Recent Opinion Pieces

Recent Opinion Pieces

Greetings friends and readers, I decided to wait and post my last two pieces together, so that way you could understand my train of thought on the issue of the recent attempt to repeal Obamacare. Continue reading

Mattis and Kelly: Men of Quality in Charge

Mattis and Kelly: Men of Quality in Charge

For those who are close to home, please go to here for Generals Mattis and Kelly article and go here for last week’s article.

With the recent departure of General Michael Flynn, under suspicious of misleading or outright lying to the Vice President, and under accusations by the media of being a Russian operative, it’s important to re-examine the leadership at the helm of our National Security and Defense. Continue reading

​The Nuclear Option: Congressional Brinksmanship

​The Nuclear Option: Congressional Brinksmanship

With the beginning of confirmation hearings for President Trump’s Cabinet appointments and eventually his Supreme Court nominee, I’m sure you’ve heard on television, radio, or read in a newspaper something about the “nuclear option.” You may recall it being discussed before, about 2013, after there was strong opposition given to some of President Obama’s appointments. The nuclear option is a ruling in “parliamentary procedure” that removes the typical threshold of Senators necessary to overcome a filibuster on a confirmation; instead of requiring 60 Senators for legislation, or 2/3rds of Senators for amending Senate rules, all it takes is a simple majority vote (50%+1). This translates into the ability of the Senate majority to ignore any serious effort by the minority to oppose appointments and force candidates and laws through the Senate. When the nuclear option was finally put into power in 2013 under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), it had long been a known issue in the Senate.

For instance, in 1917, 100 years ago, the nuclear option’s existence caused the Senate to reform their filibuster rules. At the time, Senator Thomas J. Walsh (D-MT) noted that while Senate required a 2/3rds majority to approve rule changes, the Constitution stated that “each House could determine its’ rules of proceedings” which meant either House could decide all decisions be resolved by a simple majority. His conclusion caused a shakeup in the understanding of procedures and new rules of cloture (cloture is the procedure to end a debate and take a vote) were adopted to fix the hole Walsh had noted in the rules of operations. In 1957, Vice President Richard Nixon wrote an opinion on the proceedings of the Senate that the US Constitution still granted the presiding officer the authority to override rules. In 1975, acting to make cloture more achievable, the new Democrat majority made the necessary amount of Senators 60 and “having been sworn in” rather than “present and voting”.

But after almost a hundred years of trying to avoid such a blatant crackdown on opposition in Congress, Senate Democrats ended the tense, but respected tradition. After the filibusters of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz occurred on intelligence appointments, Senator Harry Reid felt it was necessary to ensure that Republicans who protested the appointments be incapable of stalling their path to carrying out their duties.

Now in 2017, with Republicans in charge of the Senate again, and with a President amenable to their will in the White House, the nuclear option presents itself as a possibility again. When Senator Reid eliminated the ability of the filibuster to stand in as a protest of truly awful or corrupt appointments, I protested it and considered it a violation of the peace in Congress. Senator Harry Reid had turned to his associates and said “Peace or War” and when Republicans protested, he said “war.”

With the nuclear option being the new tradition, Senator Mitch McConnell has stated that Gorsuch will pass, but how he passes will depend on what Senate Democrats do. Facing the sword they once used on Republicans, Democrats are presented with McConnell saying “I would say that is up to our Democrat friends.” With the offer of “peace or war” on the table to Democrats, if Democrats decide to protest at the threat like Republicans did 4 years ago, here is what will happen.

Mitch McConnell will enact the Nuclear Option on Supreme Court nominees, ensuring that from this point forward the Justices that make it to the Supreme Court will not be non-partisan options favored by all, but be politicized warriors for whichever party holds the Senate. As a Republican and Conservative, this situation worries me gravely. For however we may talk about the President’s executive orders treading against the intent and tradition of the Constitution, the act of turning our last legislative institution that forces unity to become a battleground of politicization is a breaking of tradition I cannot stand.

