Whereas the Huffington Post goes from merely opinioned, to fiction.

Dear Huffington Post –

I’m writing to report an editorial error, and an ethical and PR one as well. Frankly, I’m disappointed in you. An avid reader for a long time, I can no longer just enjoy and ruminate on your various columns, sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing with others’ opinions as I see fit. Now, I must question the actual integrity of what I read here.

Why? One name: David Wood. Mr Wood posted an op-ed piece several weeks ago (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/defense-budget-cuts_n_2584099.html). Rather than rebut portions of his opinion on the subject matter (something which JohnQPublic [http://www.jqpublic-blog.com/?p=212] did more eloquently than I could), I’m more upset with the Post than the column’s author. Why again? Because Mr Wood either lied or was lazy in his writing, and the Post doesn’t seem to care.

Sadly, I think many people – including myself – agree with his overall premise: there’s a lot of waste in the military and defense budget. However, citing an Army Master Sergeant with 10 years in service or a General with 16 years in service – a gaffe not only instantly recognizable by almost any military member or veteran, but something easy verifiable through Google in less than 60 seconds – makes the entire piece untrustworthy. Did he effectively lie by making up numbers that sounded good for the article, or did he cite another source and was lazy to bother with fact-checking? Regardless, he screwed up and hasn’t cared enough to correct the record.

Where the Post comes in is its lack of interest on the matter. Do I want you to fire Mr Wood or no longer accept his submissions? No. Do I want the Post to impale itself on its own sword? No. There’s a big difference between fault and responsibility, and the Post was not at fault for these errors; they’re Mr Wood’s own. However, the Post was responsible for them, and I’d appreciate the Post set a new standard (or reboot an old one) by accepting that responsibility publicly.

Frankly, it’s something too few individuals, companies and organizations (not to mention the government) do any more. It’s always “I misspoke” or “I was taken out of context,” or “it’s the internet; if we ignore it, it’ll be off everyone’s radars in a week.” It’s amazing how much forgiveness you can receive and how much respect you can gain by simply saying “we screwed up; we missed something. We’re sorry and are making efforts to fix it and working to minimize the chance of it happening again,” hopefully through slightly more attention by editors and fact-checkers on the Post’s part. If a member of Congress were to actually step up and take responsibility for a screw-up (one they hadn’t already been dragged through the mud for, such an affair that became public), that person would get my vote no matter which party they were, just to reward a level of integrity you don’t see anymore.

Although I admit I’m not aware of your staff organization, I’ve always pictured the Post as a journalistic organization, with purview and scrutiny in its process, rather than just a free-wheeling revolving door for columnists to get their work out there. Unfortunately, I’ve started to question that vision after reading Mr Wood’s article with the glaring, obvious and easily-refutable factual errors.

Please Huffington Post, step up and prove me wrong.

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The Revolution Has Begun!!!

Well, not really. Actually, not at all, and when (and more importantly IF) it does, it won’t really be a revolution but an experiment.

I actually began verbalizing and discussing this week something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: running for Congress after I retire. Will it happen? Who knows; I have a few years left in the military and have no idea what shape I’ll be in (physically and fiscally) when I retire, but the spouse and I think it would definitely be an interesting experiment.

Because that’s the more accurate word for the idea I’m having: an experiment that would take up a chunk of savings and probably six months of my life. You see, if I do this, I’d want to do it the old-fashioned way, to see if it’s even still viable. I’m not going to have a bus, or a staff, or have signs by the side of the road everywhere (I HATE those things!). Instead, I would move to where I want to run – probably Colorado, because we love it there and it’s already at the top of our retirement list anyway – get a map of the congressional district I want to run for, and start walking and talking. That’s it. Hanging out in diners and coffee shops talking with people, going door-to-door in neighborhoods, setting up with a single sign in mall and grocery store parking lots and parks, and just telling people what I think Congress should be doing and not doing, and seeing whether they agree. No tv or newspaper ads either – I would have a blog, and probably a Twitter account (which honestly I shudder to think about) – and if people who Facebook and blog started actually agreeing with me, and as organized news media heard of some wacko out there campaigning for Congress who isn’t accepting donations and doesn’t have a PAC, I think my name would start getting out there on its own. I especially believe in leadership by example, and I think being able to run a campaign on a minimum of dollars sets a good example on how I would deal with the budget and deficit: you don’t really need all the frills if you’re willing to get out there and actually do the work.

The other aspect of the experiment? No negative campaigning. One of my biggest beefs with elections are that people spend all their time attacking others because they don’t actually have anything to say about themselves. I don’t have that problem. I know where I stand on most issues, and if I don’t know the answer to something, I’m not afraid to say “I can’t answer that now because I don’t know all the details, but if you give me a way to contact you I’ll find out and let you know.” Now I’ll add a disclaimer that if someone starts taking personal shots at my family I won’t haul off and verbally smack them up side the head, but I’m there to speak about what I believe and how I think things should happen in government, and I don’t plan to ASK for anyone’s vote: if someone agrees with me (more than they agree with the other candidates), I expect they’ll vote for me. If they disagree, I’m not offended.

