DEFINITELY Political!

The “Intelligence Community Report” has been released and, as I expected, it doesn’t say anything. The IC claims that (1) Russian President Vladimir Putin  ordered a campaign to influence the US election, (2) that Russian intelligence services conducted cyberespionage against US political establishments and (3) that they used certain outlets – the Russian English language TV channel and RT.com, DCLeaks.com, Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks –  to disseminate the information. Yet they only offer supposition with no actual evidence to back up their claims. Of course, they insinuate that such evidence is classified.

Let me mention a few things. First, I am an Air Force veteran and held Secret and Top Secret clearances. I was required to read classified documents and attended classified intelligence briefings. I am also a published author and was cleared by the Air Force to access classified documents while doing research. I was advised that documents are classified for three reasons – (1) to protect national security matters (2) to protect relations between the US and foreign governments and (3) to protect reputations, meaning the reputations of high placed government officials and military officers. Classified documents are routinely declassified after a specified period of time. For instance, Air Force unit records are classified for thirty years but some documents have been classified for as much as half a century and perhaps longer. An example is the intelligence report of the interrogation of the senior Japanese officers responsible for the defense of Kyushu, the Japanese island where the Allies planned to land in the initial invasion of Japan. This report was classified for a half century for one reason – to protect the reputation of President Harry Truman, who ordered the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The claim that Putin personally ordered a campaign to affect the US election is very sketchy, although the report claims that the three intelligence agencies involved, the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency agree “with high confidence.” They also claim that Putin and the Russian government “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.” However, while the FBI and CIA claimed “high confidence” in this claim, the NSA’s confidence is “moderate.” That the NSA’s position is essentially “maybe” is significant because it is the agency that actually collects electronic data.

The report uses the term “to denigrate Secretary Cinton” and “discredit Secretary Clinton” numerous times, which indicates that the report was political. Bear in mind that this report was requested by President Barrack Obama AFTER Donald Trump was elected. This is an indication that he intended it for political purposes, specifically to foster discontent among Clinton supporters and to undermine President Trump’s administration.

The “Intelligence Community” is actually of recent origin. It came into existence in 1981 by executive order of President Ronald Reagan, who sought to increase the access of the CIA to classified information. The role of the IC was increased in 2004 by President George W. Bush. Bush’s order established the new Director of National Intelligence to oversee ALL intelligence agencies of the US government, both civilian and military.  The office was initially proposed by Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein, Jay Rockefeller and Bob Graham. The position was formalized by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. The DNI is a political appointee, as is the Director of the CIA and the Director of the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) although the latter is an active duty military officer.

Although the report states that there’s no evidence of actual Russian tampering in the election, such as hacking voting machines, it states that the Russians were influential in disseminating information to “denigrate” and “discredit” Secretary Clinton. Never mind that the DNC leaks revealed information about how the committee operated rather than anything about Clinton, other than that the DNC favored Clinton over Bernie Sanders as the candidate. They claim that the Russians disseminated information through RT, a Russian television and internet network. However, the information put out by RT was no different than that circulated by conservative web sites and news outlets. I would consider the claims made in the report as disinformation, meaning that it is not really information at all.

I rate the report as nothing but political bullshit.

 

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“Intelligence” or Supposition?

I’ve not posted anything in awhile because so much has been going on I’ve not decided which to talk about. Now that the so-called “intelligence community” is making waves about “The Russians” and Julian Assange is saying essentially that they’re full of shit, I’ve decided to talk about government intelligence. I’ll preface this by stating that in 12 years in the Air Force I had a few intelligence briefings and did some things that weren’t talked about.

Let me start this off by saying that the term “seventeen intelligence agencies” used by Hillary Clinton in her claim that these agencies had determined the information published on WikiLeaks came from “the Russians” is a misnomer. There are actually only two intelligence agencies, the CIA and the DIA, but there are fifteen organizations that have intelligence-collecting arms that report to the Director of Intelligence in some form or fashion. These organizations use the term “intelligence” but their role is actually the gathering of information from other countries by spying. In short, the “intelligence community” is a euphemism for America’s spies. Take a look at the list at the link above to see who they are and, to some extent, what they do.

Intelligence is collected in a number of ways. Some are sophisticated electronic intelligence gathering methods using airborne, seaborne and ground stations to record radio communications and other means of electronics communications of foreign governments. Others are as simple as eavesdropping on conversations in hotel bars or reading newspapers. The CIA uses foreign intelligence sources including paid informants who may be anything from a janitor in a foreign government building to high-placed government officials who are passing on their government’s secrets to US agents, for an often sizeable fee. Such information may or may not be accurate.

The problem is that the “intelligence community,” meaning Director of Intelligence James Clapper, a retired USAF general and Barack Obama, claim that the Emails published several months ago by Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks were hacked and leaked by “the Russians.” Assange says the information did not come from the Russians, which has caused a big uproar in Washington. Craig Murray, a British politician and former diplomat, has said he picked up the document in Washington, DC and turned them over to Assange. (Assange, who has promised never to reveal sources, has said Murray doesn’t speak for WikiLeaks.) Clapper’s claim seems to be based on information provided by CrowdStrike, a private cybersecurity firm employed by the Democratic National Committee.

