Saturday, January 3, 2015
Daniel J. Summers
I missed this in 2013, and this is not a 3-post series as usual. Instead of writing a lot about each topic, I'll give a short reason I categorized it where I did. Please make no assumptions or conclusions about what I don't say; the fact that people are so apt to do that should probably make the “Bad” list, but not this year. Since this is a single post, we'll lead with…
No Terrorism at World Stage Events - 2014 saw the Winter Olympics in Russia and the World Cup in Brazil. Neither were marred by terrorism.
16 Out of 20 Ain't Bad - Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood did not want to provide coverage for 4 of the 20 forms of “birth control” mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as they work post-conception (an “abortofacient”). The Supreme Court agreed, in a rare victory for religious freedom.
Plummeting Oil Prices - In spite of the current administration's best efforts, our economy overcame them. The “Drill, Baby, Drill” crowd was vindicated, as an explosion in US oil production caused prices to drop substantially. Fracking has enabled this boom while preserving the environment, and the drop in prices has hit hostile-to-us oil-based economies hard. It's a big win-win that progressives still can't thoroughly grasp.
Republicans Win Control of Congress - This is a qualified “good” entry, assuming that they'll govern as they ran. Hey, there's a first time for everything, right?
Tennessee Football Rises - Playing an SEC schedule and non-gimme out-of-conference games with the youngest team in FBS is a recipe for a 3-9 season; the Vols made it 6-6 (and, since this is written after their bowl, 7-6) and have great momentum for 2015.
The Deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner - Neither the Brown nor Garner families had loved ones with them this Christmas that they had last Christmas. There may be speculation as to the incidents surrounding their deaths (and neither are going to trial, so we'll likely never fully know), but even the public knowing every little detail of what happened will not bring these young men back to their families.
Colorado Going to Pot - The first year's experiment with legalized marijuana has not gone well. Assurances that children will not be able to easily get it have evaporated, and nearly all the tax money it's generated has gone to enforcement. Their governor caught some heat for saying that the citizens acted foolishly, but the facts certainly indicate he was correct in his assessment.
Ebola - 2014 was the year Ebola came to America. While there were some ridiculous things with how it was handled, the bad was limited, with some who contracted the disease surviving, and a new set of medical protocols helping to protect those who care for people.
ISIS - Nearly 10 years after being freed, Iraq fell back into enslavement thanks to a group coming in to make a hostile takeover, combined with an army that was not willing to fight for what it had won. Islamic law marches on, while Christians die, in a place where thousands of Americans gave their lives to win freedom.
Russian Aggression Versus Ukraine - Russia invaded and took over part of another sovereign nation. They do not appear to be done yet.
The Handling of the Death of Michael Brown / The Reaction to the Brown Grand Jury Verdict / The Reaction to the Garner Grand Jury Verdict - Ferguson and Missouri police handled the initial aftermath of Brown's shooting about as poorly as you could. The riots once the grand jury failed to indict Darren Wilson were unnecessary and unhelpful (and unwanted by Michael Brown's family), and the “Hands Up Don't Shoot” gesture would have been impactful had it been based in verified fact (which it was not). This was also the case where “unarmed teen” is supposed to imply harmless, peaceful, law-abiding child, but video showed a certain store owner who would dispute that characterization. Once the Garner verdict came out, there were die-ins all across the country, proving nothing, but inconveniencing people who had nothing to do with anything surrounding the case. Two dead New York policemen and one in Florida, at last reports, still hadn't brought Michael Brown or Eric Garner back to their families. (If I have a chance, there will be much more on this in my MLK post.)
p.s. ALL lives matter.
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing E-mails - Under oath, and subpoena from Congress, IRS chief Lois Lerner claimed to have lost her e-mail. This was after other e-mails came out that pretty much confirmed their deliberate targeting of conservative groups leading up to the 2012 election. While those e-mails were “found” toward the end of the year, this Watergate-esque dodge was pathetic. IT does not work that way, and if it does, those people need to be fired.
