Monday, February 27, 2017

Our new Reagan

"Like Reagan, Trump is asking for a boatload of money. About $54B more for our defense budget. Like Reagan, this is a huge amount - it is needed however, just because the former President was a disillusioned peacenik." 

Okay - shock to some, well know to others. I was alive and kicking during the near melt down of our country during the Jimmy (Peanuts) Carter era. This former nuke officer from the Georgia, decided all by himself he was going to show the world we are nice by unilaterally disarming. As he did that, the Soviet Union went to town. Yes, I was in the work a day work at that time. And I was also in the active reserves. I know the back story. I remember it very well.

About a year or so before the 1980 election, the Iranian Revolution happened. All of a sudden, we had a terrorist state (which at a short time ago), had been our ally. And what did this new terrorist state do? They stormed our embassy (an act of war mind you), and held dozens of our citizens hostage for 444 days. What did Carter do? Not much. He did launch a failed rescue attempt with a depleted military. It ended in disaster. 

In the election on 1980, Reagan smoked the sitting President. This former actor and Governor of California, burst on to the national scene. And he did it big time. Candidate Reagan promised to rebuild our military. He was so convincing in that and other promises, on the day the Gipper was inaugurated, the Iranians let our people (the hostages) go. 

Flash forward to today. The "globalist" Obama decided to be an apologist for our country instead of restoring world peace. And while he was doing that, the bad guys went to town. Hello, Russia expansionism. Hello China's Blue Water Navy. Hello Iran spinning centrifuges faster than than the speed of light. Hello North Korea building a rocket with a solid fuel booster and maybe, just maybe, an "H" bomb.

Shortly after swearing in, our new President looked over the landscape and told Congress this will not do. We need more money for defense.. Like it or hate it, we are the "guardians of the galaxy". Okay - maybe not not much. But we are the police for this world. The UN cannot do it. Policing is always up to us. 

Like Reagan, Trump is asking for a boatload of money. About $54B more for our defense budget. Like Reagan, this is a huge amount - it is needed however, just because the former President was a disillusioned peacenik. 

I have said this before and I will say it again. At the start, I was not on the "Trump Train" - I was a Ted Cruz guy. At the end however, I was all about Trump. So far, he has done NOTHING but what he has said he would do on the campaign trail. As long as he stays true to his word - I am actively supporting him.

Spending the day in misery...

"But, we made to to Iowa. And as much as I try to avoid Iowa, I have never been happier to see this Hawkeye State." 

Anyone who knows anyone (not all people) who are from Missouri, often refers to their state as "Misery" instead of Missouri. When I first heard that term, the first thing that popped into my head was "ouch!". I mean, quite often I hear of my state referred to as "Minnesnowta" (because from time to time it does get hammered with snow), or the "Land of 10,000 Taxes" (because it is), but besides for the winter weather and Democrat induced taxes, I really do love the land of my birth. I would never refer to my state as just plain "misery".

Five years ago, we had to drive through Missouri twice - once going down, and once coming back home. Both ways it was brutal. It makes driving through North Dakota on a January day seem like being in Nirvana. So this year on the way down to Florida, I added a day onto our driving. We went all the way down I-35 to Oklahoma City and then on I-44 all the way east to Arkansas and then Mississippi. However, this year because we were gone so long, my wife said, "Make it quick!" coming home. Translation = we had to drive through "Misery" once again.

We spent last night on a Navy base just north of Memphis. We left early this morning (before colors), and headed west towards Arkansas. We did not mind Arkansas a month ago, and were looking forward to a return visit. But alas and alack, we were only in Arkansas for exactly one hour. Then we saw the sign we had been dreading - "Welcome to Missouri". I almost threw up in my mouth.

The first hour was brutal. I now know what Neil Armstrong thought when he set foot on the Moon. Okay, the next few hours have to be better. I looked at my GPS and saw we had more miles to go than dollars in national debt. I tried to look at something different as we drove, talk about something different, listen to something different - but then it happened. Both of us started to slip into highway hypnosis. 

