Nuclear Codes

A few days ago, I saw a reference in a Democratic advertisement against Donald Trump asking if I would trust him with the nation’s nuclear codes.  That’s an interesting question, as I spent almost a third of my Air Force career at the other end of those same nuclear codes.

As a Minuteman ICBM launch crew member, I inspected, inventoried, and signed for those same launch codes several times a month when my crew assumed alert.  It was a simple process but one that never became routine.  Every time I saw those codes, I was reminded of the incredible destructive power that was about to be placed in my care.  I never questioned my willingness to use those codes, if called upon, and trusted completely the integrity of the process by which I would be asked to open them.  This was made very clear to us one night, 8 August, 1974, when then President Richard Nixon resigned as President effective at noon the next day.   As we watched his announcement that evening on our little TV, I clearly remember thinking to myself that I was sure steps had been taken to ensure that any irrational act by Nixon would never be acted upon and I did not need to question the security or the validity of the codes we had in the control center.

Which brings us to this comment about who should soon have charge of the nation’s nuclear codes.  Clearly, this power must only be entrusted to someone who clearly and completely understands the gravity of their power and has the upmost respect for our national security.  Since one of the candidates proved when she was Secretary of State that she had little respect for security of information that was classified at the same level as those nuclear launch codes, I cannot help but be concerned.  Although it is true that Mr Trump has, at times, said things that I disagree with, I have seen no evidence that he does not understand or respect the systems we use to protect classified information.  I also know that had I, or any other nuclear crew member, mishandled those launch codes, or any of the other classified information we maintained in the control center, in the same manner as Mrs Clinton has (according to the FBI), our punishments would have been vastly different than hers!

On the plus side, I have no doubt that the conscientious men and women who are not politicians but fellow members of the United States military will continue to protect the integrity of sensitive and vital national security information regardless of who is in the White House.

 

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Political Warfare … AKA Campaign 2016

Well, it has started.

In spite of all the admonitions from various leaders (including President Obama) that political discourse in the United States needs to be more civil and respectful, it appears highly likely that we Americans will be faced with a long, hot, summer and fall campaign.  As I wrote before, I miss the days of political moderation when zealots (of both the left and the right) were merely annoying …. not in charge!!

Clearly this election cycle is like none we’ve ever seen before.  On one side, we’ve had an avowed Socialist running against the ultimate political insider.  On the other, we started with seventeen candidates from both inside and outside the DC beltway, and ended up with a billionaire businessman with absolutely no political experience.  We are clearly in uncharted waters.

Although Mr Trump was not my top choice this year, he will probably get my vote primarily because I believe he will pick top notch people to work with him and actually listen to what they have to say.  To those who would scoff at this perspective, let me remind you that building a multi-national business with thousands of employees is not something easily done by an idiot.  It takes a lot of management skill and the work of a talented group of people at a lot of levels to ensure success in a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  Of course he has made mistakes along the way … nature of the beast.  But, his success should be envied, not denigrated.  Personally, I’d love to see a government headed up by people such as Gov Chris Christy as Attorney General, Mayor Rudy Giulani at Homeland Security, Dr Ben Carson at Health and Human Services, a return of Condoleezza Rice at State, and so on.  In other words, a talented group of people that will make Mr Trump look as good as president as his staff has done at Trump International.

(I do wish he would develop a bit thicker skin and stay away from childish verbal barbs.  Perhaps that will come with time.)

On the other hand, I could never, ever, support Mrs Clinton for any office that involves the public trust.  That she still garners so much support in spite of all of the hard evidence of her misdeeds is stunning. Her out and out lies, proven with the release of her emails, to the families of those killed in Benghazi is disgraceful.  On a more personal note,  I dealt with classified information for most of my Air Force career, with a lot of it above the Top Secret level when I was a Minuteman ICBM launch control officer.  Her handling of materials as Secretary of State is appalling.  Clearly, if I had treated the materials entrusted to me with the same level of ignorance and carelessness as she did, I’d probably still be in jail!  But, then, I’m not a “Clinton.”  The rules are different.  Just ask her husband, Bill, about the penalties for lying under oath during a Federal investigation (a crime called perjury).  None!!  All you have to do is shift the narrative to “it was just a sex scandal!”  I am so disappointed that she is the best the Democrats could come up with to lead our nation.

