Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Buck Stops Where

Job Security – The Commander versus the Commander in Chief

Life would be so much simpler in Washington if the Commander in Chief would follow the same axioms and tenets as a military commander. Let me explain.

I went through the Army ROTC program at a Midwestern university in the late 60s. The first maxim about the Army that was drilled into our heads was that, “A commander was responsible for everything that the unit does, or fails to do.” Period.

Wow! That was a burden and responsibility that was foisted upon us, and we were still teenagers aspiring to become future Army officers. It became obvious that along with authority, came responsibility and accountability.

What a concept!

In retrospect, after 26 years in the military community, I can safely say that maxim is still being regarded as gospel. It has been for the 45+ years since I enrolled in ROTC as well as about 200 years before I enrolled in ROTC.

Now that we have established that the commander of a military unit has responsibility, we need to note that this individual also has authority. This is placed in the hands of this individual in order to accomplish the most important part of his (or her) responsibility: accomplishing the assigned mission.

How does the commander do this?

The commander does this by exercising command and control. What is command and control?

I was familiar with Field Manual (FM) 101-5 in the late 60s.  It describes basic doctrine of the role, relationships, organization, and responsibilities of staffs in the US Army.  It is intended for use by staff officers in carrying out their duties and responsibilities as they assist the commander in accomplishing the mission.  This is the definition of command and control  given in the FM 101-5.

Command and control is an essential element of the art and science of warfare. Command and control is the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander in the accomplishment of the mission. The focus of command and control is the commander. Command is the authoritative act of making decisions and ordering action; control is the act of monitoring and influencing this action.

Hopefully, I have not lost any readers with the introduction of these military terms. The FM 101-5 has not changed significantly since my introduction to it in the 60s.  Tried and true, tested on many battlefields, the commander and command and control concepts have survived for centuries.

So how does one person single-handedly win a battle or a war? The short answer is that he doesn’t.

The very first sentence of the very first chapter of the FM 101-5 is this: Staffs exist to help the commander make and implement decisions. It goes on to say that the staff is the most important resource that the commander uses to exercise command and control when the commander cannot exercise command and control by himself.

So there you have it! The commander actually has assistance in the form of a staff. There is no need to go into the specific staff members and their responsibilities. (The staff relationships can all be found online by googling FM 101-5.) But let me give this in summation, the purpose of a staff is to advise the commander, keep the commander informed, and implement any of the commander’s desires in the accomplishment of the mission. That is my abbreviated definition of a staff function from my personal experience.

We do need to revisit the role of the commander, especially given that he/she is responsible for everything the unit does, or fails to do.

An excellent article in the Military Review magazine defines the specific responsibilities of a commander. These are as follows:

* A commander can delegate authority but not responsibility. Authority refers to who is in charge, while responsibility refers to who is accountable.

* Commanders have a responsibility to ensure their subordinates are trained and can operate independently, based on the commander’s intent.

* Commanders have a responsibility to set a command climate wherein subordinates will act ethically in the absence of leaders.

How does this all segue into what exists in our government in Washington?

In Washington, we not only have a commander, we have a Commander In Chief (CIC) . That would be the President of the United States (POTUS). Like a military commander, the CIC has a staff. His staff consists of the Vice President, fifteen cabinet members, and seven additional people with the same rank as the fifteen cabinet members. Additionally, there are thirty-eight “czars” currently in the Obama administration. (Coincidentally, “czars” have been used since the FDR administration. Did you know we had a bird flu czar?) The current administration holds the record for the number of czars.

Now that the groundwork and background have been given, let us get to the meat of this blog.

Two recent events (scandals?) have recently arisen in the Washington political scene. The first is the loss of an Ambassador and former Navy Seals in Benghazi, Libya. The second is the “special attention” given by the IRS to conservative political groups.

In Benghazi, the consulate was attacked and overtaken by a group of militants. The result was the death of our US Ambassador to Libya, as well as three former Navy Seals. The details of the attack are well known. The lack of response on the part of our government becomes considerably more hazy. There is much speculation that a relief force was underway, and ultimately ordered to “return to base.” This action doomed the people under attack. There has also been speculation that any show of force, even as small as a flyover by US aircraft, would have stopped the attack.

