Apparently, the SECNAV is a Prolific Traveler

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There are some sensational headlines out there – headlines not even worthy of clickbait -that make this sound like a scandal. My advice? Don’t fall for it. Senior officials, officers and appointees alike, spend a lot of time on the road. This is nothing new. I once worked for a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES) who traveled at least 50-percent of each month. What really happened here is that someone in the Pentagon filed an IG complaint. In all likelihood, this person was passed over for a promotion or didn’t like his/her annual evaluation and decided to take a swipe at The Man.

The Navy secretary has spent more than a full year of his five-year tenure on overseas travel, racking up more than 930,000 miles on trips that cost the taxpayer more than $4.7 million.

The inspector general investigated after receiving a complaint about his travel and cleared him of any wrongdoing, Mabus said, but his 373 days on the road contrast with those of Army Secretary John McHugh, who took fewer than half the trips at less than half the cost over the same time period.

According to data obtained and compiled by The Associated Press, Mabus’ flights cost $4.6 million for fuel, maintenance and crew. Mabus also spent about $116,000 on hotels, meals and other costs. The Army leader’s trips totaled 126 days and cost about $2 million for the flights. He spent under $33,000 for hotels, meals and other personal expenses on his 18 trips.

The Secretary has every right to travel as he sees fit. Predictably, the IG discovered no wrong-doing. One full year of travel sounds like a tremendous amount. Twenty-percent of his tenure sounds like much less. You see? Words matter.

This story is interesting only when it’s viewed in context, and given the budget woes of the past few years, there is context aplenty.

Exhibit A

With the persistent specter of sequestration and continuing resolution hanging over the military, mission essential travel for Sailors and Marines on the deckplates and in the trenches has been difficult to come by. I’m not talking about military tourism. I’m talking about mission essential travel. For the better part of a year, a $600 TAD/TDY for a young Airman required Flag Officer approval, even if the funds were available in the requesting command’s budget. It’s very difficult to explain to an E-5 that he can’t go to corrosion control school in San Diego while the SECNAV is on a snowmobile safari in Scandinavia. Muckety-mucks love to talk about “optics” when sitting around long conference-room tables. That, my friends, is an optic.

Exhibit B

Just 12 days ago, this gem hit the street.

The timing is curious. I doubt the Secretary’s message has anything to do with the probe into his official travel. I believe very much that it has everything to do with Fat Leonard and the recent press surrounding VADM Branch. Phase zero operations. Shape the environment. Prepare the battlespace.

When in a foreign area, accepting gifts of food, refreshments, or entertainment at events under the gift exception in accordance with 5 C.F.R. section 2635.204(i) heightens these risks. Therefore, to mitigate against the potential inappropriate acceptance of gifts, when relying upon this specific gift exception, I direct all DON personnel to secure a written determination that their participation and acceptance of food, refreshments, or entertainment at a meeting or an event held in a foreign area is official under 5 C.F.R. section 2635.204(i) prior to attendance or acceptance of such gifts.  Only Presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed (PAS) officials, Flag/General Officers, and Senior Executive Service (SES) members are authorized to make the determination regarding attendance at such events for their subordinates.  Only officers in the grade of O-10 and PAS officials may make this determination for their own acceptance after consultation with an ethics counselor.  All other Flag/General Officers and SES members shall seek a determination from their chain of command.  All PAS officials, Flag/General officers, and SES members shall consult with a designated ethics counselor prior to making each determination under this section, and shall ensure that same is properly documented.

While the Secretary is selling his photo-books online for $220 per copy, the Lieutenant who is going to get a free hot dog and a beer at the American Club in Hong Kong needs Flag Officer approval. In writing. That, my friends, is an optic.

Exhibit C

It is very important for senior officials, like the SECNAV, to travel and get in and amongst Sailors and Marines. Wave the flag. Hand out some awards. Show that you care. It is a mistake for any senior official to believe that his/her visit represents observation of reality. The ship has been scrubbed from top to bottom for a week straight. Every brief has been vetted at the highest level. Everyone is coached on what to say and what not to say. There is no chance the SECNAV is going to be escorted for a viewing of the barracks that is badly in need of overhaul or replacement. And while the SECNAV is talking about the Department’s commitment to green energy, the kid in the back of the room is just hoping his orders get approved so he doesn’t have to do the entire ten month cruise.

