Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer

Tom in Iraq as a Military Observer
They sent me here just to watch...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Farewell to the Party of the People

We have greatly benefited that in our republic, we have maintained two viable parties for many decades.  We have lived through temporary gridlock, presidential scandals, congressional scandals galore, financial abundance and drought, war, periods between wars, civil rest and unrest, and opportunities beyond the comprehension of most of the world.

Today, however, we see the unraveling of society within the republic, and one party—the Democratic party—not only celebrating but participating and driving so much of this.  My concern is that the Democratic party as we know it is done. 

I have always been conservative, leaning to the point of being libertarian; but I know that a counter-balance is essential in a free society.  That left-leaning counter is about to implode.

How can I say that when the Tea Party obstructed many centrist movements for half a dozen years?  Because the libertarian efforts did not advocate lawlessness.  For the first time in modern U.S. History, a major political party is advocating lawlessness.  It is the Democratic party.

The mainstream members of the party may not subscribe to what the extremes of the party are advocating, but neither are they objecting.  Choose your gender and nationality, no penalties for threatening behavior in school, give safe harbor to those who have broken the law (the fact that you don’t like the law does not void the law).  Every day I see something that goes beyond disagreement, it is sickening and endorsed by what my parents knew as the party of the people, not to mention that the democratic process of the Democratic party was highjacked from within in the last presidential election.

I believe that most people who have registered Democrat don’t support the fringes that have commandeered the party, but neither can they reign in the radical elements.  Given a choice between supporting a party that suborns lawlessness or seeking political representation elsewhere, I think most Americans will choose the latter.  It likely will not be a conservative-leaning but perhaps a new party with a left-leaning center.  This was once the democratic party.  Now those who long for such a party may have to start anew.

You might think that would be a conservative’s dream.  It is not.  I think that the conservatives of this nation will do very well in the November elections.  A lot of people don’t seem to like President Trump very much, but I think they dislike the thoughts of lawlessness, disrespect for all authority, and setting aside the family as the primary governing force in raising children even more.  At least I pray that the mainstream left (not an oxymoron) still loves America and wants good things for their children and grandchildren.

The problem is that conservatives will likely have a very large majority in legislatures in Washington and state capitals by year’s end.  They will not even need to consult those leaning anywhere left of center to enact legislation, support far-reaching executive orders, and squash initiatives that are not very much right of center.

The Democratic party has a dilemma.  Support the destroy Trump agenda at the cost of supporting lawlessness or work with the man they love to hate and the Republican party.  Let’s take immigration. 

What President Trump proposed at the State of the Union Address was the most balanced approach to fixing the immigration problem in this nation that I have seen in my lifetime.  It was very centrist, perhaps too left-leaning for many conservatives, but the only real proposal for a long-term solution that incorporated a humanitarian fix for the decades of refusing to address the issue. 

The left won’t adopt this because of their anti-Trump and anti-America positions (Yes, I know their stated reasons, but it’s all driven by the destroy Trump agenda).  And, it will kill the party that was once known as the party of the people.

If the Democratic party continues on its extremist and anti-American course, the remnant will watch massive deportations of immigrants because they are here illegally.  No new laws are required.  They already exist.  The path to citizenship for an illegal immigrant as our current president has proposed will be off the table.  No such bill will even make it to his desk.

What is to be done?  Work with the president and Republican party and work for America and do it now.  Hatred of one man cannot prevail when America needs statesmen not anarchy. 

Yes, President Trump has many chinks in his armor.  Quit reading the redacted versions of history.  So did all.  Yes, I did say all.  If you liked the president, then his transgressions seemed minor.  If you didn’t, then they were signs of that the second coming of Christ was only days away.  All presidents fell short of the glory of God, and even of their party, and even of the perceived honor of the office.  None were perfect.  All had significant flaws.

But, through such flawed men, this nation has accomplished much.  We have done it with a two-party system that found creative balance not banality, negotiated options not obstinance, and did so with valor not vitriol. 