The second event is the IRS targeting politically conservative groups. Everyone immediately thinks that this was just the Tea Party. Not so. This included many conservative Christian groups as well.

What do these two occurrences have in common? How does this relate to the role of a military commander?

The one item that ties these unrelated events together is that our POTUS, our Commander in Chief, has publicly indicated that he had no knowledge of either of these two events. The inference is that he cannot be held accountable for events of which he had no knowledge.

Really? Let me get this straight. He has a staff of fifty-one cabinet members and czars and not one of them made him aware of the current situation for either event? A military commander, even at the highest levels, has an immediate staff of usually less than ten. In comparison, the CIC has a staff large enough to run a galaxy!

This is frightening for two reasons.

#1. Could our CIC, our President of the United States, be lying to the American public? Could he have ordered the IRS to give “special attention” to conservative political groups? Was he the person that directed the stand-down of our relief force to Benghazi?

I do know from experience that the US military establishment would have done anything and everything possible to save those Americans. It is what they are taught to do and it is the purpose of their existence. So I will speculate that it took an order higher than the Pentagon to stand-down that relief force. Who could that be?

Targeting conservative political groups by using the IRS as a hammer?

I remember Watergate. For those younger than baby boomers, President Nixon used his “plumbers” to break into the Democratic National Headquarters. He saw the need to acquire the liberal strategy for the upcoming election. He pulverized McGovern in the election, so in retrospect, the intel from the break-in was really not necessary. But then President Nixon took it one step further – he lied to the American public about any knowledge of the event. This was made painfully clear and public by insider information from the insider referred to as “Deep Throat.” The President knew, the President ordered it done, and the President lied to the American people. Could this be occurring now? (Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment!)

#2. The blame for both happenings has been placed on staff underlings. If indeed this is true, and staff underlings were responsible for the egregious way both events were handled, then who is responsible for the staff? Who is minding the store? Have the lunatics taken over the insane asylum?  Could this be the result of appointing political allies to high executive positions without regard to qualification?

The answer to all of these questions in the military would be the commander. The answer to all these questions in Washington is the POTUS, our CIC, the President of the United States.

Whether he had direct knowledge, and whether or not it was done by his staff, he is still responsible! Harry Truman said that the, “Buck stops here.” Our President appears to be handing ten different people a dime each to divert any blame or responsibility from him.

To get back to the original title of this blog as to who has more job security, a commander or a Commander in Chief?  The answer is simple. The Commander in Chief enjoys more job security.   Why?  He has violated all three responsibilities as outlined in the Military Review magazine and he is still occupying the White House.

A military commander would have been relieved of command for similar statements and actions.  Period.

Brass-Buckle

Capital Punishment versus the Swift Belt of Justice

Growing up in the 1950s presented youngsters with many challenges in their formative years. The foremost challenge was that many of the fathers in the 50s were soldiers, marines and sailors during WWII. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was the most quoted axiom of the decade.

Big Daddy G, my father, was an adherent of that axiom. For as long as I can remember, he has always worn a two-inch black leather belt with a large brass buckle. In my youth, that buckle appeared to be the size of a pie pan. Now that I am a grandfather, I recall it to be about half the size of a pie pan.

My father used that belt to discipline me exactly five times. The first, second, and fifth times were the most memorable. The first time was when I was 5 years old. The last time was when I was 16 years old.

Let me give you a sample of the justice dispensed by Big Daddy G. The second time I received “a belting” was after a visit to my grandmother’s house, which was 12 miles from our house. The road between our houses was a very busy highway. We were at Grandma’s for dinner. She made Southern fried chicken. How she learned to make it in the Midwest, I will never know. I digress. It was a wonderful meal. I, at the tender age of 6, did not want Southern fried chicken. So I said to Grandma, “Grandma, can I have a bowl of shredded wheat?” Shredded wheat, at that time, looked like hay bales – exactly the kind of hay bales we had on the farm. Grandma said, “Sure you can have shredded wheat.” I ate it blissfully.

When halfway home, my dad pulled his car onto the side of the busy highway. He reaches into the back seat, yanks me out, and proceeds with the “belting.” Once completed, he says to me, “You will always eat what people put in front of you when you are a guest in their house.”