That is reality.

Photo Credit: Stars and Stripes

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Football Roundup

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This post marks a trip off the well-worn path. The holidays are approaching. The world is a dark place at times. A not so terribly serious topic surely won’t hurt. If football is not your thang, please come back tomorrow or the next day. It’s just that sport is the original reality TV. It’s grand theater. There is no script, which is part of what makes it fun. I’m not talking about over-the-top face-painter fun. I’ve neither the time nor energy for that. Besides, I learned some time ago to remove the emotional investment from my favorite teams. I used to be in a bad mood after one of them lost. And then I discovered that turning my well-being over to a bunch of athletes who don’t care about me and over whom I have zero control was a remarkably bad idea. The number of years it took me to make this discovery is not a source of personal pride. Even farm animals know not to lick an electric fence.

After all, sport is about disappointment. Most fans aren’t pleased when their team finally capitulates, even when the fatal blow is delivered in the playoffs. It can actually be worse when it occurs in the playoffs because the fans dared to hope. “At least we won our division and made it to the playoffs.” Not words you will often hear. There are 128 schools represented in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision. That means there are 127 fan-bases that will experience disappointment, some earlier than others. Worst of all is the self-loathing and anguish that accompanies the fall of a heavyweight favorite. When Eastern Michigan’s run to the national championship comes to an end each year, it does so quietly. In Alabama, it sends the entire state into depression and mourning.

Once upon a time, I was more of an NCAA football fan than an NFL fan. I loved the passion, tradition, regional-affiliation and pageantry of the game. Still do. Unfortunately, I’ve tired of all the drama that comes with NCAA sanctions, player-eligibility issues, conference bias, and ridiculous polls. While there have been a few pleasant surprises on the NCAAFB landscape, it’s still a very lopsided affair. The last ten national championships were won by USC, Texas, Florida, LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Florida State. Lots of underdogs there, eh? With deep pockets, the school hires the right coach, and that draws in the best athletes. During the Mississippi State / Alabama game, the announcer noted that all but two of Alabama’s 22 offensive and defensive starters were 4-star high school recruits. Of the 22 Mississippi State starters, only two were 4-star recruits. Five of the 15 5-star recruits in the 2014 class signed with Alabama. I have no problem with any of this, by the way. It’s simply an explanation of my current preference for the NFL.

Random NCAAFB Observations

  • Show me a great team that has to continually mount epic comebacks in order to defeat inferior talent and I will show you a team that is not great. In interviews, the coach will stick with the “These kids just find a way to win” mantra. Save it. Florida State is good and nothing more. In all their nail-biters, they don’t have a single win over a team that is currently ranked. Yes, in the NFL, a win is a win. In NCAAFB, a win is not a win until the final game. While I’m here, I’d offer that an eventual Attorney General probe of the Tallahassee Police Department is not out of the question.
  • Don’t confuse the above nail-biters with the 2010 Auburn Tigers. Apples and oranges.
  • Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon ran for 408 yards at home against Nebraska. He is really, really good. Not to discredit him in the least, but there are 100 college running backs who could have done it. The offensive line made it happen. How in the world did Wisconsin lose to Northwestern? Nebraska thumped Northwestern. You can’t play this complete-the-circle game with NCAAFB. It will make your head hurt.
  • Speaking of which, Northwestern lost earlier in the season to Northern Illinois, only to then go on and beat Notre Dame on the road in overtime. Go figure.
  • Remember that year when the national media bought into the Notre Dame hype and kept them over-ranked only to see them eventually exposed? Never mind. That’s every year.
  • The Alabama win over Mississippi State could not have surprised many people. ‘Bama has too much talent, and they are following the script. Lose one early, let the drama play out, and before you know it, the voters won’t even know who beat you earlier in the season.
  • LSU is also loaded with talent, but they are undisciplined. They win in spite of Les Miles, not because of him. The Tigers lost to Arkansas, which somehow lost 17 straight SEC games. I’ve watched them play twice this year. They are an excellent team. The 14-13 matchup with Alabama was not a fluke.