Computer Security - This was a bad year for computer security. “HeartBleed,” “Shell Shock,” and “Poodle” were names given to long-existing exploits that were discovered in the software that runs much of the Internet. Target fessed up about how large their breach was, and Home Depot let a lot of customer information get away as well. Finally, targeted attacks released iCloud data from celebrities, while an (internal? North Korean? We don't know yet…) attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment released salaries, movies, even e-mails among leaders and actors. (Maybe we should sic the Guardians of Peace on the IRS!) Hopefully some good will come of this; if nothing else, it will make people think about security before they trust a “cloud” service with their information.
Kaci Hickox - Kaci is a nurse who was exposed to Ebola. She defied quarantine, though, and created a lot of concern. While she ultimately was not found to have the disease, her foolish, selfish actions stirred up a lot of concern in her community. As a medical professional, she should have known better. But, of course, if she had, then her name wouldn't be on some random guy's blog in a year-in-review post, would it?
I've got a good bit on my mind this morning. I held back from posting anything negative about our nation yesterday (apart from a call to repentance - but that was me as a Christian, not as American; I would feel that way about whatever nation I called home). “Happy Birthday America - you suck!” just seemed inappropriate.
However, our nation does have many, many flaws. I'm not ready to discard her, by any means; but I see, at nearly every turn, her people and her government making the wrong decisions, and continuing her slide towards mediocrity and insecurity, under the guise of improving both. In nearly every issue, the underlying cause appears to me to be the same - an inability to dispassionately, rationally evaluate a situation, policy, etc. on its merits alone. This is displayed on both sides of the political divide, where talking points and comebacks are slung back and forth, and seems to be what passes for civil discourse. It isn't!
This originated as a Facebook post, but I thought it was more appropriate for the blog; heaven knows it's had some cobwebs for a while, and hits its tenth anniversary next month. Were I to blog each of these issues individually, though, I'd end up with thousands of words that no one would read, save to search it for keywords so they could post their comebacks in the comments (see above). Does it matter that I can't succinctly express what's on my mind? The problems I see aren't succinct problems with succinct solutions. An exclusively inward focus seems wrong; I should be trying to leave a better nation and world for my children, right?
But, as I look back at those nearly 10-year-old posts, the issues are the same. “Gay Bishops - A Big Deal?” Well, I (regrettably) have been vindicated in my view that this gave license for people to just ignore parts of the Bible with which they disagree; at this point, were a hair's breadth away from forcing people to behave in ways they feel are contrary to the Bible, because others disagree with parts of It. “The Ten Commandments - A Monumental Controversy” was about a man's personal decorations in his office, yet the intervening ten years have seen a continuing push to eliminate every vestige of our Christian heritage from the public square. “Abortion - A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed” has seen some progress as of late, but the Todd Akin/Wendy Davis dichotomy prove my point about civil discourse; neither side is immune. However, since that post, there is one political party that has decided they should be for it at any time, for any reason, at no cost. I'm no legal expert, but I don't think that was quite the point of Roe v. Wade, or even Griswold v. Connecticut. How does one rationally argue against such an irrational, yet quite passionately-held, position?
America is not beyond hope. We must change course, though, or we will find ourselves swimming in self-induced mediocrity, while we are crowing over how advanced we are. To get God's blessing, we must turn to Him; to elevate civil discourse, we must teach reasoning. (Morgan Freeberg had a great (and succinct!) summary of this where he dissects Dennis Prager's statement that he'd prefer clarity over agreement.)
p.s. The ambiguity in the title of this post is intentional; whichever meaning is appropriate will be up to us going forward.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Daniel J. Summers
This is the first or last post of our “2012 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous” series. 2012 wasn't all bad; let's take a look at how.
The London Olympics
London got a third turn to host the modern Olympic Games in 2012, and they did an outstanding job. The facilities were all first-rate. The opening and closing ceremonies both set new high bars, being spectacular without being cheesy. Security was also successful, with no violence or terrorist acts being committed during the games. Of course, seeing USA sitting atop the medal board at the end was an added bonus.
The only thing about the games that I would change would be the coverage. I'm not going into full #NBCfail mode, but they should have found a way to televise the games as they occurred, while still preserving their prime time “here's what we think you want to see” coverage. Rio lines up with the US, so that shouldn't be an issue as much; evening events can be broadcast live if they wanted.
