Tuesday, September 27, 2016

It's Not Debatable...We Need Leadership

After watching what was supposed to be a debate late night, I was reminded of an old poem I once read. Josiah Gilbert Holland penned this little nugget back in the 19th Century. I've edited it a bit. He wrote God Give Us Men. I've changed it to God Give Us Leaders. I also changed a line he had in the original asking God to give us "tall men, sun-crowned". Holland's version was written in a time when women were not even considered for leadership roles. They couldn't even vote. So things have changed and changed for the better in that regard. But his message still resonates and couldn't be more timely.

GOD, give us Leaders!
A time like this demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands;
Leaders whom the lust of office does not kill;
Leaders whom the spoils of office can not buy;
Leaders who possess opinions and a will;
Leaders who have honor; Leaders who will not lie;
Leaders who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Great Leaders who live above the fog
In public duty, and in private thinking;
For while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds,
Their large professions and their little deeds,
Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps,
Wrong rules the land and waiting Justice sleeps.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sending the Message

It comes as no surprise that I got some flak over my last post of the Marine’s letter to the NFL Commissioner objecting to the player demonstrations during the National Anthem. In fact, it was pointed out to me that these demonstrations have quite a bit of support, especially in the younger demographic, regardless of race. Even some high school and college players have started taking a knee or raising their fist in response to the Star Spangled Banner.

First of all, I get it that black people are upset about the way they are profiled and treated by law enforcement. Do we have a problem in this country? Absolutely. No question. We can come up with all kinds of reasons or excuses. But unwarranted excessive force seems to be applied way too often when law enforcement officers encounter black citizens. Again the underlying reasons are complicated and, if you’re in law enforcement, somewhat justifiable in your mind. If you’re a black person who’s been on the other end of that excessive, unwarranted force it is outrageous and unbearable.

So I get it. I remember back in the late 60’s and early 70’s when a young white guy with long hair driving a VW bug was more likely to have a negative encounter with police than a young white guy with short hair, wearing a cowboy hat and driving a pick-up. Today, if you’re of a certain age, look a certain way and happen to be driving a car that says to police you might be up to no good, you are more likely to get pulled over than if you’re an old white guy like me. The last time I got stopped by law enforcement was two years ago. I was out in West Texas going about 90 mph on an empty stretch of Hwy 82/114 between Guthrie and Benjamin. The Texas Highway patrolman was nice as could be and just warned me to slow down. Do I think that encounter would have been different if I was 25 years old in a sports car with California plates rather than an old white guy with his wife in a Dodge Ram wearing a Texas Tech ball cap? Duh…yeah. Do I think an old black guy in my place would have been treated differently? Maybe. Probably. At minimum there might have been more Q & A with the officer just to make sure there wasn’t something illegal going on. So yeah, I think I got profiled in the best possible way and if I had been black the experience would not have been positive.

So if I am a black person, especially a young black person, even more so a young black male; I am frustrated, angry and fed-up with being presumed guilty of something most of the time. Go on and protest. Vote for change. Make noise and force our nation to address the issue. But, don’t undermine your cause by looting and rioting and destroying property. If you’re a high-profile athlete or even a low-profile high-school athlete; don’t deliver the message in ways that are counter-productive. And disrespecting your country, your flag and your national anthem is about as counter-productive as it gets. If athletes want to wear Black Lives Matter socks and wrist bands, fine. If they wear that BLM t-shirt to the post-game interviews, so be it. It they want to tweet their support for the movement, I say go for it. But do it in ways that build support for the cause, not opposition. You can say and do the right things and still get the message across and get it across even better.

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
― James Baldwin

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ooh Rah

Ever since Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem, I've been wondering what to say about it. I know how I feel about it, but it gets complicated. I wanted to make that sure I did not go too far overboard. You see I am an old white guy who has lived a life of privilege and undeserved advantage in this fair land of ours. So how can I relate to the pain certain people of color experience when hearing the Star-Spangled Banner or seeing the Stars and Stripes waving over a sports stadium. And besides, it's a free country, to include protesting in ways that really piss me off.

Well, fortunately a Marine came to the rescue and said it all in a letter to Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League:


I’ve been a season pass holder at Yankee Stadium, Yale Bowl and Giants Stadium.

I missed the ’90-’91 season because I was with a battalion of Marines in Desert Storm. 14 of my wonderful Marines returned home with the American Flag draped across their lifeless bodies. My last conversation with one of them, Sgt Garrett Mongrella, was about how our Giants were going to the Super Bowl. He never got to see it.

Many friends, Marines, and Special Forces Soldiers who worked with or for me through the years returned home with the American Flag draped over their coffins.

Now I watch multi-millionaire athletes who never did anything in their lives but play a game, disrespect what brave Americans fought and died for. They are essentially spitting in the faces and on the graves of real men, men who have actually done something for this country beside playing with a ball and believing they’re something special! They’re not! My Marines and Soldiers were!

