Monthly Archives: June 2015

Proud-American

Foreign Cruiser Opinions about the United States

I have been remiss about addressing the questions, concerns and opinions of our fellow, foreign cruisers about the good old United States of America.  Most of the people we have interfaced with have either been from the United Kingdom, Australia or Canada.  There are many people from other countries, but it appears we are drawn to the people from the English speaking countries.  Speaking of which, I perfectly understand the Canadians and Australians, but those people from the United Kingdom are difficult for me to understand.  Is that really English?  Do the people of Scotland really speak English?

Anyway,  here were some of the topics discussed during our recent cruises by our foreign friends.

Guns and Violence

Glen and Willene were a very pleasant couple from Canada.  They sat at the adjacent dinner table for about five weeks during our recent South America cruise.  Willene, being the strong minded and opinionated person that she is, was appalled by Americans owning so many guns and the gun violence in America.

So, Willene, this is for you.  When America gained its independence, they got it from Great Britain.  At the time, Great Britain was ruled by a dictatorial meanie named King George III.  After winning this war, (with the use of guns) the biggest concern was that we did not form a government that would allow a dictatorial meanie to rule the new America.  The Constitution was signed on September 17, 1789.  Federalists claimed that the new government would only have limited powers expressly delegated to it.  This wasn’t enough assurance for anti-federalists like George Mason.  These anti-federalists wanted explicit guarantees to certain rights in order to prevent any potential encroachment by the federal government on state or individual rights.  Mason wrote:  “A well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people trained to arms, is the proper, natural , and safe defense for a free State.”

The Second Amendment was specifically included in the Bill of Rights to prevent this.

Currently, the population of the United States is approximately 330 million.  It is estimated that there are about the same number of guns in America.  I personally believe that gun estimate is low.  Coming from a Midwestern state, hunting was popular.  Most hunters had a gun for every hunting occasion.  (It is the same principle as women having shoes!)

We introduce guns to our children at the earliest age.  After all, once a child is done with a pacifier, a sippy cup or a play pen, you can easily find these items in a garbage can.  But you will never find a Colt, a Glock, or a Smith & Wesson in a garbage can!  In the age of technology, a handgun is very much like using a computer mouse…..just point and click!

OK, now that I have your attention, I will admit that I don’t think anyone needs an assault weapon.  I have never seen anyone hunt with an assault weapon.  Police and military – si.  Everyone else – no.

Being a country of armed citizens does have its advantages.  Japan decided not to invade the United States during WWII because they realized the populace was well armed.  Most of the people serving during the two World Wars in the 20th century from the USA were not strangers to weaponry.  I believe this can be said about Canada at the time, also.  This weaponry knowledge contributed to the winning efforts.

America is the third most populated country on the planet.  There are more people in the state of California (38 million)  than there are in the entire country of Canada (35 million).  Whereas a Canadian would have to travel hundreds of miles to commit a homicide, we Americans do not have any such restrictions!  One more thing…..which state in the US has the most concealed handgun permits?   Texas?  (the most logical choice) Oklahoma?  Arizona?  The state with the most concealed handgun permits is………….Florida, with over 1 million permits representing over 5% of the population.  You may want to remember that before raising a ruckus at Disney World.  Mickey could be packing heat!  Don’t even think about pinching Snow White!  The United States does not even crack the top ten for homicides per capita.

Because of our vast American movie and TV industry, it really does appear that everyone is murdering everyone else on a regular basis in America.   Just think of the most popular shows on TV: NCIS, NCIS New Orleans, Blacklist, Castle plus many more.  These are some of our favorite programs and they all are murder mysteries.  And……….the only way to have a murder mystery is to begin with a murder!  Unfortunately, this is what we are exporting to our foreign friends on TV.  We no longer have the once popular comedies and variety shows of my formative years.  It is murder shows and reality shows, with just a few comedies worth watching.