As I said, if I can pull this off, it will be a very interesting experiment. I honestly don’t expect to win, but who knows what could happen? Perhaps others will try the same method, after (with the benefit of hindsight) fixing what I screwed up on. Or maybe I’ll keep a daily journal and publish a book about it.

Either way, I’d like to be able to try this. I’ve felt for a while now I need to do something more than sitting around and bitching about what I don’t like about the government, and writing my Congressman and the newspaper doesn’t cut it anymore.

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The most effective campaign-related ad I’ve seen so far (and how I think their issue should be handled)

So was catching up on some missed tv via online streaming, and had to sit through those mandatory ads they make you watch before you can get to what you really want to see. However, one particular ad was interesting; interesting enough for me to actually follow the link. It’s called Vote Our Future, and while I’m pretty sure it’s a right-wing-based sponsor, it had the most effective pitch I’ve seen this year – one that, if it gets out there, could really have an impact. The site and ads are directed at 20-somethings, and the whole concept is that the older generation is screwing the younger generation by refusing to deal with the debt/Medicare/Social Security crisis now and instead dumping on future generations. Sure, that’s what politicians have always done, but it looks like things are finally reaching a tipping point, and this site is attempting to make its demographic target sit up and take notice. And the 20-somethings should, because no matter which way the site itself leans, their message is correct.

Saving Social Security and Medicare are central topics to both Presidential campaigns, and both claim they can fix it, but I don’t believe either one because I don’t think these programs can be saved without changing some of their basic tenets. Per multiple sources (I’ll put two here: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1258 and http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/budget-2010/), these social programs eat up twice as much as the defense budget (and cutting the defense budget is a whole ‘nother blog, and can be done rather easily if it’s done by what’s not really needed vs. what’s not politically acceptable). There’s no way to save them and keep us from going bankrupt without reducing what’s going out compared to what’s coming in. People are living much longer now are working much longer (and before anyone screams “easy for you to say,” my Dad is 90 and still does 20 hours a week at Lowes and enjoys it) and so the eligibility ages need to be increased to compensate. This is not to say people 3 or 4 years away from eligibility should be screwed, because that doesn’t give them enough time to plan, but I don’t feel raising the eligibility age to, say, 72 or 75 for everyone who is now age 45 or 48 is particularly punitive. They have decades to plan and save, and since they’ll be working longer, that’s also more payroll taxes going in to offset later expenditures.

Is this a perfect system? Nope, but guess what: in spite of what the candidates like to claim, THERE ISN’T ONE. People are going to have to sacrifice and adjust to a new reality, and IMHO, giving them a few decades to do so is the fairest possible way.

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It was the best of times… it was the worst of times

So I had the honor of speaking at a 9/11 memorial on Tuesday. I spent a few days prior scanning all the various memorial services being mentioned on the news, and looked at a few from previous years. Most were about Our Great Nation, and How America Will Prevail. Not that I don’t believe those things, but I’ve become really fed up with rhetoric amongst all the bullshit election coverage and ads, plus I wanted to do something a little less flamboyant and a little more… personal. So I went with what’s below. It seemed to be very well-received from the feedback I got the rest of the day.

For those who think it cuts off a little suddenly, you’re right. I’ve omitted the closing, because it contained a lot of personal detail and I do want to keep this blog somewhat anonymous. Our organization lost two members on September 11th, and my closing was reading the emails I sent to those mens’ wives the night before, letting them know their husbands haven’t been forgotten by us, and we honor them not only every year, but remember them every day, as the small memorial we erected for them is the first thing anyone sees when pulling into our parking lot. And so it goes… see what you think.
*********

Good morning, and thank you all for taking the time to be here.

There have been many moments which can be pointed out as pivotal in our nation’s history, but it frequently seems those dates which are the most enduring in our memories, are those born of violence and which directly threatened the basic tenet of our society which we tend to define as our most significant: our freedom. The declaration of our country as a sovereign nation on July 4, 1776; the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941; and the reason we are gathered here this morning, and the reason this flag embroidered with 2,982 names is flying at half staff above me: the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Where we were on that day, that morning, is an event which will always be in our memories; for most of those who weren’t yet born or were too young to remember, it’s an important and poignant, yet, with all due respect, somewhat abstract event to be recognized. For those of us that lived through it, it’s a memory to be both cherished and feared at the same time. Because of instantaneous communications and modern technology, it was a physically limited attack that nonetheless managed to make every American feel like a direct target. Across the length and breadth of our nation, in both cities and small towns and with ripples around the world, thousands of flights were grounded, buildings evacuated, school children sent home, bridges closed and bases sealed. Offices, malls and restaurants were empty for days, some for weeks. The event dealt a lasting blow to our national psyche, as for years after, on Sep 11, many people chose to not even venture out of their homes or go to places like Times Square or the Statue of Liberty; anything which might be a target.

But when it happened, and as the shock wore off, we as Americans responded as we always do: with patriotism, dedication, and self-sacrifice. In spite of all our internal squabbling, rhetoric in the media and scandals ranging from petty to the extreme, we once again brought forth an attribute which, when it emerges, gains us the admiration and envy of the rest of world: that Americans are at their best when things are at their worst.