Random NFL Observations

  • No one takes mid-level talent and turns it into blue-collar champions like Bill Belichik and the New England Patriots. Jonas Gray? Never heard of him before yesterday. Honest to goodness. He only ran for 199 yards against an outstanding Indianapolis Colts team. In Indianapolis.
  • Aaron Rodgers is a freak. He is so fun to watch. To those who were giving up on the Packers three games into the season – shame on you. Unlike college, every NFL game is up for grabs.
  • If Mark Sanchez wasn’t so rich and good looking, I would feel sorry for him.
  • There is a national love affair with Peyton Manning. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. He looks very average at times. Yesterday was one of those times.
  • I would love to see the Arizona Cardinals continue to win. Larry Fitzgerald deserves a Super Bowl victory. Yes, I know there are plenty of great players who never won a Super Bowl. The loss of Carson Palmer hurts their chances, but you never know.
  • The San Diego Chargers might have temporarily averted a complete implosion yesterday. Temporarily.
  • Eli Manning is not an elite quarterback. Eli Manning was never an elite quarterback. He plays for a team that caught fire at the right time on two occasions. He was ably supported by an outstanding defense and a strong running game. Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer also won Super Bowls.
  • At 4-6, the Atlanta Falcons sit atop the NFC South. I don’t know what else to say.
  • If they are not careful, the Seattle Seahawks could have a season that is notably shorter than last year. They get Arizona and San Francisco twice, Philadelphia on the road, and St. Louis at home.
  • If you’ve seen the movie “The Blind Side”, you might remember Michael Oher blocking a mouthy kid off the field. That scene played out in real life yesterday courtesy of Rob Gronkowski, who Lebron James called “a big mother #%$^&*”. Do yourself a favor and watch it here. There aren’t many acceptable penalties. That was one of them.

Now get back to work.

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Retired Flag Officers Make Open Plea for Navy Funding

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If various accounts of the mission are correct, three Navy SEALs fired shots at Usama Bin Laden at his compound in Pakistan. There seems to be a great deal of interest in “the one” who can rightfully claim to be the guy who delivered the fatal bullets. I find that odd because it doesn’t really matter who got that particular honor, and no one knows that better than a SEAL. Teamwork is everything to them. (Disclaimer: I know many SEALS very well, but I am not now nor have I ever been a SEAL.) From my novice perspective, “the one” who did the deed deserves no more credit than anyone else who embarked on that very dangerous mission. Any one of them could have and would have pulled the trigger if placed in the position to do so.

Two of the three in the room with UBL have come forward. This guy, and this guy. The latter wrote a book that landed him in hot water with the DoD and SEAL leadership, not to mention many of his SpecWar comrades. Part of the SEAL ethos is that individuals do not seek fame, glory, or money for their combat exploits. If anyone cares, I very much agree with that approach. Short of divulging classified information, which allegedly occurred, there is no statute that prevents them from doing so. And let’s be clear, they aren’t the first to capitalize on the notoriety that comes with prior service as a Navy SEAL. There is also a decent counter-argument that the President and members of his administration have, at times, divulged far more than required about sensitive operations.

In response to these very public revelations, to include a prime-time interview on “60 Minutes,” the Commander and Force Master Chief of the Naval Special Warfare Command penned an open letter to the SEAL community that predictably had little trouble finding its way to the media.

“Violators of our Ethos are neither teammates in good standing, nor Teammates who represent Naval Special Warfare,” Losey and Magaraci said in the letter, which Naval Special Warfare Command confirmed as legitimate. “We do not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety and financial gain, which only diminishes otherwise honorable service, courage and sacrifice.”

The SEAL leaders added that they will “actively seek judicial consequence” for any SEAL who discloses classified information and puts families or future operations at risk.

The contents of the letter are not objectionable. The chosen delivery method merits further discussion. Surely the Navy has contact information for every current Navy SEAL. I’d wager that they also have contact information for every Navy SEAL no longer on active duty. The open letter was not an accident. It wasn’t enough to send the message; they wanted everyone to know (general public included) that they sent the message. Use the press, or be used by the press. The choice is easy.