It should be an interesting few months.

I miss Ronald Reagan ….

 

What a “radical” year!!

It’s been a tough year for political moderation.

As I passed my 65th birthday this past September, I am reminded that I have had the opportunity to watch the state of politics in the US since the 1950’s to today.  I’ve seen quite a lot of change.  Some good …. and a lot not so good.

The first election I can really remember much about was Kennedy vs Nixon in 1960.  My mother, in particular, was totally enamored by John F. Kennedy and his family.  Mom didn’t care much at all about position papers, she just liked Kennedy’s style.  And he did have style!  Richard Nixon did not.  (It took Nixon years to learn to look and speak decently on television!)

I don’t recall many issues from back then (I was around 10 at the time), but I do know that Kennedy accomplished a lot of things in his short tenure.  He challenged us all to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  He had the courage to stand up to Khrushchev and the Soviet Union’s placement of nuclear arms in Cuba, and he challenged us to reach for the Moon by the end of the 1960’s.  He supported tax cuts to spur business growth.  And reached out to help oppressed people overseas fight back against the scourge of Communism.

In other words, he was a pretty conservative fellow by today’s standards!

Here in Washington State, we were represented by Democrats like Henry Jackson, and Republicans like Dan Evans.  Moderates all.

None of whom could be elected today.  None.

Doesn’t make any difference which side of the aisle you are on, there are no more moderates welcome on the political stage. In order to make the activists, and the money brokers, happy a candidate (and his/her ideas) must cater to and placate only the extremes.

Which means very little good is happening.  Just gridlock because of extremist ideology.

An example …. “Political correctness” continues to stifle free speech and our religious rights.  The victimization culture continues to gloss over real issues for sensationalism.  We have so many people yelling, a majority of people have stopped listening.

After years of “discrimination,” members of the LGBT community won the right to marry.  Ok, fine.  What someone does in their own home with their gender identity is their business, not mine.  When some “gay” couple decides to have a wedding, they find that a staunchly Christian (or Muslim) owned business prefers not to participate.  So they go nuts – calling on the government to intervene in this “discrimination.”  Lawsuits are filed.  The Christian owned business is sometimes even punished (fined) by the government for their religious beliefs.  Then, a lot of Christian folks get upset about this discrimination against their beliefs, and they work to pass a law to protect Christian owned businesses against that kind of discrimination.  And so it spins out of control … one side against the other.

I have observed over the years that name calling and lawyers are never a good mix when you want to solve a problem!!

But, the solution is so easy.  Stop yelling.  Stop suing.  Find another baker/caterer/photographer who doesn’t disagree with your lifestyle choice and enjoy your day.  Then the Christian baker/caterer/photographer doesn’t have to go out of business or pay fines, and the state legislature doesn’t have to pass a law to protect them!!  We all just get along.

Jesus (basically) said:  “Treat your neighbor as you, yourself, would like to be treated.”  If both sides of society’s conflicts would just follow this simple rule, most of our conflicts would disappear.

And, then, the political moderates can once again speak out and serve all Americans … and not just the extremes.

Ken

 

 

EVIL

Recent events this week, the loss of four brave comrades in arms to an Islamic terrorist, is sort of the last straw. I need to vent a little, so fair warning!!

In my soon to be 65 years on this planet, I have seen a lot of politicians and “leaders” come and go. Some have been good, a few inspiring, some terrible.

The way I see the difference between liberal and conservative, Republican or Democrat, boils down to two broad areas.

The first is how much do we take from those who succeed in life to give to those who do not or who need help? There are a lot of shades of grey in this dichotomy. And, I think we can have a spirited set of debates, disagreements and compromises on what is enough and how best to solve these problems. That’s good for our democracy.

