In the Shadow of the Peaks of Otter

DDAYI grew up in the suburbs of Lynchburg, Virginia which, in itself sounds somewhat strange in that, compared to the major metropolitan areas I have spent most of my adult life Dallas, TX and Washington, DC; to consider Lynchburg a metropolitan area that; with its somewhere south of 100,000 in population tips the sales considerably smaller that places such as Herndon/Reston or Garland, what would be considered more true “suburbs” as generally understood in metro areas of over 6 million in total population.

Growing up in Lynchburg was insulating in ways I would never understand until, later in life having traveled on business to much of Europe and key population centers of Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo, perspective gained from such eye opening excursions, new found appreciation was gained for just what the expression “not knowing what I didn’t know” truly meant.

And so I found myself, accompanied by my fiancé and life partner, traveling back towards Northern Virginia from the wonderful paradise that is Smith Mountain Lake, to our home in what I routinely called “occupied territory” not a stones throw from where, Jeb Stuart telegraphed Abraham Lincoln complaining of the poor quality of mules he had just “liberated” from the Union Army at nearby Burke Station. Seeing the picturesque Peaks of Otter’s unmistakable profile situated against the skyline as we made our way on Router 132 toward the city of Liberty, better known today by its non-colonial name of Bedford, I suggested we stop at the National D-Day memorial knowing as I had that, despite the fact I had pointed out it’s 44’ granite arch from the 460 bypass on other recent trips along the way, she had never seen the actual memorial and, knowing her abiding support for our military and the sacrifice of its members, she would find it a most appropriate venue to commemorate (my Civil War professor Bud Robinson educating me that we do not celebrate acts of war but commemorate the valor and sacrifice) Memorial Day 2010.

I had been there before. Shortly after its dedication in 2001 where my mother had accompanied my aunt along with representatives of the Allied Nations of 1944 along with numerous politicians headed by WWII veteran President George Bush, both Grande dames having recently buried their WWII veteran husbands my Uncle having the distinction of having spent June 6, 1944 in the hell that was Omaha Beach.

I can say with confidence that I like what they have done with the place. While impressive and thought provoking in 2001, today the evidence of the beautiful landscaping, moving plaques that document the contributions of the various units the 156,000 participants of Operation Overlord were members of, and the absolute professionalism the mainly volunteer staff bring to this most unique and solemn tribute; recall the valor and sacrifice with a sublime understatement that seems appropiriate for such a memorial. We signed up for the guided tour, having arrived just a few minutes before the scheduled 2:30 time slot despite my initial reluctance seeing how I usually like to proceed at my own pace and, based on the amount of reading and study I have done over the years, consider myself well educated in the events of June 6, 1944 and, with amazing conceit, wonder on just what fact some tour guide could enlighten me in any event.

How wrong I was.

You see despite my knowledge of the events and times, units and their leaders, and all the myriad of facts and figures I can proudly recite guaranteeing any trivia contest I find myself a contestant in will have me hoping the topic of the winning question will be D Day, I had forgotten or simply refused to acknowledge that it is the human stories that bring the remarkable events into a perspective most appropriate for any day, but perhaps most relevant on Memorial Day.

Our host proudly proclaimed he was a D Day son; his father having been there that day and, with a long career with the US Army, had also served in Korea. After a commendable tour in summary at the “Victory Arch” he relayed how, taking his father to the memorial on the occasion of its dedication he learned the answer to the unanswered question his father had always deflected when asked, on numerous occasions, by his curious son growing up. The basic question was, his father having survived the carnage of Omaha Beach, was “How did you make it across that beach, Dad?”

The answer was always some version of “It was hell and you don’t want to know about it…” the son having learned through the years that some demons are best left untouched.

It was on the occasion of the dedication, a dedication that almost never happened and would not have save a chance encounter between then President Bill Clinton and Bob Slaughter, a veteran of the 116th Infantry Regiment who, its companies made up of National Guard units from the environs of Bedford, had suffered the highest percentage of KIA on D Day of any town in America on that fateful day. Bob Slaughter was in Normandy on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of D Day when he was asked by the President to accompany him in placing flowers on the graves of the fallen. The ensuing news converge and live interviews that resulted of Bob gave him the chance he had been waiting for to issue the call for a Memorial, on the lines the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, to commemorate the sacrifice of those who died on June 6, 1944 in Normandy. That the outflowing of support that resulted was responsible for my being able to walk among the beautiful gardens and granite tributes was a result of that fateful encounter from a member of the 116th Regiment and the President. That I was to understand the events better was the result of a chance encounter that occurred at its dedication in 2001. My tour guide’s father , being escorted by his son, was accosted by a man from Pennsylvania who, some 57 years earlier just a couple of days after D Day, had managed to hook up with my guided father in Normandy and, as fate would have it, serve beside him until the end of hostilities in Europe. My guide saw the old comrades in arms hug each other and brushing back tears borne in long remembrance, heard his father asked, and gained in his response, the answer to the question he had long wanted to know but had been unable to coax an answer from his stoic father. “How did you make it across that beach alive, Bob?” came the question from is former comrade. The answer came thus” “for the last two hundred yards I crawled from dead body to dead body somehow reaching the base of the hills”. To the son this was transformational as our guide, his voice choking with emotion, relayed how he had gained a peek into the pure hell his father and thousands of other fathers endured that day.

