For decades anyone who is up for appointment as a Federal Judge, senior level Presidential staff member or upper management position in any of the Federal Agencies has had to pass a 302 field report by the FBI. It applies to people working in the Dept. of Defense, IRS, Justice Dept., etc. at any of the higher levels. No Federal judge has ever been appointed who didn’t pass the 302 report and vetting. You may recall that a couple of Clinton staffers were not cleared but were approved by Clinton anyway since he had the authority to override the negative report. It has been considered de riguer for years and generally viewed as a routine matter by most potential appointees. Politicians obviously don’t have to pass any such vetting under our democratic principles which is as it should be but appointees are expected to get a clean bill of health. You can be a Nazi or a Commie and run for office but you won’t be appointed Secretary of Defense. Congress or the Federal Agency concerned or the President can ignore a negative report but do so at their political peril if the word gets out as it always does sooner or later.
The report looks into associations from the past and personal habits and any radical leanings along with academic and social behavoir. You wouldn’t want an Al-Queda sympathizer appointed to a high position in the Dept of Defense for example. They are quite thorough and it is one of the first things that new special agents for the FBI work on when they are assigned to a field office. Even those working for defense contractors if they are working in sensitive areas can be subject to the investigation. The chief engineer working on an anti-missile defense system likely would be vetted because you wouldn’t want someone there who might sell secrets to our enemies. You get the picture.
The majority has just elected as President someone who wouldn’t pass a 302 field report in my opinion. With his prior association with Ayers alone he would be subject to the highest suspicion and scrutiny. If he was being appointed say to the office of asst. Secretary of Defense he would not pass muster. After all he hung out and lauded someone who planned bombing US defense facilities and who remains unrepentent to this day about his actions to do direct harm to the country and his fellow citizens. Likewise the association and business dealings with that Rezko fellow alone would have sent up a huge red flag on the report. He clearly got special treatment in buying a house from Rezko and then buying additional land adjacent under what can only be described as a sweetheart deal. Rezko is now a convicted felon for bribery. These are the facts, I have been careful to try and not speculate or add anything that has not been publicly reported. Think about it, we have someone in the Oval office soon who couldn’t qualify under a routine 302 report. That is very scary and concerning. He needs to be watched very carefully. Past is prologue and his past is not something I would admire or approve. Let’s be clear, I can tolerate those who have different opinions than me as these pages have demonstrated often. It is good to have a clash of opinions and strong debate about policy and direction; I believe that is fundamental to our success in the long haul. We need diverse views and those sometimes nasty and testy arguments about what is best for the nation. But we should have those debates resolved and won by people we can trust even if we don’t agree with their ideas. I don’t trust this man based on his past. Indeed his past is a major concern. Be careful what you ask for you just might get it. I can think of nothing more frightening than having a man in the Oval office who couldn’t pass a routine 302 field report. The report would reveal he does not have American values or the best interest of the country at heart.
Today is veteran’s day. It was on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that the armistice was signed to conclude the active fighting in WWI. When I was young it was stilled called Armistice Day. It only changed to Veterans Day a few decades ago. It was a momentous occasion and brought down the curtain on the carnage and destruction of that epic war. It was an epic. Those souls from Flanders fields still cry out when we lose our way reminding us that their sacrifice had to mean something and we have a heavy legacy to carry by promoting the best in us, not the common or the mean.
There have been a number of famous mutinies over the years and even some fictional ones and one wonders when the next one will be. We have the
Caine Mutiny (movie), the Sepoy Mutiny, the Mutiny on the Bounty, and The Mutiny of WWI available for analysis.
You should see the Caine Mutiny if you haven’t already it is a fine movie. One of
Bogart’s best roles as the neurotic Capt. Queeq; probably by far the best dramatic role by Van Johnson of his long career and Fred McMurray is splendid as the double dealing arrogant snob who nevertheless does sound the bell of truth with his commentary on his fellow shipmates. It is an intense drama and a moral exploration of the finest and worst in our human nature. Watch it to learn what will turn men against their leaders in times of crisis.
