21 December 2011


I have a complaint about the Republican majority in the House! As soon as the gasps and questions from my Sister and others subside, I will continue.

I want to ask the Republican leadership why they are letting the Democrats roll them like a San Diego lady of the night rolls a sailor on a liberty weekend?

To hear the White House and “Lyin’Harry” Reid tell it (and Nancy somebody, but nobody listens to her anymore),  “160 million working Americans” are going to find a tax bill for $1000 in the mailbox on January 2. (I try to listen to the White House press briefing every day—it is broadcast on POTUS on Sirius/XM satellite radio. Twice this week, I began to count the number of times Press Secretary Jay Carney said “a tax increase for 160 million working Americans.” I stopped at 35 each time. Today, he also declared that only economists who agree with the White House are really economists. Check the transcript.)  Now, everyone knows that the tax will be a few dollars every payday, and the decrease will be passed eventually and back-dated, but to hear Carney, and "Lyin' Harry talk, it sounds like the end of the world.

Tonight, I heard Lyin’ Harry’s cohort, Charles “Two-Faced Charlie” Schumer, on the PBS News Hour.  "Usually, when a bill is sent from the Senate to the House, the House is expected to take it up for a vote. But Speaker Boehner won’t do that.”

I waited for the reporter to ask Two Faced Charlie if it works both ways?  How many times has Lyin’ Harry refused to call up a House bill? I recall that when it was the debt extension, the President and Lyin’ Harry refused any two month extensions. “The American people need certainty,” they cried. “Only a one year extension will do.”

In fact, the President is on record as wanting a one year extension of the payroll tax cut, but “Lyin’ Harry” won’t bring that up because it’s his way or the highway.

But PBS isn't going to betray their liberal bias.  Surely there is someone in the media, other than Fox, who will tell the truth.  Not ABC, of course.  Carney's wife works for them.  But surely there is someone.   I’m not holding my breath.

16 December 2011


As the trial process begins for Private First Class Bradley Manning, charged with violations of three articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the blatant ignorance of the media with respect to courts-martial is becoming evident. Those useful kidiots who are seeking to make him a hero or a martyr are misrepresenting the nature of modern military justice. For instance, in a POLITICO article written by Josh Gerstein, he butchered the facts about military law and procedure, seemingly to make a point against the system. PFC Manning is alleged to be the Wikileaks source of hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents. His case is currently before an investigating officer appointed pursuant to Article 32, Uniform Code of Military Justice.

To understand the system, let's start with the basics.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice. The UCMJ is federal law, enacted by the Congress and signed into law by the President. Under Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, "The Congress shall have Power . . . To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval forces." The Code is comprised of some 144 articles which are codified under Title 10 of the United States Code at sections 801 to 941. (There are several amendments which added articles and were numbered as Article XXXa.) Included are the “punitive articles” (Arts 77 through 134) which define crimes under the Code. The others are definitional or procedural articles.

The UCMJ was enacted in 1950 as a single (uniform) body of criminal and procedural law for all of the uniformed services. Prior to 1950, there were two separate bodies of such law: the Articles of War (applicable to the Army, Air Force, and, when operating with the Army, the Marine Corps) and the Articles for the Government of the Navy (known lovingly as the “Rocks and Shoals,” i.e., something to be steered clear of).

The UCMJ was an extensive re-writing of prior military and naval law, meant to address, in part, perceived unfairness of the old systems as discovered when it was applied to a 12 million man citizen army during World War II. Two additions are particularly interesting.

Article 31 provided protection against self-incrimination and requiring a warning of that right before anyone suspected of an offense was questioned, presaging Miranda v. Arizona by over a decade. In fact, Miranda still does not come into force until a person is in custody, so Article 31 is actually broader than Miranda.

Article 32 provided a right that had been denied the Armed Forces since the adoption of the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment provides, in part, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger. . ..” (Emphasis added.)Prior to the enactment of the UCMJ, charges could go to trial simply upon the oath of the accuser.

Article 32 requires that before a charge is sent to trial by General Court-Martial, the officer exercising general court-martial convening authority must first convene an investigation to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe that (1) an offense under the UCMJ has been committed and (2) the accused committed it. The investigating officer is appointed by the GCM convening authority and need not be a lawyer

Courts-Martial. Courts-martial are as old as armies. The need for discipline meant that the crimes that were committed by soldiers, especially uniquely military offenses, mandated a system that could be employed at sea and in the field. Some things are crimes in the military that are not in civilian life. If a person comes to work late while working for General Mills, General Motors or General Electric, he cannot be sent to jail. If he works for General Petraeus, the stockade may be waiting.

Courts-martial are not standing courts. Each time charges are referred to trial by a convening authority, discussed below, a new court comes into existence and is authorized to adjudicate only the charges and the accused (defendant)named in the convening order. The convening order names the military judge, the trial and defense counsel, and the members of the court.

There are three types of courts-martial.

The Summary Court-Martial is a one-officer court. He is rarely a lawyer and acts as both prosecutor and defense counsel. A summary court can try only enlisted personnel and the maximum sentence imposable is limited to 30 days confinement, forfeiture of two thirds pay for one month, and reduction in one pay grade.

The Special Court-Martial is comprised of a Military Judge, not less than three members of the court who determine guilt or innocence, and if guilty, the sentence, and in practice, a trial counsel and a defense counsel. A special court-martial can impose a maximum sentence of confinement for one year, forfeiture of two thirds pay for one year, and a bad conduct discharge.

The General Court-Martial is comprised of a Military Judge, not less than five members of the court who determine guilt or innocence, and if guilty, the sentence, and in practice, a trial counsel and a defense counsel. A general court-martial can impose a maximum sentence of death, if allowed by law, confinement for life, and forfeiture of all pay and allowances, or any lesser permissible sentence.

Until 1968, the court-martial was quasi-judicial. Every commissioned officer received extensive training in military law and, thereafter, was deemed qualified to serve as a prosecutor (trial counsel) or defense counsel in trials by Special Court-Martial, the maximum sentence imposable then being forfeiture of two thirds pay for six months, confinement at hard labor for six months, reduction to the lowest enlisted pay grade, and a bad conduct discharge (“six, six, and a kick”). Three commissioned officers, none of whom had to be a lawyer, comprised the court, and the president of the court, the senior of the three, ruled on objections and motions.

General Courts-Martial used judge advocates as defense counsel, trial counsel, and the “law officer” who advised the members of the court on the law. However, the president still made the final rulings on matters of law.

The 1968 amendments provided that accused in most special and all general courts-martial had a right to lawyer counsel. A judge advocate would be detailed as defense counsel, and the accused could, if he wanted, retain civilian defense counsel. The trial counsel in a special court could still be any officer, but in practice, was also a judge advocate. Most importantly, the amendment also created the “military judge,” a judge advocate who had been certified by the Judge Advocate General of his service as qualified to serve as a judge and who had been specially sworn to act in that capacity.

A judge advocate is an officer who is a member of the bar of the highest court of some state and who has received special training in military law. Upon completion of that training, he is designated a judge advocate by the Judge Advocate General of his service and is specially sworn as a trial and defense counsel. In other words, contrary to some folks’ belief, a military lawyer is, indeed, a lawyer.

The other two principal actors in the military justice system are the convening authority and the staff judge advocate.

Convening Authority. The convening authority is a commanding officer or other person who, by service regulation, is authorized to convene a court-martial. Almost always a commanding officer, the convening authority is limited by regulation to the level court he may convene. In the Marine Corps, for instance, only a battalion commander (usually a lieutenant colonel) may convene summary and special courts-martial. Commanding Generals are usually the convening authority for general courts-martial.

In former practice, the convening authority had great leeway in determining the personnel of the court, but in modern practice, the military judge is appointed and made available by the regional judiciary activity, the trial counsel is designated by the staff judge advocate or local legal support activity, and the defense counsel is appointed and made available by the regional defense activity. The convening authority is still allowed to select the members of the court, subject to the standards set forth in the UCMJ.

Unlike in civilian criminal law, their is no such thing as prosecutorial discretion. Unlike distict attorneys and United States attorneys, the lawyers do not decide what cases go to trial--that is a command function exercised by a convening authority. Plea bargains must be approved by the convening authority, and he alone may limit the sentencing authority of the court.

After trial, the convening authority must take action on the record of trial. The most frequent actions taken are to approve the findings and sentence imposed, but he may, in his sole discretion,reverse any findings of guilty and may decrease any sentence imposed. Obviously, he cannot reverse a finding of not guilty or increase the sentence.

Staff Judge Advocate. The SJA is the principal legal advisor to a Commanding General and, when directed to do so, also advises subordinate commanders in the chain of command. The SJA has significant responsibilities when it comes to general courts-martial.

After an Article 32 investigating officer submits his report and recommendations, the SJA must give written advice to the convening authority regarding each charge and specification. His advice must specifically affirm that (1) the specification alleges an offense under the UCMJ; (2) the specification is warranted by the evidence indicated in the report of Article 32 investigation; and (3) a court-martial would have jurisdiction over the accused and the offense. He must also recommend the action that the convening authority should take, i.e., return the charges to the officer exercising special court-martial jurisdiction, or refer to trial by general court-martial, or refer the charges to a GCM as capital (or non-capital).

The convening authority is not required to follow that advice, but if he disregards the advice, he does so at his peril.

10 December 2011


On paper, the only two college football teams playing today have losing records. The team from "Crabtown" is 4-7 and the team that often plays "outlined against a blue-gray October sky" is 3-8. Doesn't matter.