Two notable things resulted from this. Number one, at the ripe age of 6, I suddenly was the “least picky eater” that you would ever find. I have been to this day! Number two, I was more ashamed than I was hurt. Every car that passed us during the “belting” was honking with approval and just about everyone that passed knew my dad and me.

With Big Daddy G, doing the crime and receiving the punishment were only minutes apart. I don’t ever recall a jury trial, or even an opportunity for cross-examination, rebuttal, or appeal.

So before I go any further, I want to make two things perfectly clear. I was not abused as a child. I was “parented.” Secondly, I deserved every “belting.” The first time, at the age of 5, I lied to Big Daddy G. That did not go well for me. The fifth and last time, I swore at the family dinner table. That didn’t go too well, either. The fact is, I knew the rules and got what I deserved for not obeying them.

So how does my tale of woe fit into this post?

In 1984, the average time a person sentenced to death row in the US, was actually on death row was 74 months. In 2010, the average time on death row increased to 178 months!  More than double in 26 years!

When the constitution was written, the time between sentencing and execution could be measured in days or weeks. A century later, the Supreme Court noted that long delays between sentencing and execution, compounded by a prisoner’s uncertainty over time of execution, could be agonizing. This resulted in mental anguish and horrible feelings by the prisoner.

Really? They are going to be executed and we are concerned about their mental anguish? Could this possibly be remorse? What about the mental anguish suffered by the surviving victims or their families? I am sure that the “victim of murder” would have wanted 178 additional months to live!

But in the wake of the Supreme Court-mandated temporary suspension of the death penalty from 1972 to 1976, numerous reforms have been introduced to create a less arbitrary system. This has resulted in lengthier appeals as mandatory sentencing reviews have become the norm. Continual changes in the laws and technology have necessitated reexamination of individual sentences.

Here are some interesting statistics concerning death row inmates as of 12/20/2011:

* 55.4% of the population is white, 41.7% are black, and 2.9% are of another race

* Men on death row make up 98.1%, while women make up 1.9%

* 7,879 people have been sentenced to death from 1977 until 2010

* The median education level of death row inmates is 12th grade

* 8.6% of inmates had a prior homicide conviction

* Half of all inmates were 20-29 years old at the time of arrest, 11% were 19 or younger

* The average age at time of arrest was 28

* 65.7% had prior felony convictions

The first recorded death sentence in the British North American colonies was carried out in 1608 on Captain George Kendall, who was executed by firing squad at the Jamestown colony for allegedly spying for the Spanish government.

An enterprising team of researchers have determined that 15,269 people were executed in the US and its predecessor colonies between 1608 and 1991. In the period from 1930 to 2002, 4,661 executions were carried out in the US.

So why has the time on death row for a convicted inmate increased so dramatically? I understand appeals, but would modern technology not conteract the appeal process?

If one can believe what is on TV, there are cameras everywhere: on buildings, at stoplights, parking lots, drones, etc. If a crime is recorded, would that not shorten the appeal process?

How about all that new DNA technology? Here again, if you can believe what is on television, any DNA sample can determine the identity of a criminal. Hair, blood, cigarette butt – we are lead to believe it is conclusive and reliable. Would that not reduce the appeal process?

Currently, the District of Columbia and eighteen states do not have enforceable death penalty statutes. The Supreme Court of the US has never determined the death penalty to be unconstitutional. In extreme cases, the federal government can exact the death penalty in a state that does not have the death penalty.

Can you guess which state has had the most executions? That would be the great state of Texas. But what states would have the second and third most executions? Florida and California? Nope, not even close. The second and third states for executions are Virginia and Oklahoma. The state with the most people on death row is California with 727 inmates. Oddly enough, they have only executed 13, while Texas has executed 498.

Everyone understands the severity of sentencing someone with the death penalty. Everyone agrees that every effort needs to be made to determine that the person being given the death penalty is indeed the person that committed the crime. The crime of murder is the cause in the majority of the cases. What I find interesting is the argument that the time spent on death row has increased because of our technological advances.

I do not understand that argument, as it is not presented very well. My understanding of it is this: there are more advanced technological tests available, so to perform “due diligence” before execution, they must be performed. More tests available = more tests taken = more time on death row.

My common sense solution? Put Big Daddy G in charge of all death row inmates. That 178-month wait time would be cut down to about 5 minutes, not giving the inmates time to suffer all that “mental anguish” everyone is concerned about.