Now, “intelligence” is one thing, but drawing the correct conclusion is another. Each of the intelligence organizations employs large number of “analysts” whose job is to look at the information that has been gleaned from various sources and come up with some kind of report. Sometimes they get it right, but more often they don’t. One of the biggest intelligence failures in history was the Allied forces in Europe’s failure to detect the massive German attacks in Belgium that led to the “Battle of the Bulge.” General George Patton’s G-2 correctly reported that the Germans were building up their forces in the Ardennes but Eisenhower’s own G-2 ignored the report. Intelligence failed to predict the North Korean attacks on South Korea in 1950, intelligence failed to predict North Vietnamese attacks on South Vietnam in 1972, intelligence failed to predict the fall of the Soviet Union and intelligence claimed Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” when, in fact, all such weapons had been destroyed. In short, the intelligence community has been wrong about some of the most important events in recent history. If they’ve been wrong about so much, why believe them now?

What bothers me most about the current claims is that “the Russians” were blamed for the alleged hacks on the Democratic National Committee Email system as soon as they were released by WikiLeaks by the Clinton Campaign, then the White House backed her up. Those Emails contain devastating information that showed that certain DNC officials were manipulating the Democratic primaries to give Clinton an advantage over Bernie Sanders. The information was so devastating that DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was immediately fired. “The Russians” claim timing is very suspicious. A few days after the WikiLeaks revelation, a DNC employee named Seth Rich was mysteriously murdered. The murder has never been solved and some believe his death is connected to the leaks. Julian Assange hinted that Rich was one of his informants, and took the unprecedented step of offering a sizeable reward for information leading to the conviction of Rich’s killer.

There is something else that needs to be realized. Right after the CIA was established, the Agency initiated Project MOCKINGBIRD, a campaign to influence American public opinion. When the project was originally established, the goal was to promote opinion against communism. However, since then the CIA and other intelligence agencies have become more leftist in outlook. For example, current CIA director John Brennan is known to have voted for a Communist Party USA presidential candidate and to have voiced far left opinions.  Can he be trusted?

So, regardless of what the “intelligence community” claims about Russia and the election, just remember that no intelligence is conclusive and the US intelligence community, once called The Cult of Intelligence, can’t be trusted.

 

What “Blank Check”?

Ubon

There’s a missive going around about how a “veteran” is someone who “gave a blank check” to America. While this may sound good, it’s simply not true. The fact is, young men who serve in the military are not “offering” anything, they are fulfilling a military obligation established by Federal  regulation. Title 10 defines the militia as “all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States.”  This has been the definition of the militia ever since the United States became a nation. (the Code has recently been modified to include female members of the National Guard.) Until 1973, when conscription ended due to a number of legal rulings, particularly one in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, ALL young American men were subject to eight years of military service, which could be served in various ways ranging from two years of active service followed by six years in the reserves to four to six years of active service followed by reserve service. It was the policy in force when I graduated from high school in 1963 and was faced with the choice of how I was going to fulfil my military commitment. After considerable deliberation, I decided to enlist in the US Air Force.

If I had any thoughts of patriotism or somehow servicing my fellow Americans, they were so far in the back of my mind I never thought of them. I had a number of reasons for choosing the Air Force – my dad was in the Air Corps during the war and my uncle was an Air Force pilot, I liked airplanes and wanted to fly – but I enlisted like most other young men because I was obligated by law to do so unless I wanted to wait and take my chances with the military draft. Since I was unmarried – although they were classified as 1A, married men were lower on the list of potential draftees – I only had three options, enlist, enroll in college and receive a deferment or wait to be drafted. I thought about college – and was accepted at both the University of Tennessee and Memphis State (but didn’t know how I’d pay for it) – but decided to enlist and attend college later. (I also had the option of taking college classes in my off duty hours but my duties precluded it.)

Those who have never served in the military – and some who have – seem to think that those who go into it are somehow making a sacrifice. While this may be true of older men who had established themselves in some kind of job, it’s not true of most military enlistees. (Yes, there is the potential for making the ultimate sacrifice but only a tiny fraction of those who serve die in the line of duty. I’m referring to somehow sacrificing something to go into the service in the first place.) It is true that military service may mean separation from family but there are numerous civilian professions in which men must work in remote areas far from their families. Granted, it’s their choice but since 1973 and the end of conscription, military service is also a choice. As for compensation, although my initial pay as a recruit was only $83.20 a month, that was $83.20 more a month than I was making as a high school student. I was also provided a place to lay my head and three meals a day, as well as free medical care had I needed it. By the time I left the Air Force 12 years later, my total compensation as an E 6 on flying status with a wife and daughter was equal to or better than that of most American men my age. In fact, when I left the service, I took a substantial cut in pay and it took several years before I was back to the level I was when I left military life. I also gave up lifetime retirement pay of half of my military salary and free medical care for life had I elected to remain another eight years. I recently compared my compensation at the time I left the service in 1975 with that of a young man or woman with the same amount of service doing the same job as me and found that their total pay was as much as I was making when I took early retirement from a major corporation in 2000 – and I was in a white collar job!

Yes, I got to play in the Great Southeast Asian Games but there was no sacrifice involved for me or anyone else. Even those who died who came in as draftee or had yet to complete their military obligation were doing their duty as citizens. Career men and women who were there were there by choice. They could have left the service at the end of their enlistment or when they had filled the obligation they had for specialized training such as military pilot training. Not to mention that we were compensated for our service, which raises another point. Besides, it was an adventure and I didn’t have to pay a nickel for it. (I was paid!)