Tonight one team will celebrate a winning season while the other will have to endure another 365 days with the memory of the loss of a single game. Today is Army-Navy.

Navy now leads the all-time series with a record of 55 wins, 49 losses, and seven ties, but that is irrelevant, for both teams will come ready to play. Each year, this game is a new season in and of itself. Today is Army-Navy.

Among the arcane knowledge that each plebe must learn and spit out on command is “How many days until Army [Navy], Mister?” The calendar starts anew tonight because today is Army-Navy.

The seniors will not be going to the NFL—they’ll go to a much tougher league where the opponents play by no rules and play for keeps. Some may be gone from this earth before the next Army-Navy game, adding their names to hallowed lists at West Point and Annapolis.

How important is this game? One morning as we stood at a morning Colors formation, the band ended with the ceremonial playing of Anchors Aweigh, followed by the Hymn. I was standing next to a Major who is an Annapolis graduate. As the band played Anchors Aweigh, Eddie, whispered to me, “I was 31 years old before I learned that the last words to that song are not ‘Beat Army.’”

How important to the Nation is the Game? Read this.

This morning they are comrades in arms. This afternoon, they will play their respective hearts out against each other . . .and then stand at attention for their own and their opponent’s alma mater. And each member of the team will know and sing his school’s song—how many players on other college teams can do that? And tonight they will once again be members of a bigger team. God bless ‘em all.

When he was Superintendent of the Military Academy, General Douglas MacArthur said of this game, “On this field of friendly strife is sown the seeds that on other days and other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”

SO, Gerry Owen, Army. Get up and get moving. Follow me.

Don’t give up the ship, Navy. Semper Fi.


02 December 2011


Oh, the 2012 campaign has started and, once again, the Department of Labor is doing its part for the President.

DOL announced today that in November, the unemployment rate had plummeted 4 tenths of a percent to 8.6%. Just what the President needed in order to bolster his flagging performance. There was a footnote, however, that was overlooked by his hypesters:

To get to there, DOL counted 100,000 new hires (just in advance of the Christmas holiday shopping season; I wonder how long they will remain employed?) and stopped counting over 300,000 folks who have been unemployed for so long that DOL figures that they have stopped looking for work. I repeat: 300,000 unemployed people are no longer counted as unemployed because a bunch of accountants and statisticians say they no longer count.

In fact, DOL does not count 2.6 million persons who “were marginally attached to the labor force,” explaining that “[t]hese individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months, . . . ‘[but] were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.” (Emphasis added.)

So, for campaign purposes, the DOL report was good news for David Plouffe and Barack Obama. Not so good for the 300,000 and the 2.6 million, but what does that matter in the grand scheme of presidential politics?.

I have long proposed that the Department of Education is unnecessary, is a federal usurpation of what is a local responsibility, and ought to be closed, along with Energy and another one that I cannot think of right now. I may be wrong. Maybe the President, his campaign staff, and their liaisons at Labor need to go back to school to learn how to count.

01 December 2011


This is a post that has been percolating in my junk box mind for some time. I first considered it in November 2008 and then again last year when Scott Brown was elected to the United States Senate. Now, as we enter the run-up to the 2012 general election, the pundits and prognosticators are once again considering whether or not one of the two parties can garner a “filibuster-proof” Senate.

Contrary to the popular belief in certain elements of the Democrat Party, filibuster is not an idea conjured up by George W. Bush. The filibuster dates from at least as early as the Roman Senate. As anyone who has ever seen Mr. Smith Goes To Washington knows, the filibuster was an art form in the early 20th Century. In fact, some of the most effective users of the filibuster in the recent past have been Democrat senators.

In 1946, Southern senators (Democrats all) blocked a vote on a Democrat-proposed bill to establish a permanent Fair Employment Practices Committee, an early version of what ultimately became the EEOC. The filibuster lasted weeks, and after a failed cloture vote, the bill was withdrawn even though there were sufficient votes to pass the bill itself.

In 1953, Senator Wayne Morse (I. Or.) set a record by filibustering for 22 hours and 26 minutes while protesting the Tidelands Oil legislation. Senator Strom Thurmond (D.SC) broke this record in 1957 by filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes. The bill ultimately passed. One of the most notable filibusters of the 1960s occurred when southern Democrat senators attempted, unsuccessfully, to block the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by undertaking a filibuster that lasted for 75 hours, which included a 14 hour and 13 minute address by Senator Robert Byrd. The Senate ultimately invoked cloture and the bill passed.

The filibuster in the Senate actually came about as a result of a rules change in 1806. Prior to that, debate could be ended by any senator who made a motion "to move the previous question." Such a motion was not debatable, took precedence, and, if adopted by the body, led to an immediate vote on the pending matter. (For any Presbyterians out there, yes, there were two votes. The first on the motion to move the previous question and the second on the actual matter under debate. Just like in your most recent meeting of the presbytery.)

No substitute means of forcibly ending debate was adopted raising the possibility of filibuster. (Interestingly, the House rules also allowed for filibuster until 1842, when a permanent rule limiting the duration of debate was created. This occurred, in part, because of the growth in the size of the House as population grew and more States were added to the Union.)

As a result, a senator, or a group of senators may speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn" (usually 60 out of 100 senators) brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII. The procedure for "invoking cloture," or ending a filibuster, is as follows:

• A minimum of sixteen senators must sign a petition for cloture.
• The petition may be presented by interrupting another Senator's speech.
• The clerk reads the petition.
• The cloture petition is ignored for one full day during which the Senate is sitting. For example, if the petition is filed on Tuesday, it is ignored until Thursday.
• On the second calendar day during which the Senate sits after the presentation of the petition, after the Senate has been sitting for one hour, a "quorum call" is undertaken to ensure that a majority of the Senators are present.
• The President of the Senate or President pro tempore presents the petition.
• The Senate votes on the petition; three-fifths of the whole number of Senators (sixty when there are  no vacancies) is the required majority; however, when cloture is invoked on a question of changing the rules of the Senate, two-thirds of the Senators voting (not necessarily two-thirds of all Senators) is the requisite majority. (This is commonly referred to in the news media as a "test vote" because if cloture is not passed, modern practice is to simply not bring the bill to the floor for debate.)

After cloture has been invoked, the debate is tightly condensed:

• No more than thirty hours of debate may occur.
• No Senator may speak for more than one hour.
• No amendments may be moved unless they were filed on the day in between the presentation of the petition and the actual cloture vote.
• All amendments must be relevant to the debate.
• Certain procedural motions are not permissible.
• The presiding officer gains additional power in controlling debate.
• No other matters may be considered (on that track) until the question upon which cloture was invoked is disposed of.

After civil rights filibusters in the 1960s, the Senate adopted a "two-track system.” Before the introduction of tracking, a filibuster would stop all Senate business. Tracking permits the majority leader – with unanimous consent or the agreement of the minority leader – to have more than one bill pending on the floor as unfinished business. Under the "two-track system", the Senate can designate specific periods during the day when each particular matter will be considered. This in and of itself limits the most significant effectiveness of the filibuster, i.e., bringing the Senate to a halt.

Nonetheless, the parties, especially the Democrats, seem to be terrorized by the prospect of a filibuster. As a result, since the 1970s, cloture has generally become a pre-emptive rather than an offensive weapon, i.e., being used in deciding whether to call up a bill rather than being used in the middle of debate. And that puzzles me.

Why are the parties so afraid of filibuster? With a couple of exceptions, they are not successful in blocking adoption of the proposed legislation. I can think of two reasons.

First, during a filibuster, more of the people may actually pay attention to what is going on in Washington. They may actually agree with the dissidents and may contact their senators with requests that they vote with the filibusterers. I am almost certain that that is why Harry Reid opted to bring the House version of Obama-care up for a procedural vote rather than allow a filibuster (which became possible when Scott Brown was elected to replace Ted Kennedy) that might have led to defections in his own caucus.

Second, both houses of the Congress have adopted such short work weeks—usually Tuesday through Thursday—that a filibuster would interfere with the more serious concerns of most members: going home to raise money for the next election. Who wants to sleep on a cot in the cloakroom when he or she could be adding to campaign coffers.

We as citizens ought be appalled. If a proposed bill is so important to the good of the Republic, the filibusterers will look silly. (I almost wrote “look like idiots.” The I remembered Mark Twains’ famous observation, “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”)

And if it is so bad for the Republic that only the ruling class wants it, the filibusterers may arouse public sentiment and actually get the voters to give appropriate direction to their elected senators.

So, forget this cowardly abridgement of the kind of free speech we really need. Let ‘em talk.

30 November 2011


As one who has watched presidential elections since 1960, I have often muttered to myself, “Is this really the best we can do?” With the exception of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan, I have not been enamored of any candidate and have often regretted that there were no better options to vote for. (I was not old enough to vote for either John F. Kennedy or Barry Goldwater, but would have done so gladly. Kennedy because I was still under the sway of my beloved yellow dog Democrat Mother and Goldwater because he was right.)

After Nixon’s self-inflicted fall from grace, I was so angry with the system that I actually cast my vote in 1976 for Jimmy Carter, the single worst voting mistake I have made in my life. The man wanted written guarantees that no Iranians would be hurt before he would allow the failed rescue attempt in 1980, fer cryin’ out loud. My bad!

