The Abuse of Presidential Pardons

In the wake of several pardons and commutations that were recently granted by the President, I have noticed that people's reactions to those pardons and commutations generally fall into one of two categories:

  • People who hate the president are screaming about "abuse of power"
  • People who like or tolerate the president do not seem to care

Setting the record straight, Article II Section 2 of the US Constitution states:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

So there is no "abuse of power" here; the President is performing the duties that are granted to his office by the Constitution.

That being said, the following meme has been making its way around social media:

Presidential-Pardon-Statistics

Just in case someone doubts the authenticity of those statistics, here is the official Department of Justice website where they came from: https://www.justice.gov/pardon/clemency-statistics. For the record, the numbers in that meme are 100% accurate.

Of course, Trump is only ¾ of the way through his term as President, so I would expect his numbers to continue to climb. But not nearly as rapidly as Clinton's infamous Pardongate, and nowhere near the level of Obama's shockingly high numbers.

Some Thoughts on Bernie and Socialism

I recently posted the following image to social media, knowing full well that it would launch a tirade of complaints. However, with all of the information that has been offered by the prospective Democratic Presidential candidates during their debates, I think that it is an honest observation.

socialism-101-the-welfare-of-humanity-is-the-alibi-of-tryants

My intention was not to start any arguments on social media, and thankfully no arguments took place. However, there was a friendly differing of opinions offered by several people on my friends list, and I thought that I would share a few of the things that I said during our debate.

First of all, one of my friends labeled a veiled accusation that those who agree with that image must feel that providing Americans with access to healthcare is tyrannical. That was, of course, drawing an entirely false conclusion from the quotation. If healthcare was the only thing that "The Bern" was trying to socialize, then we'd have something to debate. But the truth is, Bernie is espousing a completely unrealistic, multi-trillion-dollar seizure of nearly every asset within our borders in order to fund an everything-for-free fantasy world that will fail horribly and permanently devastate our economy. Bernie's plan is so ridiculous because he's not actually a socialist; he's just using socialism as a smokescreen to get into power. Bernie is a card-carrying communist who's never held a job, and he is so far out of touch with the common man in this country that I am astounded on a daily basis that anyone is even bothering to listen to his incoherent ramblings.

The trouble with providing everything for free is that "Free" just means "Someone else is paying for it," and I highly resent the fact that the "someone" in this equation might be me. And this is one of the problems that I have with the "participation trophy" generation; they expect to receive "free stuff" simply because they're here - without having to do anything to earn it. Whereas everyone in the preceding generations worked our butts off for that we have; during my time in the military I spent hundreds of loooong hours separated from my loved ones doing manual labor in crappy conditions. I did all that with little to no thanks, and yet I expected nothing in return - except that which I have earned. So when a delusional communist comes along and says that he wants to take away more than half of what my generation fought for our whole lives and give it to someone who hasn't done a thing, my reaction is - what a load of crap.

Now that being said, there are a few social programs in America: Social Security and Medicare are two such examples. However, those are opt-in/opt-out programs. What people resent and mistrust is a government that raises taxes to obscene levels in order to create programs that will steal from productive people to pay for the lifestyles of lethargic people. Therein lies the whole problem with Socialism, which we have seen played out through history around the world. While it is not necessarily the goal of Socialism per se, the net result of Socialism is to share or redistribute wealth across an entire population. There are many people who will remain content to do nothing so long as someone feeds them, while there are others who will remain productive because they desire to achieve more. However, eventually the productive people will grow tired of supporting the lifestyles of the lethargic people, which will often result in each productive person trying to find a way to cease having to pay the way for one or more unproductive people, and the economy/society will eventually devolve into a situation where the government will have to seize assets in order to make sure that those who want to be less productive are escalated to the level of those who want to be more productive.