At the memorial there are a series of arched walls, low set with engraved names in no particular order of the 4,000 plus who died, not in the Normandy Campaign, but on the very day itself mainly on the beaches. The story is told of two twin brothers, members of the 116th from Bedford, who agreed to meet at a certain crossroads to shake hands after crossing the beaches, the older refusing to shake the younger’s hand prior to loading on the separate Higgins Boats which would convey them to shore. The handshake never occurred the younger being killed on the beaches his body washing out to sea never to be recovered with only his bible being found washed ashore in the aftermath and returned to his family as the only personal effect they ever received to remind them of their loss.

Bob Slaughter told our guide personally and showed him the copy of the speech Eisenhower gave to all the Allied participants in the invasion on its eve – the “Great Crusade” speech that is so often highlighted on commemorations of the event. In Bob’s case his was special having been signed individually by all 36 men who were to load in the Higgins Boat that Bob was assigned. Of the 36 names 21 died on the beaches. Our guide related how Bob in recalling the event some 60 years later could recite in all but two cases exactly the circumstances and place that each had died.

It was sobering to visit so beautiful as setting yet at the same timed filled me with pride and gratitude for the blessing of being born an American.

Memorial Day was about a fun and relaxing three day weekend at the lake. But just over an hour spent walking the grounds and hearing the stories made all the more real the sacrifices made and being made by the members of our Armed Forces. May I never fail to remember and do all I can to educate those who have not had the privilege of learning just what Memorial Day is all about.

What most probably don’t realize is the the National D Day Memorial is a private endeavor and its non-profit foundation suffers financial turmoil such that the continued operation is in peril. Should you be so inclined a contribution would be considered a worthy cause by any who believe that the education of future generations of the words and deeds of its past is essential to maintaining the fabric of our nation.

More information on the Memorial can be found here.

More on Bob Slaughter and the men of the 116th can be found here.

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Easter and The Pacific

Many Japanese Dead on the Beach at Guadalcanal

Many Japanese Dead on the Beach at Guadalcanal

I have been watching with great anticipation the new Tom Hanks/Steven Stielberg production on HBO about the horrors of combat in the then widely unknown, isolated strips of coral, jungle, and barren rock, that the characterized the venues of WWII warfare in The Pacific. This is not surprising, given my almost compulsive interest in history, primarily that of our own Civil War for the impact it had in forging our Republic, and WWII, it being, by most accounts, the seminally impactful event in the lives of the Greatest Generation, being that of my parents and their siblings.

As is my custom I seek out reading material to provide background and context; to further enlighten in seeking understanding of answerless questions: “What was it like?”; “How did the fighting men endure and ultimately prevail against what, in light of the combat unreadiness of the United States armed forces as the Axis Powers unleashed their conquering armies in Poland and Manchuria as the thirties gave way to the 1940s, must have seemed invincible foes?”. Hidden below the surface of such questions is my own questioning as to whether, being so tested, I would have been found wanting.

The answers to all these questions remain decidedly, “I just don’t know”. As indeed it is impossible to answer with certainty, the study of history perhaps able to answer questions of what happened, and even perhaps why, but cannot answer with satisfaction how one, transported back in time though the exercise of vivid imagination, would have performed or even coped with, what the recollections and historical recordings bring to light as the unmitigated horror and deprivation of those who fought and died, doing only what they were asked to do – doing only what they must, to assure their own survival and, by extension, the survival of our way of life – the enemies of which were determined to threaten if not destroy should they have indeed triumphed.

That the answer was never in doubt seems obvious in light of the historical record. But to the men of the 1st Marine Division, fighting a fanatical enemy in the jungles of Guadalcanal in 1942, the question of ultimate triumph was far from certain, standing orders being that, should they be overrun units were to scatter to the hills and continue the fight as guerilla forces.