About 3pm our GPS guided us onto a "shortcut" up into Iowa. Anything, I screamed! I will take it! Big mistake. We went from divided highway, to non-divided highway to road, to dirt road. And when I looked at the GPS, it said we still had 90 miles to go. My wife said she was getting a headache from all the dust, turns and hills. So she checked out for a while. I wanted to also, until I remembered I was driving.

To make a long story short, towards the end of the journey we went through some areas which made the movie "Deliverance" look like downtown Manhattan. It was beyond brutal. But, we made to to Iowa. And as much as I try to avoid Iowa, I have never been happier to see this Hawkeye State.   

Tomorrow morning the Bird flies home. Mom (and I) are missing the little guy, so the earlier the better. Been a good trip. More stories to come. Of course, there well also be my opinions about the the mayhem going on within our politics. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Road Well Traveled

"One can get in a car and drive from state to state and just enjoy. In the UK, one can only drive so far before running into water."

Today after just being away for just about a month, we did a "wheels up" and left the condo we were staying in on Tranquility Bay. As usual, when we travel, we leave on "Navy time". That means, first light. Since the prior two mornings were very foggy, I was a bit concerned today might have been the same. No such bad luck. There was a good sea breeze coming in, and no fog. 

We left Pensacola and then merged on to Interstate 10. For those who are not familiar with I-10, it goes all the way from northern Florida to San Diego. One of these wonderful paths one could take to "see real America". I have been on it many times before. Mostly the stretch between New Orleans to Fort Walton Beach. Plus, one of the things on my "bucket list", is to take I-90 to the east coast, connect with I-95, and then take it down to Florida connecting with I-10. Then the fun would really start.

We took I-10 west until we connected with I-55 heading north from Louisiana. From Louisiana we went into Mississippi and then into Tennessee. While driving, we saw the temperature change, and well as the topography change. But the one thing which did not see change were the wonders and beauty of driving up through America's heartland. Every time we stopped to get a bite to eat, stretch our legs, or get gas - we ran into real Americans. Friendly, talkative, caring and sharing people. 

I have told this story before. A man I worked with when my company was teamed with Royal Ordnance in the UK, always spent his "holidays" in America. And he always did the same thing. He rented a car and just drove. When I asked him why he did that, his response was not in the least bit quizzical. "You Yanks have no clue as to what you have over here. One can get in a car and drive from state to state and just enjoy. Drive for endless miles. In the UK, one can only drive so far before running into water."

Bingo. As much as we like to travel the road less traveled, when we are on major trips we travel the roads well traveled. And even though we don't learn as much as we do on a road less traveled, we still learn. Plus (and this is a big one), after living on a small island for 18 months early in my life, I LOVE driving for hours at end without running into another ocean.

Tomorrow it will be more driving and more learning. As much as I have seen our heartland, I never tire of it. On the Navy base we are staying at, they just played evening colors. That too, I never tire of. Tomorrow at 8 bells, it will be morning colors. If we are still here at that time, I will stand tall and put my hand over my heart. 

This is America. This is not the shameful land that Obama told us and the rest of the world about. This is the proud land - a proud land that Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump remind us about in almost every speech.

So this may be the land well traveled - and if it is, so be it. Whatever it is called, I love it.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Real ID and the future

"Bottom line? Don't lose any sleep over Real ID. It just scratched the surface."

I guess I am a bit stupid on this entire enhanced or Read ID issue. I have heard that to get onto a military base these days, your need to have one of three things: 1) military ID (which I have), 2) passport, or 3) enhanced ID (Read ID drivers license). If you don't have one of the three, you don't get on. At the Naval Air Station, there are parts of the base which are for tourism. And to get on base, you will need one of those forms of ID. There are other parts of the base which are operational, and only a military ID will get you in those areas.

Now that Minnesota has passed their version of compliance with Real ID, here is the bad news for the Libertarians. I don't think this dance is over. Between the continuing War on Terror and the advancements in identity theft, look for more of the same in the near future. Like what? Facial recognition, bio-metrics, and (gasp!) - maybe even DNA mapping.