Over the years, I have wondered why Sam Nunn of Georgia, Scoop Jackson of Washington, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut were not acceptable to lead the Democrats rather than George McGovern, Carter, or John Kerry (a particular despicable choice). The only time I ever felt any compassion for Kerry was in 2004 when my late brother told me that he would not vote for Kerry because “anyone stupid enough to fight in your (sic) war is not smart enough to be President.” (The sympathy for Kerry did not last long.)

On the Republican side, Jack Kemp, Pete Wilson, Paul Laxalt, and, until now, Newt Gingrich have been overlooked.

About 10 years or so ago, I happened on a class taught by then former-Congressman Gingrich which was running weekly on Saturday mornings on either C-SPAN or PBS. It was fascinating, and I began to read his books. Still, I lamented, this guy is too intelligent for the American electorate. He has actually thought through our national problems and has come up with pragmatic, responsible solutions.

This year, as it began to look as if the GOP had decided to settle for a pretty face and no spine, such as Mitt Romney or Rick Perry, I was unsettled at best. Why not Newt Gingrich?

And look what has happened! People are starting to listen, and when they do, they realize that Newt is speaking to them in words that make sense.

Oh, the naysayers will bring up a lot of irrelevant stuff in an attempt to derail this bid. He has had three wives. He can be a tough SOB to work for. He is a conservative.

He will never satisfy some people. If the American people had known about Jack Kennedy’s roving eye, perhaps Nixon would have been President in 1960. I am not a big fan of divorce, but it happens to the best of couples. All I can say on that point is that the Democratic Party better not go after him after insisting for years that Bill Clinton’s extra-marital escapades were irrelevant to his ability to govern. At least Newt married ‘em, and they were all well beyond the age of consent.

A President needs to be demanding. I’d rather a President who demands excellence from his people and who knows and tells the people what he believes in and stands for. We’ve got the alternative now—one who stands for whatever his most important supporters demand. I mean why would labor support a guy who thinks 20,000 good jobs in red states are less important than satisfying a bunch of tree huggers in birkenstocks?

With Gingrich, we’ve got 30 years of writing and thinking about issues that are truly important and are legitimate federal concerns: national defense, economic policy, and foreign policy. Thirty years ago, the current President was still a student at Columbia, and until 2004, he had never had any relevant experience in federal government. Even today, he reminds me more of Richard J. Daley than of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Newt is a conservative, but one who is an actual intellectual and pragmatic conservative. Witness his immigration proposal. At least, he wants what is best for America and not just for the hyphenated group of the week that will give votes in exchange for bread and circuses.

Newt Gingrich for President.

PS. Let the “hrumphhh’s” begin, Sis. 8>)

29 November 2011


Three news items converge.

First, US News & World Report reports that the President has set a new record. One year out from the general election, his job approval rating plummeted below that of Jimmy Carter’s. Carter, described by the article as “considered among the 20th century's worst presidents,” was at 51 per cent at this point, and no President in the past 60 plus years has been at lower than that one year out—until now. The President didn’t just squeak by Carter, either. He blasted him out of the way as he plunged to a job approval rating of 43 per cent.

So, what’s a guy to do?

Well, his party is rushing to help by proposing to cut taxes, but only if they can raise them. It seems that the Senate will propose to enlarge and extend the payroll tax cut first passed at the President’s request last year. However, they insist that before they cut taxes, they must first be allowed to raise income taxes on a few people by way of a tax surcharge. Sort of a John Kerry “I was against it before I was for it” moment. The target? Milionaires and billionaires, of course.

And they know that that is a loser, even with some of their own caucus. And that grand bluffmaster, Harry Reid already concedes that he will probably have to drop the surtax to get passage. Harry, bubba, we really gotta review that negotiation tactics class.

Obama is desperate for a win on an issue that his left wing base rabidly wants. So we are condemned to hear more whining from Reid, Pelosi, and Obama.

And no one in the media is calling the President on this. According to Politico ”The payroll tax holiday extension has been a top priority for Obama, who has traveled the country in recent days to try to drum up public support for it. In Manchester, N.H., last week, he hit Republicans for opposing tax increases in general but supporting a payroll tax cut extension.” Really? Did he mention that he is in favor of cutting taxes so long as he can raise them? That line was probably cut from the speech before it went to the teleprompter.

The bottom line is this: the President is willing to work with the Congress, just so long as he gets exactly what he wants. He gets to claim a victory on cutting taxes for the middle class and the Republicans get to betray the people who elected them. Just like wrestling with a pig--everybody gets muddy and the pig loves it.

Here's an idea: If the payroll tax cut is really a top priority, and if the President wants compromise, why not just offer the tax cut?

As we used to say in the old Corps, "Nevah hatchee." If he did that, then his base will claim that he has abandoned their ardent desire for a class war.

And expect it to continue. A man who knows how to be a candidate, but not how to be President, will hit the road again tomorrow. Obama 2008 will just merge into Obama 2012 and continue the medicine show, complete with snake oil salesman-in-chief.

According to Jay Carney, the Press Secretary, in today's briefing the American people expect the President to be constantly on the road visiting them. When asked why only battleground states were being targeted, and whether or not these are really campaign stops being financed by the American people, Carney suggested that the President has a duty to get out of the office and visit the people. Any help to the campaign is just a secondary blessing, I suppose.

I would suggest that what they really need is someone who leads. Heaven knows, I’m no fan of LBJ, but before the debt limit debacle last summer, he would have had the Speaker and Harry Reid in for drinks, threats, and a little wood shedding! For both of them! For all of his ills, he knew how to be President.

But the current White House is oblivious. So, get your popcorn, settle back in your seats, and watch the next round in this farce.

11 November 2011


Today marks the 93d anniversary of the armistice which ended the fighting on the Western Front in the World War. It took effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Within a few years, November 11 became an American national holiday known as Armistice Day. After we had to start numbering world wars, in 1954, Congress renamed Armistice Day to Veterans Day. While Veterans Day is, and ought to be, marked by solemn ceremonies such as the laying of a wreath by the President at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, it is a day to honor living veterans who may be appropriately wished "happy Veterans Day." This contrasts with Memorial Day which honors those who died on the field of honor and, by definition, ought never be a "happy" day.

10 November 2011


Today is the 236th Birthday of the finest fighting force the world has ever known, with the possible exception of the XIII Legion in Gaul and Jackson's Brigade in the Valley. I speak of course, of the United States Marine Corps.

I was privileged to lead Marines in combat as a platoon commander and executive officer of Company C, First Battalion, Fifth Marines. Charlie Company was the successor to John Thomason's company of the Fifth Marines in Belleau Woods in France in 1918.

The Marines and Corpsmen of Charlie Company are always with me, especially Lucas, Zimmerman, Tews, Unfried, Phipps, Wandro and, of course, Chip--2d Lt Fred Andrew Hartman, USMC. Tonight, at sunset, I stood on my deck "at sunset and was silent, over Chilean wine, . . . thinking of those days and those men."

Semper Fidelis

No. 47 (Series 1921)
Washington, November 1, 1921

759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

Major General Commandant

The Leathernecks by Col John Thomason (Fix Bayonets!)


THEY tell the tale of an American lady of notable good works, much esteemed by the French, who, at the end of June, 1918, visited one of the field hospitals behind Degoutte’s Sixth French Army. Degoutte was fighting on the face of the Marne salient, and the 2d American Division, then in action around the Bois de Belleau, northeast of Chateau Thierry, was under his orders. It happened that occasional casualties of the Marine Brigade of the 2d American Division, wounded toward the flank where Degoutte’s own horizon-blue infantry joined on, were picked up by French stretcher-bearers and evacuated to French hospitals. And this lady, looking down a long, crowded ward, saw on a pillow a face unlike the fiercely whiskered Gallic heads there displayed in rows. She went to it.

“Oh,” she said, “surely you are an American!”

“No, ma’am,” the casualty answered. I’m a Marine.”

The men who marched up the Paris-Metz road to meet the Boche in the spring of 1918, the 5th and 6th Regiments of United States Marines, were gathered from various places. In the big war companies, 250 strong, you could find every sort of man, from every sort of calling. There were North-westerners with straw-colored hair that looked white against their tanned skins, and delicately spoken chaps with the stamp of the Eastern universities on them. There were large-boned fellows from Pacific-coast lumber camps, and tall, lean Southerners who swore amazingly in gentle drawling voices. There were husky farmers from the corn-belt, and youngsters who had sprung, as it were, to arms from the necktie counter. And there were also a number of diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders and a bone-deep sunburn, and a tolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth. Their speech was flavored with navy words, and words culled from all the folk who live on the seas and the ports where our war-ships go. In easy hours their talk ran from the Tartar Wall beyond Peking to the Southern Islands down under Manila; from Portsmouth Navy Yard-New Hampshire and very cold-to obscure bush-whackings in the West Indies, where Cacao chiefs whimsically sanguinary, barefoot generals, with names like Charlemagne and Christophe, waged war according to the precepts of the French Revolution and the Cult of the Snake. They drank the eau de vie of Haute-Marne, and reminisced on sake, and vino, and Bacardi Rum-strange drinks in strange cantinas at the far ends of the earth; and they spoke fondly of Milwaukee beer. Rifles were high and holy things to them, and they knew five-inch broadside guns. They talked patronizingly of the war, and were concerned about rations. They were the Leathernecks, the Old Timers; collected from ship’s guards and shore stations all over the earth to form the 4th Brigade of Marines, the two rifle regiments detached from the Department of the Navy by order of the President for service with the American Expeditionary Forces. They were the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home and war as an occupation; and they transmitted their temper and character and view-point to the high-hearted volunteer mass which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.