There was one campaign issue used by Donald Trump with which I was not in tune, the claim that veterans are “not being cared for.” This is patently untrue. If a man or woman suffers injury or disease while they are on active military service that leaves them disabled, they not only entitled to medical care at government expense, they are also entitled  to compensation of varying amounts, depending on the level of disability. (Military retirees can now receive BOTH their military retirement and disability compensation.) That young men and women who suffer injury in one of our recent and current military adventures are left to fend for themselves is simply untrue. In fact, all military veterans are theoretically eligible for medical treatment in the VA system, but there is a priority system with those with service-connected disabilities in the highest priorities. (I know – I am 60% disabled.) The cases that so often receive major coverage in the media are veterans who are in low priority, many of whom have no service-connected disability and are unable to prove their claims. The truth is that the majority of veterans don’t need VA treatment because (1) they are healthy and (2) they have insurance coverage through their employers. (Retirees have their own health care program.) I myself only started using the VA for medical treatment when my service-connected disability began causing problems requiring medical care. Before that, I used civilian medical facilities and my former employer-sponsored insurance coverage.

Just where this “blank check” idea came from, I don’t know. I suspect it came from one of the veteran’s organizations but if so, there doesn’t seem to be any indication of it. Regardless, the slogan is not true. Those of us who served in the military did not “give” the United States of America anything. In fact, by serving we were paying the debt that all American men incur the instant they are born, or in the case of immigrants, the moment they become a citizen. There is a blank check all right but it’s the one we’re all given, and I mean ALL, by citizenship in a free country.

A Historical First

The Clinton’s Trail of Corruption

It should be obvious to anyone who has read my blog and seen my posts on Facebook and Twitter that I don’t just hate the Clintons, I DESPISE THEM! Never in the history of the United States has there been such an obvious politically corrupt family, as the information in the timeline linked above well illustrates. (Incidentally, that article is on a LEFT-WING site – even left-wing progressives know the Clintons are corrupt, or at least they did in the 1990s when that timeline was started.) They have a long history of corruption dating back to the early 1970s when they started their political career. (I say “their” because that’s what it was – Hillary Clinton’s one goal in life is to be president and she decided to achieve that goal by riding Bill’s coattails.)

My hatred for Bill started when I learned how he took somewhat extreme measures to avoid military service during the Vietnam War. Now, I know that Donald Trump didn’t serve either but there’s no evidence that he made any kind of effort to avoid military service. Like other college students in the 60s, both Trump and Clinton were exempt. Trump went for his physical and was classified as military fit with restrictions and was in a category that was never called. When the draft lottery was established, Trump drew a high number. Clinton, on the other hand, claimed he was going to enroll at the University of Arkansas and join the ROTC but instead he took off to Oxford (where he was accused of rape and kicked out of school.) Clinton was later spared because he, like Trump, drew a high number but only after he had actively avoided the draft. (The irony is that if Clinton had gone into the Army, he could have been commissioned and served in the staff judge advocate’s office. By the time he and Trump both came eligible, the US was in the process of pulling out of Vietnam and fewer and fewer men were being called.)

That was then and this is now and my hatred for the Clintons has intensified and is directed more at her now than it is him. Yes, Bill is a schemer but not as much as Hillary, and it’s Hillary activities that are beyond borderline criminal, and who is now under not one, but two, Federal investigations, the first for mishandling of classified information and the second for conflict of interest and abuse of power by selling favors in return for monetary considerations in the form of contributions to the Clinton family foundation. It’s now come out that the government of Qatar gave Bill Clinton a “birthday present” of $1 million. Now, governments don’t “give” large sums of money like that to someone unless they’re expecting something in return. Furthermore, the Clinton Foundation didn’t report the “gift” to the State Department as required and thus raises an ethics issue because Secretary Clinton had “promised” to report such gifts. The foundation’s activities are questionable since very little of it’s money is actually used for charitable purposes.

Dishonesty seems to be a hallmark of the Clintons, dishonesty combined with perjury whenever they’ve been called to account. According to former Clinton friend/business partner Jim McDougal, Bill and Hillary both lied to investigators about their role in the Whitewater development. Bill later lied in depositions related to the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and coerced others to lie for him, then later lied to a grand jury about his involvement with intern Monica Lewinsky – until Linda Tripp turned her semen-stained blue dress over to the FBI. Consequently, he was impeached for perjury, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Hillary has lied so much that the late William Safire labeled her a serial liar and journalist Carl Bernstein, who wrote a biography of her, has said that “Hillary and truth rarely walk together.” Yet she’s very close to being elected president of the United States.

How can so many people support Hillary Clinton when she’s a known liar and is under Federal investigation? Part of it is that they’re Democrats and “my daddy was a Democrat and his daddy afore him and Hillary’s a Democrat and I’m agonna vote fer her.” Another part can be found in the statistics of her supporters; there is only one group of voters in which Hillary Clinton leads by a large majority and that is the Godless. While Trump leads among all voters with a religious preference, Clinton leads among those who profess no religious faith at all. In short, her immorality means nothing to those who are immoral themselves (yes, morality and religious faith go hand-in-hand. Then much of her support comes from those who share her belief that government should be the great provider and that all citizens should be responsible to government rather than the other way around as the Founders intended.