Capitalism, despite its many flaws, has done more for the common man than any other system in history; it has elevated more of the poor to middle class, distributed vast swaths of cash around the world through philanthropy, and helped elevate the United States into one of the wealthiest countries in world history. Yes, there is corruption under Capitalism; but here's a big surprise for you Socialists out there: there's LOTS of corruption under Socialism. And as history has played out, there has generally been far more corruption under Socialism. Think about this: look at how awful our government is with managing - well, EVERYTHING. But it's especially awful at managing finances. Do we really want those clowns in charge of the redistribution of wealth? And that is precisely why most governments that enact wide-scale Socialism eventually fail and become state-run monstrosities where the only equality is that everyone suffers together - except for those in charge, who live comfortably in their taxpayer-funded palaces.

At the end of the day, whether we are discussing Socialism or Capitalism, the root cause of failures in either system is the same: they have people, and people have different needs, desires, ethics, etc. There is an old adage that says something to the effect of, "Only a fool would say that the only reason why Socialism has never worked is that the right people have never been in charge;" and therein lies the rub - it takes a special kind of hubris to look at a failure after failure after failure and think, "If only I was in charge, I'd get this right." And that's how dictatorships are formed. What we need is to reform some of our shortcomings, condense our bloated government, while ensuring that we have the appropriate level of oversight for areas that are prone to misuse (like the healthcare industry).

As I mentioned before, healthcare is a serious issue, and warrants a much greater conversation that I can fit into a blog post. But that being said, that is just one issue; the idea of abandoning a flawed but successful economic model (Capitalism) in favor of a economic system with a proven track record of catastrophic failure (Socialism) is ludicrous. And I reiterate, if Bernie was ONLY talking about socialized healthcare, then he'd have some serious debate fodder. But he's not; he is espousing a complete shift of economic models, despite the fact that Socialism has not - and will not - ever work. Yes, some individual programs are socialized overseas in tiny countries with small GDPs and much smaller populations. Conversely, the USA is a huge country with 50 states that each want to self-govern as much as possible. If one state, let's say Ohio, decided to socialize their healthcare, that's up to them. But what about Pennsylvania? West Virginia? Indiana? They might not want to socialize their healthcare. Now can you imagine trying to organize that at the Federal level? With our politicians? People in Congress like AOC can't do basic math; should we allow someone like that to decide who gets healthcare? I think every state would eventually take the Federal government to court over one point of implementation or another.

Having said all of that, let's tale a quick look at Bernie; here is a man who has consistently praised Communists like Castro for his social policies, while completely ignoring the hundreds of thousands who that same leader and those same policies put to death. This is why many people believe that it is by no coincidence that Bernie is such a strong advocate for gun control, because in every failed Socialist society, one of the first steps to domination has been to disarm the public. I am no conspiracy theorist, so I do not subscribe to alarmist conjecture. However, I am not blind to history, either. Bernie's proclamations - and those of his devotees - follow a very dangerous pattern, which is summarized in the initial meme that launched this discussion, which I will restate here with a little more context since I think Camus' second point is also apropos to this discussion: "The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience."

Circling back to the initial meme - that quote sums up Bernie's sales pitch perfectly; Bernie is acting like he has the best interests of Americans in mind, but his plan is impossible to implement, so it's just a power grab. We have seen this political behavior manifest itself in the past, and we will undoubtedly see it again.

No One is Above the Law

There is an old adage that says, "If it weren't for double standards, some people wouldn't have any standards at all." I think the recent impeachment debacle in Washington DC is a perfect illustration of that concept. According to Nancy Pelosi and the House, "No one is above the law," and yet...