One book I am currently reading is E.B. Sledge’s epic story of his Pacific War, With the Old Breed, his character being one followed in the miniseries in part of the Producer’s attempt to put real faces and personal stories into their depiction of the savage battlefields of the war against Japan. The book, written in 1981, pulls no punches in recalling the weariness and constant state of fear and exhaustion the grunts dealt with as they slogged through the island hopping campaigns designed to take back the region, so vast beyond comprehension as to make the European Theatre battlespace seem inconsequential in comparison.

Usually I am a fast reader and devour a book in one or two sittings. This book has taken much longer. Not for any lack of interest as the writing is riveting and stirs the emotions as only a thrilling novel writer can, yet made all the more sobering being a recollection of things that actually happened; the constant and brutal reality of death being a constant companion for the men so engaged. There were, what now gets judgmental scrutiny, the atrocities committed on both sides. Recalling the widespread practice of some Marines collecting gold by extracting teeth from freshly dead Japanese, the author brought back a story I was told, or more precisely a snippet of a story, by my Uncle L. W., who, having participated on the D Day landing on Omaha Beach, found himself later in the war participating in the invasion of Luzon, being part of a joint Army/Navy fire control team that would direct Naval gunfire in support of the advancing troops. It was one of those times of family gathering where the adults would talk about this and that and somehow the topic of the war came up. These were not common and if I had to guess it probably was in the context of the, then raging Vietnam conflict, and the reports of massacres at places like MyLai, the criticism being harsh in the press. My uncle offered a statement, a sentence or two only with little elaboration on the subject, recalling the darkness of that horrible earlier time, described being on the invasion beach at Luzon, some number of days after the initial assault, seeing someone removing teeth from bloated Japanese corpses with “linesmen pliers”. I recall nothing exact of his words but the phrase “linesmen pliers” and had no revulsion or comprehension of the impact of the event. No comprehension of the scars of the wounds not visible could impart on a 19 year old mind participating in and being witness to such carnage and waste of humanity – if humanity was even able to exist in such an environment.

Much has been written of late of the comments of Tom Hanks that the war in the Pacific had huge racial overtones. I have no position on the merits of the comments nor the appropriateness of the words being said. One has only to read the accounts of those who witnessed it up close to realize that the Pacific was a different kind of fight than that endured in places like Normandy and Bastogne.

I worked with a man a few years back who recalled that growing up he had a difficult time with his father, a father who’s anger was always just below the surface ready to erupt in outbursts that, directed often at his son, constituted the type of mental abuse so often written about in books describing the how not to parent a child. It was only as an adult, with his father nearing the end of his life, that he was finally to gain an understanding of the inward torment his Dad had endured, and to finally forgive the suffering he himself had endured, at least partially as a result. His Dad had been a Marine on Guadalcanal. At the twilight of his years with the end clearly in sight, in one of those moments we all hope to have when our burdens can truly be lifted by the telling of them to those we love, he recalled a particularly horrid example of the price paid by the participants in that campaign. It seemed a particularly harsh tactic of the Japanese defenders of that jungle, was to, upon capture of a Marine alive, to torture them within earshot of the Marine lines and, in the worst case, skin them alive. The screams of agony would produce in the Marines a predictable result. A patrol would be sent into the jungle seeking to rescue their comrade. The Japanese, having anticipated the reaction, would lie in ambush, inflicting greater casualties as a result. In time the tactics of the Marines would evolve, and, my friend’s father, being the highest qualified sharpshooter in the Company was tasked, with a small force of two or three others, to respond to such a capture by crawling through the jungle, not seeking to rescue, but by applying his talents at a safe range, to identify and then, with the mercy only a well-aimed shot can deliver to one in unspeakable agony, silence the screams.

I have no way of validating the veracity of the story. But reading of the Pacific it is not hard to imagine such thing to be true. The costs of battle are not borne solely by those who are die or are wounded through gun or shellfire. The scars may hide but the wounds remain deep.

In reading the book last evening, the Saturday night before Easter Sunday, I was struck by a passage written to recall an event during the Okinawa campaign, the first campaign on Japanese territory where Japanese civilians lived as well as Japanese soldiers. In the midst of weeks of unbroken combat E.B. Sledge wrote:

Nearby our regimental Protestant chaplain had set up a little altar made out of a box from which he was administering Holy Communion to a small group of dirty Marines. I glanced at a face of a Marine opposite me as the file halted. He was filthy like all of us, but even through the thickly mud-caked beard I could see he had fine features. His eyes were bloodshot and weary. He slowly lowered his light machine gun from his shoulder, set the handle on his toe to keep it off the mud, and steadied the barrel with his hand. He watched the chaplain with an expression of skepticism that seemed to ask, “What’s the use of all that? Is it gonna keep them guys from getting’ hit?” That face was so weary but so expressive that I knew that he, like all of us, couldn’t help but have doubts about his God in the presence of constant shock and suffering. Why did it go on and on? The machine gunner’s buddy held the gun’s tripod on his shoulder, glanced briefly at the muddy little communion service, and then stared blankly off toward a clump of pines to our rear – as though he hoped to see home back there somewhere.