The nuclear option is an admission that the two parties are irreconcilable. It is an agreement by the two parties to refuse to find common ground, to reject subduing of their hearts and ideologies for the sake of the people. And with Supreme Court nominees no longer needing 60 votes, the Court will go from a “4 Liberals/3 Conservatives/1 Moderate” makeup as it is now to eventually a “5/4” or “6/3” split that always favors one party or the other’s ideologies. Perhaps there will be appointments of good people, persons like Gorsuch who stand not for their personal values, but the Constitution’s. Institutionalizing the end of peace, the Era of the Nuclear Option will not see many such persons seated on the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump: Chew Bubblegum and Instill Fear

Donald Trump: Chew Bubblegum and Instill Fear

Why Americans, not just the GOP, have an inclination towards Strong-Men

I have been troubled recently, not by the efforts and words of some men, but by the reaction of many of my fellow Americans to the existence of the candidacies of those men. I am sure that while many Americans may feel that certain candidates are an ‘anomaly’ or ‘oddity’ in the political cycle the reality is, they are not. So I figured I would try to give some brief arguments for why Americans, not just “old, white Republicans who are angry and hatemongers” are finding themselves supporting Trump, or anyone else of similar ‘ill-quality.’

Fear of Foreign Nations

The beginning of our context as a country obviously begins before we were a nation, when we were still colonies of the North American portion of the British Empire. During the not-so-often discussed French and Indian War, the French paid for Native American tribes to make raids on the American colonies. From this beginning, we feared foreign nations would fund those who would seek our destruction.

Eventually the boogey-man became the British who not only fought us in the Revolution, but also attacked us in the War of 1812 and provided antagonism in the nation’s history all the way through the Civil War, when they contemplated recognition of the Confederacy.

The next State enemy came in the form of Spain, who during the lead up to the Spanish-American War of 1898, had been antagonizing Latin American states, particularly in South America. When things got heated in Cuba, and we assumed they attacked our ship, the USS Maine, Americans were immediately ready for the warpath, fearful and ready to fight an enemy they thought sought their destruction.

While Germany and Japan occupy the same threatening portion in history, that of World War II, the German and Japanese fear translated into a persecution of American citizens, something that wasn’t new for the period, but when examined from the present, seems an outlier in behavior. I will discuss the fear of Immigrants later, but the Japanese internment was not an ‘isolated incident.’

The most recent span of Enemy State fears comes from the Cold War, the animosity Americans have for the Russians, Iranians, and Chinese. The Soviet Union/Russian Federation is pretty easy to explain, given the fact that we know the Soviet Union aided Vietnam War protestors, and today the Russian Federation aids Nationalist organizations in Europe, and Conspiracy groups in America. The Iranians play to our fear of death and nuclear destruction. As for the Chinese, they occupy the threat to our economy, and while the threat isn’t quite loud yet, I would argue it is building and will continue to build as the years go on.

Fear of Dis-similar Immigrants

The story of American animosity towards immigrants begins with the post-Revolution fear that Papists would betray the country. Almost immediately after the Founders won the war of Independence, fears of Catholic immigrants from France and Spain, and the Catholic citizens, primarily in Maryland, were going to betray the nation, took heart. This created the animosity towards “different” immigrants that we often see towards Mexicans and Muslims today.

In the 1800s, fear of the Catholic European exacerbated when poorer Catholic migrants began coming over, predominantly from Ireland, Germany, and Italian, these immigrants were not only perceived as eminent threats because of their religion, but because of the fact many were poor. Later, when the Chinese and Koreans began immigrating, hostility to them occurred because they looked different, spoke unknown tongues, and weren’t Christian.

At the turn of the century, as Russian began its decline, the flight of Eastern Europeans saw similar amounts of ethnic and religious hatred because Russian or Greek Orthodoxy, in either form seemed at all similar to at least Catholicism or Protestantism.

Today that fear of Immigrants is placed on two groups, Mexicans and Muslims. Muslim immigrants are feared because they speak differently, appear and dress differently, and believe in Islam. Mexicans are viewed less hostile nationally, but still economically threatening because they “undercut the American citizen’s ability to hold a job.” Whether the arguments are real or not, the fears are real. Which is why our Economy is vital to this problem.