  • The Obama administration withheld national security aid to the Ukraine, unless they fired their prosecutor; regardless of whether that prosecutor was investigating Biden's son is immaterial - it was still an abuse of power. (The same abuse of power that House Democrats tried unsuccessfully to pin on Trump.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with foreign nationals to create a false narrative in order to illegally obtain FBI wiretaps against the Trump Campaign. (Oddly enough, this is the same crime that Democrats have held against the Nixon administration for years.)
  • The Obama administration deliberately misled the American Public about the details within Obamacare in order to push it through congress. (The writer of that legislation actually said that the only way that bill would succeed would be to rely on the economic stupidity of the American voter.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with DNC officials to steal the 2016 primaries from Bernie Sanders through manipulation of their "Super Delegates." (Oddly enough, Bernie was winning the Democratic popular vote, and the DNC played with the numbers to give the nomination to Hillary anyway, which casts a hypocritical light on the DNC's continued whining about Trump not winning the popular vote.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with DNC officials to provide the Hillary Campaign with the questions and answers for 2016 presidential debates. (The DNC chairperson was fired, but no one was prosecuted.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the FBI and the Attorney General to sweep Hillary's guilt under the rug when the FBI had sufficient evidence to prosecute Hillary for crimes and obstruction of justice. (Those crimes would be running an illegal email server to avoid government oversight, the loss of a wealth of classified information to foreign intelligence services when her illegal email server was hacked, sending volumes of classified data from her illegal email server to unclassified devices, and the destruction of cell phones and her email server when they were subpoenaed.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the Secretary of State (Hillary) to mislead the American public about their ineptitude regarding the destruction of an American Embassy in Benghazi and the death of an American Ambassador. (Despite a multitude of requests for additional security from the Embassy in Benghazi, the Secretary of State refused to provide reinforcements, resulting in several deaths. After their cataclysmic blunder was discovered, the Obama administration and the Secretary of State pinned the blame on an innocent filmmaker, whom they threw in jail, and intentionally lied to the American people to cover their guilt.)
  • The Obama administration conspired with the IRS to use IRS resources as a weapon against political rivals. (When this crime was discovered, hundreds of hard drives across the IRS were suddenly wiped clean, and amazingly enough - none of those computers had backups, despite being one of the largest agencies in our government with a huge IT staff. Note that all of the hard drives were destroyed before FBI agents were allowed to inspect them.)
  • The Obama administration illegally traded five known terrorists from Guantanamo for a known traitor, Bowe Bergdahl, without approval from Congress. (This was an illegal abuse of Executive power, for which no one was prosecuted.)

There are, of course, many other crimes committed and scandals that happened during the Obama administration; these are just the ones that I could think of right now. As I said earlier, if it weren't for double standards, some people wouldn't have any standards at all.

pelosi_justice

Classic Rock versus Contemporary Rock

One of my kids recently asked me why I preferred "classic rock" over much of today's music, and I replied that "back in the day," artists had to actually have talent - not just look pretty for their photo shoots.

Today's biggest "artists" have the majority (if not all) of their songs written by teams of songwriters, and if these "artists" actually sing their own material, then their voices are auto-tuned and quantized into something that barely represents their original voices, and then they lip-synch their vocals when they perform so that they can nail their dance steps while their label pays every possible outlet to promote their over-produced "music..."

At the end of the day, today's "musicians" are little more than performing monkeys. See the following video for what I mean...

Whereas in the past, musicians had to have amazing talent to make a dent in the club scene where they cut their teeth; slogging away through club after club, hoping that one day they would be "discovered" by a record label's A&R department, then hopefully they might land a recording contract and perform the heck out of their material in order to gain a fan base...

Whether that meant nailing three and four part harmonies and complex rock arrangements like Kansas' "Carry On Wayward Son..."

...or pulling off similarly complex multi-part pop arrangements like Journey's "Feeling That Way & Anytime."

The reason why I love classic rock is because that's the last time that music was genuine...


UPDATE:

I love videos from Rick Beato, and I noticed after I posted this blog that he had created a video a year ago, wherein he described an additional example of what is wrong with music these days: quantization. In the following two videos, Rick shows how modern-day producers and engineers ruin performances by forcing a drummer's groove into a fixed tempo, thereby destroying everything that makes a drummer great.

How Computers Ruined Rock Music
How Would John Bonham Sound Today? (Quantized)

I'll sign off with those thoughts for you to ponder.

Coloring Historical Photographs - First Attempt

I hang out in a few history-related forums, and I see a lot of great photos posted. Periodically, I see photos that someone has colorized, and I have occasionally thought, "I wonder how hard that is?" With that in mind, I saw a photo today that I thought seemed like it would be a great place to get started. Here is the before and after... it's not too bad for a first effort. There are a few historical inaccuracies that I learned about after the fact; for example: the buttons and belt buckle both should have been silver, not brass. (I obviously have room to improve.)