The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 has been forgotten by most folks but it was a horrific episode in the history of the Ruling Raj by the British. That uprising of Muslim troops against the British command and the subsequent slaughter of innocent women and children became the stuff of legend and revealed Britain at its best and worst as a colonial power. Briefly the Muslim troops became highly excitable over an alleged religious slight involving grease from pigs on their ammo. There was some underlying resentments to be sure but that small issue loomed large to the fanatics in the Muslim world. They mutinied over the alleged insult (which indeed was not true, pig grease was not in fact used) and killed hundreds and threw many into a dark pit like a jail cell. The conditions were appaling from the crowding and lack of food, water, etc. They virtually all died. That was the famous Black Hole of Calcutta. The British reacted with resolve and over came the rebellion with few troops and that famous stiff upper lip.
During WWI the French troops mutinied in the spring of 1917 after the second battle of Verdun. The deaths were outrageous on both sides and the French lost hundreds of thousands during the battle that lasted for several months. The troops believed that their lives were being wasted by the generals and that they had no regard for their welfare. Many regiments simply refused to follow orders and would not advance or even stand firm on their lines. It caused a tremendous panic in the French Army. It tried to keep the scope of the mutiny secret from the Germans of course for fear they would renew the attack and simply walk right through the lines that had no effective troops defending them. The French even tried desparately to keep the size of the rebellion hidden from their Allies the English and the Americans. Petain replaced Foch as commander and slowly order was restored. Many executions were ordered and some units were reassigned and replacements brought forward as fast as possible. The French never were a truly effective force after that. Even when the Allies started winning in 1918 the French were used in a secondary role. The French troops believed they were being abused and used to no purpose. To some extent they were right and the French commanders certainly could have done a better job informing the troops what they were fighting for and why the sacrifices were necessary to defeat the Germans. The troops viewed their own Government with as much hostility as they did the Germans.
Then there is the Mutiny on the Bounty which was a real event and has also been fictionalized several times. You know the basic story of Bligh being a tyrant and hard task master to his crew but fact is he probably was pretty much in the main stream for that time and place in his treatment of the men. They didn’t want to continue under him and his harsh methods and had a leader in Lt. Christian. Many of them wanted to return to the easy life of the south sea islands where they could lead a life of indulgence rather than the harsh conditions at sea under Bligh. After the mutiny and Bligh and some of the crew were put on a small boat they made what is still one of the most remarkable open sea voyages in all of history. They sailed over 4000 miles in that little boat to Batavia (now Jakarta in Indonesia) and then home to England. The British when they learned of the mutiny couldn’t have that because it would damaged the prestige and discipline of the British Navy. It wasn’t cost effective as the analysts would say today but they geared up another expedition and sent it around the world to Tahiti to bring the mutineers back to justice. They didn’t catch them all but did bring many back and some were indeed hanged. Other of the mutineers made it to Pitcairn island where some of the descendants live to this day.
With the results of the election I wonder whether a mutiny would be on the minds of our troops in Iraq? They have done so nobly and sacrificed so much to this time. Before yesterday they had a mission, a purpose, an aim and the hope of victory. Hope is a powerful human force. Today what is their mission or aim? It is clear their sole job now is to retreat. It is not their decision to make. But the missions they go on every day, those patrols and excursions into harms way, are very dangerous. Why should they go out to face that danger today? They are being told their job now is to come home. The lives lost until yesterday meant something, something was trying to be accomplished but now any lives lost are truly in vain. The deaths after the election serve no purpose. I could understand if the troops told their commanders they didn’t want to go out anymore and that they would stay in their barracks until the plane was ready to take them home. We are leaving, so leave and spare anymore deaths. Their mission was not finished and it never will be now with a new commander in chief dedicated to a strategy of retreat at all cost. Such a waste and such a shame. The souls of the lost soldiers will cry out from their graves–“why”? It is an ignominious retreat and can’t be painted over into anything else. The troops deserved better than that. A complete strategic retreat always has very bad consequences and this one will too.