“Move out” came along their file.

The machine gunner hoisted the heavy weapon onto his shoulder as they went slipping and sliding around a bend in the trail into the gathering dusk.

And so I stopped reading after a few more paragraphs for the evening. With the beauty of spring in the air and thoughts of the miracle of Easter filling my mind, I paused once again to marvel, with undying respect and gratitude, the sacrifices made by others so that I may enjoy the life I lead.

That it inspires a feeling of humility words cannot possible describe only begins to acknowledge the feelings such accounts stir.

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A Call To leave the ARMchairS

Recently on what has become, perhaps, the replacement for, what in the not so distant past, the barbershop, civic clubs, or the front porch provided – Facebook – a left leaning friend asked for his “conservative friends” to explain why their anger at the recent binge of deficit spending is so visible in response to the health care bill passage when such reaction was muted, at best, during the Bush years.

Here is the essence of my reply and, by inference why I believe it will not abate nor should it lest the consequences for our nation lead us to a place no thinking American, no matter what their economic circumstances, should allow it to go without a fight worthy of the many fights our forefathers engaged in to create what remains the “last best hope of man on earth.

To answer the original question: Yes I was angry about the reckless spending during the Bush years – Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and so on.

The intensity of my anger this time is fueled by the increasing recklessness of it in the face of the overwhelming body of evidence we are reaching the threshold where the output of our tattered economy cannot sustain the desire of our government to consume an ever increasing share.

The facts are our entitlement programs are unsustainable as they are not being sustained now. In the midst of the debate of, yet another, entitlement, one likely to dwarf the burdens we now bear, the Social Security Administration announces that, “Surprise, Surprise, Gomer” it is now cash flow negative.

Moody’s announces our AAA Bond rating is in danger and that, the subsequent interest rate hikes and the spiraling costs associated with such an event, will likely lead to the necessary cuts in entitlement spending that, having created a ever larger share of the population wedded to the tit of government for sustainment, such cuts likely will lead to social unrest that threaten our societal norms. Think that hyperbole? Watch the riots in Greece on TV.

Against this backdrop we saw a reckless Congress wrangle and cajole, bribe and barter to pass something, anything, that the President could laud as some sort of improvement of our society, arguing that not to do so would keep us on a “non sustainable fiscal course”.

To do so with the knowledge of the reality of our fiscal peril, armed with the facts as to the added risks even more deficit expanding entitlement enactment would surely lead is so grossly irresponsible it should be labeled as to dereliction of duty.

That the heath care costs in the country are spiraling out of control is no doubt. I personally experienced a 41% increase in premiums for a small business I own this year alone. So count me firmly in the camp that says we must reform.

But show me where this bill will cut true costs. You can’t and won’t because it can’t and won’t. It attempts to do so by a massive transfer of wealth from producers of wealth to a new entitlement. It ignores the sovereignty of the individual and ignores basic economic facts. You cannot increase demand without increasing supply and have true costs go down. Everyone knows that truism – it is as reliable as the sun rising in the morning. That the Democrats would foist this on the people against their wishes and claim that it will cut costs when they damn well know it can’t in the face of a debt tidal wave that will drive our country into banana republic status is something no individual who honestly cares about the fate of the nation should have to endure.

The President is, if anything, not a stupid man. That he belittles those who oppose this scam of a bill full knowing its economic ramifications should be cause enough for anyone to be angry. That he seems dead set on just doing more of the same has me wondering what his true motivations can be.

The day of reckoning on the costs of our Entitlement Programs soon approaches. This fact has been acknowledged for at least thirty years as well as the recognition that, for each year delayed addressing this issue the ultimate costs of doing so will exponentially increase. It is the same phenomena experienced by one burdened with a credit card bill where the means exist to only pay the minimum payment. Consistently doing so results in the Creditor (the bank) gauging the risk of ultimate repayment of the debt to be greater, significantly raising the interest rate reducing even further the amount applied to reduce the principal with each subsequent payment, making the ultimate payoff delayed even further in the future, crippling one’s ability to spend of other things, past sins having to be paid for and such.

The day of reckoning is upon us. Once our creditors (the Chinese, the Saudis, etc) reach the conclusion we are no longer as safe a bet (see Moody’s warning) our interest rate will skyrocket adding immensely to our Federal deficit and the resulting interest payments consuming an ever larger share of the minimum payments (what tax revenue the Government collects) we are able to make.