Movies?  We are already at Fast and Furious 7.  Most of our movies?  Murder. Sex. Violence.  How many parents would drop their children off at a movie theater today without knowing which movies were playing?  None.  But, this is what my parents did while I was growing up as our theater would not show anything not appropriate for all ages.

So, Willene, we are not all really killing each other off here in America.  But my offer to you still stands.   If you ever feel unsafe in Canada, you can come to our house.  We’ll protect you.

National Debt

Robert is a production manager for a company in Australia.  He was one of my smart trivia teammates.   He asked me, “How can America have such a huge national debt?”  What he really meant was, ‘How can we have such a huge national debt and survive?’  ‘How can we pay it off?

I explained that this is the first year of the Obama administration, when the Republicans gained control of both Federal houses, we have had a budget.  Harry Reed, as the Democratic gatekeeper to hell, vowed to never allow a budget bill to be presented to the US Senate for a vote.  He kept his word.  Now that Harry is no longer Senate majority leader, we surprisingly have a budget!

The majority of our budget is spent on social-welfare programs.  Medicare, Medicaid, Social security, Food stamps, welfare a hundred ways………take up the vast majority of Federal Government expense.  The military, the usual first target for budget cuts, takes up approximately 22% of our budget.

We will have to eliminate/reduce many welfare programs, revamp social security and address many of these dubious federal departments and policies.  This is going to take a strong willed POTUS and a strong willed Congress that will be willing to tackle these huge issues and finally, finally do what is right for America and for the future of America.  Paying off the debt?  Not during my lifetime.  Maybe my grandkids will see it.

America at War!

Rudy was from Canada, one of my trivia teammates, and totally against war.  The imposition was that America went to war.  Often!  Well, let me think.  Since 1900, we have only been in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Afghanistan.  That’s not so bad for 115 years is it?  One war every 20 years.  That sounds about average.  Oh yeah, then there was occupation of Nicaragua (1912-1933), occupation of Haiti (1915-1934), occupation of Dominican Republic (1916-1924), Russian civil war (1917-1923), Bay of Pigs (1961), occupation of Dominican Republic II (1965-1966), Invasion of Granada (1983), Invasion of Panama ((1989-1990), Somali Civil War (1992-1994), Kosovo War (1999), Libyan civil war (2011), and military intervention against ISIS (2014-?).  Did I miss any wars, invasions or occupations?

What can I say?  Summer television reruns really suck and we need to keep our military in shape with practice.

Seriously, I agree with Rudy.  It would be a much more enjoyable world if there weren’t any more wars.   My sister-in-law joined some peace organization and asked me if I took offense to her membership, being that I was a retired military officer.  Here was my response.  “I absolutely support your efforts to achieve world peace.  I don’t know of one soldier that wanted to go to war to prove his manhood.  You have me convinced.  Now go convince our enemies.”  She was taken aback by my response.

So Rudy, you are correct about the United States becoming too involved in world affairs that result in military intervention.  But the world, in particular our allies, have thrust the mantle of world power on us, so we have become an easy target.

What concerns me more than the number of military interventions we have been in is this; who are our allies and who are our enemies?  Are we helping the dictator of Syria, Assad?  Who are the bad Muslim extremists?  Sunnis?  Shia?  Is Iraq our ally or are they going to do the guppy flop to Muslim extremism?  Nukes for Iran?  What is our stance concerning Israel?  I am totally confused as to what is our national policy and who are our enemies and friends.  In the meantime, we are still committing military resources all over the world.

So there you have it.  My thoughts and responses by three very intelligent people to three legitimate issues concerning our country.

Even though no one from the United Kingdom really expressed their opinions about the USA (I think they are still smarting from losing the Revolutionary War!), I very much admire them for one thing.  The political campaign season in the United Kingdom is 6 weeks long!  OMG!  Our next national election is still 18 months away and I am already suffering from sensory overload as to the potential bazillion candidates from each party.  Didn’t we learn anything from them?  There ought to be a law!

 

you-cant-handle-the-truth

Military Tribunals, We Need Them Now!