During any tense election season it it always tempting to think the worse and lose some hope for the future of the country. I have endured for about half my life Administrations that I either didn’t trust or outright despised. Even when the Administration was one that I geneally approved of there were always policies and actions that irritated me or disappointed me. Have you ever worked on a committee at the school, Church or any other civic organization and noticed how a seemingly simple proposition will get so many varied and disparate responses. We are an argumentative people by nature in the West. It has been our hallmark from recorded time. In the East where great deference is paid to age and authority you don’t have that same outlook. It is considered bad form to disagree publicly with your “betters”. We in the West don’t like that idea that we have betters. From Greek times, to Roman to the Middle Ages to Napoleon to this day, our history is filled with contentious disputes about religion and politics, power and money and the shape of society and the determination of power granted to government and who gets to wield it.
From our birth as a Nation we have broken into factions and blocs for various reasons and causes. The early country was split most vehemently between the merchant class (generally the New England states) and the rural and agricultral classes (mostly in the South and western portions of the country). It was not geography so much as economic interests and outlook toward the world that mattered. The New England states were the driviing force behind the increasing tensions with England that lead to the War of 1812, the South mostly followed along but once committed joined whole heartedly. Remember A. Jackson and the last battle at New Orleans to finish the war. The respective sides said really vile things about each other. We endured the War Between the States and the ongoing struggle between the “East” and the Western expanding portions of the country. Teddy Roosevelt had vitrolic enemies during his terms as President and so did his later cousin. One way or another we managed to survive our disagreements and disputes. Those strong differences are both our glory and our curse. I try to remember that in trying times.
Now with our economy very shaky our differences of opinion become more pronounced and strident. Surely you have noticed that not even all those in the same party are in agreement on the correct course of action and that applies to both parties. We as a nation will make some mistakes, our leaders will make mistakes, and there will be the usual inefficiencies of democracy but I have confidence the ship of state will right itself in time. As long as we keep our freedom we will be alright. As long as the Government remains our servant and not our boss we will be fine. Our danger is not fear or tumoil or a weak economy, it is any eroision in our rights and privileges or the ceding of individual responsibility to the collective wisdom of Government. We must have a Government that allows for the rewarding of industry and integrity, not one that rewards simply based on existence or status. If our freedoms remain intact we will survive our disagreements and our different points of view will merge into a consensus that will keep us well. Compromise is the evil we hate when we are losing the argument, but it is the bedrock of a large and rambunctious society. Both donkeys and elephants are beast of burden to aid man but remember that they each need a firm hand and guidance by man. Left to their own devices each can be very destructive and tear up the field and crops. Let’s remember who needs to be the leader here and now.
The Federal Reserve Bank in New York was the repository for the gold stores of many different nations for years. It may still be for all I know, I have not read that it ever has changed. In those vaults there was gold bullion stored in the name of each country with reserves. When one nation owed another for debts they would literally measure out the right amount of gold ingots and move them from one storage vault to another. Interesting that all the nations in the civilized world trusted us with that duty. Churchill during the early days of WWII commented privately often about the drop in the reserves of England as she had to pay her debts for war materiel from the US before Lend Lease and then our entry into the war.