The choices then will be (and there are no others): Massive cuts in benefits in Social Security, Medicare, Medicare, and now Obamacare; Massive tax increases on everyone and everything (thinking this applies only to “the rich” ignores that there simply aren’t enough of them); some combination of both; or simply printing more money therefore inflating the currency and hastening the destruction of our economy and our country.

We have lived in a country were generations have never had to suffer and the “sacrifices” current generations have endured are meaningless when compared to the past ones of as little as 60 years ago. Sacrifice to current generations means not being able to buy the 52” flat screen instead of the 40” model as our credit card limit won’t support it. But we are seeing the illusion of prosperity fray around the edges. Unemployment with no real recovery in sight for those who have lost their jobs; college graduates entering the workforce with no careers awaiting them making the appeal of staying on their parents insurance policies all the more attractive; and a growing sense of unrest and a widespread realization the our Government, if not aware of the plight of the nation, seem hell-bent on ignoring the facts on the ground.

This is not a partisan issue or is surely as bipartisan issue as there can be as both parties have contributed heavily to the creation of the condition we now find ourselves. But the rank dismissal of the growing tide of anger and disgust at the lack of leadership in addressing these real problems, the facts of which cannot be refuted, is fueling the kind of backlash that will, once the unavoidable choices face us and by a panicked future Congress within the next decade are implemented, tear at the fabric of society like nothing we have seen since 1861.

That is why I am angry. I sense and have seen with my own eyes having attended several rallies and events in the last 12 months where, people I would describe simply as “ordinary”, people who, in many cases have never risen in anger to protest or march, people who are increasingly becoming aware that the time for action will soon be thrust upon us by the ever-increasing tide of debt and are refusing to condone the reckless and willful ignoring of, what is increasingly acknowledged, the danger posed to the future of a nation we have so long taken as a given, and simply are saying “enough is enough”.

Some believe such failure is inevitable and that we are doomed to surrender our position in the world. Perhaps some future written history will record that they are right. But history books are filled with cases where the conventional wisdom of the many was overturned by the courage and determination of the few. There were such voices in our own Civil War who, having seen the terrible price being extracted from the Union armies in defeat after defeat in the field, called for peace and for letting the Confederate states go. Any reading of the history of our own Revolution cannot be accomplished without the acknowledgement that, by any conventional contemporaneous analysis, the Continental Army was all but finished off and that the only task left after a short Christmas break for the mercenary laden ranks of the British Army, was to cross the Delaware at Trenton and to mop up its remnants securing the rebellious Colonies for the Crown.

But Lincoln in the dark days of 1862, 63, and 64 has other ideas and on a bitter Christmas Eve it was Washington and his tattered, frozen, woefully ill-equipped band who were seen crossing the ice-filled Delaware to surprise and humiliate the well provisioned, professionally trained, and fatally overconfident Hessians at Trenton.
800px-Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware
Leaders who truly want to deliver Change that History Will Record Matters do not shrink from the difficult and unpopular. They embrace the difficult and by the force of their untiring example lead nations, and what is a nation but an assemblage of its people, to suffer deprivations they never thought possible all for the greater and longer lasting good that the freedom enabled by such toil delivers.

If you think what you have seen in the last nine months done in the name of “we know what is best for you” leads us to address the very real problems that the coming judgment day will demand be confronted I’m open to your arguments.

If you think, as I do, that it has been nothing but a callous, reckless, and mortally dangerous continuation of the kind of selfish pandering to the worst of self-centered human instincts, then it is time to make your voices heard and demand that we be called to sacrifice, the likes of which few American’s alive today have ever been asked to answer.

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“I want nothing to do with Washington, D.C.”

While the President was inside, surrounded by hand-picked supporters bused in, no doubt, to create the right backdrop for the choreographed effort to create video sound bites for the evening news, in full campaign mode outright slandering the majority of Americans who numerous polls report STILL don’t like the Health Care Bill, there were others outside, including one with a megaphone, offering a different viewpoint.

“I got news for you, Barack,” Millam said. “You can’t blame everything on Bush anymore. You either are the president, or you’re not. We’ve got 17 percent real unemployment. Home sales are at historic lows. . . . And now the most pro-choice president this nation has ever elected is forcing us to have health care. Every single person’s body in this whole country belongs to the government now.”

But you don’t see this on the Evening News. Kudos to the Washington Post for covering the other side of the story.

Which side are you on? For it is high time to choose. You can’t sit on the fence anymore.