Pilot-Officer-James-Robbinson- Before-and-After

Colorizing that image was quickly followed by colorizing another image, which turned out okay, but I didn't have much to work with; the resolution of the source image wasn't that great. I did some research to get the colors right for the airplane and uniform, so I was trying to learn from my mistakes.

James-Robbinson-Spitfire-Before-and-After

So there you have it - my first two attempts at coloring historical images. I obviously have lots of room to grow.

The International Bonhoeffer Society Denounces Trump

Someone I know recently posted the following article to Facebook, International Bonhoeffer Society Calls for 'Ending Donald Trump's Presidency' in 'Statement of Concern', and I thought that I'd share a few thoughts about that article. Before I continue, I need to point out that I have written no shortage of posts on this blog about my dislike for the current president. I stress that fact up front so that nothing that I say here will be misconstrued as though I am carrying the flag for him. With that being said, I'd like to discuss the problem that I see with the official statement from the International Bonhoeffer Society (IBS). (By the way, if I might take a brief moment to interject a bit of humor: did anyone at their society bother to realize that they share the same initials as an intestinal disease? But I digress...)

Here's the problem with statements like the one issued by the IBS: what gives them the right to speak on behalf of a long-dead theologian? By what right do they support their claim that they are the "grateful recipients, and now custodians, of the theological, ethical, and political legacy of ... Dietrich Bonhoeffer?" That is a self-appointed mission, and I have no cause or reason to recognize their authority in any political or moral debates where they are operating in Bonhoeffer's name. I have also read and studied various publications from Bonhoeffer, and if I so chose to do so, I could cherry-pick specific phrases to reinforce any point of view that I personally held with something that Bonhoeffer had said. That's the essence of "Proof Texting," and people do what with the Bible every day; people posses moral or political points of view, and they choose something that will back up their opinion. It's done all the time, but it's immoral. It's unethical. And it violates scripture. Nevertheless, trying to demonstrate that some late personage who can no longer defend their point of view is a popular tactic for those who are otherwise incapable of defending their stance.

Here's a rather inane example that should illustrate my point quite nicely: I have spent the past 40+ years of my life as a Rush fan. I have at one time or other learned the lyrics to every song, learned how to play all of their songs on the guitar, read books written by their band members, read and watched interviews with band members, gathered together with various fans and discussed or debated the deeper philosophical meanings of their lyrics, and seen Rush live on over a dozen occasions. That being said, their drummer, Neil Peart,  passed away last week, and it would be thoroughly asinine for me to band together with a group of like-minded Rush fans and issue a statement that, "It is our belief that Peart would agree with us that Justin Trudeau is God's choice for Canada's Prime Minister," or "No right-minded follower of Peart would ever support Justin Trudeau." Do you hear how literally stupid that sounds? And yet this is EXACTLY what the IBS is doing. They have no ethical right to do so; but without the weight of a fabricated association with Bonhoeffer, the IBS has no voice. And yet, they have no more right to issue proclamations in Bonhoeffer's name than the Chesterton Society does for G. K. Chesterton, or the Martin Luther King Society does for MLK, or the Augustinians do for Augustine, or we do for Christ. If something isn't specifically in scripture, then we have no right - NO RIGHT - to say, "Jesus would agree with me."

Having said all of that, the IBS is certainly correct in their assertions that "evangelicals" are often guilty of proclaiming that "God chose Trump." And in that respect, those "evangelicals" are guilty of what I was just saying that no one should be doing; they should not be speaking for Christ. But the irony is, the IBS is trying to call out sin by committing their own sin. The SAME sin, to be exact. This is, of course, the textbook definition of hypocrisy. However, throughout their official statement, the IBS makes other points abundantly clear; for example: by calling out "evangelicals" for their behavior, the IBS outs themselves as orthodox. And if I'm not orthodox, then I have little cause or desire to agree with them theologically or philosophically. In addition, the IBS's talking points easily out themselves as liberal theologians, and if I am a conservative theologian, then I have even less cause to agree with them theologically or philosophically. And in a like manner, many of the IBS's political stances are clearly the regurgitation of talking points from political liberals, and if I am politically conservative, then I have even less cause to agree with them politically or sociologically.