It is a pleasure to record that they found good company in the U. S. Army. The 2d Division (U. S. Regular was the official designation) was composed of the 9th and 23d Infantry, two old regiments with names from all of our wars on their battle-flags, the 2d Regiment of Engineers-and engineers are always good-and the 12th, 15th, and 17th Field Artillery. It was a division distinguished by the quality of dash and animated by an especial pride of service. It carried to a high degree esprit de corps, which some Frenchman has defined as esteeming your own corps and looking down on all the other corps. And although it paid heavily in casualties for the things it did-in five months about 100 per cent-the 2d Division never lost its professional character.

Seven years after, across the world from /France, I met a major of the American General Staff, who was on the Paris-Metz road that last week in May, 1918, and saw the Marine Brigade. “They looked fine, coming in there,” he said. “Tall fellows, healthy and fit-they looked hard and competent. We watched you going in, through those little tired Frenchmen, and we all felt better. We knew something was going to happen-“ and we were silent, over Chilean wine, in a place on the South Pacific, thinking of those days and those men.

There is no sight in all the pageant of war like young, trained men going up to battle. The columns look solid and businesslike. Each battalion is an entity, 1,200 men of one purpose. They go on like a river that flows very deep and strong. Uniforms are drab these days, but there are points of light on the helmets and the bayonets, and light in the quick, steady eyes and the brown young faces, greatly daring. There is no singing-veterans know, and they do not sing much-and there is no excitement at all; they are schooled crafts-men going up to impose their will, with the tools of their trade, on another lot of fellows; and there is nothing to make a fuss about. Battlefields are not salubrious places, and every file knows that a great many more are going in than will come out again-but that goes along with the job. And they have no illusions about the job.

There is nothing particularly glorious about sweaty fellows, laden with killing tools, going along to fight. And yet-such a column represents a great deal more than 28,000 individuals mustered into a division. All that is behind those men is in that column too: the old battles, long forgotten, that secured our nation-Brandywine and Trenton and Yorktown, San Jacinto and Chapultepec, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Antietam, El Caney; scores of skirmishes, far off, such as the Marines have nearly every year in which a man can be killed as dead as ever a chap in the Argonne; traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever; and the faith of men and the love of women; and that abstract thing called patriotism, which I never heard combat soldiers mention-all this passes into the forward zone, to the point of contact, where war is girt with horrors. Common men endure these horrors and overcome them, along with the insistent yearnings of the belly and the reasonable promptings of fear; and in this, I think, is glory.

07 November 2011


This has been a bad week for the Cain campaign. They handled the report about some 1995 alleged sexual misconduct (of an unspecified nature, involving anonymous complainants) poorly, allowing the press and his opponents to speculate at will and interview each other, keeping the story alive. Yesterday, for instance, Christiane Amanpour asked former Secretary of State Rice a question to this effect: “Well, although we have no concrete information, assuming that there was some serious misconduct, is his candidacy over?” Yeah, he’s in trouble.

At least one report I heard revealed that the campaign had 10 days notice before the story broke. Why weren’t they prepared?

Instead, when it did break, in the space of one day, Cain denied the story, then “recalled” some of it, then more of it. He quibbled over whether there had been a “settlement” or “only an agreement” to pay one woman $35,000 and another $45,000 “severance packages.” By the end of the week, the “cover up” had become the story. No details of the events are available and the anonymous complainants refuse to speak publicly. A real mess!

This got me to thinking about how two other crises were handled by a presidential or campaign staff.

GENNIFER FLOWERS: During Bill Clinton's 1992 Presidential election campaign, it was revealed that Clinton and a model and actress named Gennifer Flowers engaged in a 12-year sexual relationship while Clinton was Governor of Arkansas. His team quickly arranged for Clinton to appear on the CBS news program 60 Minutes. Clinton denied having a relationship with Flowers, and his wife, now Secretary of State Clinton, “stood by her man.” The Flowers accusation was generally accepted by the voting public as a publicity stunt on Flower's part and Clinton avoided any serious threat to his campaign. (Clinton was deposed in January 1998, at which time he admitted that, indeed, he had a sexual encounter with Flowers, but by then he was already in his second term.)

WATERGATE: In June 1972, during Richard Nixon’s second campaign, a burglary was committed in the offices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. Five men were apprehended in the DNC’s offices, apparently attempting to bug, or remove bugs from, the offices of DNC Chair Lawrence O’Brien and others. O’Brien, one of JFK’s “Irish mafia” of political advisors, was then serving his second term as DNC Chair.

It was later determined that the burglars had been paid from a to a slush fund maintained in the Committee to Re-Election the President (CREEP). Evidence developed by the FBI, soon pointed to the inside of the White House.

The Senate established a Committee, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin (D.NC) to investigate. Counsel for the committee included Sam Dash (majority counsel) and Fred Thomson (minority counsel. In the course of the hearing, it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape recording system in his offices and that he had recorded many conversations. A conspiracy to cover up the break-in, between President Nixon and his two top aides, Robert Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, as well as other aides, was revealed by the tapes. Nixon resisted a Committee subpoena to turn over the tapes, resulting in a protracted series of court battles regarding the President’s claim of executive privilege. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled unanimously that the President had to comply with the subpoena. He resigned the presidency shortly thereafter.

WARNING: Shameless name-dropping follows.

Samuel Dash, the majority counsel of the Watergate Committee, was a legendary lawyer. In his 53-year legal career, he helped draft the independent counsel statute to correct the abuses of that system during the Watergate prosecution, served as ethics counsel to the Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, and was an expert on the law of electronic surveillance.

Mr. Dash joined the Philadelphia district attorney's office in 1952 and was appointed district attorney in 1955 at age 30. He went into private practice the next year and conducted a nationwide investigation of wiretapping, resulting in a 1959 book, "The Eavesdroppers," that is credited with helping change the Supreme Court's position and federal and state laws on electronic surveillance.

Beginning in 1965, he was a a professor at Georgetown University's law school where he also served as director of its Institute for Criminal Law and Procedures.  In the 1970s, he helped Chief Justice Warren E. Burger devise the American Bar Association's ethical standards for prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers. He had a well-deserved reputation for independence and was an advocate for legal ethics throughout his career.

After a scandal arose in 2002, Mr. Dash served on a task force to reform the ethical standards and organization of the United Way of the National Capital Area.

In the 1990s, he was ethics counsel for a case I was involved in with respect to federal election law. One Saturday morning as we waited for a new draft of a pleading to be prepared, we sat in a conference room and talked about some of his experiences.

“You know, Professor,” I said, “if I had been advising the Nixon Whitehouse in June of 1972, I would have done two things. First, I would have advised the President to destroy all of those darned tapes that very day, before anyone knew they existed and before the inevitable subpoenae were issued when their existence was revealed.  There would be no obstruction of justice (at least under 1972 law) because there was no order to preserve or produce them.  I would have told the President, ‘You can’t be a party to unilateral electronic surveillance of people who come into your office expecting confidentiality. It sets a bad example. If you are ever questioned about why the tapes were destroyed, you can cite your concerns for the Bill of Rights.’”

“Well,” he replied, “you just ended our investigation.”

I continued.  “‘Second,’ you need to fire anyone, including Haldeman and Ehrlichman, who might have had anything to do with the break-in. Then, call a press conference to announce right there the firings. Say something like this:

My fellow Americans. One of the things about being president is that everyone wants to please you. If I were to mutter to myself at 2 am that I would like a strawberry baked Alaska, one would appear momentarily.

Now, a few weeks ago, I was talking with my staff about the upcoming election. As you know, after the primary elections, the Senator from South Dakota appears to be the presumptive nominee of the other party. I mused to myself, “I sure would like to be a fly on the wall of Larry O’Brien’s office right now to see how he and the rest of the old Kennedy hands plan to take the nomination away from Senator McGovern and give it to Teddy Kennedy.”

I now believe that those staffers—misguidedly and improperly—took my musing as an order. I have, sadly but necessarily, asked for their resignations and they have tendered them. It is now a matter for the police and the courts to resolve.

But I still do wonder how Mr. O’Brien plans to take the nomination from Mr. McGovern and give it to Mr. Kennedy.

Thank you and good night.

Professor Dash grinned and shook his head. “I’m glad you weren’t there,” he said. “The whole story thereafter would have been about an attempt to overturn the primary results by the old guard in the Democratic Party.”

I will never forget that conversation.

Fast forward to last week. Here is what I would have had Cain do as soon as the story broke—or preemptively, as soon as I heard that Politico was going to run it.

Background: In the last quarter of the 20th Century, sexual harassment in the workplace became an issue. Several high dollar claims were settled in the late 1980s and early 90s that made more employees aware of the “benefits” of alleging sexual harassment as a basis for dismissal. For instance, between 1997 and 2009, the EEOC dismissed roughly half of all harassment claims filed as “no reasonable cause” claims. In 2010, that percentage rose to nearly two-thirds.

In the 1990s, sexual harassment claims were popular with employees who were being terminated because the claim itself was damaging to a company and thus, the employee had a good bargaining chip. The spectre of bad publicity led many employers and their insurers to be more likely to settle claims early in the process for the “nuisance value” of the claim, i.e., the potential cost of investigation and defense of a suit dwarfed the settlement amount.

In Cain's case, the settlement amounts appear to me to be nuisance value settlements.

All that being said, I would have recommended that Cain say something like this.