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So it begins

I’d like to accept that everything that can be said about the healthcare debate has been said but, believing that the passage of the bill in Congress is only the first step, think this debate has actually just begun.

Some would claim that the debate was about those who see a nation with some 30 million without health insurance and others who have run the gauntlet of the current system while burdened with “pre-existing” and other liabilities and have come up losers in navigating the impenetrable fog that is the health care delivery system in this country. Of course it is about fixing a system whose costs have run amok even as it is acknowledged that the system we enjoy is the envy of the world, often by those who are first to condemn it from abroad even as they, if of the means to do so, are the first to jump on a plane to take advantage of its exceptional care at the first sign of serious medical challenges in their own lives.

But I don’t think the “debate” was about that at all for it had been the dialog would been have focused on the provisions of the bill, many of which no one other than the staffers and lobbyists firmly ensconced behind closed doors who provided the actual unread language the lemmings in Congress were instructed to vote for, “for the children” and other disenfranchised representatives, the most egregious examples of which were trotted before the cameras by those seeking to bolster their case in a cynical exploitation of those who have suffered enough already, would have been the focus. It wasn’t about the bill. It was about whether you trust the Government to “make it all better” by adding tens of thousands on IRS agents to monitor whether you have purchased, or if you are a business owner provided your employees, insurance coverage that meets some faceless plutocrat’s current definition of acceptability and, if found wanting, issue and collect the “fines” for such societal offense the word “tax” not being part of the politically correct lexicon, in this case at least.

It is hard to say what I, as a firm opponent of this approach, find the most offensive characterization of my position by those issues: That of being callous to the real need for reform and that any opposition to the approach taken equates to opposition to any reform of the current system or, that any opposition or opponent automatically is somehow in the pocket of the insurance industry. In the end it doesn’t matter because I could never detect at any point in the debate the supporters of whatever the President wanted to do no matter what it, as ever being open to actually discussing, let alone defending and debating, their position on the merits of their approach.

And so we are told again about all the wonderful benefits that immediately accrue with the passage of this bill. Have a per-existing condition? – you’re now covered. Funny you don’t hear anything about what the costs are to the individual or the rest of the individuals now covered to offer this admirable accomplishment. Have a kid under 26? Now they can stay on Mommy and Daddy’s family policy. Funny you don’t hear any talk about why the economy can’t produce enough jobs so Junior has to mooch off Mom and Dad in the first place or what exactly happens to Mom and Dad’s group policy premiums once this kicks in.

I’ve said many times that my problem with this approach is that it flies in the face of basic economics. To a system that already “rations’ access for Seniors due to the paucity of payments to providers of Medicare funded services we now add millions more, achieving this admirable goal by gaining the means of payment from no one but someone else – someone who is richer than you and therefore defacto undeserving of any sympathy. That at the same time we do so we vilify Doctors and Insurance companies, Hospitals and Clinics as somehow just making too much for the services they provide thinking that such perverse incentives will somehow add to their ranks and not, as studies have shown, drive them from the profession.

You cannot add millions in demand without a corresponding increase in supply and have costs go down. Never has happened, never will. Unless you fix prices and ration access.
Funny I’ve never heard of a patient laying on a gurney before surgery wondering if the surgeon, his life about to literally be placed in his hands, thinking aloud: “I think you make way too much money…”

But we didn’t have that debate. We were too busy being promised free lunches.

Free Lunch

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Generational Sacrifice; Generational Failure

iwoThe American people may be awakening from their slumber and are confronting the real crisis that is our fiscal nightmare as evidenced by the Tea party movement and other such grass roots political stirrings not aligned directly with, and mainly opposed to, the establishment political institutions that have held the reins of power for over a century in Washington. Some, like Warren Buffet’s business partner think it is already too late. We can hope that it is not.

A couple of conservative activists have produced a documentary film whose premise seems to be something I’ve been saying for years: that the Baby Boomer Generation (my generation) has squandered the gift given us by our parents, a gift appreciated by them all the more from knowing the deprivations of the Great Depression and won by the bloody sacrifice of World War II, that of a prosperous and free America. The “Greatest Generation” knew sacrifice and knew the value of giving back to the community. Our Generation knew rebellion against the establishment and burned draft cards and bras all the while reveling in a sense of entitlement self-absorption reaffirmed leading to rejecting as outmoded the ideas of limits – on executive compensation, risk avoidance, and commitment to providing for the common good. For all the lefty talk of utopian wealth redistribution for the common good we seem to have, as children of the 60’s just made it all about concentrating wealth in the hands of the few while devastating whole communities shipping their jobs overseas tearing apart the very middle class our parents fought and died for to build.

