Archive for February, 2019

A chain under pressure

Author: admin

The armed services of this country like to heckle each other about this and that. Usually, good natured ribbing about “superiority” of one branch over the other. Although, sometimes not quite so “good natured.” Depends on the amount of beer consumed.

But, there’s one foundational system that drives all and which makes each effective: the chain of command. It starts at the top and flows in a straight vertical line from Commander-in-Chief to Secretary of Defense to Joint Chiefs to the commanders of the various services and down from there. If you’re in the military, you quickly learn the drill and you religiously abide by it. Failure to do so is not an option.

At least that’s how its always been. Maybe now, not so much.

Donald Trump’s world, to him and only him, is one in which he can do anything – say anything – demand anything and do so without considering the resulting repercussions or bad effects. But, only in his world. The rest of us know – it ain’t so.

Trump’s dangerous words and disastrous touch have screwed up, crippled and damaged many parts of our Republic. His ignorance of how government works, his lies, his broken promises, his lack of understanding of America’s role in the world have created monumental problems. He’s trampled international relationships, turned his back on historic treaties, reduced our standing among nations and tried to create new alliances with our enemies.

Now, with the same deliberate ignorance, he may be creating dangerous problems within our military. And for that chain-of-command element that’s been the backbone of all successful militaries.

Historically, when the President issues orders to the Defense Department, there is a loud clicking of heels, a quick “Yes, Sir” and immediate action. Thanks to Trump’s failure to understand the system and the rules – and refusal to learn – we’re seeing possible ruptures.

I first noticed it when he ordered up that military parade in his honor. In the following weeks, some DOD and military voices were heard grumbling and rebelling. There was no heel clicking, no snappy “Yes, Sir,” and no action The eventual response was the Pentagon putting a price tag on such an event that was so outrageous even Trump had to back down. Military resistance.

Now, more open resistance appearing in “the chain.” Trump ordered troops to our border with Mexico to turn back or arrest thousands of civilians – men, women and children – if they tied to cross that line. Shoot, if necessary.

A couple of days later, secure documents, created for Defense Department “eyes only,” were leaked to several news outlets. Much of the information contained was the usual organizational stuff dealing with troop movements. But, there were also portions – especially dealing with cost and subtle questioning of the use of trained military for such a purpose – that appeared critical of the venture. In effect, more resistance in the chain-of-command.

Some were willing to take up arms to follow that very questionable order. But, there seemed to be a sizeable contingent within DOD that didn’t want to; that believed it was not good use of money and manpower. Joint Chiefs finally agreed to send, but not to arrest, shoot, threaten or confront. Only to support U.S. Border Patrol and other law enforcement. Quiet but direct resistance. Again.

And this. Former Defense Secretary Mattis went public to say “The military doesn’t do things for show.” Not entirely true. (See Navy Blue Angels, Army Golden Knights, USAF Thunderbirds, etc.) But, the fact he felt the need to say so after public anger and military document leaking, could indicate Trump’s order created some interior negative military feedback he felt the need to address.

Now, military works of fiction in books and movies might be good entertainment. It may be memorable for Commander Denzel Washington to challenge the shipboard authority of Captain Gene Hackman. Good fiction. But not in real life. Not appearances of reluctance by some in DOD to follow an order of the Commander-in Chief. Might not be a wise order but an order nonetheless.

It’s not my intent here to warn the generals and admirals are plotting a government coup. But, when cracks of resistance appear within the chain-of-command – no matter the order – it’s worrisome.

Trump has proven himself incapable of exercising proper presidential authority because he doesn’t know how. He’s repeatedly proven himself unable to sustain relationships with his own staff, his appointees and even Congress. He’s made unwise decisions, taken inappropriate – and sometimes illegal – actions. He’s threatened, bullied and lied so much that polling shows less than half of us believe or trust him.

With such evidence on the table, it’s no wonder signs of discontent and reluctance to follow his orders are beginning to appear publically in the Pentagon and elsewhere. After all, the Americans who make up the military are like the rest of us. They have their own opinions, too.

A rigid chain-of-command is the spine that holds the military upright and functional. Always has been. It would be wise for all of us to keep close watch on the Oval Office-Department of Defense relationship. Trump has been savaging other parts of our government. His ill-advised actions may be showing up there, too.

Don’t impeach Trump

Author: admin

Words I never thought I’d write. Or say. But, to all members of Congress, “Please, don’t impeach Donald Trump!”

While growing evidence is proving Trump to be a consummate full-time liar, multiple adulterer, proven deadbeat and much, much more, “Please don’t impeach the bastard! Please!”

Though he appears to be a lawbreaker, a lousy president and a collaborator with the Russians, please keep Trump around till the 2020 general election so we voters can put an end to him and his entire cadre of self-dealers, misfits and crooks. Please!