But the second broad area is far more sinister … it is the perception of EVIL in the world and how to react to that EVIL. Here there is clearly a monumental difference in world views that I have difficulty reconciling. There IS EVIL in our communities … thugs, drug dealers, thieves, murderers …. they are the personification of EVIL that we see in our neighborhoods. But, there is also EVIL in the outside world as well. Evils such as “systems” including Communism, Socialism, or Naziism. Evil in those who bend a world religion to meet their own sick goals .. be it Islamic terrorists or the KKK flashing their “Christian” symbols around.

Effectively dealing with EVIL is not magic … you confront it head on, refuse to “negotiate” with it, remove it quietly if possible, but sometimes you must step up and remove it with as much force as is necessary.

This is where the current crop of Democrats/liberals/progressives completely and totally fail. You cannot trust or negotiate in good faith with EVIL. Period. History has taught us this over and over. “Gun Free Zones” will not stop EVIL people … it only prevents honest, law abiding people, from protecting themselves. Sanctuary cities with lax law enforcement do not protect their citizens from “immigrant” criminals. Agreements with terrorists will not stand the test of time – the terrorists will do anything to advance their goals including lying and cheating on “agreements.” Drawing a “red line in the sand” and then ignoring it only leads to one failure after another.

I could go into so many examples of this in the past … Hitler and Neville Chamberlain, Jimmy Carter and the Iranian mullahs, Ronald Reagan vs Ghadaffi in Libya, Mayor Giuliani vs New York crime lords … but they all reflect the same result.

You succeed when you recognize, confront and remove EVIL. You fail when you do nothing but talk and give in to them.

We need leaders who will succeed in dealing with EVIL … not those who refuse to accept that it exists. Those are the leaders we should be proud of and that we should seek out, no matter what “party” they belong to.

Henry Standing Bear’s Canadian “twin”

As many of us wait patiently for Craig Johnson’s new Longmire book and season 4 of our favorite TV series to arrive on Netflix, there are times we need to fill our TV sessions with other things.

As I have alluded to before, one of the shows my wife and I have found is a Canadian series called Heartland. The first 5 seasons are available on Netflix.  (The show is just wrapping it’s 8th season overall on CBC and has been renewed for a 9th.)

Although radically different in plot than Longmire (it’s the story of a young girl and her family horse farm – a long way from our Sheriff’s work!!) … the two shows share several things in common: spectacular scenery and locations (Heartland is filmed near Calgary amidst the Canadian Rockies), excellent acting and writing, a respectful relationship with Native America, and wonderful music, in this case from some little known Canadian artists.

As a nice sample, if you’re a fan of Henry Standing Bear (which I am, especially the Henry we get to know in the Longmire books), there’s a particular episode I think you’ll enjoy. It comes near the end of season 2, called “Full Circle” (episode 17).

Our heroine, Amy, is having trouble with her horse and takes it to a Native American friend (Victor Whitetail) of her deceased mother. The scenes between Amy and Victor are really well done and are full of inspiring Native American wisdom. Several times, I found myself saying “Victor sounds just like Henry …” There’s some side story stuff that may not make much sense if you’re not watching the entire series involving Amy’s older sister, Lou, but just pay close attention to the scenes with Amy and Victor. Truly amazing. Near the end of the show, there is a wonderful music track that made me instantly think “man, that music would be so cool in an episode of Longmire!!”

I’d love to hear your comments so please feel free to post back.

Cheers!!

A new “guilty pleasure” – Heartland

One of the great features about Netflix is the “suggested” shows they come up with.  Sometimes, the suggestions don’t make any sense and sometimes they are just plain off the wall.  But, sometimes they can open up a jewel.

In early December, all three of us in the family came down with the flu/cold/sinus infection … aka the “crud.”  And we were all hit pretty hard.  Ryan stuck to his games and Lulu and I watched some TV.  One of the suggestions that popped up on our Longmire page, was a CBC drama called Heartland.  We started watching episode one of season one (of eight, so far), and were hooked immediately.

Which is no doubt kind of strange, because we’re probably not really in the show’s “target” market!!  My guess the show is aimed primarily at young folks and probably mostly female.

Well, I’m neither but I love it anyway!!