Eat Mor Hate Chicken
In July, Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy, son of founder S. Truett Cathy, mentioned in a Baptist Press interview that the chain was supportive of the traditional definition of marriage. Judging from the reaction, you'd have thought that he had just introduced the new spicy sodomite sandwich! There were calls for all sorts of punitive actions against Chick-Fil-A, from boycotts to denying future permits. They also were attacked for giving charitable donations to "hate groups."* So why is this on the good list?
This is here because of what happened next. A groundswell of support arose for the purveyors of fine non-cow products, culminating in “Chick-Fil-A Day,” where every single restaurant had lines around the block as people came out to show their support. The protests two days later paled in comparison to the outpouring of support for the stand the Cathy family was willing to take. Meanwhile, many in the gay community “came out” (sorry, couldn't help it) in support of the restaurant, citing its employees' respect for every customer, and others spoke highly of the environment as an employee. Chick-Fil-A fought back against the “you donate to hate groups” charge, and the official boycott effort went by the wayside.
In a year where “same-sex marriage” won at the ballot box, and religious groups failed to get the government to amend “health care” requirements that violate their religion, Chick-Fil-A was a nice bright spot of support for traditional marriage and the right of business people to share their beliefs.
* Just a note, activists - if you call Focus on the Family a hate group, you really should educate yourself, and close your mouth so you don't completely destroy your credibility when you figure out how things actually are and start making sense.
Mark it down - 2012 proved that the mainstream media now makes no attempt at objective reporting. From the debate moderators, to the selective coverage of the party conventions, to the complete dearth of investigative reporting on Benghazi, it's like they just quit trying. When comedians other than Jay Leno are writing jokes about you, you've become a parody of yourself; and, when Jon “I can cuss, 'cause I'm edgy, but they can't broadcast it” Stewart makes more sense than you do, you are an embarrassment to the craft. But, these two facts have become so self-evident that even the American people can't miss it.
The bias is not the “good” part, but sunlight is the best disinfectant; the exposure of it (and embracing of it) is why this lands on the good list. Some journalists are starting to get it. While Jake Tapper (of ABC News in 2012, of CNN this year) has been the fairest MSMer for a while, this year saw many reporters, including CNN's Anderson Cooper, asking tough questions and refusing to allow dodging. Special recognition also goes to Univisión for their debate questions; the English-language moderators could learn from you.
Maybe we're almost to the point where liberals will actually see why criticizing “Faux News” with supporting links from The Huffington Post and Mother Jones aren't that convincing. And there lies the rub; you shouldn't restrict your reading to either “side.” Read the editorials with which you disagree, as well as the ones you like. Compare story selection among several news sources, and if there is a story missing, find out why. We have the tools now to easily do it, which may be the best part of all of this. You can be as informed as you want to be.
This past year was a great year for our family. In January, February, and March, we were able to do quite a bit of snow skiing. I and my two oldest sons conquered several black diamond runs and couple of double-blacks; I learned the trick to moguls (ski the tops, not the groove in between them); and even my 7 year old found blue and a couple of black diamond runs he could do. We're looking forward to more of that in the next few months, as our favorite ski area is ready!
In September, we were finally able to take a family cruise where one of our stops was letting our sons swim with stingrays in Grand Cayman. Michelle and I had done that back in 2006, and wanted them to experience it. We also visited Jamaica, where we had a surprisingly good time, and I celebrated my 39th birthday in Cozumel, Mexico. We got to cruise with the same couple with whom we cruised in 2006, and they also brought their family; it was great to spend time with them.
When we got back, we prepared to move. After living on a military base for nearly 10 years straight, we now have a place to live off base. Great friends here in Albuquerque got transferred overseas, and we are able to live in their house. It was a great blessing; we had begun to outgrow our current house. It is definitely nice to have a separation between “work” and “home” now; plus, now I'm not the guy who lives on base, who gets the calls to do stuff “because you're already there.” Win-win!
Finally, in November and early December, our family was able to participate in Hoffmantown Church's production of The Story, a dramatic musical presentation of the Christmas story, starting with creation and ending with the resurrection. We had never done anything like it; we usually were not around for it. But, since we were, we signed up. It was amazing! At the first rehearsal, I was not quite sure it was all going to come together, but each time, things got smoother, and by the time our final dress rehearsal came, we were ready. There were 450+ volunteers who worked, and over 6,500 people saw it. We are really looking forward to next year.