In defense of my plea, I offer the only two words for keeping Trump in place until 2020: Mike Pence.

While Trump appears to have woven a web of lies, double-dealing, debauchery and massive money manipulation before, during and after his election, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” We know the devil we have and many steps are underway to deal with his miscreant – and possibly criminal – ways.

Pence’s history strongly indicates voters in Indiana only had him for governor for three years but were preparing to throw him out in his re-election bid in 2016. Campaign polling showed he would have been a “one-termer” when Trump reached down and pulled him off the highway before he became political roadkill.

In only three years as governor, Pence continually fought losing battles on just about everything he tried to do. Like the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in his first year. It was definitely anti-LGBTQ. Pence tried everything to get it through but, in the end, he had to strike some of the prejudicial language. He still found himself losing votes of some GOP legislators. Upon eventual passage, several large companies either cancelled plans for Indiana expansion or trimmed back existing operations.

He signed a doomed anti-abortion bill which would have – had it survived an inevitably successful court challenge – made Indiana the first state with a nearly complete abortion ban. Two court decisions killed it.

Pence tried to create a state media propaganda network called “JustIN.” He wanted state employees, paid by taxpayers, to write material for “small media that couldn’t afford news staffs.” Even Indiana politicians and the media didn’t buy that. The reaction from one major newspaper was a headline reading “Pravda In The Plains.” “JustIN”died.

He signed bills he wanted cutting $15-billion from colleges and universities, social services and corrections in just one budget year. Several major corporations, citing a bad business climate, left Indiana for other climes. Better business climes.

Pence had a number of his vetoes overridden in the legislature. In one, nearly all Republican members voted against him.

He tried to have the NRA contract to train Illinois teachers and other state employees to use firearms. Again, even Republicans in his heavily Republican legislature stopped him cold.

He lost two congressional House races but eventually served for 12 years, quitting to run for governor. His congressional sponsorship “successes” amounted to little besides naming a couple of post offices. He was nearly always tied to some ultra-conservative effort and found most of his support coming from right-wing groups.

Pence’s oft- pronounced Evangelical views have made him a target for controversy and even ridicule when solidly backing Trump. He’s managed to be an outspoken supporter though Trump’s lifestyle, moral vagaries and proven sleazy business practices are an anathema to many Evangelicals.

In short, Pence’s limited political experience, his proclivity to nearly always support far-right people and causes, past rejection by even his own party leaders, his hypocrisy of proclaiming high moral standards while backing a president seemingly devoid of such doesn’t auger well for successful presidential material.

There are indications Pence has been a subject of some of the Mueller investigation involving Russian political activity. So far, no public indication one way or the other. But, some Republicans have expressed the thought that, should Pence be tied to such, HE should be impeached.

Now, that could make some sense. Especially if you’re O.K. with a President Nancy.

Getting the act together

Author: admin

The Women’s March seems to be in trouble. And that’s too bad.

Various ethnic and economic groups are struggling against each other instead of enhancing the wonderful diversity represented by the entire movement thus far. Some financial backers have withdrawn support for one reason or another. Even some state offshoots are squabbling.

The group’s initial outpouring in Washington D.C. was something nearly miraculous. So were the contemporary marches in many cities coast-to-coast. Hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to show massive solidarity for wholly positive reasons. Representative of dozens of religions and multiple races. Both men and women. Just spectacular.

But, now the group is confronted by the identical problems so many movements face trying to find their footing; trying to find organizational common ground.

It’s similar to problems of the far-right I’ve enjoyed watching for decades. Unhappy and distrusting folks breaking away from the established Republican Party to go their own way because of differences in “philosophy.” Up popped the Birch Society, Liberty Lobby, Tea Party and dozens of splinter groups. “Purity of thought” was the demand of all of them. A single “impure” thought could get you immediately excommunicated.

Then, one by one, they devolved into infighting, name calling and eventual distrust of each other. Which is ironic since it was distrust of the larger political body that created them in the first place. Now, the Republican Party itself is being divided again. Trumpers versus anti-Trumpers. Republican diehards versus Republicans who dislike what the Party has become. Evangelicals versus almost everybody else.

Democrats are not immune to such infighting. At the moment, ultra-liberal voices are trying to pull the national Party to the left. Many mainline Democrats are resisting. Several of the congressional freshmen – or freshwomen – are demanding universal healthcare, free college tuition, guaranteed equality for all and more of the long-held talking points of many in the Democrat Party.

The new struggle facing Democrat leaders is young turks demanding seats at the leadership table. They claim their recent election is a signal for change. And, to some extent, it probably was.