In the mid-1990s, while I was CEO of the National Restaurant Association, I became aware that a couple of soon-to-be-dismissed employees were alleging that I had somehow improperly harassed them. While I deny that claim now and denied it then, I knew that the mere allegation was serious and could affect both the morale of the Association’s employees and the reputation of the Association itself.

I promptly recused myself from taking any further part in the matter, assigning it to the director of our human resources department and our general counsel.

I seem to recall that the claims were deemed to be of no substance, but to avoid any damage to the Association, it was decided by those responsible for making the decision (and perhaps our insurers) to “settle” the claims for the value of a few month’s salary for each of the terminated employees. In business, these low dollar settlements (each was around $40,000) are known as “nuisance value settlements.” That means that the company, association, or insurer thinks the claim is meritless, but the cost of investigating the claim and litigating it would far exceed the amount of the settlement.

I had no part in making any settlement decision, but, as an experienced businessman, I think that it is better to spend a few dollars to settle unfounded claims such as these rather than 10 or 20 times the amount to win a legal “victory.”

I do recall that when settling claims such as this, our counsel often suggested that the settlement amount be easily divisible by 3 so that the attorney’s one-third share of the claim could be easily determined.
The filing of unfounded suits or claims such as these, often as a revenue-generating action by trial lawyers, continues to be a real problem in American business. That is why I support tort reform and other reforms to cut the costs of such trivial litigation in American business and medicine, even as the trial lawyers seek more ways to make their fortunes on the backs of plaintiffs who have no real claim.

Thank you and good night.

30 October 2011


I have just learned that Colonel William E. Riley, Jr., USMC reported to Marine Barracks, Heaven earlier this summer. Colonel Riley was my battalion commander in Vietnam about whom I have written here, here, here, here, and here.

The Colonel was a tremendous combat leader, having served in Korea as a lieutenant and then in Vietnam, as Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, Fifth Marines, 1st Marine Division. It seemed to the junior officers of the battalion that he never forgot what it was like to be a small unit leader. He trusted his subordinates and it showed. He was one of those men who other men eagerly follow, no matter how unpleasant the trip might be. Acts such as the implicit trust he placed in a 19 year old squad leader to adjust a supporting arm that could have killed us all earned him our undying trust, respect, and devotion.

Semper Fidelis.

30 September 2011


Not six hours after the announcement that the US had killed Anwar al-Awlaki and one of his key staff, Samir Khan, the sniping begins. The ACLU, which woud be one of the first organizations to be banned and persecuted under an Islamic government, is concerned that these terrorist commanders who have actually waged war on the United States, were not afforded due process of law before the attack. [Yeah, I know Ron Paul spoke up, too, and he is as wrong as the loony left. He ought to know better.]

If killing one enemy commander who happens to have US citizenship is a denial of constitutional rights, the hundreds of thousands of American citizens killed on the order of Abraham Lincoln were grossly violated when they took up arms on behalf of the Confederate States of America. Sadly for them, the ACLU wasn’t around to take up their claim. Or perhaps the ACLU, with its selective “hate America first agenda”, is only interested if the citizen they are worrying about is from a group which the American left likes.

Still, I’ll bet Isoroku Yamamoto wishes this rule had applied in 1943.

29 September 2011


“In our sun-down perambulations, of late, through the outer parts of Brooklyn, we have observed several parties of youngsters playing ‘base’, a certain game of ball...Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms...the game of ball is glorious.” Brooklyn Eagle, July 23, 1846

I grew up in Missouri (pre-A’s) and Illinois. As someone wrote in SI circa 1966, “St. Louis is a town where a kid grows up with a Budweiser in one hand and a score card in the other.” Cardinals fans are the greatest fans in American sport.

The collapse of the Phillies in 1964 was an answered prayer for me, something I had waited for for as long as I could understand baseball. [For those who are culturally illiterate, the Phils led the league by 6 1⁄2 games with 12 to go. Then came a ten-game losing streak that ended the year for the Phils, although they ended the season tied for second with the Reds.]

The Cards went on to beat the Yanks in seven, only the second time that the Yanks had lost back-to-back World Series. My hero was, in Harry Caray’s words, “Barney Schultz, the Cards’ ace knuckle-baller.”

After I retired from the Marine Corps, I moved to the Philadelphia area, but it was that loveable band of misfits, the 1993 Phils, that captured my heart. Led by Dutch Daulton, John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, and Curt Schilling, the day-to-day roster also included Pete “Inky” Incaviglia, rookie Mickey Morandini, Jim Eisenreich--a real "big leaguer", Rubén Amaro, Jr. (now the Phils’ GM), Larry Anderson (now one of the Phils’ broadcasters and my candidate for the Joe Garragiola award for best color commentator), and Mitch “The Wild Thing” Williams. In a classic “worst-to-first” season, the “Phighting Phils” took the lead in the NL East on opening day, and never relinquished the lead.

A rain-delayed double-header in July lasted just shy of 12 hours. Folks who left the game at midnight came back in the wee hours to see Mitch Williams win the second game on an RBI single at 4:41 AM.

In the NL championship series, the Phils beat the Braves (then in the West) 4 games to 2. The Series against the Blue Jays went to 6 games, but the Jays won the series on Joe Carter’s walk-off homer off Mitch Williams. [I have never seen that home run. I had a pillow case over my head for the actual hit, and I still cannot bear to see it when it is re-run. At the Hall of Fame in 1998, I turned away from a film clip of the homer. Another visitor looked at me and said, “My God, you’re a Phillies fan!” That was my epiphany.]

Then came the glorious years at the end of the first decade of a new century. 2007 marked the Phils return to post-season play, followed by the World Series win in 2008, which a merciful God allowed Harry Kalas to call just before he was called up to join the broadcast team of Mel Allen, Harry Caray, and others following the Heavenly Choir Nine.

There was a return to the series in 2009, won by the Yanks, a loss to the Rockies in the 2010 LCS, and now, another post season following the best year in Phillies history (102-60). That the 102d win came in an extra-innings win over the hapless, choke-prone Braves (which gave the Cards a thrilling come from behind wild card win) was icing on the cake.

Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Carlos Ruiz, and the pitchers, Roy “Doc” Halladay, Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Vance Worley, Brad Lidge, and Ryan Madson, led by the skipper, Charlie Manuel will push the Eagles off the front page for awhile. I’ll be in agony while the Cards and Phils duke it out. Ironically, I'll be in Tampa which staged its own come-from-behind wild card run, for all of those games.

Still, it is the post season, the best days of the year.

01 September 2011


Chief Petty Officer Jon Tumilson, U.S. Navy, was a son of the mid-West. From the landlocked heartland, like so many men before him, he joined the Navy. Two weeks ago, this warrior was one of the men who were killed in action when his SEAL Team was shot down in Afghanistan. He was returned to his hometown in Rockford, Iowa to rest eternally until the Lord returns.

At his funeral, one of his cousins, Lisa Pembleton, took a photograph of CPO Tumilson’s dog, Hawkeye, laying beside the flag-draped casket.

I hope that Chief Tumlison, a son of Iowa and Senator George Graham Vest (1830-1904), a son of Missouri, get a chance to be together in Heaven. Both know the truth about dogs.

Senator vest was justly famous for a closing argument he made in a case tried in Warrenton, Missouri, in which he represented the owner of a dog, Old Drum, who had been shot by a sheep herder. So powerful was his closing that the it is said that the jury returned a verdict for the owner of $500, ten times the jurisdictional maximum of $50. A statue of Old Drum now stands in front of the Courthouse in Warrensburg.

In his closing, Mr. Vest said

Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.

Gentlemen of the jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.

So here’s to Chief Petty Officer Jon Tumilson, loyal son of Iowa, squared away North American bluejacket, and Hawkeye’s shipmate.

24 August 2011


Beginning tomorrow, the Fellowship PC(USA) Gathering will convene in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For a good discussion of what faces the group, see GA Junkie ("Fellowship PC(USA) Gathering -- Some Things To Pay Attention To" 8/15/2011). Some 1900 registered attendees, representing 830 Presbyterian Church (USA) [PC(USA)] congregations will assemble for prayer, teaching of the Word, and examination of possible ways forward for orthodox churches within a denomination that has, in my opinion, completely left the tracks of the Reformed faith in favor of bowing to the demands of the world.

As one of the authors and editors of the report of the New Wineskins Strategy Team, and a ruling elder in one of the first four churches to leave the PC(USA) in 2007, I will view this meeting from afar and with interest.

Some folks who were involved, to one degree or another, with the New Wineskins Association of Churches (nee New Wineskins Initiative) are now involved with the Fellowship. Others appear to be the remnant of the two churches within one structure (the "2 synod model")camp that was so evident some ten years ago at the height of the Confessing Church Movement.

Some will attend who have different lines in the sand than did we who fought our way out of the PC(USA) four years ago. They will probably follow us out, through the holes we opened for them at great cost. And finally, a very few others, mainly the victors in the long-lasting guerrilla war fought by those who demanded that the PC(USA) abandon Scripture in favor of a worldly ordination standard, are admittedly attending with the intent of sowing more seeds of distrust and dissension.

In our Strategy Team Report which was unanimously adopted by the more than 600 delegates to the New Wineskins convocation in February 2007, Rev. Dr. Rick Wolling and I wrote:

In this report, we set out a strategy for achieving a new thing, and for engaging in and effecting a realignment that fosters and nurtures that vision. The goal is to further the Great Ends of the Church, and not to undermine, but to uphold our life together as members of the Body of Christ.