Surely you agree that there is a difference between us and politicians. We ordinary folks are all the politicians can talk about during a campaign but do they really relate to us and our hopes, dreams and wants. The one who can do the best job of making us think that they do is the one who usually wins the election. We have had many close elections over the years because it was hard to figure who best represented the hopes of the folks on Main Street. To read the media you would think that the only close election we have ever had was 2000. Close elections go back much farther than that. Remember Jefferson and Aaron Burr? That election went to the House for resolution and it took many votes there to break the deadlock. In 1960 the election of Kennedy was extremely close. The Illinois vote put him over the top. There was very credible evidence that the vote in Cooke County Illinois (Chicago) was rigged and fraudulent. Nixon was advised by many to file a court challenge to the election. After a few days Nixon declined to sue and said that the nation could not afford months of uncertainty about who was President. It was probably his high water mark in displaying personal integrity and truly putting the country first rather than his personal ambition. That is a small incident in our history that is almost totally forgotten. You can check the facts for yourself. In 1992 you might recall that Clinton won with a plurality, not a majority of the vote–the Perot factor.
King David had a son called Absolom. David loved him greatly. Absolom was not loyal to his father. In fact he lead a rebellion against his own father and plotted his death and wanted to be King himself. The treachery of Absolom broke David’s heart. But the rebellion was real and threatened Israel and David’s own life. David dropped hints to his trusted lieutentants that his son should be killed. Some of David’s loyal followers took him at his word and they did indeed slay Absolom and came to inform David that his enemy was dead. The reaction of David was not one of joy. He lamented in one of the famous quotes from the Bible, “Oh, Absolom, oh Absolom, my son”. He was tormented with grief at the death of his son even though he was a traitor. His grief was so strong that he secluded himself from everyone. A leader does not have that luxury though. You can’t just abandon your post when things are terrible. Indeed, that is when a leader is needed the most. Samuel the prophet came to King David and told him the people needed to see him, to know he was alright and still in charge. The King mustarded the courage to go out to the gate so all could see him and know he was well. The people rejoiced. Leadership can be so powerful but it is a burden that requires sacrifice. That mantle should only be assumed by those brave enough to endure the heartaches that go with it. Our troubled times in the US often came when the leader could not deal with the onus of setting the example by sacrifice. There is a lesson in that story for every leader and parent and the siblings of those errant children. Who would you be in that story? McCain or Obama, who has the courage to lead regardless of the price?
When David fought Goliath it was mostly his courage that prevailed not physical abilities. You will recall that Saul tried to get David to wear his armor but David declined after trying it on. It was too bulky, too heavy, too ornate; it was not him. David decided it was best to be himself in his battle with Goliath. He won through the hubris of Goliath and his own courage and skill. He was himself, not an “image” that someone else created. Like the old Woody Allen comment, success is 90% just showing up. That was true here. No one else would even show up to do battle with Goliath except David. He tried. By trying he won. If you won’t even go to the batter’s box you will never hit the ball for sure. In this election we have a gimpy old man against a vibrate young fellow. Saul you could equate to the old Republican standards. Will McCain be the David? Time will tell. At least he has done the first part and shown up.
Lastly, you are reminded of Jesus when he chased the money lenders from the Temple. They supposedly were there to help folks with their worship by providing money to buy scarifices for the temple but the real purpose was just to make money. How many of the politicians today are there just to make the money, or more aptly to retain the power? Earmarks?. Are they the modern day equivalent of the moneylender business? You answer that one as you please.
The peach trees are beginning to show a hint of brown on the leaves. The next full moon will be the harvest moon and the pumpkins will be arrayed at all the stores. My grandsons asked me what I was going to dress as for Halloween. I admit I was stumped with that one. They are already planning their outfits. Be a good man, it is very hard sometimes, very. Your reward though comes when you can lay your head down with a clean conscience at night.
You will hear lots more rhetoric in the next couple of months by politicians of all stripes and parties telling you about how important this election is to the future of the Nation. Phrases like this is a turning point and defining moment will be tossed out. You will be told that it is the most important election in a generation. You will hear that it is “historic” and that the outcome will determine the very future and existence of our Nation. Those proclamations will come from Democrats and Republicans. Every election is important but they are not all life or death issues for the very viability of our country. I have been told these scare tactics by politicians since I was a young person and straight through to today.