There is a near balance among our lawmakers now but there is little progress.  A destroy the president and America while you are at it philosophy helps no one and attracts only those desiring the destruction of liberty and the dominance of darkness in the world.

If Americans don’t stop listening to the fringes and those advocating lawlessness, we will see a swing to the far right before we have a chance at balance again.  I support a conservative approach to government, but I know that a counter-balance is needed. 

That counter-balance has surrendered to absurdity.  I don’t want to say my farewells to the party once called the party of the people, but unless they immediately embrace the law of the land and start working for American instead of the destruction of one man, then goodbye to you.  I would say it was nice knowing you, but I haven’t known you for a long time.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Fair Trade?

Let’s move this gun business along quickly.  Let’s repeal the 2nd and 4th Amendments to start with.
Hold your constitutional horses!  What’s the 4th Amendment got to do with guns?  I just want to change the law—OK, the Supreme Law of the land—to take away protection for guns.
You don’t need a Constitutional Amendment for that.
No?  Really?
In fact, you don’t have to do anything.  Guns have no protection.  The 2nd Amendment protects the right of the people.  Our Constitution protects the rights of people, not things or places.  These first few amendments protect people.
But what’s this 4th Amendment business?
It protects people as well.  It secures the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  It’s tied in closely with the 3rd Amendment that says that the government can’t just start quartering soldiers in your house. 
I’m missing the connection with the 2nd Amendment.
If we take all the guns from those whom currently are guaranteed them as an individual right necessary to the security of a free state, that means we are relying solely upon our government for security and liberty.
Sure.  What’s wrong with that?
Nothing, unless you are ready to surrender in short order all forms of privacy.  The government will provide for the continuation of the government.  It will capriciously search any and all information that previously belonged to you--all with good reason, of course.  Security and safety will be their mantra.  They will place enforcement officials wherever they want, to include your homes.  Privacy as you know it will be gone.  Liberty will be something you can only read about in history books, until they too are prohibited or at least redacted.
That’s just crazy.  We would vote out anyone who took away those rights from us.
And if they suspended elections in the name of security.
We would not let them do that.
How would you stop them?
With protests.
And when those were outlawed?
We have the right to protest.
Today you do.  Will you still have it when the people are no longer capable of taking back their government when it has ceased to be their government?
That could never happen. 
You are entitled to that belief.  I hope you will search through the history of humankind and see what happens when power is unchecked.
Are you telling me that the 2nd Amendment is part of the checks and balances process?
No.  It is not a part it is the sine qua non of that process.
This self-government business is tough business. 
We can agree on that.  The question is are we dedicated to preserving the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity?
That sounds familiar.
It should, it’s from the Preamble to the Constitution—good stuff—if you are into liberty and opposed to government having too much power over you.
But, and this is a big but, is the price that we pay for the right to bear arms too high?
That is the heart of the question.  How high of a price are we as Americans willing to pay to preserve liberty?  And how do we measure this price?
That last one is easy.  We measure it in lives lost. 
Fair enough.  There are metrics available for that.  Should we just look at school and church shootings are all gun deaths.
All.  Definitely all. 
OK, sounds good.  The CDC reports that there is an average of 33,000 deaths per year in this country due to firearms.
Wow!  That should be convincing enough in itself.
That is a big number by anyone’s measure.  Before I jump on this bandwagon based upon numbers, I must ask if you are in favor of slavery?
What?  Are you crazy?  Nobody is in favor of slavery.  I think slavery is an abomination to the human spirit. 