To truly figure out "who is who" in today's complex world, I really do think it is coming. Try going on a cruise these days. The first day you check in, your picture is taken with a special camera. Why? It is for facial recognition. So when you come back on the boat with your room card and badge, the security on board can also check your picture against their data base.

I have said for quite a while now this Real ID thing is a nothing burger. Big whopping deal. However while working at IBM, I attended a seminar about the future of the identification badge. It was all about bio-metrics. In fact, we were all given an ID badge which held just a sample of what our bio-metrics might look like. It was almost Orwellian. But in a world of over 7 billion people, there really does need to be a way to identify each of us as unique. In other words, where our identity cannot be copied by someone, or something with nefarious intentions.

The future might hold retina identification and a licking a swap to check your DNA. Why? Fingerprints (although somewhat archaic), retinas and the DNA obtained from saliva are all unique markers. I am sure in some not too distant year the bad guys will be trying to trick those measures also. Then there will be even more intrusive identity markers developed. Back and forth, cat and mouse. 

Bottom line? Don't lose any sleep over Real ID. It just scratched the surface. Sure, you can try and hide from the future. You may not want the government to know anything about you, but the bad guys will. And not having an iron clad way of proving you are you, may put you in peril. Sorry to be a rain cloud on this issue - but that is our reality today.   

Thursday, February 23, 2017

NOT in the plan...

"Death and sickness are the two intruders who enter our lives, often uninvited. They can change everything in either an instant, or chip away at someone's life, inch by inch."

It has been a tough week for those of us who like the folks on Fox News or Fox Business News. Earlier in the week, it was reported that Brenda Buttner from Fox Business Channel had died in her fifties. Today, it was reported that Alan Colmes had passed away in his mid-sixties. And between those two sad announcements, it was reported that David Cassidy from the Partridge Family has developed dementia, also in his mid-sixties.

Why do I bring this up? I imagine that all of these folks did not choose this. I would bet that this time last year, they were plotting out the rest of their lives. Death or a debilitating sickness was not part of that planning. And that brings me to the core of the issue. It is good and wise to plan for the future. However, when given the opportunity to do something either from your bucket list, or outside of your bucket, do it sooner rather than later.

Death and sickness are the two intruders who enter our lives, often uninvited. They can change everything in either an instant, or chip away at a life, inch by inch. They are the destroyer of dreams, the changer of relationships, and the ender of an existence. They can announce themselves during a routine doctor's visit, having a prolonged sickness, or result in a sudden ending.

But the purpose of this article is not to be macabre. By all means, it is meant to be joyful and hopeful. We all know there is a omega to the alpha - we just don't know when. One of my wife's relatives was visiting us this past week. In a casual conversation, he mentioned he would like to live to be 100. And I hope he does. But the bottom line is this - he does not know when this fantastic journey called life will end. None of us to.

Bottom line - if you have a dream, and have the resources to chase that dream, do it now. Don't wait until tomorrow. Why? Tomorrow might never come. Or to repeat an old (and very wise) saying, "The past is gone, the future is not yet here, so live for the present. The present is a gift - that is why it is called the present." 

The bomb which keeps ticking...

"Here is the irony. When Obama was President, the Republicans were free to criticize this mess from dawn till dusk. After all, the Democrats owned it lock, stock and barrel." 

He really did it to us. Some think it is a Trojan Horse. I think it is a ticking bomb. Now we have taken control of that bomb and don't know how to defuse it. What am I talking about? This thing, this destroyer of economies, this socialized program called known as ObamaCare.

It seems like every morning on the news there is yet another story about a Republican hosting a town hall meeting. And many of them are not turning out to be pleasant. In fact, some are out and out nasty. The demonstrators seemed to have recently switched the subject line. Not too long ago, they were demanding that an outside, independent council be brought in to "get to the bottom of the Russia/Trump issue". Now it is all about ObamaCare.