 

The Real Meaning of Words

This past Friday night, Hillary Clinton branded essentially some 20-30% of Americans as being inside “a basket of deplorables.” She went on to define us with a litany of brands of her own making. What she failed to realize – or maybe she did – was that by making that comment, she identified herself as a bigot in the truest sense of the word for bigotry is defined as “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.” The words she uttered that night in a New York restaurant where she had gathered for a fund raiser with a collection of top 1% left-wingers including Barbara Streisand branded Hillary Clinton as a bigot.

Clinton and other elitists tend to use words for their own purposes, without considering their real definition. This not surprising since the news media is notorious for using words in print and broadcast whose true meanings are far from the meaning they imply to it. A classic example is the use of the word Tarmac for what is actually a concrete parking ramp at an airport. Those who use it are ignorant of the true meaning of the word, which is actually a brand name for a method of paving roads using a mixture of tar and macadam, and there’s not an airport parking ramp in the world made of it. This is but one example. There are many words commonly used to mean something entirely different from their actual meaning. This is particularly true of words ending with the suffixes “ism,” and “ist.” Other suffixes that may be used contrarily are “ology” and “phobe or phobia.”

The most commonly misused terms are “racist” and “racism.” Before we look at their meanings, lets first consider the word “race.” Race is a Scottish word that literally means “to run.” Sometime around the 16th century the word was corrupted into a new meaning to define a particular group of people of common descent (it  was evidently used because of common characteristics “running” through descendants of a particular pair of ancestors.) It was later applied to groups of people of common appearance. By the mid-1700s, naturalists had adopted a concept of five distinct races – Caucasian, Mongoloid, Malaysian, Negroid and American, with the latter race being the native peoples of the Americas. Such people are now referred to as Amerindian. These five groups were identified as sub-species of the human race. Each group was identified based on particular characteristic – skin color, hair texture, shape of the skull and shape of the eyes.

Now, let’s look at the meanings of suffixes. “Ism” means a practice or belief, as in baptism, Methodism, communism, progressivism, conservatism, etc. In each case, the word means a practice, as in baptism, or a belief in the case of each of the other words. The suffix “ist” means one who practices a belief, philosophy or discipline, as in communist, Baptist, Methodist, geologist, scientist, etc. and etc. In short, words with suffixes have specific meanings. Unfortunately, in recent years, the meanings of many words have been twisted to something entirely different from their actual meaning. Racism and racist are undoubtedly the two words misused the most often. Simply, racism is a belief based on race and a racist is one whose beliefs are based on race.

In the 1930s, some people started referring to the policies of Adolph Hitler’s NAZIs regarding certain peoples, specifically Jews and Eastern Europeans as “racist.” The term was actually misapplied because Jews and Eastern Europeans are not really separate races, but are actually  branches within the Caucasian race. Hitler believed the Germanic peoples are a “master race” and other peoples are inferior. For some reason, even though he was a Jew himself, he held Jews in especially low regard and is believed to have wanted to exterminate them. However, Germanic tribe are just one of a number of tribes of Europe, all of which are actually Caucasian. The word was also misapplied because the true meaning of the word “racist” is one who studies races and holds to beliefs pertaining to race. Journalists mistakenly began referring to NAZI policies as “racism” although they were actually tribalism. They naturally began referring to white Americans, particularly in the South, as “racist” because of their perceived treatment of negroes and Amerindians. In fact, the word was misused because a racist is actually someone who adheres to racism, a belief based on race. Although there were some policies in the United States that were definitely based on race, they were not “racist” or “racism” in the true sense of the words.

There are, however, groups in the United States whose core believes are based on race and who can truthfully be labeled as racists. The best known group is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organization formed in 1909 and which was and still is based solely on race. Other groups in America of consequence based solely on race are the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Nation of Islam and the recently established BlackLivesMatter movement. Even the much hated Ku Klux Klan is not a racist organization in the sense that it is based solely on race.  Although some of its policies are based on race, the organization has other goals that are applicable to all Americans.

An organization similar to the NAACP that cannot be termed racial is the B’ nai B’ rith, a Jewish organization founded in 1843 to promote the Jewish people and the state of Israel (which didn’t exist when the organization was founded.) Instead of racial, the organization is actually religious since Judaism is based on religion as well as origin. However, Jews are actually Semites, a subspecies of the Caucasian race that also includes Arabs and was originally based on language. Basically, Semites are descendants of Abraham, Jews from his wife Sarah and Arabs from Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar. Another group that is commonly mistakenly referred to as being a race are Hispanics or Latinos, which are actually a different group. Hispanics are actually people who speak either Portuguese or Spanish. True Hispanics are white Europeans from the region the Romans called Hispania, specifically, the Iberian Peninsula. Latino is a recent term used by people from what they call “Latin” America, meaning the American countries colonized by Spain where Spanish is the predominant language. Latinos can be either Caucasian, Amerindian or mestizo, a term used for those of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestory. Some may be negroes. “Mexican” is also often mistakenly referred to as a race but it is actually a nationality.