Which brings us to another open letter – this one written by a coalition of retired Navy Admirals and Marine Corps Generals. Like the letter above, the authors clearly chose a vehicle that would enable them to reach a wider audience than the Pentagon cubicles of the J8 (Force Structure, Resources and Assessments Directorate).

Although this august body apparently lost my phone number and thus could not ask my opinion before publishing, I strongly agree with the content. I could dicker here and there, but I don’t oppose any of its primary tenets. Here are three that stood out to me.

Ships, crews and equipment cannot continue the current pace of operations, and the retention of trained personnel will suffer, ultimately leading to reduced readiness for combat and other missions.

Heck yes. Shout it from the rooftops. Tell all your friends. Put it on your Christmas cards. It’s not a perception problem.

Restore the fleet maintenance schedule that has been badly disrupted by 13 years of war combined with severe reductions in the number of ships.

This has to happen. When you defer maintenance to meet ever-present emergent requirements (and if they are ever-present, they are not really emergent), you only delay the inevitable. When maintenance can no longer be delayed, you have fewer resources with which to meet a demand signal that is unabated. One uncomfortable question: How many of those who signed this letter participated or even accelerated the maintenance death spiral?

In the past year alone, United States naval forces have been called upon to:

-Launch the first combat strikes that halted the advancement of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

-Demonstrate U.S. support for partner nations around the Black Sea to promote peace and stability.

-Deliver disaster relief to victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

-Combat pirates off the coast of Africa.

-Provide support to our forces in Afghanistan.

-Pressure Bashar al-Assad into giving up Syria’s chemical weapon supply.

-Fly crisis response forces for long-distance rescue operations in Sudan and Iraq.

Would aggressively sharing these accomplishments not create higher public regard for the Navy than town-square floggings?

Because you are astute, you noticed that none of the co-signers are Flag Officers on active duty. They have official channels for addressing such matters (but still…) You also noticed that there are a lot of retired Generals and Admirals who didn’t sign it. Whether they chose not to participate or simply never got pulled into the process, I cannot say.

Until we pass an actual federal budget, much of this will fall on deaf ears and we will continue in crisis mode, but it marks the start of a very important dialogue, and starts are good.

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What it Means to Serve

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It’s a discussion that takes place at least annually. In some instances, it takes place semi-annually when well-intended people lump Memorial Day into the batter. Those we honor on Memorial Day, as you know, erudite reader, took service to the highest level.

At the epidermis, there are trite but harmless responses to questions of service. Anyone who has done a combat aircraft static display can attest to that. Were you to simply post these responses on a placard by the jet, very few people would find the need to speak with you.

“Yes, it’s fun.”

“No, those aren’t bombs. They are external fuel tanks.”

“Food on the aircraft carrier is average on a good day.”

“We aren’t going to talk about how many people I have or have not killed.”

At the subcutaneous level, service is about our nation and its ideals. They are the military’s raison d’être. Without them, our military need not exist, nor the people who fill its ranks.

At its core, service is about being a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s about the person next to you. Kinship. Brotherhood. Bonds. These links are forged and then strengthened through the endurance of hardship and duress. The greater the hardship and duress, the more indestructible the tie.

If you run out of gas on the streets of Lan Kwai Fong at 2 AM, it means knowing your brother will fireman carry you to the hotel and toss you into bed. If you try to thank him the next day, he will tell you to shut up. He doesn’t want to be thanked. He knows you would do the same for him were the roles reversed. Similarly, if the order came down for one person to walk into fire, he also knows you would push him back into his chair and say, “I’ll go.”

No one gets rich by way of military service, but we gain abundant wealth in other ways. I’m eternally grateful for being given the opportunity to stand the post. Although it comes with costs both material and otherwise, it’s not a burden. It’s a privilege.