To gain perspective on the level of sacrifice I refer to a headline in this morning’s Washington Post. It refers to the “milestone” that is soon to be reached in our war in Afghanistan in that we are approaching the total of 1,000 US Servicemen killed in that conflict in the eight years since it began. While in no way diminishing the individual sacrifice even one death represents or the totality of the grief of the family and loved ones of any soldier killed, it is instructive to consult the history to gain perspective on the level of sacrifice our parents had to endure. Sixty five years ago as I write this the battle of Iwo Jima raged in the pacific. Iwo Jima is a volcanic rock island just 6 miles long and was deemed necessary to capture for its airfield to be used in supporting the bombing of Japan. In less than 1 month of fighting over 6,000 US Servicemen were killed on that hellish island with over 20,000 wounded.

This is but a sampling of the sacrifice the “Greatest Generation” endured coming home to want nothing more than to build a nation based on peace with prosperity tempered by a focus on preventing the kind of financial meltdown the speculative practices of the roaring twenties had contributed to, being realized in the Great Depression of the 1930s. This and more they did wanting nothing more than to spare my generation the kind of derivation and sacrifice theirs had to endure coming of age.

Our generation took what was given and flourished coming of age in the 80’s and 90’s we had achieved the pinnacles of power where, while thoroughly rejecting the modesty and caution of our parents we built McMansions and created bubble after speculative bubble until we have now maxed out the country’s credit card.

The fix will be painful and will require sacrifice this nation has not seen in over half a century. The generations we have spawned hardly even know of it from the history pages they weren’t taught to study in school.

Is it too late to learn the lessons and take the medicine?

I wish I knew. I wish I hadn’t failed my country with all my fellow baby boomers in such a profound way.

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Waiting for the apology

SorryMuch was made and probably will be made of golfer Tiger Woods public apology yesterday for cheating on his wife. I thought the part where he offered apologies to the parents who had held him up as a role model to their kids gave some indication of the depth that he acknowledges the impact of his actions. As for the rest I think that is between him and his wife.

But seeing all the media hysteria leading to the event and the amount of ink, internet articles, and airtime devoted to the event pre and post got me thinking about the apology I would like to hear but have little hope of ever seeing happen.

No matter what viewpoint you hold, whether far left progressive, far right conservative, or, like most Americans, someplace in the center you would be in a state of complete denial if you could not acknowledge that our nation is in a fiscal crisis that, no matter what you depth of understanding of such things, theatens our well-being in ways likely to be consequential in the months and years ahead. It should go without saying that there is blame to go around for both political parties for, no matter what you think the Federal Government should spend the tax dollars it collects, again no matter what you think of the ways and means used to do so, a nation cannot long survive and prosper if the amount collected is exceeded by the amount spent by significant amounts ad infinitum.

This brings me to my desire for an apology.

An apology, to be sincere, first requires acknowledgment on the part of the apologist that there was something wrong done and that they had a role in it. Despite the general degree that Members of Congress and Administrations past and present has held in low esteem, it can generally be stated with confidence that the vast majority of them are not stupid. They would not have risen to their station in life without a modicum of brains. Therefore, I assert that members of the such a class of people knew, or certainly at the very least should have known, that the various spending proposals they enacted and signed into law would someday, and most likely when in a recession, lead us to the kind of fiscal crisis where we seem saddled with crushing deficits as far as can reasonably be projected and that, any credible solution to addressing the problem will consist of a combination of significantly raising taxes and massive cuts to programs.

They have to know they turned a blind eye again and again to this reality. Had to know the results would be painful at best, catastrophic at the worst, and yet, they did it over and over and over again promising the free lunch knowing the day of reckoning would someday come. It has come and like all days of reckoning the path to redemption is initiated with atonement. It starts with an apology.

Tiger Woods knows that. I believe our nation’s “leaders” know that as well.

What are they waiting for?

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A Serious Proposal

Rep. Paul Ryan is in the news with what the President has referred to as “a serious proposal”.

For once we have a Congressman speaking out to fix the budget mess with something other than partisan cheap shots.

Its not perfect but it a great start. Of course already the chattering class is declaring it dead in the water. And the Democrats in Congress give it no mind.

So what’s their proposed solution?

Don’t hold your breath.

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Take me to a Nice Home

My master has to move far away and I can’t go with him.
My name is Lucy and I am a loyal and very loving companion who will be a source of much joy and happiness.rebsig0001_2

They tell me I am mixed-breed which just means no one ever bothered to write down a lot about my parents. I think most of my ancestors were Blue Heelers but I probably have some Border Collie or Australian Shepherd in my background.