After being applied to NAZI policies in the 1930s, “racism” and “racist” began to be applied to Americans who don’t accept politically progressive ideas pertaining to race in the United States. The progressive position – and that of true racist organizations such as the NAACP, SCLC and Black Lives Matter – is that members of the negro race deserve special treatment because negroes were brought to the United States as slaves and kept in slavery until slavery ended after the Civil War. In fact, slaves weren’t brought to the United States originally because it didn’t exist, and they weren’t brought to the British colonies – they were brought to the Caribbean, Central and South America by the Spaniards and Portuguese to work as laborers in sugar cane fields. Slavery was already prevalent in the Spanish colonies more than a century before the first African indentured servants were brought to the Jamestown Colony in Virginia by a Dutch ship in 1619. Because they had been baptized as Christians by the Spanish who purchased them in Africa, they were treated as indentured servants and set free after a specified period of time. There were free blacks in Virginia for several years prior to the sentencing of John Punch, an African indentured servant who ran away instead of working out his indenture, to slavery. There is some question as to whether Punch was actually the first slave. Another man named John Casor was indentured to an African named Anthony Johnson who had been indentured, then became a planter after his period of indenture was satisfied. Casor claimed he was indentured and due to be released but Johnson claimed Casor was his “slave for life” and a Virginia court agreed. Regardless, blacks owned other blacks in what became the United States almost from its inception until slavery was abolished by the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment.

“Racist” and “racism” have become pejorative words primarily since the adoption of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the resulting special treatment given to blacks. Many whites, with good reason, are resentful that blacks – and, now, other groups – receive special treatment in areas such as college admissions and hiring simply because of their race. Other words that have achieved the same status are “homophobe,” which is applied to those who have reservations about homosexuality due to Biblical pronouncements, and “misogyny,” a word that actually means hatred of women as a sex but which is used pejoratively as a label for those who don’t accept the precepts of feminism (another “ism” word that is a belief). It’s also applied to men who express disdain for a particular woman. A recent word thrown out by progressives is “Islamophobe,”  which is applied to those who have reservations about the immigration of Muslims to the United States. Those who used such words use them as expressions of disdain for those who don’t accept their own views regarding these particular issues. In short, they are used by bigots. (Bigot and bigotry are also misapplied – they are now used as synonyms for the modern use of racist and racism.) The irony is that with most of the pejorative words, those who use them are actually themselves guilty of bigotry. They are deplorable.

 

 

 

The Constitution, the First and Second Amendments and the Bill of Rights

The “average American” has the mistaken idea that the US Constitution is the document that gives us our rights. This is not surprising since “the average American” has probably never actually seen the Constitution and if they have, they don’t know what a constitution is. Yes, we have rights but they come from amendments to the Constitution, not from the Constitution itself.

The definition of a constitution is actually quite simple – it is “a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.” It doesn’t matter whether the organization is a state, a club or a church, the definition is still the same. In the case of the US Constitution, it sets the principles under which the government of the United States, the Federal government, is supposed to operate. Originally, the rebel colonies established a government based on Articles of Confederation  which gave a central government the power to wage war against the British and conduct diplomacy with the rest of the world.  The Articles remained in effect after the British granted its former colonies their independence. (Although the Battle of Yorktown is touted as a British defeat with King George relinquishing his power over the colonies, it was actually the British Parliament who made the decision to discontinue financing of military operations in the colonies due to Britain’s wider war with France and Spain.) However, the Articles were seen as inadequate because (1) they gave the government of the United States no power to tax and (2) there was no judicial system to settle disputes between the states. A rebellion in Massachusetts had to be met by a private militia because the Articles made no provision for raising troops.  Consequently, former colonial leaders proposed a convention to consider the situation. The convention met in Philadelphia over the spring and summer of 1887.

Although the purpose of the Philadelphia Convention was to rewrite the Articles of Confederation to strengthen the existing government, some delegates, particularly James Madison of Virginia and Alexander Hamilton of New York with support from John Jay, also of New York, felt the existing government should be abolished and a new one established. They began referring to themselves as “federalists”, meaning they favored a stronger national government than the one that existed under the Articles of Confederation. Led primarily by Madison, the delegates produced the Constitution of the United States, which, upon ratification by the states, established a government consisting of three separate but equal bodies called branches, the legislative, executive and judicial. An article delineated the role of each branch. The Legislative Branch would consist of two bodies, a House of Representatives made up of representatives elected by the people of each state,  and a Senate made up of senators chosen by each state, usually by the legislature. The Executive Branch would be presided over by a president elected by electors chosen by the states with a vice-president, also chosen by electors.The Judicial Branch would include a Supreme Court made up of judges appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The proposed Constitution established a government, but it had to be ratified by the states. Opposition was strong. Virginian Patrick Henry had refused to attend the Philadelphia convention, stating that “I smell a rat in Philadelphia, tending toward monarchy.” Henry argued against ratification, as did many others, including Baptist preacher John Leland, who pastored in the district James Madison hoped to represent. It is an established fact that Leland played an instrumental part in convincing Madison of the need for a bill of rights, particularly a right of freedom from interference by the new national government, if and when it was established, in all matters related to religion. Patrick Henry saw to it that Madison would not be elected to the new senate and took steps to prevent his election to Congress. However, with the help of the Baptists in Orange County, his home county, after he promised to submit a Bill of Rights, Madison was elected to the 1st United States Congress.