Weak Economies Drive Social Policy

Despite Political Elite and their best efforts to deny reality outside of Washington DC and New York City, most of the nation suffers from a rather weak and frustrating economic situation. In many locations, jobs are at lows still compared to years before the Great Recession. Whether the President has fault in the trigger and immediate aftermath of the Recession, he is seen as having blame, along with the GOP and Democrat establishment in the lack of recovery in the seven years since.

When people are frustrated, as they were in months after the Revolutionary War, during the Great Depression in Germany and America, people seek to alleviate their struggle economically by blaming someone. It’s a bread and circuses effect, when the people can eat and enjoy their lives, no one has to suffer to appease the population.

Law and Order as Social Policies

As it was with Reagan’s Drug War, when there are perceived threats to safety, in hard economic times, the people usually turn to government for it to punish behavior they feel wrong. The rise in the desire to vet our refugees, like those demanding we vet gun owners, comes from the same territory that saw us want to punish drug dealers for putting kids in hospital beds. The rise in reducing and eliminating illegal immigration comes from the same place that saw us demand the Patriot Act to eliminate terrorists before they commit another 9/11.

We, as a population, demand leaders and policies from those leaders that will reinforce our strength when we are in times of hardship because we believe the hardship has come from our lenience for social grievances and abuses. I would accuse those who seek to punish bakeries for denying services are the same as those who want to punish businesses who employ illegal immigrants.

Why Trump Appeals to Americans is Simple

Americans aren’t willing to trade all of their civil liberties, and they want to protect themselves because they know government won’t be able to, but Americans have a history of showing themselves acceptable with domestic violations of the Constitution if the man in power is doing the right thing. And this is why Trump is popular to Americans, he says the right thing, he suggests doing the right thing, and he has people around him and supporting him saying he will do the right thing. Whether you think he will do the right thing doesn’t matter, what matters is that Americans believe he will do the right thing.

When you look at history, it’s clear to see why the GOP and Democrat leadership has lost control of the nation. Who would put faith in men and women who cannot make the population feel safe? Trump is rising because he talks about restoring America. He does not pretend it is doing well as some have. He says what the population is thinking.

Who Am I to Say These Things?

I live and work in DC, and I have had jobs where most would say the elite reside. However, I am from a small town in Illinois, a place of under 5000 people, where I know most people’s names and their families. And I know a handful of Trump supporters. Those folks are not the personified “Racist Redneck” that many would label as Trump supporters, they are financially reasonable, good folks who are genuinely scared of the current economic and political situation of America, and feel that their only choice to protect what they love is to give power to a man, who while appealing to the base instinct, appeals to their interest in restoring America’s position and power, and also their prosperity and safe homes.

Obviously, there are bad eggs in the Trump supporter basket, but just as we demand as Christians that people not let the Westboro Baptist Church define us, we should not let those who assault protesters, and commit violent crimes define the base supporter for Trump. We should pressure them when they wave off bad behavior of a candidate as acceptable, but my intention is not to castigate anyone, but to showcase that it is more culture than the cult of Trump that drives his support.

*I Submitted this to the Op-Ed Section of the New York Times, the 3-day ban on this content being posted has ended*

Why Secretary Clinton is a Victim-Suspect in a Bureaucratic Crime. The Crime? Vague Standards that mean nothing.

Having done record retention while I worked at the State Department, I can state that the system was just beginning to be digitized, and I was helping the Logistics Management group, and the Chief of Contracts begin that move. It wasn’t the branch office’s fault, specifications on what would be required to do the move were never fully provided because the set of credentials to meet the specifications were and are INCREDIBLY VAGUE. (I had a Unclassified but Sensitive Information Ban on me, if I seem vague, its because my Patriotism and Nationalism prevent me from possibly hurting the government, or getting in trouble with it. I love America, and I loved the State Department. At least my branch office, A/LM/OPS/TTM/TM. Shameless plug)

I spent a lot of time with old documents, because prior to the digitization policy, there wasn’t even a specified limitation on how long files must be retained. Some branches and administrations inside the State Department used 5 years, some 10, some didn’t even have an amount.