I agree.
So why do you bring such a bizarre question into this discussion?
Because despite the very exceptional efforts of our Founding Fathers in drafting our Constitution, they did not guarantee liberty to all.  There was a movement to rid this new nation of slavery during the Constitutional Convention, but it could not garner enough support.
But we fixed it later.
Yes, we did.  Were you glad that we did?
Of course!  Who wouldn’t be!  You can’t just deny a certain group of people liberty.
No?  I think that you can, and we had done just that for almost a century as an independent nation.  Slavery was the order of the day in many states.
Yes, but Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation set the slaves free.
At what price?
What do you mean?
We are measuring the cost of liberty in lives, are we not?
How many American lives were lost in the Civil War?
Well, I don’t know, let’s say a bunch.
Bananas come in bunches.  Civil War casualties come in the hundreds of thousands.  I think the conservative estimate is 618,000.  Other estimates push 700,000.
Those were not all from firearms.
Correct.  About one-third to one-half were killed in during the course of the battle.  About another third due to infection and disease that followed being wounded.  There were—as always in battle—some non-combat casualties.  But the direct and indirect number of deaths from guns was pushing half a million.  That’s a big number.
Yes, but that’s war.
Yes, a civil war with nearly all casualties being American.
But, it’s still war.
It was a war with the liberty of some Americans at stake.  Was it worth the price paid in American blood?
Who can answer that?
I will rephrase.  Would you be content to be an American and have a segment of the population that was still enslaved today?
No.  Of course not.  But I don’t think slavery would have continued this long.  The world is changing.  Slavery is not acceptable.
Again, I suggest a review of history and current events.  There is still slavery in the world.  It might be called indentured servitude, but it is modern slavery.
Yeah, OK, but we would have gotten rid of it here by now.
So, instead of a violent civil war, you would have just let things run their course for another 100 or 150 years until people saw the light and the commercial interests of slave owners would give way to public opinion?
That’s not fair.  How can you ask me to decide that?
You don’t have to.  Others decided it was worth the very high price.  Your decision is how high of a price are we as a free people willing to pay to preserve liberty in this modern century?
But so many victims are innocent.  They did not deserve to die.
That is beyond discussion.  So many lives have been taken maliciously.  We are in total agreement.
So, what are we to do?  Is there no other way than protecting guns?
Remember, our Constitution does not protect guns but…
People.  I understand.  I get it.  I also get that the other protections guaranteed to the people might fall as well if the ultimate protection—to kick an unjust government to the curb forcibly if needed—was surrendered.  But, I can’t stomach the violence anymore.  What course of action is left to us?
For the past half-century, we have ignored the problem and cried out against the symptoms of our national disease.
We don’t value life as something sacred anymore.
Life is a gift from God.  It is special.  It is beyond special.  It is sacred.  We must value life from the womb to old age.
You mean our thoughts and prayers are with you.  I’m tired of hearing that.
Those words do get old after a while, especially, when nothing is done to treat the disease.  Those words are the best that we can do if we choose to continue to ignore the real problem.
Valuing life?
Do we need a law?
We have plenty of laws.  In fact, we surely have more than we need.
So what do we need?
Love.  We need to commit to loving one another.  This is God’s model.
Do you still want to keep your guns and love one another?
It would be wonderful to see the day when we turn our weapons into farm implements and pruning shears.
You mean swords into plowshares.  Not all gun control people are biblically lacking.
But until that time…
I will stand vigilant against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  The latter has not reared its ugly head to the point that the election process has become obsolete, but I would prefer to be ready and provisioned if it does.
But is it worth the cost?