In the end, the official statement from the IBS is based on authority that is entirely self-appointed; it does not exist in any fashion other than their own self-infatuation, and I have no reason to accept their proclamations based on authority that I do not recognize. In addition, I am diametrically opposed to their theological, philosophical, political, and sociological positions on many issues. I may dislike our president as much as the IBS does, but I use my own voice to make my arguments. Ultimately, the IBS appears to be a group of petty, misguided academics, who are locked safely away in their ivory towers of liberal thought, issuing useless missives that they believe have some form of impact. So immoral. So unethical. So childish...

One postscript, were I one to "Proof Text," it would be trivial to shut down many of the IBS's arguments through the misuse of scripture - for example:

  • Peter 2:13: "For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority - whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed."
  • Romans 13:1-2: "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished."
  • Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work."
  • Titus 3:1-2: "Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone."

Please bear in mind, I do my best to follow those points of scripture, regardless of who our president is. But that being said, I do NOT claim the authority of Christ to say, "God chose Trump as our president." However, according to scripture - that is true. Just as God chose Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, etc., all the way back to Washington. And yet, we are not called to follow blindly; if our government asks to do something that violates scripture, we are demanded to follow Christ first. But in many situations, we follow Christ by following our leaders - even when we disagree with them.


UPDATE: This post is one of several that I had written, which I later discovered had never been set to "public."

RIP Neil Peart (1952-2020)

Like many Rush fans, I was saddened by the unexpected news of Neil Peart's death today. (See https://cnn.it/385vcFJ.) Neil was the dominant third of the Canadian Power Trio Rush, and as I have expressed before, Rush's music was truly the soundtrack of my life. Every significant season of my life was punctuated by the release of a Rush album.

I first saw Rush around 1980, and it was one of the greatest concerts of my life. Over the next 35 years I saw them several more times, and I spent countless hours learning how to play their music on guitar for several bands. (Many of my bandmates from way back then are still some of my closest friends.)

I took the following photo of Rush on stage in Toronto during one of their last concerts, and Neil is the central point of focus in that image, as it should be - Neil was the principle lyricist and inarguably the driving force behind their success. This tour was Rush's last hurrah before they collectively stepped down from their 40-year career as the undisputed masters of progressive rock, which was followed quickly by Neil's retirement to spend his final years with his wife and daughter.

I hope no one minds, but I'd like to take a bit of creative license with stealing a few specific lyrics from one of of Neil's earliest songs, Lakeside Park, as an epitaph...

So many memories
Shining stars on summer nights
Singing songs together
Though it's just a memory
Some memories last forever...

I will selfishly admit, when I heard that Rush would never tour again, somewhere in the back of my mind I kept hoping against hope that maybe Rush would put on another show someday - perhaps for a charity - and then I might have a chance to see them one more time. Alas, that wasn't meant to be. But I am happy that Neil spent the past few years in retirement alongside his wife and daughter; I think that's a better way to have lived his final days than putting on a concert for selfish fans like me.

Presidents versus Terrorists

Let me say up front that I think Trump is the least-presidential president that we have had in many years. In fact, I have made it abundantly clear in other blog posts that quite often I think Trump acts like a world class buffoon. But that being said, I recently read a social media post wherein someone who simply hates Trump was spouting off about Trump attempting to act like the King of America and starting wars after a US drone airstrike killed Iran's General Qasem Soleimani. This person is one of a growing group of misguided malcontents who are so blinded by their rage against our current president that they are incapable of properly analyzing the situation.

With that in mind, here are a few facts that everyone should consider.

  • First of all, the President is Commander in Chief (CiC) of our Armed Forces; everyone in the military reports to him. For all intents and purposes, Trump outranks every general in the Pentagon. If the military has viable intelligence that they can take out a known terrorist and Trump gives them the go ahead, then that's well within the powers that are granted to his office.