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Hypocrisy at Yale

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Yale is without a doubt one of our nation’s finest universities. There are some things about Ivy League schools that don’t sit well with me, but I’m not delusional. If one of my children could gain acceptance to an Ivy League school, and if I could find the means to pay for it, I would be quite pleased. Quite pleased, indeed. Those are two very big ifs.

I think we all know what you are getting with an Ivy League degree. You are certainly getting a good education. Then again, I’m not convinced it’s significantly better than the education you might get at dozens of other universities, many of them public, regardless of what the US News and World Report rankings say. What you are really getting at Yale (or Columbia, or Harvard, or Princeton, etc.) is membership in a club. The prestige of that membership stays with you forever and buys you instant credibility. Belief in the status of that club is beautifully illustrated by the $23.9B endowment upon which Yale currently sits. Members of the club, many older and with no shortage of money, have every intention of perpetuating the club and the elite standing it represents.

All of which is why Ivy League schools often get the benefit of the doubt. We have been conditioned to believe that the foundation of these universities is built upon the same bedrock that stood beneath the pillars of our own great nation when it was formed, 75 years after Yale accepted its first students. Who are we to second guess them?

It’s a rare day when I read something that actually makes me angry. Yesterday was such a day. I run the risk of flogging a dead horse here, for more than once have we previously travelled down this road of bashing inane sexual harassment and sexual assault policies. As The Bard said, once more unto the breach.

A sexual harassment policy that nearly ruined my life.

I want you to read it. I know that some of you won’t; I’m not offended. Here is a taste-test that will at least allow you to determine the flavor. It’s not brief. The details are so terribly important that I simply cannot omit them.

I am a first-year student at Harvard Law School, and I join the 28 members of our faculty who recently protested the university’s adoption of a new and expansive sexual harassment policy. While I agree wholeheartedly that universities have a moral as well as a legal obligation to provide their students with learning environments free of sexual harassment, I echo the faculty’s concern that this particular policy “will do more harm than good,” and I urge the university to reconsider its approach to addressing the problem.

Harvard’s new policies are substantially similar to those already in effect at Yale, my alma mater. While an undergraduate there, my ex-girlfriend filed an informal complaint against me with the then-newly-created University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct. The committee summoned me to appear and styled the meeting as a form of mediation. Its chairman, a professor with no prior experience handling dispute resolution, told me that I could have a faculty adviser present but no lawyer, and instructed me to avoid my accuser, who, by that point, I had neither seen nor spoken to in weeks. The committee imposed an “expectation of confidentiality” on me so as to prevent any form of “retaliation” against my accuser.

I would say more about what the accusation itself entailed if indeed I had such information. Under the informal complaint process, specific accusations are not disclosed to the accused, no fact-finding takes place, and no record is taken of the alleged misconduct. For the committee to issue an informal complaint, an accuser need only bring an accusation that, if substantiated, would constitute a violation of university policy concerning sexual misconduct. The informal “process” begins and ends at the point of accusation; the truth of the claim is immaterial.

When I demanded that fact-finding be done so that I could clear my name, I was told, “There’s nothing to clear your name of.” When I then requested that a formal complaint be lodged against me — a process that does involve investigation into the facts — I was told that such a course of action was impossible for me to initiate. At any time, however, my accuser retained the right to raise the complaint to a formal level. No matter, the Committee reassured me, the informal complaint did not constitute a disciplinary proceeding and nothing would be attached to my official record at Yale.

Coincidentally, the same day that my accuser decided to lodge the complaint against me, the news that I had been selected as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship had been publicly announced. The news gained national attention, with stories in every major media outlet in print and online, because of my position as Yale’s starting quarterback and the fact that my interview date was set for the same day as my last Harvard-Yale football game.

Days after the initial meeting with the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct, I received a phone call from the Rhodes Trust informing me that they had received an anonymous tip that I had been accused by a fellow student of sexual misconduct. Next came a call from my summer employer, who, having received a similar anonymous tip, rescinded my offer of full-time employment upon graduation.