Good question.  What’s your answer now?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Let's have the gun debate

Let’s have the gun debate.  Let’s consider all factors not just those that support your slant on the subject.  Let’s consider the intent of the founders of our Republic, the cost of liberty in this post-modern world, and the consequences and sequels of repealing or eroding the sanctity of the Second Amendment.  That is what most people who advocate gun control are asking for—to make an ordinary law supersede the Law of the Land or to amend that supreme law.

I just ask that we consider what happens if we remove something that is a part of a very interconnected system.  Let’s not ride the wave of emotion while ignoring that we might be crashing into a rocky coastline instead of a sandy shore.

It’s just one amendment, right?

Yes, and no.  Consider that the first few amendments to our Constitution are about personal rights and liberties.  We are free to peacefully assemble, worship as we desire, and even petition the sovereign for redress of grievances.

We are free from excessive government intrusion in our lives.  We can’t just be rounded up and sentenced.  We have legal protections from our own government.  We even have a right to privacy that is not enumerated but which our highest court found in the penumbras or edges of other rights.

Within these first few amendments are contained the right to free speech and a free press.  Most believe these are critical to a free society.  But what if, speech and media became inundated with falsehood and deception.  Oops.  That’s happened.

Are we ready to regulate the press?  Are we prepared for censorship of our tweets and posts and all things communicative?  With the amount of fake news and never-ending editorials masquerading as news across the modern media, maybe the price we pay for free speech and the free press is too high.  Let’s consider kicking it to the curb as well. 

And this whole business of the right to privacy might not fit well in our modern world.  If the government could keep better watch on everyone, we might have fewer school shootings.

Hold your constitutional horses!  I thought that we were talking about guns?

We are.  I will make my point.  The right of the people to keep and bear arms is the right to make sure that the other rights and freedoms of the people are not revoked.  If our government becomes tyrannical (the concern of our founders) or perhaps Orwellian would be better suited for this time, we must be equipped to take our government back.

I don’t ever want to see that day.  So, I ask that those who want to enact some measure of gun control, consider that our founders connected this whole business of self-government by first separating executive, legislative, and judicial power at the federal level; then separating rights and liberties that belong to the federal government, state government, and the individual.  The mainstay of individual freedoms resides in the Bill of Rights.  The founders of our republic also buffered the potential for emotional tidal waves that might put an Oliver Cromwell on an American throne.  We know this as the Electoral College. 

Individually, we might not like the college or the right to bear arms or the protections afforded liars posing as journalists; but these are not stand-alone protections.  Our system of government was surely blessed by God to withstand the consolidation of power in any one area.

It’s not the most efficient system in the world.  Dictatorships are generally much more efficient, but for almost 242, we have valued liberty—especially individual liberty—over efficiency.

So, let’s have the debate.  Let’s bring in all the facts and information including the impact on our Constitutionally guaranteed liberties.  I would think that you might perceive my political and constitutional leanings, but I am willing to listen to facts—complete data not something skewed to support any position—and I will see if I need to accept some or all of the factually supported proposals.

Part of this consider-all-factors discussion must be the motivation to amend the Constitution.  Why do people want gun control?  Is it to give the government more control?  Is it to save innocent lives?

This is where some people are going to become angry that they read this far.  If it is to save innocent lives, then let’s include the abortion issue in this all factors discussion.  Those are the most innocent of lives taken by the hundreds of thousands each year.

But, the Supreme Court says that the fetus is not a life. You can’t argue with that!  The Supreme Court also upheld that the Second Amendment is a right guaranteed to the individual. 

So, if we are going to change things at the fundamental level to save lives—innocent lives, let’s get to some real life saving and remove the right to choose (kill) from our acquired individual liberties. 

This business of self-government is tough business.  Emotions must never carry the day.  We must have the same inspiration and dedication to make changes that we believe essential to preserving our liberties not just for ourselves but for our posterity. 

Let’s have the full discussion on guns and life and liberty.  Set aside the vitriol.  Use all of the facts and statistics and make a case for what you think is best.  Listen to the positions of others who abide by the same inspiration, dedication, and self-discipline in their arguments.  Then see what the best course for our nation is.

This is discussion and debate not a vitriolic condemnation of opinions other than our own.  If we are going to have a real debate, then do it right.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

School Shootings

I believe that the long-term solution to the school shooting problem lies in returning to God, valuing life, and loving our neighbor.  That said, we need a short-term plan to mitigate the existing hatred and skewed moral compass of too many in our society so that we don’t have to endure shooting after shooting.  We must address the condition of the human heart and security in our schools concurrently.

I do not want teachers armed.  It sounds like a plausible idea on the surface, unless you know what teaching involves.  We do not need to add one more thing to the burden that teachers already carry on top of their teaching duties.  Teachers must focus on teaching.

Security demands full-time attention.  Passive measures and active shooter procedures are good but insufficient.  If security is truly required by the nature of the threat—and in many places it surely is—at least one person if not more must be dedicated solely to the purpose of security.  Numbers depend upon the school population and campus.