  • Second, our military killed a known enemy militant who was actively engaged in planning additional acts of terrorism outside of his own country. Soleimani was an Iranian general and terrorist who was in Iraq in order to direct the actions of several groups of insurgents who were attempting to overthrow their democratically elected leaders. Soleimani was directly responsible for an indeterminate number of innocent deaths; and if left on his own, it is guaranteed that additional lives would have been lost.

  • Third, in contrast to the killing of an Iranian terrorist on Iraqi soil, when Obama gave his permission to kill Bin Laden, a group of heavily armed American forces crossed into a foreign nation (Pakistan) and killed someone who was hiding out with their permission. As Commander in Chief (CiC), Obama - like Trump - was operating within the powers that were granted to his office.

    • However, in the grander scheme of political diplomacy, Trump killed a positively-identified enemy combatant with a precise drone strike, whereas Obama ordered the slaughter of an entire household of civilians based on unconfirmed intelligence (that thankfully turned out to be true).

    • But make no mistake: when US forces went after Bin Laden, our military violated the borders of a sovereign nation. In no uncertain terms, we invaded Pakistan when we killed Bin Laden. Whereas in Soleimani's situation, our military was already stationed in Iraq as a peacekeeping force, and the Iranian general and his cohorts were the invaders.

    • Think about it this way: when a group of revolutionaries recently attempted to stage a coup in Turkey, they were doing so under the orders of a man who is currently residing in the USA, whom Turkey considers a traitor and terrorist. How would you feel if a heavily armed group from the Turkish military snuck over the borders into the United States and slaughtered every man, woman, and child in that guy's house? Most Americans - including you - would be highly offended; but that's exactly what we did with Pakistan, and no Americans care.

  • Fourth, when you compare the conditions of Obama's and Trump's operations, Obama ran the risk of open hostility with an ally, whereas Trump ran the risk of open hostility with a country that was already openly hostile to us. Remember, Iranian insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy just a few days ago. With that in mind, let's examine presidential reactions to acts over terror over the past few decades:

    • When a crowd of Iranians overthrew one of our embassies during President Carter's administration, a large number of Americans were held prisoner and psychologically tortured for the next couple years.

    • When a group of terrorists from Libya bombed US forces in Germany, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Gaddafi's private palace - and we never heard from him again (until his own people overthrew and executed him in 2011).

    • When Sadam Hussein invaded one of our allies in the early 1990s, President Bush Sr. deployed our military in overwhelming force and routed the Iraqi invaders in a brilliantly-executed military campaign.

    • However, when terrorists working for Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 1993, President Clinton did nothing. In fact, President Clinton passed on every opportunity to kill Bin Laden that the military presented during his time in office. What is worse, whenever terrorists would bomb or kill US forces anywhere on the planet, Clinton would withdraw all US forces from the region, thereby giving the terrorists EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANTED ALL ALONG. In the end, the Clinton Presidency was the greatest terrorist training program in world history; President Clinton proved that terrorism works - the US will withdraw its forces, and no one who is responsible for terrorist acts will be punished.

    • When Bin Laden bombed the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, President Bush Jr. invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, deposed their corrupt governments that sponsored global terrorism, and allowed their people to democratically elect their leaders for the first time in many, many years.

    • However, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow our embassy in Libya during President Obama's administration, both Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (SoS) and Obama as Commander in Chief (CiC) ordered our military to stand down. As a direct result - our ambassador to Libya was killed (along with several other people), and our embassy compound was burned to the ground. (And don't even get me started on how Obama gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran, traded a host of known terrorists from Guantanamo prison without the required congressional approval in exchange for a known deserter and traitor, and he made it possible for Iran to create Nuclear weapons.)

    • On the other hand, when a group of insurgents attempted to overthrow one of our embassies under Trump's tenure, he sent in the military to reinforce the embassy and disperse the crowds of insurgents, and then he ordered their ringleader killed with a drone strike.

So, yeah - Trump is a doofus. But what Trump did was perfectly legal, as it was for Obama with Bin Laden. However, there is no comparison when it comes to results:

  • Carter (as CiC), both Clintons (Bill as CiC and Hillary as SoS), and Obama (as CiC) were all miserable failures with regard to foreign policy and terrorism.