Seriously, is one appeal not enough instead of all the multiple appeals at different levels of the judicial system? I believe a 5 year maximum time limit should be applied between the time of conviction and the time of execution. Common sense dictates that if no extenuating evidence appears in five years, it probably is not going to appear at all. Case closed.

PS: Today is a landmark day (5/19/13) for www.commonsensebygrandpat.com. It has been 16 weeks since I began writing this blog as a hobby, and I have had just under 8500 hits. My twelve posts are now producing about a thousand hits a week. I enjoy writing it and hope you enjoy reading it. I am overwhelmed with the response. Thanks so much.

Special Interest

Why Isn’t Anything Happening in Washington?

Can you believe everything that has happened in the world in the last 60 days?

1.  It has just been confirmed that the Syrian government is using chemical warfare against the Syrian rebels.

2.  Domestically, we have had the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.

3.  How could we possibly forget the first-hand film footage of the Boston Marathon bombings?  How could we possibly forget the capture of the alleged perpetrators of the bombings.

4.  The month of April was determined to be the deadliest in Iraq since June 2008

5.  In Chicago, there were 20 shootings resulting in three fatalities.  All in one night!

6.  North Korea says it has a nuclear weapon and a missile system that could hit the US.  They said they are going to do just that!

This is just a simplified, broad-brush rendition of just some of the events that have occurred in the last 60 days.

So why hasn’t anything positive occurred in Washington by our politicians as of late?

Without doing my usual due-diligence research, I am going to render an opinion off the cuff.  After all, Grandma P would rather have me paint lawn ornaments than spend ridiculous amounts of time on research.  I would rather spend time watching the LPGA than either one, but so much for what I want.

I believe that Congress and Washington are not being efficient, because they are being held hostage by special interest groups.  So what exactly do I mean with that statement?

The Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was conducted by a deranged individual that had access to weaponry.  Not for one second do I want to minimize the effect on the families of the victims, small, defenseless children being indiscriminately murdered.  Could there be a more tragic scenario.

It is what happened afterward that I want to address.

You may not be aware, but many of the parents of these children went to Washington to lobby for more gun control.  Considering their losses and their suffering, you can well imagine that it would be difficult for any politician to refuse an audience to this group.  This group of parents was there, in Washington, for days.  This took quite a bit of time and attention from our elected officials.  A special interest group that monopolized Congress in light of a heinous crime.

The NRA picked up the pace to counter the moves by the gun control advocates.

As an aside, the most stringent gun control laws in the US are in the state of Illinois.  That is why I pointed out that in a state where guns are illegal, twenty people were shot, three of whom were killed in one night in Chicago!  How would you like to be a cop in that town?  Sooooo—if these gun laws are the most stringent, why are they not working?

Have you noticed the spirited push for same-sex marriages at the federal and state levels?  If you believe the propaganda on this issue, homosexuals are the majority and heterosexuals are in the minority.  At least that is what they wish to portray to the voting public and to our representatives.  I could personally care less whether or not a person is homosexual, but I am getting a little irritated with how much of the media and how much of our representatives time is spent on this issue.

This whole same-sex marriage thing falls into my belief system as such.  Do not write your special interest on a Louisville slugger, hit me in the head with it, and expect me to like it.  I don’t care what you do in private, but don’t hit me in the face with it; and then try to make me feel like a degenerate, because I am not marching for your cause.

What an interesting turn of events in the Boston Marathon bombings!  We had a diligent effort made by our law enforcement agencies in finding the culprits.  Once we captured one of  them and had him singing like a canary on steroids, someone had the bright idea that we should read this terrorist his rights!  (What rights do you have if you are involved in a car accident, and have alcohol on your breathe?  No Miranda, no free attorney, and an instant stay in jail.  Who has it better?)   Because the terrorist survivor was singing to the FBI, I believed at the time that it took someone high up on the food chain to have the balls to send in a judge to read his rights.  I was prophetic.  Those directions came from the POTUS and his Attorney General.  This stupid action was taken so we don’t look like the barbarians to the Muslim countries that want to kill us or to the terrorist organizations they support.   (See the blog on Attorneys as Politicians)  A terrorist is a terrorist, whether they are foreign or domestic.  Indiscriminate killing of Americans qualifies you to be termed a terrorist, regardless of your place of birth.  These matters should be handled by a military tribunal.  Even though we may not have specifically declared war on this survivor or his cause, he, by his actions, declared war on us!  Give it to the military tribunal, where majority rules on verdicts.  Neat, clean, and efficient.