If you have cameras, they must be monitored constantly, or they only record the tragedy instead of providing a real chance of preempting it.  Where security is required, it is not an additional duty.  Someone must proactively be in charge of security on a full-time basis.  Safety measures, training, and crisis procedures should still be a part of each school system’s security plan, but someone must be on the job full time.  Someone must have the stand-alone duty of security.  They may or may not have a security staff depending upon local circumstances.

We have two major balancing acts.  The first involves guns.  That is a constitutional question.  The liberty of the republic and the perceived security of those represented must be balanced with wisdom not more words of hatred screamed at the President.  If the will of the people is truly to change this fundamental document, there is a process.  It is a difficult process but not impossible as 26 Amendments to our Constitution have verified.  On average, that’s an amendment for every 10 years of our republic’s lifespan.  Yes, these changes come in seasons, but there is no reason to ignore the constitutional process based on emotional appeal.  The process still works so if the overwhelming majority of the nation truly desires change, the door is open.

The second balancing act requires no constitutional action.  It takes money and willpower.  Will we decide to secure our schools with some measure of a full-time security force?  Budgets are tight in most states.  More security means more expenditures.  Whether it comes from an already strained education budget or constantly underfunded law enforcement budget is not the question.  The question is:  Are we ready to pay to secure our schools?

The answers to both balancing acts will be irrelevant if we don’t address the underlying problem—the decayed condition of the human heart.  We do not value life in this country.  We kill babies in the womb.  We ignore the signs and music that say, “Kill all the cops" or "I'm gonna shoot up a school.”  Our movies and video games sell best when there is plenty of blood.

It is time to turn our hearts and our nation back to God.  We tried it without him for a few decades.  How’s that working for us?  God first gave these words to his chosen people, but they surely apply to us now more than ever.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

Lord, Heal our land!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Services will be held next week for a long-time friend of many

Services will be held next week for a long-time friend of many.  Enlightened and enlightening were trademarks of our dearly beloved companion who lost a battle with acrimony and vitriol over the past several years.  Civil Discourse—known to many as just Friendly Conversation—died a painful death, holding on to hope until the end, but the end has come.

It is a sad day in our nation and even in the small communities where Friendly was known so well.  In the halls of government, Civil Discourse was recognized and welcome on every occasion.  We will miss Civil Discourse in the days, months, years, and decades ahead.  While time is said to heal all wounds, only a true memorial to our friend written on each and every heart will bring back our companion who was truly a servant to all.

I already miss Civil—a true friend and often a mentor.  Modern conversation is terse, hollow, and mean-spirited without the presence of mutual respect.  I have always enjoyed different opinions, perspectives, and thought processes; however, without Civil Discourse, it’s all just hateful noise.

I enjoyed learning something from people who thought differently than I did.  That’s almost a deadly sin now—to listen expectantly and respectfully to others because we might not actually know everything ourselves.  I miss you Civil Discourse but at least I can say that I had the privilege to know you and call you friend.

The service for Civil Discourse will be without meaningful comment so as to avoid memories that might offend those with nothing better to do than being offended.

Civil Discourse
BC 500  –  AD 2018

Rest in Peace

Friday, November 10, 2017

Please stop leveraging the pain of victims for something you have done nothing about for 228 years

It is time to stop the emotional appeals for more gun control based upon the most recent tragedies.  Each tragedy brings a call for consoling the victim’s families and those who hurt for them.  It is not the time to leverage their pain for your purpose.

How heartless!

No, this is compassion.  This is the time for prayer and healing not the cynical comments about the very things needed at those time.

If you want to change gun laws; change the Constitution.  You have had 228 years.  Present your facts, make your argument, and do what is required to change the Constitution.  It is not an easy process but the evidence of 27 amendments tell us that it is very much doable. Yes, 10 of them were ratified at once.  The last amendment took almost 203 years, but the process is there for the using.  Most take what most would consider a reasonable amount of time.