In a nutshell, the story is about a family who owns a ranch in Alberta near the Canadian Rockies.  The Mom perishes in an auto accident in the first episode leaving a Grandpa, two sisters, a neighbor girl who hangs around a lot, and some other folks to make the ranch work.  The primary focus of the ranch, named Heartland, is on horses (something I also know absolutely nothing about).  The younger sister, Amy, has apparently inherited her Mom’s knack for understanding horses and the horses play an integral role in most of the story lines.

There’s also a few romances to go around and associated other family issues.

What I have grown to love about the show is the excellent writing, strong cast, and glorious scenery contained within each episode.  (Sound familiar … like Longmire?)

I especially like the way they have treated the various generational romances.  For example, in the early seasons, Amy is supposed to be a high school student, and the Grandpa (Jack) sponsors a young man (Ty) who is on probation from the criminal justice system to work on the ranch.  Ty and Amy start out as friends, and over the course of the first several seasons, they form a deep and loving relationship.  But, along the way there are a lot of ups and downs, and the writers have done an excellent job of showing how youthful selfishness and jealousy can often derail an otherwise great relationship.  Ty and Amy eventually work things out and (spoiler alert) will get married in Season 8.

It’s a series that’s filled with positive messages from all of the generations.  Grandpa Jack is about my age and I can clearly identify with a lot of thing he says and does.

And then there’s the scenery.  Wow!!  The ranch is supposedly located just south and west of Calgary, and the various characters quite often head to the nearby Canadian Rocky Mountains.  One of my favorite locales is Jack’s “fishing cabin” which is a nice sized rustic cabin built on the side of a river in the foothills.  Several couples have spent time there, including Jack and his special lady, and even though I’m not a fisherman, seeing Jack fly fishing in the river is a spectacular sight!!

The series is currently in season eight on Sunday evenings on CBC (which we get on cable).  Seasons 1-5 are currently on Netflix and are thus easy to find.  We watched many of the shows from seasons 6 and 7 on YouTube although the quality was quite poor.

Give Heartland a try.

photo-blog-heartland

Longmire’s Appeal

(Originally written on Sept 24, 2014)

This fall, I was watching the season finale last evening of Dallas on TNT. My “guilty pleasure” tie to Dallas comes from long ago … when we all thought JR Ewing was such a lovable villain.

As the show ended, my wife Lulu (who is not a real fan of Dallas) asked … “has it been renewed?” I don’t know. No idea. And, I really don’t care. If it’s there, I’ll probably watch, but if not, I’ll watch something else. It’s that way with virtually all of the TV shows on the air right now. OK tshapeimage_2o watch, but if they disappear, it’s really no big deal for me. Another good example .. CSI: NY. I really enjoyed the show and totally respect star Gary Sinise’s work with veterans. But, when it left CBS I really didn’t fixate on it.

But, Longmire is different. Why?

For me, it’s a combination of factors. It starts, of course, with Craig Johnson’s books and his wonderful ability to weave a good story. Reading his books is like an escape to a simpler time and place where values remain more important than technology. A place where imperfect people live, work, love and, sometimes, die. All built around a core of characters who we can identify with.

Of course, the TV series really doesn’t follow Craig’s story lines. The show has it’s own storyline and has managed to carve out a “world” that is both engaging and honest. It’s full of people we can respect (Walt, Vic, Henry, Ferg, Cady, Lucian, Mathias) while at the same time showing us folks with a dark side as well (Branch, Jacob, Barlow). The writing has been nothing less than suburb, the acting is natural and engaging, and the producers have made sure that the cinematography is better than any other series on television. All of these factors combine to make Longmire’s demise all the more painful.

Longmire IS different than most series TV. It’s engaging without being “in your face.” It’s storytelling with moral values of good vs evil thrown in for good measure. It’s acting and visual images and dramatic music that is much more like a movie than a TV show. It’s stories about people we have learned to trust and who often think before talking or acting.

It is, in my opinion, the best crafted show on television and if it is not picked up by another network, it’s not only the 6 million devoted fans who have been watching that will loose out. It’s the millions more who need to be introduced to Walt and the folks in Absaroka County. They are the ones who should be reminded that good needs to triumph over evil; and honesty, and integrity, are real values that we need in our society.