I am writing this on Memorial Day, 2015.  This is a day when all of us Americans should take pause to remember those who have bravely fought for our freedom.  Some of these brave individuals paid the ultimate sacrifice.  I am not old enough to know anyone personally that lost their lives during WWII or Korea.  My father and uncle, both WWII veterans, would reminisce about some of their lost classmates.  My memories are of the young men I knew from ROTC that were killed during the Vietnam War.  Young men, all educated, some with families, who will never experience the joy of being a grandfather or the aches and pains of getting older.  I think of them often.

Recently, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found guilty and received the death sentence.  You don’t remember Dzhokhar?  You would easily recognize him as the Boston bomber.  He and his brother set off two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, thereby assuring maximum carnage.  In that regard, they succeeded.  While friends and families were cheering for the runners at the finish line, their bomb killed three people and injured 264 more.  Many of the surviving injured have two prosthetic limbs.  One of the killed was an 8 year old boy.

After a lengthy and costly civil trial, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was appropriately given a death sentence.  What I find absolutely appalling is that it has been determined that this sentence may not be carried out for at least 10 years because of the appeal process.  Appeal process?  On what grounds?  Are the three murdered victims going to miraculously reappear on planet Earth?  Are the 264 victims going to be miraculously healed?  I am pretty sure neither of these events will occur.  What new information could possibly be presented by the defense to change the sentence?  ‘Your honor, my client is not guilty because he was in Iran attending a bomb-making seminar at the time of the explosions in Boston.’  Why is this terrorist and blatant murderer allowed to live more than 60 days, at government expense, after receiving a unanimous death penalty?  Do you know why?  Well, Mr Tsarnaev became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America on ………..ready for this…… on September 11, 2012!  Yup.  On the anniversary of 9/11.  How befitting.

We need to rethink as to how we should treat these terrorists.  That applies to the foreign bred and the home-grown variety.  But wait!  There is a procedure that has been used from the infancy of the United States, and reconfigured in 2001 to address just this situation.  It is called the military tribunal.

On November 13, 2001, President George W. Bush issued a new military order in the war against terrorism.  The order called for the secretary of defense to detain non-citizens accused of international terrorism.  The order includes all organizations that have engaged in, aided, or conspired to commit international terrorist acts against the United States of America or its citizens.  Those who knowingly harbor such individuals are also subject to the order.  Under the order, the secretary is charged with establishing military tribunals (also called military commissions) to conduct trials of non-citizens accused of terrorism either in the US or in other parts of the world.

A military tribunal, or commission, is different from a regular civilian criminal court.  In a tribunal, military officers act as both judge and jury.  After a hearing, guilt is determined by a vote of the commissioners.  Unlike a criminal jury, the decision does not have to be unanimous.  The order requires a ‘full and fair trial.’

On March 21, 2002, the Department of Defense issued its procedures for the commissions.  The commission would consist of three to seven members appointed by the secretary of defense or by an appointed committee.  All members would be officers in the US military.  A presiding officer would be chosen and must be a military lawyer.  The presiding officer will have authority to admit or exclude evidence.  The officer may conduct the trial in closed session if this is necessary to protect classified information or to assure the safety of defendants, witnesses, or commission members.

Under the procedures, a defendant would receive many, but not all, of the due process protections guaranteed to a defendant in a US civilian criminal court.   The tribunal procedures guarantee the following due process protections:

1.  An accused will be provided with defense counsel and can also have a lawyer of his or her own choosing, either a military or civilian attorney.

2.  The accused will be presumed innocent until proven guilty.  The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

3.  An accused may refuse to testify during trial.  The accused will have the right to obtain witnesses and documents necessary for the defense.