The reality is, it wouldn’t be unusual that the Secretary would have physical printouts of emails brought to her, or that she accessed her email off site. And sometimes, it would be even plausible that she used her private email, as some of the staff I worked with would do so when dealing with issues officially on days they were sick and could not telecommute. (due to State Department policy on what constituted telecommuting)

I see the fears and worries that perhaps her internet and priority or sensitive information could have been leaked. That being said, that’s a security dilemma across the agency as they begin this digitization switch because if they don’t possess the football, who does? All options have hazards of access.

Was she jeopardizing national security by doing this? Maybe, but I feel that this is a particularly murky area, and one that I spent 3 months doing for an entire office group. I’m sorry, but for once and maybe the last time in my life, I won’t give Hillary a whopping here. Why? The environment isn’t filled with IT or Computer Specialists, its accountants and bureaucrats. There were several policies that dealt with “10 things smart people don’t do with computers.”

I had to work with my boss for two months on figuring these things out. It was in the last month that I actually began the process of digitization, and that’s because the Obama administration did not create a clear set of definitions for the carryout of the process. It was vague, unsatisfying, and my boss who didn’t like unsafe technology, was especially worried and rightly so, about the security of the government information.

Is Secretary Clinton not guilty of accidental leaks and the wrong eyes seeing sensitive, priority, classified, and secret information? No…but at the same time, anyone in the State Department who wasn’t an IT expert to do the digitization carryover would be guilty of the same. The problem here is that the process showcased an endemic issue of bureaucracies: They are slow to change, slow to progress, and failing in optimization. Anyone who expected a different result when the Obama Administration released a set of vague guidelines would be insane. And anyone who thought the Administration could create a comprehensive set of guidelines to follow without an IT expert leading the change would also be insane.

Basically, Secretary Clinton may be guilty of a crime, but the crime was committed because there might have not been anyway to carry out the process without the crime occurring. Meaning, there would be a possibility of information being vulnerable during this process, even if she was in her office getting her own documents. I am not saying let it slide, but rather than crucifying the former State Secretary, why not use this as impetus to create a set of guidelines that make sense, and use corporate and internet standards, and then work with those companies to achieve the digitization policy.

Because I don’t have a Computer Science Degree, and I don’t have qualifications in System Administration or Security. But I acquired the experience of it because of this situation. At best, I had Information Technology experience, and I could help with computer software and standard Windows issues. I am actually a Subject Matter Expert on Information Retention and Security thanks to a 3-month Internship at A/LM/OPS/TTM/TM. That symbol, as the State Department calls it, stands for “Administration/Logistics Management/Operations/Transportation and Travel Management/and Travel Management.” Basically, we got cargo to and from places, and we took care of your cargo in case of problems. There were contractors, State Department employees, government agencies, and frustrations were rampant in the branch office because the branch office is the bad guy of the State Department. They were the “NO” department.

Notes on the President’s Address from 9/10 on Operations in Syria/Iraq against ISIS/ISIL

DIALOGUE DURING THE SPEECH I THINK IS IMPORTANT

Operations in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq
Combat mission will end later this year in Afghanistan, because America is safer
Evil exists, and groups have the capacity to do harm, before and after 9/11.
Radical groups in Africa/Middle East are threats.
Yemen operations have gone poorly, We didn’t do many operations in Iraq until recently, Afghanistan is turning south on us, and Somalia was just a pirate expedition and a propping up of one Warlord as “President of Somalia.”

ISIL/ISIS is NOT Islamic. It has been targeting Muslims.
ISIL/ISIS is NOT a State. It is a former terrorist government.
It isn’t recognized by other states or by its own citizens.
Merciless killers and executors of children. Slavers and Rapers of Women.
Commit Genocide on populations and executed two American journalists.
Obama is stating that ISIS/ISIL is an illegitimate government, a terror to everyone, as instability in the Middle East will affect Europe, Africa, and Asia. This will in turn affect Economic, Financial, Corporate, and American interests abroad, but also at home.