Of course, the 2013 production of The Story is still 11 months away; there's a lot of 2013 between now and then. I hope that I have much trouble narrowing down the few things to include in this post next year. Happy New Year!
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Daniel J. Summers
Last Friday, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, David Petraeus, offered his resignation from that post. In that letter, he admitted to an extra-marital affair with his biographer. There are many more angles to this story than I really have time to cover and dissect, but one comment I kept hearing just struck me as not quite right. “A CIA director who is committing adultery opens themselves up to blackmail, and can compromise security. Good thing this came out before that happened.” The part with which I disagree is the second statement. I believe that, rather than a cautionary tale of “look what could have happened,” I believe it to be an illustrative tale of how it did happen.
Petraeus did a personal investigation of the 11 Sep 12 attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya, where four people, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed. He was also scheduled to testify before Congress this week on that attack, but while he resignation does not preclude his testimony, he is reluctant to bring the media circus around. Bad timing, huh? Well, when you consider that the FBI launched the investigation in June, this timing looks less bad. The administration claims it didn't know. Now, if the administration didn't know, it's more incompetent than we give it credit for (a distinct possibility); if the administration knew, what were they going to do with that information?
This timing is highly suspicious. I believe that the information against Petraeus was known, and held, until the opportunity came where its use was needed. It's a hunch; I have no knowledge of anything in Washington, D. C., really, and it could all be happenstance. However, when there is the pattern of obfuscation, document redaction, “I forgot” as a legal defense, and “trust us, we're the government,” this smells wrong. Petraeus erred, and it was used against him to prevent what he found from being released.
And that, my friends, is a textbook example of why adultery is a security risk.
(NOTE: None of the above should be construed as an allegation against the current administration. It is an observation that the appearance of a lack of candor displayed in this circumstance is a pattern of behavior with the current administration, and is not the way I believe government should comport itself.)
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Daniel J. Summers
(Disclaimer: The President, as Commander in Chief, can set whatever policies he desires. Congress, as the body that creates law, can create whatever laws its members want. Nothing you may read below is targeted at any particular officeholder; it is my analysis of this policy. Furthermore, this analysis represents my personal analysis, and should not be construed to be official policy of any governmental entity. Feel free to comment; however, any comments that are derogatory to me personally or groups in general, either here or on Facebook, will be deleted without comment - stick with the issues or stay silent.)
Well, it looks like Wednesday is the day. What has passed Congress, and will be signed by the President, repeals the 1993 law mandating that homosexuals could serve in the military, provided they did not reveal their sexual orientation. This doesn't mean that tomorrow is the military's “coming out” day or anything; it simply means that the 1993 law is gone. It appears, though, that there is significant political pressure from the top down to somehow integrate a path to allow openly gay servicemembers in the United States military. I have a problem with this. Well, I actually have several problems with this.
1. Open shower bays must be replaced.
The reason male and female military members do not shower together is self-evident. While there are many things military members are asked to sacrifice, the indignity of showering with someone who considers you a potential sexual partner has not been one of those sacrifices. If this goes through, that changes. I would think that military spouses would be all over this for that very reason. Maybe they are, but nobody has asked them. I don't know if female members feel this way, but I know that this male does. The way the male mind thinks about sex cannot be discounted; as one of the three major drives of humans, it cannot be ignored. Men are more forward, and are more apt to make passes at the object of their desire. Putting heterosexuals in this position is something the military should not do. It happens - I can attest from personal experience. However, I have yet to have that experience as a military member.
Open dorm bays present similar problems, but not nearly the magnitude of the showers. The entire living condition thing should be addressed, but IMO, the showers are the biggest deal.
2. Homosexuality, like it or not, is a security risk.
Part of being in the military requires a security clearance. The existence of anything over which one could be blackmailed (excessive debt, arrests, etc.) is a huge red flag. Even gays who are “out” may not be completely out - there may be people that they have refrained from telling (for whatever reason - doesn't really matter). Even with openly homosexual military members allowed, there may be closeted gays, due to the social stigma. This is something over which they can be blackmailed. Allowing known security risks to appease a social agenda is not a choice that a nation that's serious about it's survival makes. (Of course, this is the same government that's staged the largest “security theater” in history - but I digress.)