Well, I for one don’t buy that theory at all. This is another election and it is important as they all are but we will survive regardless of outcome. The only thing we have to fear is when the pendulum swings too far in favor of one party or the other. When both the legislature and the White House are controlled by one party then you also have a Judiciary that will reflect that same party bias. Of course defining what is swinging too far one way or the other I realize can be tricky and certainly is influenced by one’s ideology and cultural viewpoint. What I consider to be way too far left wing might appear quite moderate to a Naderite. But I trust the people over the long haul as long as our American culture remains essentially intact and based on Judeo-Christian ethics and tenets. It is the politicians that don’t trust the people. Listen to their speeches, they more often than not talk down to us; choosing every word so carefully and afraid that they might offend some voter or voting bloc. Both parties treat us like we can’t think for ourselves way too much. Which party do you think is worse about talking straight with the people? We have managed rather well all things considered over our history with the swings in both directions. Since Woodrow Wilson until Reagan the left pretty much had their way and did much damage but we managed.
I know we had Ike and then Nixon but they were both burdened with Democratic Congresses. There wasn’t a real sea change in direction until Reagan. The attitude finally shifted away from believing that all good resided in Government and all bad in individual enterprise. Even Reagan had to deal with a Democratic Congress but got his policies mostly adopted because the ideological battle had been won. We have seesawed the last 20 years and a new direction is not yet set and don’t you believe for one minute it will dramatically change with this election. There are certain fundamental realities that have to be faced by the winning Party. Debt is the biggest issue at the moment and for the next generation. If we expand Government even more then the debt will explode beyond all recognition. For a while we can get by with just having the Government “print” more money and they know doubt will if the expansive programs proposed on the national level are adopted. But don’t forget that will only lead to inflation which is a cancer on the economy. It will also cause us to become more of a debtor nation and weaken the dollar. Do you want the Chinese foreclosing on America? Over time you do NOT want the dollar to be devalued. These are issues that will take years to emerge and really won’t affect my life but they might yours.
Iraq is winding down and the Afghanistan situation will too. Remember your history and be confident they both will have a denouement as those matters always do. Yes, we will save some money. But not anywhere near enough to pay for propsed new programs and fixing Social Security and Medicare. Rather than letting all these billions go to Washington wouldn’t we all be better off if the money stayed home and was spent by the individual States on programs they each believe best fit their own citizens needs? We send that money to Washington and then the Feds in their graciousness deign to send such portion of it back they think we deserve in grants, loans, and subsidies. Unfortunately the money gets “filtered” by the Feds first. We don’t get back what we send. We simply don’t get our money’s worth from the Feds.
What business is it of the Federal Government to fund No Child Left Behind, school lunch programs and any matter dealing with education. Those should be strictly local concerns and dealt with by each State as it thinks best for its citizens. The States are closer to the people and could fund the programs its citizens want. The States would have the funds if its citizens weren’t hammered by the Federal taxes. There are many other examples of issues that could and should be handled at the local level rather than from Washington–like law enforcement. Why in hell are so many local police departments these days depending on Federal grants as a regular part of their budget needs. Check that out and you will see I am right. Once again why are we dependent on Washington for such things. The appettite for money and the power that goes with it are incapable of sating in those halls in Washington. Their greed for power is without limit. It is only a matter of degree between the parties. But choose the one that at least says it wants to leave the most power and money with the people.
We have a Federal system. It is a wonderfuly republican and democratic method for governing a large nation like ours. My fear is that the current politicians will convince too many that this election is about some proposal or the other and that the house will burn down if they are not elected. Don’t let any more power flow to Washington, it already has too much over your daily life. We need Washington out of the way more and Albany, Austin, Sacremento and Dover more involved in our lives. Great power centered in one location (Washington) inevitably leads to a much greater risk of abuse regardless of party.
Those late planted tomatoes should be coming in about now in many parts of the country along with some fresh corn. Of course with the ethanol debacle I hope we can all still afford a roasted ear of corn this holiday.