James Madison went to the first Congress and submitted a bill guaranteeing nine rights – he proposed that the Constitution itself be changed – but the Congress came up with not ten but twelve amendments to be added to the original document, of which the amendment establishing religious freedom and freedom of speech and the press was third, not first. The first proposed amendment pertained to the establishment of proportion of representatives per population. It never passed. The second established that Congress would not pass any law pertaining to compensation to take place until after the next election. The 1st Congress did not pass it and it remained on the books until 1982 when a college student discovered it and began a campaign for ratification. It was ratified as the 27th Amendment on May 7, 1992.

The first item in Madison’s bill of amendment read – “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience by in any manner, or on any pretext infringed.” They were followed by guarantees of freedom of speech, the press and assembly, and the right to petition for grievance. The next words were – “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”  His words were modified and became the First and Second Amendments to the US Constitution, and the foundation of what was called The Bill of Rights.

Madison’s first words were changed considerably to -“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” His second proposal was also changed – “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” In both instances, the changes made the two amendments more nebulous than Madison’s original words. In his original wording, Madison made clear that he was proposing complete freedom of religion in terms of civil rights. The change made the amendment pertain solely to Congress rather than to civil rights in general. This has led to considerable confusion and legal interpretations that stray from the amendment as written, but are in some respects more in line with Madison’s original wording.

It’s easy to understand why Madison’s proposed amendment regarding religious freedom was changed. At the time, all of the new states except Rhode Island and Virginia had an established church, a religious body sanctioned by the state and supported by levies placed on all of the state’s citizens. (The word “church” is misleading, it’s taken from a German word “kirche” which actually means a place of worship. The word translated as “church” in the English Bible is ekklesia, a Greek word meaning a called-out assembly.) By changing the wording and inserting “Congress,” the amendment would be more palatable to the residents of states with established churches. As it was, established religion continued in those states that had it with Congregationalist Connecticut being the last to abolish it in 1818. Such states continued to persecute members of other faiths – particularly Baptists – until the state churches were abolished.

In what became the Second Amendment, Madison made clear that the right to keep and bear arms pertained specifically to the people, then justified that right by connecting it to the militia, which at the time was considered to be the entire male population of the former colonies. (The word “militia” means “military service.”) Virginian George Mason defined the militia as “the whole people, except for a few public officials.” There can be no doubt that Madison and the Founders intended two things – (1) “The people” (not the state) should be free to keep and bear arms and (2) they saw an armed population as the basis for a free society. After all, they were meeting in 1787, only three years after the conclusion of a successful revolt against that some colonists believed to be tyranny in which militia had played a major role. Madison was inspired by the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason, which said – “That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.” Mason’s declaration applied to Virginia but Madison’s applied to the new United States as a whole. There can be no doubt that the Second Amendment, as proposed and written, applies to the individual, not the state.

The “militia” is misunderstood today to apply to what is known as the National Guard. However, the National Guard is actually a reserve element of the national United States Army and Air Force. No such organization existed prior to 1903 when the Dick Act nationalized the state militia organizations, some of which had taken to calling themselves “the National Guard” although no such title had been recognized by the United States. The Dick Act essentially made the National Guard a part of the United States Army. In 1933 Congress decreed that any man who enlisted in a National Guard unit was also enlisting in the Army reserve. In short, the “militia” referred to in the Second Amendment is not the present-day National Guard and Air National Guard.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump caused a furor when he commented while talking about how his opponent, Hillary Clinton, seeks to do away with the individual right to keep and bear arms, that “I don’t know, Second Amendment people might be able to stop her.” Members of the media jumped on their Smart Phones and Tablets to pound out stories about how Trump was advocating that someone assassinate Hillary Clinton. Trump supporters said he was advocating that people vote for him. In fact, Trump was referring to the political power of those of us who support the Constitution and its amendments in their entirety and how we have the power to block any nominations threatening it. The Constitution is the foundation of our nation and an armed citizenry is the most effective means of protecting it.

 

The Military, Heroism and “Gold Star Families”

 

DFC                                    AirMedal

The current flap over Pakistani immigrant Khizr Khan’s appearance at the Democratic convention prompted me to write about something that’s been bugging me for a long time. There seems to be a belief that anyone who serves in the military is a hero, particularly those who’ve died, and some seem to think that family members of military members and of those who died while in military service are somehow deserving, although deserving of what I’m not sure.

In the summer of 1963 my dad signed a document granting permission for me to enlist in the United States Air Force. He – or my mother – had to sign it because my birthday is late in the year and I was still seventeen when I graduated from high school a few weeks before. Air Force regulations required that although seventeen-year olds could enlist, they had to have parental permission. My dad had been in the Army Air Corps during World War II – his brother had also and had remained in service for twenty years – and he had mixed emotions about my plans to join the Air Force. He would have preferred that I stay home and farm, or perhaps go to college. I had been accepted at several colleges but didn’t know where the money was going to come from. I would also be subject to the draft once I turned eighteen and as a single teenager, would have been prime meat. So, daddy signed. (I heard later that my maternal grandmother accused him of “signing Sam’s life away.” No one ever told me until after she was dead.) A few months later I turned 18 but by that time I was already in the Air Force and in the final weeks of training to become a jet aircraft mechanic.