But, these are not normal times. The intransigent GOP in Congress has become a dam, holding back anything our out-of-control president doesn’t approve. Our national legislative body is embroiled in its own internal struggles. Democrat gray-hairs now in charge need support, not dissent and demands from the new folks still trying to figure out where their offices are. Their turn’s coming.

But, back to the Women’s March problems. There’s nothing new in what its leaders are dealing with. It happens every time you try to build a “big tent.” The very factors inherent in assembling an effective organization of disparate interests and backgrounds are the same ones that can create issues.

Then, there’s the added problem someone or some inside subgroup will try to take over – try to control things – try to bend the direction to its own will. Happened to the Tea Party, the Birch Society and other splinter organizations. Lacking a formal structure to provide cohesion, large groups often are eventually ineffective.

Women’s March has a small D.C. staff. It has some financial sponsors. But, state versions are seemingly unconnected and lack both staff and money to do their work. The result is often poor communication or one group finding itself either at cross-purposes with another or reinventing the wheel.

At the moment, the movement is enjoying widespread public acceptance. It projects a togetherness and unity of purpose. It espouses thoughts and feelings of positive, more unifying times to come. All good things. But, such support can disappear if it appears the “cause” is struggling or showing dissent.

The Woman’s March has shown people of disparate thought, differing ethnicity, different political backgrounds – or no political backgrounds – can come together on a national stage to make an important contribution. It signals connectedness instead of division. That, alone, gives it purpose and value.

It’s to be hoped that, whatever internal struggles are going on, wiser heads will prevail to assure both survival and future contributions. As a nation, we are in desperate need of anyone or any representative group representing our better nature.

Racist bargaining

Author: admin

Let’s get this straight up front.

To the best of my knowledge, I’m not a racist – not a bigot – not anti-Semitic – not opposed to how most folks live their lives or with whom. Around our house, it’s “live and let live.”

But, the other evening, something occurred during a news-talk program that brought on a slow boil.

Under discussion were the travails of Virginia Gov. Robert Northam. He’d been accused of posing in either blackface or a KKK outfit during graduation hoorah’s from medical school. At that moment, he had not admitted to being one of the figures in the picture but had profusely apologized for what it represented. As well he should have. But, the story was only a couple of hours old. More details would come.

The panelists on this particular show were Black. Two women and a man. All familiar faces and all successful professionals. The host asked each one in turn what their reactions were to the Northam story. In summary, they were shocked, saddened and, of course, “Northam should resign.”

Their answers, all worded a bit differently but with the same theme, were expected and I agreed with most of what they said. Until one more thing that brought on the boil.

“What can we trade for.” “What leverage does this give us?” “What can we get?” Direct quotes.

They talked about “trading” for more Black legislators. More Black state officials. Better treatment for Black men arrested. New social programs for Black people. All good. But, “trade?”

This came from a Black activist, a Black professor and a Black New York Times columnist. The talk was they could get something to “restore their faith in government,” soothe their anger, gain some better advantage. “Trade for.”

Now, I’m aware of the disadvantages and often bad treatment of minorities. All minorities. Everywhere in the nation. For some, the history of subjugation goes back 200 years or more. We’ve enslaved, imprisoned and, near our southern border, we’re doing it again today.

But, this was the first time I’d heard anyone talk of “trading” with society over someone’s alleged bad actions. With a story only a couple of hours old , and without waiting for more facts, these people were talking of using someone’s bad personal decision to “bargain” for advantage.

That set off other thoughts. Now, eight decades plus and counting, I wondered about my own life at 25 years. Did I do anything 57 years ago I would not like people to know about today? Did I make some bad decisions, participate in some bad activities back then? Did I do or say then anything not acceptable today? Has my behavior changed? Am I making wiser decisions and being more thoughtful, living a more accepting life now?

The answers to all those questions is the same. Yes!

So, what about Northam? What about all the Northam’s out there? Did they act in ways back then that are unacceptable today? Did they just “go along” instead of making all the right moral decisions at that time? What about their lives since then? Do the make better decisions now? Are they still the same people 25 years later? What kind of lives have they led? Are they better, wiser?

I make no excuses for Northam. “What will be will be.” It’ll all shake out. He made a bad choice – probably more than one. The repercussions will be quick, especially since he has risen to high political office. We do – and should – expect better.

In many issues, we seem to react to today’s bad actions by quickly condemning someone or something because they/it violate contemporary life. We seldom place that unacceptable behavior in the context of when it occurred. We use today’s norms rather than those extant at time.

Racism is – and always has been – unacceptable. It’s both a personal and national shame. As it should be.

But, discussions of how public disclosure of some politicians’ bad behavior can be “traded” for some societal benefit is racist, too. Equality is an absolute right. Guaranteed. Talk of bargaining for racial advantage is racist, too.