Months later, long after I had already withdrawn my Rhodes candidacy, the New York Times somehow also learned of the “confidential” complaint made against me, and that the Rhodes Trust had been aware of it. The paper then published a lengthy article revising the narrative of my pursuit of the scholarship and suggesting that I had intentionally misled media into believing a feel-good sports story that never was. The Times’ public editor later condemned the piece for using anonymous sources, but the damage was already done; I was publicly humiliated. The memory of being told by the Committee that I had “nothing to clear my name of” was searing.

The complaint lodged against me caused me and my family immense grief, and as a simple Google search of my name reveals, its malignant effects have not abated. It cost me my reputation and credibility, the opportunity to become a Rhodes scholar, the full-time job offer I had worked so hard to attain, and the opportunity to achieve my childhood dream of playing in the NFL. I have had to address it with every prospective employer whom I’ve contacted, with every girl that I’ve dated since, and even with Harvard Law School during my admissions interview. It is a specter whose lingering presence is rooted in its inexplicability.

I hope that makes you angry. It’s not that I want you to be angry, it’s just that I want to make sure we still have a soul. This is an issue neither liberal nor conservative. This is about the very fabric of what it means to be an American. We all have civil rights. And the word “all” by necessity includes the accused.

The answer to this problem seems so simple to me. I don’t understand how educated people at our nation’s finest institutions of higher learning don’t see it. Colleges and universities have no business involving themselves in these matters. They lack the know-how. They lack the investigative ability. They don’t have legal authority. Most of all, they don’t have the right to deny citizens due process en route to destroying them. It’s so obvious. Turn it over to law enforcement and let them handle it. If the right procedures run their course and a student is convicted of a crime, kick him/her out of the school. Done. This isn’t rocket science.

I can give you $23.9B reasons this kid ought to put his law degree to work with a lawsuit the day he graduates.

Hat Tip: To reader Chris for the link.

Photo Credit: Fox Connecticut

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Election results are in. I’m not celebrating.

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I’m pleased. Celebration? That can wait. Having suffered through the outpouring of brainless emotion following the 2008 Presidential election, I know better. I have too many grey hairs to be so naive. Whichever way you lean, election results mark nothing more than the beginning. In a 100 meter sprint, they don’t even mark the start of the race. They equate only to stepping into the blocks. The hard work is yet to come.

Perhaps you’ve been around this hamlet long enough to come upon the belief that I’m more red than blue. That I’m more conservative than liberal. It might be true. If so, I’m not proud of it. The honest to goodness truth is that I only want what’s best for our country. If America is a coin, I don’t want to be heads, and I don’t want to be tails. I want to be the coin. That’s all that matters to me. The rest is cacophonous racket.

Neither Mitch McConnell nor John Boehner have a good relationship with the President or Vice President. That means the Republican leadership can either shove Obama off into the sunset as a total lame duck or they can end gridlock. They can’t do both. Congratulations, boys. Choose well.

I predict that little will get done over the next two years. Blame will spread far and wide, 95-percent of it across the aisle. Much of the blame in this cycle will land on the laps of Republicans, setting the stage for another Democratic Presidential victory in 2016. That’s what we do. We take turns getting angry with one party or the other every two years, then we throw the bums out, and the sequence begins anew. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You may want to believe this election constitutes a mandate. I don’t blame you; it feels like a mandate. I will, however, caution you that disappointment lies just around the corner. This isn’t about progress or principle. It’s about power. Do you remember all the Democrats wringing their hands over wealthy donors and super-PACs? The two highest spending super-PACs backed Reid and Pelosi’s efforts. In fact, Democrats snagged five of the top ten super-PACs. This isn’t democracy in progress. It’s kabuki theater.

Republicans and Democrats aren’t moving toward one another. They represent once parallel lines that are now on a divergent vector. Let’s face it. The two-party system is broken beyond repair. It is failing us as a nation. We can no longer play the part of simpletons who believe only that Republicans support war and Democrats support women. The standards of conformity must die and give birth to independent thought. When that happens, we should not only applaud independent thought, we should ardently support it with our votes and send a message that it’s lifespan will be much longer than two years. Our future is at stake. I’m disheartened, but I still believe.

For those eating cake and sipping the bubbly, I apologize for being a wet blanket. Enjoy the party. Just be sure to get up in the morning, pop some Motrin if required, and get after it. Celebrations in politics are short-lived.