When my dad signed the papers for me to join the Air Force, the United States was not at war, at least not officially. Yes, we had military personnel in some Asian country called Vietnam few Americans were even aware of it. I wasn’t expecting to go to war myself and certainly wasn’t expecting to see combat, although I wouldn’t have minded. As it turned out, I spent 12 years in the Air Force with a good chunk of it in Vietnam where I saw war up close and personal. However, it was MY service and my family didn’t have a damn thing to do with it. I collected quite a few medals and decorations during those 12 years but just because I’m a decorated combat veteran doesn’t make me a hero. Had I died, it would have been my death, not theirs, and while they would have grieved over me, they were deserving of a no particular status other than that of a family that had lost a son. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d died wrapping my car around a tree, I’d have been dead just the same as if I’d been shot down on a mission over North Vietnam. Maybe my mother would have joined Gold Star Mothers but somehow I doubt it since she never joined the DAR even though she had ancestors who fought in the American Revolution. No member of my family has ever joined the DAR, the DOC, SAR or SOC. I’m a member of three veterans organizations, one which I had a role in founding, another I was coerced into joining and the DAV, which I joined because I’m a disabled veteran and I thought they’d be of help dealing with the VA (I was wrong, they’re not.)

In recent years – mainly since Reagan – an idea has developed that anyone who’s ever served in the military is some kind of hero. People like to greet veterans with “thank your for your service” or, if a veteran “welcome home.” Now, I don’t care for such bullshit. I do sometimes wear caps, one that says “C-130 Hercules Vietnam” and one with an emblem of the Distinguished Flying Cross on it but I don’t wear them to get recognition. I only wear them in hopes of attracting the attention of a fellow C-130 veteran so I can tell them about the organization I helped found. I don’t want anyone to thank me for my service because I didn’t do it for them and I don’t need to be welcomed home. I don’t want anyone to think me a hero because I’m not, even if I did fly some 1,500 combat sorties. My dad flew 30 missions over Germany and Occupied Europe during World War II and he didn’t think of himself as any kind of hero. He put his DFC and Air Medal lapel pins in the lapel of his suit but he hardly ever wore a suit. The fact is that just being in the military -and even being in combat – doesn’t make a person a hero, not even if they die while in service. To be a hero, a person has to do something heroic.

The modern perception of military service seems to be shaped largely on the service of the men who served during the period from World War II to Vietnam when military service was to a large extent compulsory, as it was in World War I and the Civil War. Young men were forced to serve in the military against their will, and their service was seen as sacrificial, particularly by politicians eager to get their vote after they returned to civilian life. But military service hasn’t been compulsory in the United States since early 1973 when the Department of Defense announced that there was no longer a need to draft men for military service. (The end of the draft came as the United States withdrew the last military personnel from South Vietnam.) Since that time, all men and women who have served or are serving in the military are there of their own free will. They are making no sacrifice as their fathers and grandfathers did who were drafted into interrupting their lives for a period of military service. They are compensated with a pay check, a pay check that is substantial for men and women in the modern military and often in excess of what they would likely be making in civilian life. This is true even of the lowest ranking enlisted men and women. Those who elect to stay in the military for a 20-year career draw 50% of their base pay; those who stay longer draw a higher percentage all the way up to 75%, which can amount to a considerable sum for senior officers and enlisted men and women.

Contrary to popular belief by those who’ve never served, military service isn’t particularly hard. New recruits must complete a period of basic training which consists primarily of physical conditioning and military training in regulations and such disciplinary skills as learning to march in formation and small arms training. Upon completion of basic training, a new recruit is sent on to additional training that may involve additional military training if they’re assigned to the infantry but may be classroom and practical training to learn a particular technical skill. Such courses consist of as little as a few weeks from some skills to as much as two years for skills such as nuclear reactor operators. Some new officers are sent to special courses such as military pilot training or submarine officer training. Once a young man or woman has completed their training, they are assigned to an operational unit, which may be a combat unit but could also be support. If they are assigned to a combat unit, they can expect to spend their time in continued training since combat units aren’t engaged unless they are actually in a combat zone. Military training in itself can be dangerous and hundreds of young men and women die each year in accidents, both while on duty and in vehicle accidents when off duty. In fact, accidental military deaths have exceeded deaths from hostile actions in many years since the beginning of the so-called “War on Terror” after the 9/11 attacks. This was true in the years 2002 and 2003 and has been true since 2008. In fact, in the years from 1980 to 1989, accidental deaths in the military exceeded 1,000 a year; the most hostile deaths in a year since 2002 is 847 in 2007. My point is that a military member is more likely to die due to accident than from hostile action. Military Deaths by Year, which brings me to my next point.

Just because a person serves in the military – or dies while on active duty – does not make them heroic. There have been men who truly were heroic in the military, starting with Sgt. Alvin C. York in World War I and continuing through such men as Lt. Audie Murphy, Major Edwin Dyess and Colonel Paul I. “Pappy” Gunn, but such men usually became heroes because of desperation. York decided to take matters in his own hands when he saw his buddies being mowed down by German machine guns, Murphy defended his men against a German attack, Dyess carried out attacks on Japanese ships in Subic Bay in one of the few remaining Air Corps fighters left in the Philippines and Gunn waged an essentially one-man war against the Japanese to free his family from captivity in Manila. Since then, military heroes tend to have been men who performed “selfless” acts such as jumping on hand grenades, acts that might be more correctly identified as thoughtless since they happened so quickly the individual didn’t have time to consider the ramifications of his actions.