Threat to all Middle East; can grow to greater threat internationally. (Actual intention of ISIS/ISIL)
Thousands of foreigners and Americans have joined ISIS/ISIL. They could return home to do harm domestically. Many Americans are considered by them.
What are we going to do about these citizens who will do harm to us, Mr. President? No mention of action against them…also, there is a horrifying map on the Internet of ISIS/ISIL desired Caliphate. Ten Regions under it, from Morocco to India, from Ethiopia all the way to Crimea, and also containing possibly Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

Promises to meet these with strength.
Air Strikes have been done as the only military operation to this point. Have saved lives, seems to be the predominant reason to use air strikes.
Cannot use our own military force, because the President doesn’t want to use Hard Military Power. Claiming to meet with Congress and Allies. Wants to use Arab allies to fight. “Broad Coalition”
No mention of coalition partners or allied states with us. Iran isn’t Arab, its Persian, completely different ethnic groups. Air Strikes without combined arms of infantry or cavalry isn’t strength, it’s a stall tactic. Its true however, that stalling ISIS/ISIL advances will save lives, and allow for greater amounts of refugees to live, but also creates larger costs on Iraqi population because ISIS/ISIL will harm someone while being stalled in expansion.

Systematic Campaign of Air Strikes with Cooperation with Iraqi Government.
Hunt down any and all terrorists, meaning operations in Syria and Iraq. “No Safe Haven”
Increase support for allied combating forces. 200 + 475, so 675 military advisors to Iraqis and Kurds.
Deliberate difference between Kurdish and Iraqi forces. Emphasis on helping Sunni Populations.
I point out the difference between Kurd and Iraqi, because a two-state solution seems to be in the President’s sights. So apparently this is where the red line is, when Americans get executed. Good to know, for future terrorists during the remainder of the Obama administration. Still coming off as a diplomatic recovery from the last blundering on Syria. Aren’t all or most of the good guy Syrians dead in Aleppo, cause you know, they were bombed into high-heaven by the Syrian Air Force? Also, where will the military forces come from, if not from America? If we are truly focused on rescuing Sunni Muslims, we wouldn’t be using Iran, would we?

Calls on Congress to give permission to aid forces. Will not use Assad, because he has lost his legitimacy/credibility in his state and the region.
Continue to use counter-terrorism to prevent ISIL/ISIS attacks. Cut funding, fight the ideology, and curb the rise of foreigner fighters in the region.
Humanitarian assistance for refugees and displaced populations. For Sunnis, Shias, and Christians.
“Joined by a broad coalition of partners”
“Sharing intelligence and billions of dollars in humanitarian aid”
“Helping Syrian rebels and the Iraqi government”
“American leadership: We stand for those who fight for their own freedom by rousing for a common humanity and common cause.”
“Strongest as a nation when Congress and President work together.” This means he is invoking the War Powers Act as a possible dodge.
Every President until Obama called the War Powers Act (enacted after Vietnam) unconstitutional. This is a first step as it is a willful dereliction of responsibility in terms of the military by the Commander-in-Chief. Its one thing to stipulate you need Congress’ approval for war, but for even the 90 day sanctioned missions? Seems more like hesitancy to actually operate rather than a “FIRM COMMITMENT.” Also, who is this coalition, I mean Bush ruined the surprise for us back in dealing with Iraq, but the suspense is killing me. Also American Leadership is no longer Alexander the Great/Caesar style where we ride with our soldiers and allies, but is now the German General Staff version, where we sit in musty rooms and plot strategy, without regard to the brutality of the front. (That was a terrible jab) I guess I always liked my military commanders being brazen and not fearing the enemy.

How it will be different from Gulf War II: No American troops; use air power to eliminate ISIL/ISIS and support coalition forces (like in Yemen, Libya, and Somalia).
So we recognize that OCCUPATION isn’t a choice; but we aren’t sure as to what we want yet, so will just bomb everything…in a place where everything is getting bombed. Seems like a reliable strategy.