I’ve been told that some of my analogies don’t resonate. For that reason, I’m offering this one as an adjunct.

I can explain a fundamental premise of my political beliefs through golf. I love the game. I’m pretty good at it. Not great, but pretty good. If I kept a USGA handicap, which I do not, I would be well into single digits. There are good reasons to keep a handicap, chief among them is the ability to get onto certain famous golf courses. I still don’t do it.

In a tournament or match, I could never stomach “losing” to a guy I just thumped by eight strokes because, on that day, he sucked less than he normally does. Worse yet would be taking the trophy from a guy who just shot a 74 to my 76. Can’t do it.

If you don’t understand how that relates, I’m sorry. Kinda.

 

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With the door wide open, women should be eligible for the draft, right?

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Just a few years ago, I was in a quasi-intimate meeting hosted by a four-star Admiral. He unabashedly told the crowd that he was involved in a multi-year program, the secrecy of which would surpass the NSA’s finest work, to get women into service on submarines. He spoke candidly. He had his misgivings. Whatever his misgivings, female officers have been serving in the boomer fleet for nearly three years now, and enlisted females will not be far behind.

The Marine Corps has permitted women to enroll in its demanding Infantry Officer Course (IOC) as part of a pilot program. As of March 2014, none of the 14 candidates passed the course, and all but one failed on the very first day. Since then, three females have made it through the opening day’s Combat Endurance Test, but later succumbed to the course’s other rigors. Participation in the IOC comes with an unwritten agreement not to discuss the details of the course. Not to dispute the integrity of any Officer of Marines, but the word will get out, and women will show up better prepared. Eventually, a female – quite possibly one who spends her weekends competing at the Crossfit Games – will make it to graduation.

With a target date of the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2016 (the fall of Calendar Year 2015), the US Special Operations Command in Tampa, FL has been immersed in a feasibility study with the goal of incorporating females into Special Operations Forces in the various services. The Army is planning to open Ranger School to females as early as January. Those who make it through the course will be eligible to wear the coveted Ranger tab, but follow-on assignment to a Ranger unit will not be an option until the full program assessment is complete.

Although the door is ajar for women to enter the few remaining jobs that have previously been off-limits, there is no way to know how any of this turns out. Momentum and precedent certainly indicate that we’re not likely to backtrack.

According to a recent Christian Science Monitor article:

It was back in 1981 that the US Supreme Court ruled that requiring only men to register for the draft was constitutional, since there were US laws that banned women from fighting in combat.

If you remove everything after the comma, which is precisely what is happening right now, I don’t see how the Supreme Court avoids the requirement to re-evaluate their position. No matter how you look at it, this is an awkward situation. Politicians will scramble for cover. No one is going to want to take a stand on this. The fact that we are extremely unlikely to draft anyone into service in the foreseeable future will serve as a useful distractor. There will be smoke and mirrors, quarters behind ears, and rabbits coming out of hats. Then again, avoidance is, without fail, the world’s worst problem-solving technique.

Emotional me: There is no way the greatest nation on earth is going to force its daughters to sign up for potentially involuntary service in combat arms. Just the thought of it is ludicrous. Most would be ineligible using the basic criteria. Even now, only three in 10 young adults between the ages of 17 and 24 meet the Army’s standards for service eligibility. That’s young men and women. And I’ll tell you this for darn sure: they aren’t getting my daughter.

Logical me: Norway is doing it. They are often held up as a model for gender equality. Where there is opportunity there is obligation. In the words of a former female Army Officer, “It’s a social contract with democracy – that’s my take on it. If you’re going to take advantage of all of the benefits of a democracy, then I think you should also bear the responsibility as well.” Furthermore, if a Supreme Court ruling is built on a premise that is no longer valid, they have a duty to revisit the ruling.

In this particular case, and I hate to admit it, my emotional fervor exceeds my logical reasoning. There is an explanation for this. I acknowledge the differences between males and females.


Photo Credit: USA Today

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

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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.

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Yiddish. Hoodish. What’s the difference?

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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?

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WMD in Iraq

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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

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