In truth, much of what is hailed as heroism is merely a military member doing the job they were trained to do, whatever it may be. Some medals – the Bronze Star in particular – are often awarded as commendations for routine performance of one’s administrative duties. In fact, the Bronze Star was originally authorized as a counterpart to the Air Medal, which was authorized in 1942 to recognize the role of airmen flying combat missions – often against great odds – at a time when ground forces had yet to enter combat. A colonel felt that infantrymen, in particular, should be awarded some kind of decoration to recognize that they had been in combat. No particular act of valor was required for award of the medal – any soldier who had qualified for the combat infantryman’s badge was eligible – and the award was also approved for administrative actions, such as maintaining files in an orderly room.  The Bronze Star It and the Air Medal were equal in prestige – until 1985 when military politics led to the elevation of the Purple Heart from a low-level award to prominence above the Meritorious Service Medal and dropped the Air Medal to the lowest precedence of any combat award and below the level of the MSM, which is only awarded for non-combat  service. (By doing so, the DOD robbed hundreds of Army Air Corps and pre-1985 USAF airmen of the recognition they so richly deserved for their meritorious service in aerial flight.)

Military medals are a story in themselves. Prior to the Civil War, there were no medals and even then, the Confederacy did not recognize its heroes with medals. The Medal of Honor was authorized during the war and was often awarded for such mediocre actions as reenlisting. (Hundreds of Medals of Honor were taken away when the criteria for the medal was changed in the early Twentieth Century.) The Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star were authorized just before World War I and the Purple Heart was authorized in 1932 for presentation primarily to men who had been wounded. The Distinguished Flying Cross was authorized in 1926; it was awarded to civilians such as the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart. The Air Medal and Bronze Star came along during World War II, along with the Legion of Merit, which is essentially an award for high-ranking officers. Since Vietnam, a veritable library of new awards have been authorized, to the point that it seems that the modern military man and woman gets medals just for showing up for chow! In short, most military medals today are meaningless.

This brings us to “gold star families,” a term little heard of before a Pakistani immigrant named Khizer Khan made a speech at the Democratic Convention. To begin with, there is no such thing as a “gold star family.” It’s a term that the Army has on its web site to refer to families of military members who lost their lives on active duty. However, there’s no official organization or recognition of such families even though the military was authorized to present lapel buttons to family members – parents, spouses, children, step-children, brother and sisters – of those who die while  on active duty starting in 1947. The lapel button carries no significance and no benefits to those to whom it is presented except recognition. It’s something for family members to have to remember their family member, the same as the flags used to drape coffins and which are then presented to the family, usually to either the wife or mother of the deceased. The design is different for those who died in a combat theater, regardless of the cause of death. There is no organization and they have no official standing.

There is, however, a formal organization for Gold Star Mothers, women whose son or daughter has died while on active military service. Gold Star Mothers was formally organized in 1928 when the mother of a US Army Air Services pilot who died during the war decided to start an organization for mothers of men who had died while in military service. They got their name from the gold-starred flags family members displayed in their windows during the recent war – families with men in uniform displayed a flag with a blue star and those whose sons were lost displayed gold stars. The blue and gold starred flags became prominent during World War II but they died out after the Korean War. They were not popular during the Vietnam War – in fact, they were hardly ever mentioned. They were resurrected in the 1990s and began attracting some attention from the media – and politicians. In September, 2012 Barrack Obama proclaimed the last day of September as “Gold Star Mothers and Families Day.” However, the memo must have got lost because no one seems to know anything about it.

Families of men and women who die while on active duty have recognition, but not status or standing, as members of the media proclaimed that Khizer Khan and his wife have. The Khans claimed they have made some kind of sacrifice because their son died in Iraq. In fact, they have made no sacrifice at all and whether their son’s death was a sacrifice is debatable. Captain Khan’s commander, Maj. General Dana Pittardi, (Gen. Pittard was Bill Clinton’s military aide 1996-1999), wrote a piece for the Washington Post but was very vague as to how the officer died. He says only that he was killed by a suicide bomber and that he “may” have been trying to prevent the death or injury of innocent Iraqis. The captain was awarded a Purple Heart, which is awarded to all military personnel who die as a result of enemy action, and a Bronze Star, which is basically a glorified commendation medal. If his actions had been seen as “heroic,” he would have been awarded at least a Silver Star and possibly a Distinguished Service Cross. In the Khan’s minds, their son died a hero but in reality he was the victim of a bomb. Regardless, their son’s death reflects solely on him, not on them.

Military valor reflects solely on the individual, not corporately on their family, regardless of how close. My actions while in the military reflect solely on me and if I’d died, while my family would have suffered loss, they would have made no sacrifice. Neither would I if my son’s submarine had gone to the bottom of the China Sea while they were playing cat and mouse with the Chinese navy. Several of my ancestors served in the Revolutionary War but I have never been a member of the Sons of the Revolution and no one in my family has ever joined the DAR (except my great-aunt.) At least two of my ancestors were Confederate soldiers but I’ve never joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans – and never will. My valor is my own and no one else’s. Similarly, while I’m proud of my father for flying 30 missions in B-24s over Europe, his service is no reflection on me, nor was it a reflection on his parents, brothers and sisters.

What I’m saying is that military service and any recognition for it only applies to the one who serves, not their mother, father, spouse, brother, sister, children, grandchildren or anyone else.