Here is the irony. When Obama was President, the Republicans were free to criticize this mess from dawn till dusk. After all, the Democrats owned it lock, stock and barrel. Nary a Republican anywhere had laid a finger on this thing as it was being hatched. Then the wheels started to come off. People could not keep their doctors. They could not keep their insurance providers. Premiums started to go up like Roman candles. It was disintegrating right before our very eyes. Then the November 2016 election happened. All of a sudden, the Republicans got stuck with this Rosemary's Baby.

Flash forward to now. The Republicans are out of session and going back home to meet and greet the voters. They are being met by some legitimate, and some illegitimate (that be outside, paid agitator type) voters. They are coming to the meetings to yell, chant, argue, carry signs, blah, blah, blah. I find it interesting they did not show up at town hall meetings when Obama was President. ObamaCare is after all, Obama's offspring.

Now President Trump and the Republican led Congress are stuck in a quagmire. As Colin Powell would say - "You break it, you own it." Despite all the years of preparing for this moment, my single biggest fear is this - all this talk about "repeal and replace" might have been just that - talk. If we repeal this mess without having a much better mousetrap in the ready mode, the "lap dog" media as well as the Democrats will club us to death with it. And then we can probably kiss the 2018 midterms goodbye.

Was Obama dumb like a fox in 2009 when he signed this mess into law? Did he look out over the chessboard and plan about three or four moves ahead? As much as I appreciate President Trump's ambitious schedule of doing everything the first year, the ObamaCare replacement is probably the most critical item as well as the most tricky.

I wish we had someone on our side of the fence who also could have seen three or four moves ahead. That person might have seen this entire mess develop and be able to warn the rest of us. As Admiral Ackbar said in Star Wars, that person should have yelled at the top of his lungs, "Its a trap!"

And now that we are in the trap, the secret will be in how to get out of this trap without further destroying our healthcare system, the Republican Party, and the trust of the American people. Ouch.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The medium and the message

"Today however, we have really made the big jump. We have left the editorial comments back in the dust. We are onto bigger and better things. Now it is 'fake news'."

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan wrote a trendy book called The Medium is the Message. One of the core tenants of the book was the way news was delivered sometimes eclipsed the news itself. McLuhan was wise beyond his years and certainly beyond his time. Oh if he could see the news today!

We are really falling down the hill quickly these days. It is bad enough that new anchors like Dan Rather has burred the line between journalism and editorial comment, we are also seeing in the print media these days also. Plus, whenever confronted by someone on the Right who is sick of editorial comment being intermixed with the news, many anchors fall back on First Amendment rights. And that is fine - then just don't call the reporting "news". Call it opinion.

Today however, we have really made the big jump. We have left editorial comments mixed in with the news back in the dust. We are now on to bigger and better things. Now we have "fake news". And what exactly is "fake news"? It is the spreading of rumor and half truth without first vetting the source. It is taking a story and putting some extra "English on the cue ball", to help the story fit a narrative. And sadly, some of the "fake news" is just pure, unadulterated fiction. Bottom line - the news media now has an approval rating lower than Congress. Some say lower than whale poop.

How do we fix this? One of my friends who does pod casting has a simple remedy - just tune out on any main stream media. It does not mean he stops learning - on the contrary, he is very informed. There is a boat load of information out in the ether-net which is valid and unblemished.

So what would cause a professional news reporter to take unblemished news and turn it into editorial? An abdication of professional responsibility and personal pride. In other words, the once great "fourth estate", our free press, has sold out.

I get a kick out of the moral outrage that Don Lemon from CNN has when accused of CNN either promulgating or spreading "fake news". Okay, maybe that is a stretch. Maybe CNN does not do "fake news". They sure as heck do biased news however. And not by just a little bit - a lot. 

Even the "fair and balanced" Fox News is not all that fair and balanced. They have a conservative tilt. MSNBC and CNN have a liberal tilt. CBS, NBC, and ABC also have a slight liberal tilt. So if you want to get true, unbiased news today - good luck with that one. 

Yes, the medium truly is the message. Way, way too much. Get used to it folks. I don't see this changing any time soon - maybe ever. The "fourth estate"? Gone. Today, we are all responsible now for finding out our own information.