Some of us will be called to follow The Plan detailed in Part III that leads to new relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ who are in a different place. Those who follow this path will leave their parent’s home and join with others to discover new ways to carry out the Great Commission.

Others may be called to stay where they are and be a prophetic witness to what has been our traditional home. Those who follow this path will continue to strive to reform, renew and repair the old homestead so that it can once again be a vibrant and welcoming lodging for those who are lost and hungry for the Word.

That being said, we implore all to whom this report shall come: there must be a new thing, wherever it may occur. To simply stand fast and relax in the status quo is to agree that no change is necessary. Is such a course a faithful response to the moment in time in which we find ourselves? We emphatically respond, “No!”

We believe there are two faithful options for evangelicals to follow:

To realign with an evangelical, Reformed body that is more faithful to Christ, obedient to Scripture and seeks a missionally focused partnership with us than is the PC(USA); or

To stay in place within the PC(USA), while working for the reformation and renewal of that part of the Body of Christ if so led by the Holy Spirit.

From what I have read, the Fellowship is still struggling with those issues.

For those of us who left in the first wave, the line in the sand was the Trinity report and the PUP report received and/or adopted by the PC(USA) in its 2006 General Assembly. For the Fellowship, the issues are the adoption of the New Form of Government and the abandonment of Scripturally-based ordination standards approved by the 2010 GA and ratified by the presbyteries in 2010-11.

If the Fellowship focuses on the important issues of God’s sovereignty and the authority of His Word, I can see the possibility of some real renewal in the PC(USA) as many of its most influential and orthodox congregations finally take a stand. But if the focus is simply on creating two different bodies joined only by common pension, medical, and retirement plans and an endowment fund, in which one body submits to a new, hierarchical denomination controlled from Louisville, while the other hopes to ignore that hierarchy, well…the Titanic will sink, no matter how the deck chairs are arranged.

There are many wonderful brothers and sister in Christ who will join this week to determine the future of the PC(USA), and they need and deserve our prayers.

23 August 2011


On one of Sunday’s talk shows, Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana was asked one of those “Have you stopped beating your wife?” questions that pass for journalism today.

“Governor,” he was asked, “what do you say to your party when in the recent debate, every candidate said they would not accept a deficit reduction plan that had curt spending by ten dollars for every dollar of tax increases?”

Surprise! Mitch belted that one out of the park.

He said that the real problem for at least the past half century has been that every time a deal like that is accepted — multiple dollars in cuts for each new tax dollar — the taxes have always been enacted right away while the cuts just never seem to be made.

Exactly right. I am so sick of hearing the President and the Dems in Congress telling us that there is no need for a balanced budget amendment. According to the Prez, all we need is for “members of Congress to do their jobs.” But the history of the past 80 plus years teaches that politicians are simply unable to pass up the opportunity of spending other peoples’ money on the things necessary to get them reelected. See, e.g., this article from Nevada (coincidentally, the home of Harry Reid) about $490,000 of stimulus money that created 1.72 (yeah, less than 2) permanent jobs.

I want a little piece of that action!

19 August 2011


As we enter a time of bus tour presidential campaigning “investigation,” the proponents of the Obama-led drive towards bigger government constantly assure us that we have nothing to fear from such a government. We are promised that when we are compelled to release all sorts of personal information, including but not limited to medical information, the law will protect the confidentiality of that information.

But now, we learn that even if the regulators try to obey the law, any member of Congress can request any information he wants and then spread it across the media.

According to an August 19 Reuters article by Sarah N. Lynch, confidential oil trading data collected by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has been intentionally leaked to a Wall Street Journal reporter. The article states that the leaked information “exposed the extensive positions speculators held in the run-up to record high prices in 2008. . .. Senator Bernie Sanders, a staunch critic of oil speculators, leaked the information to a major newspaper in a move that has unsettled both regulators and Wall Street alike.”

The CFTC is specifically barred from releasing confidential data it collects. However, the law also requires the CFTC to produce such information if a Congressional committee acting within its proper authority requests it. “Once it is in the hands of Congress, there is nothing to prevent lawmakers from releasing it publicly.”

In this case, when the CFTC first became aware of the breach of the data, it conducted an internal investigation to determine whether agency staffers were the source of the leak. The investigation concluded that no CFTC employees were involved. Instead, it appears that the data was first formally requested by the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. From there it made its way into Sanders’ hands. It is interesting to note that Representative Henry Waxman, a liberal Democrat and ally of Senator Sanders, was the Chairman of the Committee when the data was obtained from the CFTC. Unsurprisingly, Sanders’ office refused to say exactly how it acquired the confidential information.

Now I hold no brief for the oil or commodities trading industries. I suspect that there were indeed shenanigans involved in the sudden catapult that sent oil prices skyrocketing in the summer of 2008. In addition to starting the landslide that engulfed our economy, it surely did no good to John McCain’s presidential hopes.

But the larger concern is the egoistic—even egomaniacal—assertion by one Senator that he is above the law, that he can ignore the protections that were consideration for people to produce otherwise privileged information to the government.

Certainly, this precedent must raise concerns at the CFTC, which is legally prohibited from releasing confidential information that identifies trader positions and identities, and other regulatory agencies which are also barred from releasing information. Many agencies are tasked with gathering information for use in proactively preventing future dangers to people, property, and the nation’s economy and security. If people realize that an investigator’s promise that “we cannot release this information,” means nothing, they will be less likely to give information voluntarily and in a timely manner.

But that meant nothing to Sanders. Ignoring the CFTC’s legal obligation to preserve the confidentiality of the information it obtained, we are informed that “In a statement from Sanders provided to Reuters, Sanders said he felt the data needed to be publicly aired. ‘The CFTC has kept this information hidden (sic) from the American public for nearly three years," he said. "This is an outrage. The American people have a right to know exactly who caused gas prices to skyrocket in 2008 and who is causing them to spike today.’" (Emphasis added.)

Perhaps next year he will decide that the American people have a right to know details of my medical treatment by the VA. . . or your vasectomy! It his decision alone, the law be damned.

14 June 2011


If you consider CNN’s John King a journalist, then journalism is the worst for it. He had an opportunity last night to ask substantive questions of seven candidates for the Presidency. He did so, occasionally, but wasted time that could have been spent on the problems our nation faces by asking such probing questions as: Leno or Conan? Elvis or Johnny Cash? Spicy wings or mild?

He is free to be a comedian on his own time, but when CNN bills an event as newsworthy, he ought to stick to business.

Just sayin'.......

10 June 2011


This morning, I had the honor to welcome home a neighbor who just returned from his sixth or seventh deployment to the Iraq-Afghan theater of operations. After reintroducing him to the concept of “green” as an actual color, we spoke for just a few minutes.

He noted that Afghanistan had changed remarkably since his last deployment. Much of the urban scene is electrified now. (“Urban” is a relative term; he was referring to the cities and major villages, all of which had been at a 19th century level under the Taliban.) The attacks we read about are sporadic and random, rather than a rolling wave of resistance.

When I asked him about troop morale, he replied, “It’s really pretty good. The thing that gets to them is that the American press is ignoring all the good that we are doing and harp only on the bad stuff.”

Now, ask the average Vietnam vet, at least the grunt, about his feelings for the press, and you would get a very similar answer. It is, indeed, "déjà vu all over again". [Lawrence Peter Berra (American philosopher, commentator and Hall of Fame catcher and manager).]

My friend went on to say that the talk of deadlines for withdrawal is unsettling. Our troops are working hard to train a viable Afghan army and national police force, but the recruits they are getting need more work than do their American counterparts arriving at American boot camps. Most cannot read and have little or no concept of what is a law. To think that a four month boot camp can prepare a man to start performing as a police officer is absurd. Given the time, we could field a viable national peace keeping and law enforcement body, but we would need time.

But Congress, which cannot perform its assigned task of, e.g., adopting an annual budget, seems to be sure that it is qualified to direct an army in the field. It didn’t work for the Continental Congress, it was ineptly handled by the Civil war congresses, and the meddling in the details of war-fighting by the congresses of 1968-1975 bordered on criminal negligence.

The problem is that we have barely 300 years of history as a distinct people and just over 200 as a nation. We are incapable, it seems, of taking the long view. For us, ten years is a long time; for our adversaries, something that happened in the 14th Century is yesterday’s news. For so long as that mental historic discipline fails us, it will continue to be déjà vu all over again.

05 June 2011


What could be better than sitting under a shade tree, enjoying the cool breezes, as I gaze out over a newly planted field of soybeans in the company of a sweet and loyal dog?

03 June 2011


I was almost rear-ended today.

I was in a grocery store parking lot, parked between two suvs, neither of which was there when I parked. After I completed my shopping, I was backing into the lane to leave. I was moving slowly because I could not see over or through the larger vehicles. Suddenly, a small Toyota came racing into my view and swerved violently around the the rear of my vehicle. The driver was on her cell phone at the time.

This has happened to me more and more frequently in parking lots. If I see a car backing out, I preemptively apply the “last clear chance” doctrine. Knowing that I can see the backer much better than the backing driver can see me, I stop and allow the vehicle to get out of his or her parking spot. But most folks seem so preoccupied with cell phones and speed that they play demolition derby by swerving to go around.

Today, the young woman stopped and came over to lecture me. “You almost hit me,” she yelled. Then, into her phone she said, “This guy almost hit me. He couldn’t see me coming because of this suv, but he just started to back out anyway! It’s a good thing I saw his backup lights and was able to speed up and get around him.