Obamacare.  Is it in?  Is it out?  Is it implemented?  Will it be overturned?  Do we really know?  I do know that the amount of lobbying being done for the support or overturning of Obamacare is unbelievable.  I have heard that the administration guidelines for implementing this law is written on 15,000 pages of documents!  Are you kidding me?  The original Obamacare law was over a thousand pages, with many of our representatives voting for it even though they never read it!  I believe that if this law requires over 25 pages (with 5 pages of attached forms)- it is too long!  How can you seriously believe that anyone is going to read 15,000 pages to implement this law?  How will smaller businesses cope with compliance?

Obamacare is another special interest project, begun by our President that has taken way too much time in Congress.

I cannot totally blame Congress for their inactivity.  They are being bombarded daily by lobbyists, attorneys, and constituents that represent their “special” interests.

So what should Congress be focused on?  Here are my thoughts:

Sequestration.  What happened to that buzz word?  Is it implemented?  Was it amended?  It is my understanding that the part reducing the military budget was implemented, or will be shortly.  There has not been much news lately as to whether or not the welfare reductions were implemented.  Either way, the sequestration is a part of our budget, and it needs to remain in focus.  (With the Asian version of John Belushi leading and threatening from North Korea, does it really make sense to cut the defense budget?)

Fiscal cliff.  Remember these two words that were etched into our minds by the media at the beginning of the year?  Well, it has not gone away.  The POTUS offered a budget that would expand our national debt by ONE TRILLION DOLLARS in one year.  What happened to billions?  The word billions can still roll off the tip of my tongue.  Trillions gets stuck in my throat!

If the purpose of this proposed budget is to bankrupt the US, this is a great first step!  What would have happened if Dubya had proposed this 10 years ago?  Why is this guy getting a pass on such an insane budget?Obama has spent much of his years in office complaining about the mess he inherited from Dubya. It seems he is spending equal time creating a financial disaster for his successor.

That would be similar to a family sitting around a dinner table and the father announcing that he has both good news and bad news.  The family waits in anticipation.  First the good news, “We are all going to Disney World for a week!”  The cheers from the family sound in unison.  But now the bad news. “Based on our budget, we can no longer afford to eat, so we will have to move to a tent in the woods.”   That all makes about as much sense as our national budget.

This is the Numero Uno item that should be focused on by our elected representatives!

I have offered numerous suggestions on how to balance the budget in previous blogs.  Here are a couple of my biggies:

1.  Cut the $700 billion welfare budget by $200 billion per year until the budget is at $100 billion.  That would save $1.2 trillion dollars in three years.  We will leave in $100 billion for those incapable of earning a living.  Additionally, state governments are responsible for administering welfare and have provided 25% of the cost.  You can bet they would all get a lot more efficient if the federal government pot of gold were taken away.  They may even decide to not give welfare assistance to terrorists, as they did in Massachusetts.

2.  Pass a flat tax.  It is a travesty that almost half of the people that enjoy the opportunity, protection, and transportation provided by their federal government pay no taxes!  I think everyone should pay a minimum of 10%.  The IRS can establish tiered tax structures, but there would be minimums for people and businesses.  Suppose the tax bracket goes to 35% for the highest wage earners.  Regardless of their many deductions, they would still be accountable for a base fee, say 15%.  Lower income earners could deduct all they want, but still have a base tax of 10%.  Corporations could have a base tax rate, after all deductions, of 20%.  Everyone should contribute to their country!  But I am becoming tired of the “tax the rich” mantra.  This mantra is usually sung the loudest when our elected officials do not want to face the music about cutting spending.  This is class envy – pure and simple.  The fact is—are you ready for this?  You could take all the assets from the top 10% wealthiest people in the US, and not eliminate the deficit!

Read my previous blogs for other spending cut suggestions.

That terrorist in Boston killed four innocent Americans.  The inability of our Congress and President to get serious about our spending and budget could lose us our country!