

The President lost me in his speech when he said this:

The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century.

Whenever you use the prior actions of others to justify your own actions, you’ve effectively admitted that you’re on shaky ground. We don’t allow children to use this excuse in our homes, so why should we not demand more of the leader of the free world?

Last November, in response to a South Korean heckler demanding an end to deportation, the President said this:

If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws, that’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal.

Flexible, like Gumby.

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