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Have the Parties Been Hijacked?

This post was inspired by a posting on George Takei’s blog entitled Why I Miss the Old School Republicans. For those unaware, George is the former “Mr Sulu” of Star Trek fame, and now lends his wit and wisdom to daily posts on Facebook, with almost 2.5 million followers.

George argues the Republican Party has been hijacked by a minority of religious extremists, and his points have merit. After all, the Republicans are the party of smaller government; less intrusion into the lives of citizens with a stay-off-my-land, live and let live attitude. Therefore, it seems hypocritical that Republicans are spending more and more time telling anyone who isn’t a straight male how to live their lives. Granted, Mr Takei – being gay himself – clearly has an agenda and self-interest here, but that doesn’t mean his point isn’t valid.

I’ve noticed the same thing in the past few years about the Democratic Party. The party of inclusiveness, of free speech, of coexistence… except that you can only talk and coexist if you’re a Democrat. Protesting conservatives speaking at college campuses, for example, is highly representative of the ideals of the Democratic Party. However, trying to get them banned from speaking in the first place, or seeking to disrupt their speeches to the point of surrender is not.

Believe it or not, I can draw similarities between our two primary political parties and that great bogeyman of the western world itself, the Taliban. During the Taliban-pushed Qur’an-burning riots and uprisings of this past Spring which were all over the global news (and in which a friend of mine stationed in Afghanistan was killed), a single Stars and Stripes reporter went out and interviewed a bunch of average Afghan adults who weren’t the small but extremely vocal (and violent) minority setting things aflame. He found that while most Afghans were upset about the burning of the Qur’ans, they weren’t ready to go out and lynch any non-Muslim they could find; they just wanted to go to work, feed their families, and get on with their lives.

I find parallels in this with our parties: a small but very vocal minority pushing and cajoling the majority into acts which are counter to the very premises of these parties, while most party members are more concerned and too busy with working (or looking for a job) and supporting their families to be able to stop them. And in a world where the smallest action can become global news in minutes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In Afghanistan, according to one citizen, “people in the West see the images of demonstrations and they think all of us are the same… we are not all the same. I didn’t join the demonstrations. But the West sees only the violence here.” It’s not any different here… a few rabid members make it into mass media, and those actions immediately become gospel, and convince their counterparts that a war is being declared, and civility and tolerance go out the window in the name of theoretical self-defense.

To quote a popular meme at the moment: “Well, that escalated quickly.”

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Back in the Saddle Again

So my first action is to apologize for being away so long, for anyone that actually takes the time to read and noticed I was gone. Early March was defined by the death of a friend; after that, I was selected for a new job and Spring became an exercise of working with the family to help (1) purge and (2) pack up the house prior to our move, while at the same time being sent to various venues around the U.S. to get trained up on my new job before I actually took over. This was followed by the actual move across the country itself (toting kids, pets and wine along in our wake), living in a hotel for a month with aforementioned kids and pets (the wine quickly disappeared I assure you), moving into our new house and unpacking (still an ongoing chore), and settling into my new job, with its much greater responsibilities but also much bigger toys to learn and play with!

Also, to be honest, I didn’t find much out there inspirational – or perhaps demotivational – enough to drive me to the computer to post, since it’s all been the same old crap: attack ad after attack ad; all words and no substance; and all this with months to go before the elections.

But perhaps now, with a possible change in government imminent and the candidates coming down to the wire, it’s time to jump back into the fray.

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Cliff Notes may get you through high school, but not in the real world

So a friend of mine who’s very politically savvy and knowledgeable (if very partisan, but we all have our flaws 😉 ) posted a link to a recently-signed Executive Order on her Facebook page (the content of the doc is irrelevant to this post, but you can – and I encourage you – to read it here). The first two comments she received were “TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) – can you provide a precis?” and “could you provide us a summary?”

With all due respect to her friends, I see this more and more in various places on Facebook and across the ‘net – people (largely Americans, with our fast-food, “I want it my way and right now” philosophy) wanting a situation summed up in a sound bite. And then they use that one little summation as the basis for publicly promoting or condemning the entire thing. And it’s not only the general public – it’s our elected representatives as well. They open their big mouths without fully understanding a story, situation or issue and without checking the facts on it (my amusing example here). People scream about the media manipulating the populace, and it’s true, the media does – but with the populace’s full consent, because they’re doing just what the people want: “TL;DR, can you sum up the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in 10 seconds for me?”

Sorry folks, if you want to really understand something, whether it’s a gov’t document or War and Peace, you have to read it. Actually read the thing. Cliff notes or a 15-second blurb on the news isn’t going to do it. And no, I don’t expect everyone to have to read everything – you have to skim and prioritize what you want to know, and then focus on what really matters to you, but if the only information I have on an issue that’s important to me is a two-sentence summary or 10-second sound bite, I generally withhold judgement until I can find out more, if I care enough to.

I’m waiting for someone to ask for a “summary” of the Constitution…

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