“Time of Great Change; 13 years since 9/11; 6 years since Great Recession; America is better positioned to seize the future. (Claims of Academic Excellence, Business Growth, and Strong Capitalism)
“Broad American leadership is the one constant in a chaotic world. Mobilize the will against terrorism, against Russian aggression, and for Ukrainian self-determination. Can use our know-how to fight Ebola; our knowledge to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapon supply; fighting for opportunity, tolerance, and hope.”
“Welcome responsibility to lead. We stand for freedom, dignity, and justice. Guiding values since founding.” (Commander-in-Chief evocation, despite insisting on Congressional action to operate this mission.)
“Our Security is dependent on doing what it takes to protect the nation, and standing for our values, and opposing those who foment hate.”
Trying to use the Nationalist urge of 9/11 and the Great Recession. However, seems hilarious coming from a very non-Nationalist President. Once again, broad leadership from behind the frontlines will carry the day. Especially against Russia in Ukraine (WHAT?), against Ebola (WHAT?), against Syria and its Chemical Weapons (WHAT?). I say what, because Stone Cold Steve Austin would do it when he smelled a BS-line from another wrestler. Yes it’s a mocking of the President, but he hasn’t operated in much in Ukraine or Syria, and Ebola has been being mostly fought by doctors, not necessarily the American government. Also, those dirty Russians proposed the chemical weapons deal in Syria, and the ceasefire in Ukraine, meaning Obama didn’t seize the initiative on them. The Founder’s Line is true, we have those as national values, but also when taking the responsibility to lead, we plan strategies, develop tactics on the battlefield, and also fight the wars. Otherwise, it looks conceited of us to simply claim the ability and position to ONLY plan strategy and not have to contribute to the war or battlefield tactics. The last line about Security is interesting, because it seems more like a domestic jab than an international one. Maybe intentional.

OVERALL APPRAISAL/CRITIQUE OF SPEECH

Overall, he seemed energetic in this speech, or at least interested in the dilemma. It’s a nice counter to the man who didn’t want to interrupt his game of golf. However, I think two things could have sold the speech better. Giving the Speech from Baghdad, or in Cairo; second, using the phrase “Radical Islam” not just Radicals. Because the ISIS/ISIL are not subscribing to Hadiths like many others are, it puts them more in the camp of “Quran centered theology.” The use of Jizya, which was an accepted practice in the Golden Horde (Tatar Russia), Cordoba (Moorish Spain), and the Abbasid Caliphate (Middle East minus Turkey and Iran), allowed for a taxation on all non-Muslims for their continuous to be heathens, heretics, or infidels. Executions for converting or spreading those faiths were also practiced in all these former historically MUSLIM/ISLAMIC states.

My father speculated that an Iran option could be in the works, which would be equivalent in the American spectrum to a Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement. While it could be a possibility, the lack of mention for the struggle of the Shia Majority in Iraq was interesting. Also, some mention of religious Minorities, a talking point to reference the Yazidi. I am really piqued by the delineation between Kurds and Iraqis. If all else fails, I guess he or the administration broadly could propose a two-state or three-state solution. The problem is, in any situation, will an independent Kurdistan (Kurdish secular state) be tolerated by its neighbors, or it will be the Armenia/Israel of the Muslim World. The last 1000 years haven’t been particularly great for Kurds under Turkish, Persian, or Arabic rule. Not much happened during the European rule by Brits in the 1900s either. Will the Kurds continue to get beat around?

Zero mention of Israel, which is a positive thing. Zero mention of Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or Iran; meaning the Coalition with Arab “allies” isn’t concrete. That’ll slow down any operation at this point. Also, do any of these countries immediately benefit from fighting for America in the Iraq problem? And who will help the dwindling and outnumbered Syrian opposition forces?

For an interesting contrast, here is the Speech for the War on Terror, on 9/20/2001. I am not saying that Obama should sound like Bush; but I think Bush’s more critical refutation of Al-Qaeda could have been dropped on ISIS/ISIL, since that group was once associated with Al-Qaeda, but got too radical for Al-Qaeda.

US MEDAL OF HONOR

Today if you didn’t know, President Obama granted 24 Medals of Honor to veterans who had been previously overlooked for the award. These veterans were from the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as the 1st and 2nd World Wars and were men of Hispanic, Black, or Jewish origin. I am mentioning this because it’s a moving ceremony, and it is always good to see true Americans, men of valor and bravery, men of courage and resolve, who came home or never will, be rewarded and given the honor they deserve, and at least for a moment, be remembered as heroes.

Its important to remember these veterans, living and deceased, who bravely fought for this country. Regardless of who you support or your political affiliation, everyone can be a proud patriot. If you know someone who served in the armed forces, you shouldn’t just thank them today, but you should show daily the appreciation for your rights you have due to their sacrifices.