You are complicit in this!

You’ll fine players for large and small infractions but you lack the moral courage and respect for our nation and the fallen to put an immediate stop to this. Yes, I know, it’s their 1st Amendment right to behave in such a despicable manner. What would happen if they came out and disrespected you or the refs publicly?

I observed a player getting a personal foul for twerking in the end zone after scoring. I guess that’s much worse than disrespecting the flag and our National Anthem. Hmmmmm, isn’t it his 1st Amendment right to express himself like an idiot in the end zone?

Why is taunting not allowed yet taunting America is OK? You fine players for wearing 9-11 commemorative shoes yet you allow scum on the sidelines to sit, kneel or pump their pathetic fist in the air. They are so deprived with their multi-million dollar contracts for playing a freaking game! You condone it all by your refusal to act. You’re just as bad and disgusting as they are. I hope Americans boycott any sponsor who supports that rabble you call the NFL. I hope they turn off the TV when any team that allowed this disrespect to occur, without consequence, on the sidelines. I applaud those who have not.

Legends and heroes do NOT wear shoulder pads. They wear body armor and carry rifles.

They make minimum wage and spend months and years away from their families. They don’t do it for an hour on Sunday. They do it 24/7 often with lead, not footballs, coming in their direction. They watch their brothers carted off in pieces not on a gurney to get their knee iced. They don’t even have ice! Many don’t have legs or arms.

Some wear blue and risk their lives daily on the streets of America. They wear fire helmets and go upstairs into the fire rather than down to safety. On 9-11, hundreds vanished. They are the heroes.

I hope that your high paid protesting pretty boys and you look in that mirror when you shave tomorrow and see what you really are, legends in your own minds. You need to hit the road and take those worms with you!

Time to change the channel.

Col Jeffrey A Powers USMC (Ret)
Vista, California

Monday, September 5, 2016

Creative Destruction

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article about “The Declining Return on Humans”. It was a serious follow-up to my tongue-in-cheek take on self-driving vehicles. As I thought about the Declining Return on Humans article, something kept gnawing in my brain. The ideas in that article were familiar and related to other stuff I’d read before. Maybe it was in college or on a long plane ride. But these ideas are connected to old ideas.

After digging around a bit I found it. And “it” is the Theory of Creative Destruction, a theory popularized by the early-20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter. “Popularized” might not be the right word. His version got the most coverage and he gets the credit. But, it wasn’t and still isn’t a very popular idea. At least not in it’s pure form. It’s been adopted and twisted by libertarian, free-marketers as the most direct pathway to progress and the efficient deployment of capital. And it’s always a great excuse for closing factories and putting people out of work.

Schumpeter defines Creative Destruction as:

“The process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.".

If we just stop there, it doesn’t sound all that bad does it? (Unless it’s your job that is being eliminated.) Read Schumpeter’s classic work “Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy” and you get the bigger picture. Schumpeter uses a lot of Karl Marx’s ideas (which probably made him even less popular) to build out his theory which essentially says that the ongoing process of creative destruction eventually undermines and inhibits capitalism as we know it.

Schumpeter saw the value of entrepreneurs and innovation. It takes these “disruptors” to keep the economy growing. And with each disruption there are winners and losers. Most of us get that and accept it. Even when we are among the losers. But Schumpeter saw this process as eventually undermining itself. And this was very much in line with the thinking of Karl Marx. Schumpeter concludes that somehow in some fashion capitalism survives or whatever we’re left with is better for having gone through the evolutionary process of capitalism’s creative destruction. Marx had a darker vision and ultimately those who followed him thought it better to kill the capitalist monster before it killed them. Schumpeter essentially saw “Too Big To Fail” looming on the horizon. Capitalism would lead to “corporatism” and a shift in society away from free-market entrepreneurism toward the welfare state. Schumpeter also predicted that “the intellectuals” of our society would lead the way in restricting capitalism and eventually replacing it with some form of socialism. (He’s looking pretty good on that prediction, unfortunately).

However, Schumpeter did not account for “The Elites”. These are the powerful forces in business and government who pull the strings and stay one step ahead of the next wave of Creative Destruction. They are the perpetual winners. If the winds below them are blowing toward socialism and increased government control, no problem. Give the people what they want. When they’ve had enough of that and the pendulum swings the other way, change the game again. The challenge for “The Elites” is maintaining a productive “middle class” that can afford to purchase goods and services whether in the free market (via disposable income) or from the government (via taxes). Even The Elites understand that they cannot just keep borrowing from each other and printing new money to pay for it. At some point someone has to produce something of value. And getting to that point from where we are today will take a lot of Creativity and certainly a fair amount of Destruction.