And now is the time to make your move.  Ignorance as to the purpose of the Second Amendment is at an all time high.  Emotions are high.  Understanding of a system designed to prevent tyranny is at an all-time low.  If gun control is your objective, start the process to amend the Constitution.

But with all of this violence, can’t we just ignore the Constitution just this once? 

It seems the cries for this grow louder each year, but they ignore our history and the consequences of setting aside the wisdom of our founders.  I don’t think there has ever been a more divinely inspired group of men in the history of the world who designed a system of government than our Founding Fathers.

Yeah, sure, what a bunch of high grandiose patriot-speak.  We need changes!

Hmm…  Let’s think about what happens when we ignore the Constitution.  The last declared war for this country was World War II.  We have not declared war in more than 75 years.  Can you believe it!  We have enjoyed 75 years of peace.

What?  We have not enjoyed 75 years of peace?  Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Beirut, Panama, two Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, the war on terror, and the occasional firefight in Libya or Syria happened without a declaration of war.

How can that be?  Only Congress can declare war!  The President can only make war in response to an attack, which in today’s fast paced environment would surely include the imminence of attack.  But these conditions were not applicable in Vietnam, Korea, or the Gulf Wars.

You counter, “But now we have the War Powers Resolution.”

Consider what value is an ordinary law such as what we most often call the War Powers Act if the Supreme Law of the Land—the Constitution is ignored.  This act did not clarify the Constitution.  It attempted to regain part of the authority of Congress that should have never been lost.

Back to guns.  If you want to enact new gun laws, then make your case for amending the Constitution first.  Realize that casualties from tragedies that involved firearms will be insufficient.  You must demonstrate that the republic will be as strong and as safe as it is with the Second Amendment intact.  You must convince the American people that they will never have to throw off a tyrannical government—ever. 

It is a tough challenge but an emotional appeal to bypass the Law of the Land is cheap publicity at the expense of hurting families.

Casualties—the cost of liberty—are sometimes high.  Consider the casualties of our own Civil War.  While it wasn’t all about slavery, owning a human being was not something that our nation could live with any longer.  It would have been less costly in American blood not to have engaged in this war, but we did, and we paid the price.

Was it worth it?  Few would say that they would rather have continued into this century with slavery.  But the price was high, very high in American blood.

The question that those who want gun control in a nation that preserves the right to bear arms at a foundational level have to answer is:  Has the cost in blood been too much?

They must answer this question in full.  They must account for the price we paid so that all people could enjoy liberty as free men and women and compare it to the price we pay for liberty by empowering the citizenry to throw off an unjust, tyrannical government. 

It’s a tough sell, especially among those who understand our system of government and know that liberty always comes at a price; but if you are serious about it, start the process.

In the meantime, quit leveraging the pain of victims of evil that resides in the hearts of a few.

For more on the purpose of the Second Amendment, read Paradox of Power.

It is the nature of our republic, that our domestic tranquility is afloat on a sea that separates revolution and tyranny.

Monday, November 6, 2017

He knew what he signed up for...

I don’t know all the facts, but that has not stopped the media from reporting what they think happened.  About what?  Something that President Trump may or may not have said.

He knew what he signed up for.

This evidently got people up in arms.  That’s a poor metaphor considering the topic of that sentence was a young man under arms—a serviceman deployed to hostile territory—and the people raising a ruckus had never been near a shot fired in anger.

Here is my thought.  Whether the president said it or not, it is a good thing to say.  It should be accompanied by a follow-on statement.

He knew what he signed up for, and
He went anyway!

That’s just courage.  It is common among those whom I served with.  I think it is still ubiquitous among today’s service men and women. 

Over 72 years ago, American Admiral Chester Nimitz reflected on the incredible sacrifice of the Marines who fought at Iwo Jima by saying, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

Valor is still present among today’s fighting men and women.  They knew what they signed up for and they went anyway.  And they went anyway!

Semper Fidelis
Bravo Zulu

Well done!