4.  A person accused may not be tried twice before a military commission for the same offense.

5.  An accused will be allowed to negotiate and enter into a plea agreement.

Under the procedures, however, a person can be convicted in a commission trial by a two-thirds majority of the commissioners.  Unanimous verdicts are not required.  Evidence, including previous trial testimony and written statements will be admissible if it tends to prove or disprove the case at hand. The exclusionary rule, which keeps illegally seized evidence out of a civilian criminal trial, does not apply.  The procedures do not provide for appeals from a guilty verdict to civilian judges.  They do, however, call for ‘reviews’ of a verdict by a three-member panel selected by the secretary of defense.  No verdict will be final until approved by the POTUS or the secretary of defense.

The first time a military tribunal was used was when a commission was empaneled by George Washington to try Major John Andre, a British officer, for the crime of spying.  Andre was the ‘go-between’  guy between the British and Benedict Arnold.  Andre was hanged.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that all rebels arrested with the United States would be subject to martial law.  Military commissions tried an estimated 4,000 people.  There were eight abettors arrested after the assassination of President Lincoln.  All were found guilty by military tribunal.  Four were hanged and the other four received lengthy sentences.

President Roosevelt authorized a military tribunal in 1942, when eight Nazi saboteurs were delivered to Long Island by U-boat.  They were dressed as civilians and were to target American industry.  Two of the eight defected and contacted the FBI.  The two defectors received prison sentences.  The six remaining saboteurs were electrocuted.

Most people have heard of the Nuremburg trials in Germany at the end of WWII.  This military commission was to try the Nazis for war crimes.  A lesser known, but just as effective military tribunal took place in the Philippines at the end of WWII to try for Japanese war crimes.  Both tribunals resulted in death sentences for the guilty.

Another big difference between a military tribunal and a civilian military court?  In a military tribunal  court, the sentences are carried out in a timely manner.  Don’t you think Tsarnaev should have been before a military tribunal?

But Grandpa T.  You can’t do that.  After all, Tsarnaev is an American citizen.

Let’s discuss that further.  Some months ago, the head of the FBI appeared on 60 minutes.  He was there to discuss terrorism.  He was asked a very direct question, “Do you know how many Americans are fighting for terroristic groups?”  His answer?  “We know all the Americans that are fighting for terroristic groups and we think there are about a dozen of them.”  If this was not so blatantly stupid, I would have laughed.  Here is why.  There are almost 100,000 Somalis living in Minnesota.  Not that long ago, there was an article saying that over 200 Somali teenagers were currently unaccounted for in Minnesota.   Well, I don’t know where all of them have gone, but I can tell you that many of them are now associated with terrorist groups that are enemies of the US.  Security agencies have apprehended many of these teenagers/young adults during their travel.  But they haven’t caught all of them, as two high school classmates and friends were both recently killed while fighting for ISIS.  Somali girls have fled to marry terrorist members.  These Somalis are being actively recruited because they speak English and know America and American ways.  Many of these Somalis were born in the US!

Now follow me during my ‘leap of logic.’  If an individual joins/supports and organization that is an enemy of the United States, didn’t that individual just declare war on the United States?    I wholeheartedly believe that is exactly what they did.  And as such, I do not believe they should be granted the liberties and rights associated with being an American citizen and its judicial system.  As far as I am concerned, Tsarnaev should have been tried by military tribunal, with a sentence to be carried out in a timely manner.  I believe anyone we capture fighting/supporting a terroristic organization is denied the privileges provided American citizens. And… this is a big and… did you notice the highlighted line in the military tribunal procedures stating that not only the terrorist is subject to military tribunal, but those who knowingly harbor such individuals.  Do you really think that Tsarnaev’s parents did not know what the brothers were going to do?  Do you really believe that the parents of the missing Somali teenagers don’t know what they are doing or where they are?

I’m pissed!  This country is the land of opportunity and privilege.  Yet, we get these people who use our liberalism against us, becoming US citizens and then murdering their fellow Americans.  Tsarnaev should be hanged.  Becoming a US citizen and then setting off bombs 6 months later was not a part of his naturalization process.  His ranting parents and the parents of Somali teens fighting against the US should be deported back to the third world crap holes from which they came.

Wake up America!  I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day.