As Bill Engvall would say, “Here’s your sign!”

28 May 2011


On this Memorial Day weekend, I am remembering some of the men who are my heroes. Number one on the list is my Dad, Chief Pharmacists Mate John J. McCarty, U.S. Navy.

Dad was born in Stanberry, Missouri, a small farming and railroad community in the northwest part of the State. He was the eldest of 11 children of James M. and Gertrude (Kurtright) McCarty.

Stanberry was where he became the man he was. In that dear little town, at my Grandmother’s knee and observing my Grandfather, he learned about duty, honor, integrity, and all the other essential characteristics that make up “a good man.” I suspect that until he was 25—with the exception of a tour with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Yellowstone National Park after high school— he was probably never further from Stanberry than a trip to Kansas City, eighty miles to the south. Like so many men who come from the heartland, he was never one to complain, one who did not have to be told to take the initiative to help a neighbor or a stranger, and one who instinctively loved our Country.

When I hear Garrison Keilor talk about Lake Woebegone, Minnesota (where “all the men are strong, all the women are good looking, and all the children are above average” ), described as “the little town that time forgot and memory cannot improve…”, I am transported to Stanberry. The extended McCarty clan was raised to know in our very marrow that, as my Uncle Charlie often declared, “All roads lead to Stanberry.” If home is truly where the heart is, then Stanberry is my home as it was his.

Now, contrary to current understanding, the Great Depression did not end in 1932. FDR did not wave a magic wand to end it, and the Country was still suffering from its effects as late as 1940. In that setting, on 2 July 1940, Dad joined the Navy and headed for U.S. Naval Training Center, Great Lakes, Illinois. He was paid $21 a month, and sent some of that home. His Uncle Jim Kurtright, a WWI Navy vet, counseled Dad to go Navy because “you’ll always have a warm rack, three squares a day, and no mud.” Alas, the best laid plans…

After completing boot camp, Dad was transferred to US Naval Hospital, San Diego for training as a Hospital Corpsman. He then reported to USS Relief (AH-1) in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in late 1940. He remained in Relief, a hospital ship, and at sea until mid-November 1944—just shy of 48 straight months. She returned to the Atlantic Fleet in early 1941 via the Panama Canal and was anchored in Argentia Bay, New Foundland on that infamous Sunday afternoon in December 1941.

By the time Relief got back to the Pacific in early 1943, Dad was a Chief Pharmacists Mate and was the leading CPO (i.e., the senior chief petty officer) in a collecting and clearing company in Relief’s embarked hospital. Those companies would go ashore in the early waves of a landing to conduct triage and evacuate casualties requiring hospitalization to the ship. In that capacity, he landed at Tarawa, Kwajalien, Saipan, Tinian, and Pelelieu.

Although he was never wounded in action, he narrowly escaped injury when a Jap plane dropped a 500 pound dud between his landing craft and another carrying the rest of the company at Saipan. At Tinian, he was saved by his shipmate, Chief Raeder, from falling overboard and being crushed or drowned. Chief Raeder was a distant relative of Grand Admiral Erich Raeder who was Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy. A landing craft carrying wounded collided with the ship, tossing Dad into a stanchion and knocked him unconscious. He started to collapse overboard, but Chief Raeder grabbed him by his belt and pulled him back aboard one-handed.

Dad didn’t talk much about the war with us, although he would share sea stories with other vets. I do remember being impressed by an event shortly after we got our first TV in 1954. St. Louis had only two stations, and KWK was just starting up. They used a lot of WWII-oriented programming to fill their air-time, including Navy Log, which opened with the call to General Quarters—a bosun’s call and a gong. One night, my brother was excused from the supper table and went into the living room and turned on the TV, contrary to my parents’ rule, volume all the way up, just as that gong started. Dad jumped up from the table, sending his chair flying. He reached the door before he realized what was happening.

When Mom asked, “What in the name of Heaven are you doing?”, he replied simply, “I was going to my battle station.” It was that night that I first began to consider the Naval Service as a career.

Mom told me two other stories that reveal the effect on Dad of his war.

First, she said that from his return from the war in 1944 until his death in 1963, several times a month, he would wake up, screaming and drenched in sweat. When she got him refocused, he would apologize, saying only “I thought I was back at Pelelieu.” [NOTE: If you ever watch Victory At Sea (Episode 18 “TWO IF BY SEA: Peleliu and Angaur”), about mid-way through the episode, there is a shot of Relief and a one or two second clip of two Chiefs—one of whom I believe is Dad.]

Second, Mom and Dad married a couple of months after Pearl Harbor. They were both 26. (When he died at age 47, I can remember Mom saying, “I’ve been in love with him since 4th Grade”—the year that she moved to Stanberry. I can attest that that love never failed, even though she was a widow for twice as long as they were married.)

Relief came back to the States in November 1944 for overhaul. Dad was detached and transferred to the command that was establishing US Naval Hospital, Yosemite National Park in anticipation of millions of casualties from the invasion of Japan.

Mom and Dad were both 28, and that ol’ biological clock was a-tickin’. However, Dad refused Mom’s desire to start a family saying, “I won’t do that to you. When we invade Japan, they’ll send me back. I won’t come back from that one; I’ve used up all my luck. I won’t leave you a young widow with a baby.” [History will note that on 14 August 1945 (US time), the Japanese announced that they would accept the terms of the Potsdam Conference and would surrender unconditionally. I was born on 13 May 1946—exactly nine months later. It lends a whole new meaning to “VJ Day celebration!”]

About two months before Dad died, I was writing a term paper about Tarawa. I interviewed Dad, and got an A for using a primary source. His description of Tarawa in particular and the Pacific islands that he landed on in general was laconic and of the “I was there, but the real heroes were…..” genre. Still, I treasure that short conversation. I have often regretted that he did not live long enough for us to talk after I returned from Vietnam. It might have helped.

After his discharge in July 1946, he and Mom returned to Stanberry. We later moved to the St. Louis area where Dad was the assistant station manager for Eastern Airlines until his death.

Some of my earliest memories are of meeting at my Nana’s house, Mom's mother, on “Decoration Day, i.e., Memorial Day, to collect peonies to place on the graves of our war dead. The American Legion Post would then fire three volleys and Dad, the Post Bugler, would sound Taps. Things haven’t changed much: my cousin Kathy just e-mailed that she and her husband, Milton, had gone to High Ridge Cemetery to put flowers and a flag on Dad’s grave, among others. All roads do lead to Stanberry.

My Dad and Mom were truly great members of the “greatest generation.”

27 May 2011


The President of the United States
in the name of
The Congress
takes pride in presenting the
Medal of Honor (posthumously)
Private First Class
United States Marine Corps

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, as set forth in the following

While serving as a combat engineer with Company B, 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division on 27 May 1969 in connection with combat operations against the enemy, PFC Phipps was a member of a 2-man combat engineer demolition team assigned to locate and destroy enemy artillery ordnance and concealed firing devices. After he had expended all of his explosives and blasting caps, PFC Phipps discovered a 175mm high explosive artillery round in a rice paddy. Suspecting that the enemy had attached the artillery round to a secondary explosive device, he warned other Marines in the area to move to covered positions and prepared to destroy the round with a hand grenade. As he was attaching the hand grenade to a stake beside the artillery round, the fuse of the enemy's secondary explosive device ignited. Realizing that his assistant and the platoon commander were both within a few meters of him and that the imminent explosion could kill all 3 men, PFC Phipps grasped the hand grenade to his chest and dived forward to cover the enemy's explosive and the artillery round with his body, thereby shielding his companions from the detonation while absorbing the full and tremendous impact with his body. PFC Phipps' indomitable courage, inspiring initiative, and selfless devotion to duty saved the lives of 2 Marines and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

26 May 2011


American national holidays, with one exception, are celebrations. Christmas and Easter celebrate the birth and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. King Day celebrates Dr. King’s life and ministry. Presidents’ Day celebrates some presidents who deserve it and the rest, too. Independence Day celebrates just that. Labor and Veterans’ Days celebrate the hard work of all Americans and the service of those who took up the citizen’s greatest duty before returning to hearth and home. Thanksgiving Day celebrates and gives thanks for our bounty.

But one is different. Memorial Day is not a celebration as that word is understood today, although it is a celebration in the classic sense. It is the day on which we are supposed to stop and remember the men and women who, on far-flung battlefields, in fiery skies, and shell-splashed seas, gave all of their tomorrows for our today. They gave their everything that we could celebrate all the rest of the holidays.

Most of them were just kids. They had the same dreams that we did, but they never got to realize them. Instead, those dirty, tired, skinny men, pressed on into the cauldron of war. They did the job of giants, faithful to the end!

Some were the dog-faced infantry who stood and fought at Bunker Hill, Sharpsburg and Chickamauga, at San Juan Hill, at Chateau Thierry and the Marne. Some were gunners and pilots, high over Germany or Japan or Vietnam. Some were torpedomen and gunner’s mates and cooks and bakers on the 55 submarines “still on patrol.” Some were the Airborne who—to the everlasting glory of the infantry-- shivered and held at “the Bulge” or Rangers who “led the way” on the streets of Mogadishu. Most recently, they fell at Ramadi and in the cold mountains of Afghanistan.

A few were “Doc,” who died with them while ministering to their wounds at “bloody Omaha,” Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir and the Pusan perimeter. Others were “Padre,” such as Father Vincent Capodano, who died shielding a Marine with his body while praying with him.