I love to play fetch, am house broken but don’t like strangers coming to the door so I bark at them a lot. Once I get to know you I settle down and am always excited to see anyone I’ve met before like the nice lady who comes and visits sometimes from Virginia to see my Master..

My master used to take me to work as this picture of me is lying on his office floor where I would patiently wait until it was time to go home and play.

For fun I love to play fetch and tug of war. Even if I let my Master win it was only so he would play with me again as he never gets tired of it.

He tells me he got a new job and has to move back to Virginia and that, since he won’t have the nice big house I love to live in and won’t be able to go to work with him I need to find a new place to live. I’m going to miss him a lot but I’m sure I will get used to living with you at your house and will give you all the devotion and love I’ve given him since I was only 6 weeks old or so. I just turned three and Doctor Loftis at Rockwall Veterinary Hospital has made sure I’ve had all my shots. The nice lady Jennifer Peters at THE DOG HOUSE at (972) 771-2230 can give me a reference as I stay with her when my Master has to go out of town.

I have been Spayed and am 3 years old.

I love to play catch and take walks.

I love to ride in the car or truck.

I eat once or twice a day (my Master puts food out in the morning and when we come home and I eat when I feel like it).

Please call my Master at 972-835-5979 or email me at Lucy at tomet.net as he is very worried about me and I’m sure you can assure him I will be OK if I can just come live with you.

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Missing the point

free lunchEchoing just about everything you read in the “mainstream” media these days regarding the “Tea Party” movement E.J. Dionne writes in the Washington Post about the “grass-roots rage” and finds in its heart all sorts of extremists views that are dangerous, ill-informed, and just plain scary.

I find it all amusing even as I worry, like most Americans, about the State of our Union and the direction we are heading.

I suspect I have an edge on Mr. Dionne is commenting on the “Tea Party” movement as, if my suspicions are true, my having attended not just one, but two, Tea Party protests give me an advantage in commenting on what they represent.

Summarizing a complex set of issues in a few sound bites is fraught with danger in that the over-simplification required leaves an opening for criticism that opponents of your position are quick to seize leading to the kind of tit-for-tat so much a part of the national debate leaving the crux of the matter unresolved. But I will do so anyway. Forewarned and all proceed at your own risk, etc.

The “rage” of the Tea Party is largely a product of the great political middle ground of this country – what Nixon called the “Silent-majority” I would think – having just about enough of the dysfunction and gamesmanship represented by BOTH political parties in Washington.

With deficits exploding and no credible solutions being proposed by either side people are fed up.

With the threat of terrorism being very real (the bodies at Fort Hood and the near averted disaster over Detroit not figments of a rabid imagination) people are wanting leadership and a sense we are being led to victory, not being subjected to a lecture on our moral obligations and the rights of the accused to be afforded billion dollar show trials so we can claim some righteous superiority.

With our Entitlement Programs spending exploding at a rate faster than any reasonable expectation of our economy to pay for them we do not want to be lectured about how we must insure the uninsured, whether in this country legally or not, even as the jobs that secure our future have been shipped overseas with no regard for the human carnage left in the wake.

We are tired of Republicans pretending that we can have all these programs and not raise enough taxes to pay for them and of Democrats seeking to expand the scope of these and other programs promising only to have “the rich” pay the bill when all evidence suggests that not only hasn’t happened so far but, by their lobbyists led corruption of the process of legislation, will not ever be the case.

We are tired of schools producing citizens who cannot tell you the basics of our traditions and culture, having abandoned “civics” as a worthy subject to be taught, and have guaranteed the enslavement of millions in the economic servitude a sub-standard education ensures, all while asking for yet more money to spend doing the same tired failed approaches that have given us these pitiful results.

We are angry because we are not listened to. We are not talked to. We are talked at, with the kind of paternalistic condescension that is so evident in the remarks Mr. Dionne wrote in the column referenced above.

That does not make us racist or in any other way opposed to anyone who believes in the freedom and ideals this country was founded on. And being accused of such just makes us more angry and more determined to find leaders and movements; parties and politicians who will listen and more importantly act to reverse the decades old decline that, based on their words and deeds, the political class in Washington has so cynically embraced as the inevitable result and something to be exploited for their own gain, political or otherwise.

This, of course, represents my opinion of what the “Tea Party” movement represents but is based on seeing, with my own eyes, the amazing cross-section of the citizenry represented at the events I attended. No wide-eyed radicals; no bomb-throwing racists among them. Just regular folks who have just “had enough” and are waiting for those who claim to lead us to stop lobbing claims and counter-claims and to lead us in the shared sacrifice any rational person knows will be required to right the ship of state.

In short we all know there is no free lunch and are impatiently waiting for both Democrats and Republicans to stop promising there is.

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