  • On the other hand, Reagan (as CiC), Bush Sr. (as CiC), and Bush Jr. (as CiC) were demonstrably better at foreign policy.

The future will tell as to whether Trump will fare as well at foreign policy during his time as CiC. But that being said, just because you cannot stand Trump does not grant you the right to disparage what was well within the realm of his duties as Commander in Chief. In fact, at the moment it appears as though his decision to take out a known terrorist was incredibly well executed; with minimal loss of life to US, Iraqi, and even Iranian personnel.

As I said earlier, these are just some things to consider.


UPDATE: When this blog was originally published, it made no reference to the drone airstrike. As a result, the context was missing. That gaffe on my part was corrected later.

It's a New Year with the Same Warped Sense of Humor

I joined the Army in early 1986, at which time the following dark humor marching/running cadence was in prominent use:

A yellow bird / With a yellow bill
Landed on / My window sill
I lured him in / With a piece of bread
And then I smashed / His yellow head

Although to be perfectly honest, the original cadence didn't say "his yellow head;" instead, it used a more-colorful expression with the same number of syllables. But this is a public forum, so I'll stick to the sanitized version here.

Nevertheless, an unfortunate mishap occurred at my house recently: a tiny yellow bird flew into one of my windows, and - tragically - died as a result. However, when I discovered his demise, my first instinct wasn't to clean up the carnage. Instead, I grabbed my camera and a half-piece of bread and took the following picture, which I uploaded to a veterans' group on Facebook with the caption: "This guy landed on my window sill today... it didn't end well for him."

Now at first glance, this might seem rather... morbid. However, my fellow veterans immediately recognized my joke, and they posted comments like the following:

  • "His head seems intact. I'm confused."
  • "I see you lured him in with a piece of bread."
  • "You MUST finish what you started... CRUSH HIS ******* HEAD!!! "

They also replied with images like the following:

yellow-bird-knows
yellow-bird-grenade

One dark example of veteran humor was answered by dozens of darker examples of veteran humor. Once again, this behavior might seem somewhat disturbed to the casual observer, but none of the people involved in the ensuing discussion were sociopaths; most of them were happily married, with great jobs/careers, and selflessly devoted to their kids and grandkids. With that in mind, a short examination of the dichotomy between what veterans might find amusing versus what "acceptable society" might find amusing is worth discussing.

Here is another example of what many veterans find funny:

mushroom-cloud

I have to admit, I literally laughed out loud when I first saw that image; I honestly thought that was one of the funniest cartoons I had seen in a long time. However, when I showed it to my wife, she didn't find it funny. In fact, her comment was, "That's kind of sad..." And as I thought about our different reactions to the same image, I realized why veterans see things differently: we have learned to laugh at death. Not death itself, mind you, but the concept of death. We have to; we'd go crazy if we didn't, and I'll explain why.

The longer you serve in the military, you will eventually have to face death. This will rarely be your imminent demise, although that occasionally happens. But sooner or later you will have to survive the death of a friend or acquaintance, or you will have to come to terms with the fact that what you're doing is likely going to get you killed. Both of those realities are extremely difficult concepts for any sane person to deal with.

In an attempt to deal with the stress of these likely scenarios, most active service members of the military will employ the following coping mechanisms: toxic sarcasm and a dark sense of humor. This may seem strange and/or counter-productive to outsiders, but contrary to common sense - developing a cynical worldview helps service members successfully grapple with the subject of death. Learning to laugh at the inevitability of facing death in some form or other makes time in military service a little more endurable.

When veterans leave the service, their dark senses of humor follow them home; much like having a psychotic ex-lover stalk you across the country. But this is why I love hanging out in the veterans' groups on Facebook: I love seeing that there are others who still see things as I do. My sense of humor may be warped and distorted, but there are others who share that same warped and distorted sense of humor.

In short, other veterans "Get Me." They understand me. They share the same irreverent contempt for death that I do. Or to rephrase a famous idiom, "Fate whispers to the warrior, 'You cannot withstand the storm.' The warrior whispers back, 'You could really use a breath mint.'"