And a fortunate few were Marines--riflemen-- God’s most magnificent creation. We are assured that, having served their time in the hell of Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, the Reservoir, the Ashau Valley and the Arizona Territory , at the barracks in Beirut and in al Anbar, they are now on duty, guarding the streets of heaven until, in God’s good time, we are finally allowed to rejoin them. Semper Fideles!

Some still rest where they fell, while others made a final trip home to rest. Their gallantry and sacrifice ought be remembered every day, but it is not. So, on Monday, precisely at Noon, 21 minute guns will be fired on posts and stations across the world. Taps will be sounded, and at 1221, the flag will be once again two blocked after hanging at half-mast for the morning. And some of us, in our hearts and memories, will be with those men in those times.

I will ponder once again the beautiful words of Laurence Binyon’s To The Fallen:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Lest we forget. (And the people respond “Lest we forget.”)

14 May 2011


While looking at POLITICO’s Arena for Saturday, May 14,I found an article that reports that “the White House is drafting an executive order that would require federal contractors to disclose political donations in exchange for doing business with the government.” According to the White House, this requirement will aid in “transparency”, something that did not bother the White House or the Congressional Democrats as they concocted their health care “reform” and the financial market “reform.” In those two instances, secrecy was the order of the day.

This smacks of the Chicago Strong Arm, a form of government with which the President, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, and former Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel are intimately familiar. My late first wife was from Chicago and I attended law school there. Watching the day-to-day shenanigans of Chicago politicians was the best contact sport around—no rules and beat the opponent bloody. I can think of nothing that would be more likely to lead to bribery and bid rigging than this. You either donate to the candidates that the President favors or your low bid is somehow lost.

Lest you think, “Oh, there he goes again,” such top level people in the President’s own party as House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who chairs the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, have opposed the plan.

This is dog that needs to go back to the kennel right now.

03 May 2011


First, the good news: A raid force of 24 Navy SEALS penetrated deep into Pakistan, conducted a lightning raid on a fortified compound where they met armed resistance, overcame the enemy, and sent Osama bin Laden off to meet George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison, Robert E. Lee, Thomas J. Jackson and the other 64 Virginians he was promised. I’ll bet that was a fun meeting.

Now, the bad news. A lot of liberals are complaining. Maybe, just maybe, OBL did not have a weapon in hand when he grew a third eye. Oh, my. No one shouted for him to put his hands up. Oh dear. No one read him his rights. Oh darn. They shot too much: after the head shot, they double tapped him in the chest. Oh give me a break.

I wonder if the same cry babies who seem to think OBL was just another petty criminal would have been up in arms if Marshal Zhukov’s troops had put one between Hitler’s running lights?

The real problem, as I see it, is that a huge majority of Americans have never worn our nation’s uniform. They have never trained for man’s deadliest pastime—war. They have never been in a darkened building at zero dark thirty on a difficult mission surrounded by some nasty dudes who want to do them in and who have no qualms about shooting first. They don't know what it is like to be there.

So, bravo zulu, SEAL Team 6. Good shooting! As for the chest tap? Well, as Murphy’s rules of combat remind us, “anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice!”

21 April 2011

“LIVING WITHIN OUR MEANS”: Some Ideas for the President and Congress (Part 1)

Almost the first words out of the President’s mouth these days as he campaigns—sorry, educates the American people-- are “We need to start living within our means.”

Now, for you and me that usually means that we consider our income and adjust our spending accordingly. For the President, Harry Reid, and Sulkin’ Nancy Pelosi, it means “we decide what we want and then take more money from the people who worked for it and earned it to pay for what we want.” If you and I did that, we’d go to jail.

The Taking Trio always seems to talk about “savings over the next decade,” so here is one man’s alternative for cutting the budget over the next ten years. It will be long, so I’ll do it in parts.

Priority Item Number 1: Get rid of the Department of Education [Savings: $700 billion]

As of a couple of weeks ago, the 2011 budget for the Department of Education stood at $70 billion. This liberal Carter-era department was created by the then-Democratic Party controlled Congress to "establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.” The Department of Education does not establish schools or colleges, does not put any teachers in any schools, and does not teach a single child. Rather, the department's mission is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

In other words the Department of Education shuffles paper, tells others what to do, hands out gobs of cash, collects data, reviews data, reports on data, shuffles more paper, duplicates some of the functions of the Department of Justice, and spends more cash. The only thing it does not do is educate.

My undergraduate education was at Illinois State University (nee Illinois State Normal University) which had just been renamed after over a century. I received a BS in Education with a certificate to teach social sciences. At dear old Normal, we had a saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach teach others to teach.” It was tongue in cheek and at the time (1964-68), ISU was still one of the premier teacher training universities in America. But there is a kernel of truth there.

The further removed from any endeavor one is, the less likely he or she is to know what is going on. Our ancestors recognized this. Perhaps the major achievement of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation (other than demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation) was the adoption of the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance in 1787.

We still see the effects of those import early laws today. Anyone who has flown over the mid-western and western United States, especially over farm country, has seen the checkerboard pattern of one-mile square “sections” of land. The land ordinance established the basis for the Public Land Survey System. Land was to be systematically surveyed into square townships, six miles on a side. Each of these townships was sub-divided into thirty-six sections of one square mile or 640 acres. In my high school days when we had a year-long Civics class, we learned to read a map and to find a quarter-quarter section (40 acres) based on township and range lines, e.g., “NW quarter-quarter Section of the SE quarter Section, Section 13, Township 4 North, Range 7 East.”

“But what,” you may ask, “has this to do with education?” A good question that bespeaks the failure of your early education.

The land ordinance also created a mechanism for funding public education. Section 16 in each township was reserved for the maintenance of public schools. Schools could be located in section sixteen of their respective townships, or the school section could be sold or rented support public education. And education was a local responsibility thereafter. Later, in the Oregon Territory Act of 1848, an additional section, section 36 of each township, was likewise set aside to support public education.

The point is this: unpaid elected local school boards ran the schools, hired the teachers and oversaw the curriculum necessary to properly educate the children of the community. Real estate taxes were levied to provide additional support. Because the people of the locality had to be convinced that any tax increases were necessary to a proper education of their children, there was an intense interest in education.

The earliest state colleges, pre-dating the Morrill land grant act of 1862, were established by the states to meet the State’s needs for teachers and to apply scientific principles to farming, e.g., Illinois State Normal (1857) and Pennsylvania State University (1855).

Control was at the appropriate level: elementary and secondary schools at the local level and state colleges and universities at the state level.

That is a far cry from the modern model. For instance, the 5,000 employees of the Department of Education have these functions per Department publications. I have added my own definitions, for what they are worth.

Office of the Secretary
• Chief of Staff, i.e., the Secretary’s hatchet man
• Chief Operating Officer, i.e., someone to oversee the Under-Secretary of Education
• Office of Inspector General, i.e., internal snoops
• Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO) , i.e., public relations
• Office of the General Counsel (OGC), i.e., lawyers
• Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs (OLCA), i.e., keeping Congress happy
• Office for Civil Rights (OCR), i.e., more lawyers, duplicating the Department of Justice

You will note that so far, not a bit of education is occurring. Let us continue.

• Institute of Education Sciences (IES), i.e., a bureaucratic office to supervise other bureaucrats
o National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), i.e., a bureaucratic office to create and mandate reports that will justify their continued existence
 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), ), i.e., a bureaucratic office to read those reports
 Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), ), i.e., a tall blond guy who …, oh, wait, a bureaucratic office to go back and tell the local people who had to write the reports what they meant.
• Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), i.e., those who can’t teach teach others to teach
• Office of the Chief Financial Officer, i.e., the bureaucrat who makes sure every penny collected from the taxpayers goes where the Department wants it to go rather than being spent where it came from
• Office of Management, i.e., a bureaucratic office to oversee the other bureaucrats
• Office of the Chief Information Officer, i.e., a bureaucratic office to buy and use computers to figure out whether computers would be better used in classrooms
• Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, —who really knows??
o Budget Service, ), i.e., a bureaucratic office to create and justify getting a bigger slice of the public pie
• Risk Management Service, i.e., an insurance office. Why? I don’t know, he’s on third, and I don’t give a darn…..

Chief Operating Officer

Office of the Under Secretary (OUS),
• Office of Post secondary Education (OPE), i.e., college is now a federal function
• Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), i.e., so is vocational and adult education
o Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), i.e., a bureaucratic office to use my money to send other people’s kids to college
• President's Advisory Board on Tribal Colleges and Universities (WHITCU)’ i.e., a place to stash campaign donors
• President's Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCU) (same)

You catch my drift? I’ll leave it at that, but here is the rest.

Office of the Deputy Secretary (ODS)
• Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)
o Office of Migrant Education (OME)
o Student Achievement and School Accountability Programs (SASA)
o President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans
• Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA)
• Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
o National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
o Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
o Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)
• Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (OSDFS)
• Office of Innovation and Improvement

Associated federal organizations
• Advisory Councils and Committees
• National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB)
• National Institute for Literacy (NIFL)

Federal Interagency Committee on Education, i.e., bureaucrats talking to bureaucrats on our dime

Note that not a single one of these goes into the classroom. In fact, most are either redistributing money or wasting real educators’ time by demanding reports that can be used to justify the bureaucratic existence and to redistribute the money that locals could more efficiently use.

So, here it is, Mr. President. Close it down and in ten years, you’ll have realized a $700 billion savings. And because a lot of those 5,000 folks have education degrees, you can also help put more teachers in the classroom—if the local school boards want to hire them.