3. Homosexuals have a higher incidence of HIV than heterosexuals.
A politically-incorrect truth, but truth nonetheless. The military teaches first aid as a part of normal pre-deployment training, and it's quite useful. In addition to all the other battlefield risks, now we would be exposing servicemembers to the potential of acquiring HIV in the course of saving their buddy's life. Either that, or HIV becomes a non-deployable condition - and, if you're not deployable, today's military doesn't want you. However, there are rules in place preventing dismissal due to medical conditions - how's that lawsuit going to go, the first time a gay military member is discharged for contracting HIV?
4. The military is not a place for social experimentation.
Using the military for social experiments is certainly popular. To what other group of people can you give moderately-nonsensical orders, and have them do their best to carry them out? However, this argument remains, in spite of how many are tried before. It doesn't matter to me how many other nations allow openly gay members - isn't the United States military supposed to be better than all the other militaries in the world? Doing something just because some other military does it is ridiculous; when it doesn't pertain to something that will actually help us win wars, it's doubly so. I do not, for the life of me, understand the left's fascination with Europe. We've kicked the butt of every European country we've fought! Why are we trying to emulate them?
But back to the social experiment. I am absolutely convinced that this is a back door (pardon the pun) for gay marriage. Why? Because it's a slippery slope (and, despite those who scoff at slippery slopes, they do exist, and this is a big one). Gay servicemembers will want dependent privileges for their significant others. They can do this either by recognizing a same-sex “spouse”, or by allowing servicemembers to designate a person to receive benefits in lieu of a spouse (let's call them ILOS). If it's the former, there's a whole “The military does it!” chorus; if it's the latter, that will lead to even more expense, with uncertainty for the ILOS. Either way, it's a losing proposition.
5. Military service is a privilege, not a right.
There are many reasons someone may be disqualified from military service - why is homosexuality different? Over 10 times the number who have been discharged for homosexuality, on average, are discharged due to weight. For non-combat positions, who cares? Obviously, the military does - you can be the best at your job, but if you can't meet this standard, they'll be happy to have you as a contractor. Military standards have been developed over centuries, and represent what is necessary to defend our nation. I have yet to see the warfighting case for allowing openly gay servicemembers. The military isn't fair; fair doesn't win wars.
6. Many people find homosexuality morally abhorrent.
I guess I'm just all kinds of politically incorrect on this one. However, I know I speak for myself and lots of other people when I say that I do not want my children around homosexual couples. Am I going to have to keep them from the bowling alley, the commissary, the exchange? Where does a military member's right to free exercise of religion end and another's right to free expression begin? Furthermore, I can tell you that just like I can't make somebody a Christian by taking them to church, you will not change my mind on this, even if I'm assigned to an otherwise-gay organization. I have this quaint belief that words mean things, and when my God calls it an abomination, I'm pretty clear about what He means.
Going into this without addressing these (and other) concerns would be foolhardy at best. Even with these concerns addressed, this is simply not a priority, not important, and will not help us defend this nation. The lawsuits alone will wreak havoc on the military. The military knows what sort of people it needs to accomplish its mission, and it should be free to define those parameters without regard to whose feelings get hurt. Since when is the military supposed to care about feelings, anyway?
So where does this leave us? Remember, as I said above under #4, the military will do their best to carry out the orders and still do their job. That's how we roll. I hope these speed bumps don't slow our rolling too much.
On Monday, FBI agents broke up a terror plot against Fort Dix. A clerk at a video store alerted authorities when they dropped off video to have a DVD made, that showed them firing guns and speaking of the plot. They attempted to buy weapons from an undercover agent, and were arrested.
Now, there's news that three of the six arrested were in the country illegally. There were three brothers with the last name of Duka - they are to whom this is referring.
The Duka brothers were born in the former Yugoslavia and residing illegally in the U.S. Shnewer, a native of Jordan; Tatar, a native of Turkey; and Abdullahu, who was born in the former Yugoslavia, are legal residents. Eljvir Duka called himself “Elvis.”
So, there you have it. For years, folks have pooh-poohed the idea that illegal aliens (or, as their fans like to say, “undocumented workers”) represent a national security threat. Now, we have the first example of the fact that they do. Will Congress still push through their amnesty bill?