Tag Archives: American Leadership

New Horizons Meets Pluto: Voyage of Discovery

As a child of the Apollo era, I grew up in the shadow of the greatest achievement in the history of man; everything was possible if we only had the will. The legacy of those years has largely been one of unfulfilled promise but every once in a while you just have a wow moment. Today as we see the first images from NASA’s New Horizons probe’s closest approach to our smallest planet Pluto one needs to take time to just sit back and say WOW. Yes, I know Pluto was downgraded from planet status to exoplanet, but I am proudly old school and feel Pluto got a bum deal! What we have seen is another example of the amazing ability of the NASA team to pull out as almost magical look at our solar system. The JPL team has been doing this on such a regular basis for more than 40 years that some can become jaded by the flow of dazzling images. In the age of photo-shop we see art like this all the time but folks, this is real.

Pluto and Charon in False Color Showing Compositional Diversity

Pluto and Charon in False Color Showing Compositional Diversity (NASA photo)

What makes New Horizon so special is the the distances involved; launched in January 19, 2006 and having passed earths moon and Jupiter on its way will have traveled more than 3 BILLION miles. We also need to remember that this spacecraft is one of the smallest ever launched into deep space and it hit its destination with pin point accuracy with limited course correction ability. This is just amazing.

New Horizon's Path of Discovery

New Horizon’s Path of Discovery (NASA photo)

This is also a reminder that despite all the political redirection and new administration melding (by both parties) and failure of vision with respect to NASA and national space policy, great things can come from great minds. When the American people set their collective minds to achieving big things, they can make them happen. So congrats to the NASA/JPL/JHUAPL team that made the last unseen planet (or exoplanet if you prefer) viable for all of the arm chair space geeks to enjoy. You have shown us THE DREAM IS ALIVE.

New Horizons Team Members Countdown to the Spacecraft's Closest Approach to Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 (NASA photo)

New Horizons Team Members Countdown to the Spacecraft’s Closest Approach to Pluto, Tuesday, July 14, 2015 (NASA photo)

For More Information, Check These Out:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Mission/

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html

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Filed under American Leadership, NASA, Space Flight

Convictions, Conscience and Political Activism

Those who know me or have read this blog in the past know for the last few years I have, for the most part, gone quiet and withdrawn from the fight.  While getting a little older adds perspective it should also result in your questioning how your beliefs interact with your fellow citizens and more broadly society as a whole. I have never wavered in my core conservative believes. I believe in the individual rights and personal responsibility of the citizen. I believe in a government limited in scope to only those core responsibilities necessary for a free and just society. I believe in the defense of our freedom and those around the world who stand with us in the defense of liberty. What was shaken was my belief in the “conservative” movement and indeed the Republican Party is the internal dramatics which seem bent on self destruction. The 2012 election cycle was a disaster for conservatives and Republicans alike (I believe the two are inseparable), yet I reached the painful conclusion in the waning days of the 2012 campaign that the impending defeat was self inflicted. That the Republican Party with the weight of the conservative movement could not defeat the Obama-Reid-Pelosi Democrats made me question if those groups truly represented my view.

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”                                                                                                                                                                                   Senator Barry Goldwater, Republican National Convention, 1964

Like many conservatives of my age, my views were rooted in the 1964 campaign of Senator Barry Goldwater, who lost that election just 6 weeks before my birth. Those views were crystallized during my teenage years as the Reagan-Thatcher conservative wave redefined western culture and politics while defeating, at least in the short term, the forces of evil that threatened the very existence of individual liberty. I believe in simplicity for it is that which can adapt to the unforeseen and provide direction in times of crisis. Conservatism is simply limited government, personal freedom and responsibility as well as the defense of those values against all those who seek to defeat them. For me, that is the test I apply to any political question. However in the early part of this century that direction seemed to be lost within the conservative movement and most certainly in our elected represent ivies.

At the elected level Republicans took on the character of “Big Government Conservatives”, a fundamental contradiction of terms that defies reason or logic. However of greater concern the conservative movement began to be dominated by those who sought to used government power to achieve their parochial agendas rather than to limit government’s interference in the ability of the individual to achieve those most basic of American values: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I grew up in an age where conservative leaders were “happy warriors”, driving forward an agenda to improve the lives of people by improving mutual prosperity while limiting government interference in the lives of the citizen. We earnestly believed that our policies represented the best path for the largest number of people while still protecting those who needed a hand up.  By the middle of the last decade some claiming the mantle of leadership of the conservative movement had become decidedly nasty. Indeed many were advocating government activism to advance their respective special interest agenda at the very expense of the liberty of the individual.

The election of 2008 seemed to erase those issues as we were reminded that conservatives and Republicans of differing perspectives were not the political foes, the most left wing President and congressional majority in the history of the Republic were. The rise of the tea party movement, the most effective grass roots effort sense the Sons of Liberty in the 1770’s, united the right and in 2010 resulted in the largest congressional reversal in a century. For a time it seemed like order had been restored and rational conservatism was again in the majority of the body politic. Then came the 2012 GOP presidential campaign and the gates of the asylum were opened as one of the most internally destructive political races in memory resulted in the election of the politically weakest incumbent Presidents in a century (Yes, Jimmy Carter was politically weaker – his own party was fatally divided – but in the wake of Obamacare this incumbent should have been doomed).  For me it was late summer of 2012, convention season, when I first realized that the damage was done and like a freight train rumbling down the tracks toward a washed out bridge, the GOP nominee was headed to defeat. To be honest, there were many contributing factors leading to Mitt Romney’s loss, but in my opinion the divisive and indeed hateful soundtrack of the 2012 primary campaign resulted in the eventual outcome.  Political fratricide is so illogical and irrational that it borders on the insane. Thus my crisis of conscience and belief began.

“Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers. King Pyrrhus is remembered, but his nation disappeared. Winston Churchill set aside his lifetime loathing of Communism in order to fight World War II. Challenged as a hypocrite, he said that when the safety of Britain was at stake, his “conscience became a good girl.” We are at such a moment. I for one have no interest in standing in the wreckage of our Republic saying “I told you so” or “You should’ve done it my way.” “                                    Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, CPAC 2011, February 11, 2011

Politics without principles is a dangerous thing and I have always believed that a leaders beliefs and convictions were not only more critical but a better prediction of success than policy specifics. Going back to my earlier reference to simplicity, the conservative-libertarian-Republican right’s failure can , my opinion, be laid almost entirely on the movement forgetting two of Ronald Reagan’s foundational rules of politics: the so called 11th Commandment “thou shall not speak ill of a fellow republican” and his 80/20 rule on those who agree on 80 percent are friends rather than enemies for disagreeing on 20. We saw a presidential campaign where those who stood no chance of ever being elected president were elevated by a media set of ratings, and more than a little leftist dirty tricks agenda, as they spewed hate filled attacks of fellow candidates in the name of “real conservatism”. In life I have very little sympathy for those who are the “victims” of deliberate self inflicted wounds, in politics it is unforgivable.

Honesty time, I have a soft spot for internet politics, these words appear as such. However the apparent anonymity that the internet provides many of all political persuasions brings out the worst in many as they utter words they most likely (we hope) would never say face to face. Rather than improve transparency and increase dialogue among citizens, the internet has turned places like twitter and facebook into digital MMA Cage Fights: anything goes and the consequences are irrelevant when compared to the number of “likes” and “retweets”, where number of followers determines the virtue of the words. While entertaining when bored, this is not a recipe for either intellectual or electoral success; it brings into question the virtue of the author. A few years into the internet era I abandoned the use of usernames, where the technology allows, and only write under my own name. Only where there is a very real threat to the use of a real name exists, and those are rare indeed, is there value in anonymous words.

Yet the problem is deeper and more fundamental than simply the words, it seems like many have suspended that part of the brain that questions the motivation of the speaker. The air waves are filled with so many voices of conservative thought (there would be leftist voices if only they could get ratings – think Air America) yet perversely those voices do dramatically better economically if the Republican party fails. Bill Clinton was a financial windfall for many conservative hosts only to be surpassed by Barack Obama. Now I am not saying all these hosts are motivated only by money and as a believer in free market capitalism I support entrepreneurism. However it is the listeners who seem at times to turn off their own brains. Politics, like government itself, must gain its intellectual legitimacy from the people, not the hangers on to the process.

Lastly we come to the question of purity. While we all like to be in a room full of people who agree with us totally, it soon becomes apparent that those conversations provide little intellectual challenge. Politically it is death. The hard core reality of politics in America is philosophically there exists no pure majority in our politics. I do believe there is a fundamental conservative undercurrent, especially on the role of government, but that is not enough to form a governing majority. If we learn nothing else from the lessons of recent years, divided government achieves nothing but delaying hard choices (think Social Security, Debt…). Governing majorities are created, built from individual building blocks of points of agreement between individuals. Ronald Reagan understood this. Those who truly remember the 1980’s know he didn’t get all he wanted. Yet even with Democrats controlling at least one chamber of Congress his entire presidency he arguably achieved more than any conservative in modern memory (yes I know a strong case can be made for Thatcher, but the message would be the same). It is time we must decide do we want a government consistent with conservative values that only gets 80 (OK, maybe 90) percent; or do we want leftist majorities which give us more like Obamacare. Winning and electability are not bad words, intellectual dishonesty is much darker.

We now find ourselves in the middle of the 2016 Presidential campaign and yes it is very much underway. We on the right will be facing a left united behind Hillary Clinton in a way no party has in a century. I have concluded that this is the fight that will define much of the rest of my life. If the left wins Obamacare will be permanent, Clinton Immigration reform will change the nature of America (full disclosure, I am an Immigrant, an American by Choice) and the economics of envy so common in Socialist Europe will come to our shores.  This is a fight no true believer can stand by and watch. For me it is a challenge to stand by my principles, convictions and respect for others while helping in some small way preserving  America as the land of personal freedom and liberty: home of an exceptional people.

Let the fight be joined.

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Filed under 2016 Election, Conservative, Politics, Republican Party

Uncomfortably Undecided: The Search for a Presidential Candidate I Can Believe In

This year I find myself in a unique situation. With less than two months until the first votes are cast in the primary season, I am undecided who to support. As long as I can remember there was a candidate early in the process who inspired me, or at least attracted my loyal till political death support. To my surprise, shock and bewilderment, that has not happened this year. First off, those who would have drawn my support decided one by one not to run: Senator John Thume, Former Governor Jeb Bush, Governor Bobby Jindal, Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the list goes on. Those that remain, talented as they may be, have each failed to attract my committed vote, let alone passionate enthusiasm.

The 2012 GOP Presidential Contenders: An Uncertian Decision

In some way I think we have the inverse of the 1992 Democratic race where early on many of the presumed favorites like future Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden took a pass thinking George H.W. Bush was unbeatable. In Washington circles a narrative began to form that 2012 was going to be a good year for President Obama. With the Republican takeover of the house in 2010 the stage was set for a repeat of Bill Clinton’s come back and victory in 1996. Yet over the last year we have seen the Obama administration to be politically inept and selling a radical left wing agenda which has not resonated with the American body politic. The Obama attempts at class warfare and leftist populist rhetoric have fallen flat on all but his hard core base. American voters seem to have concluded he is out of his league and not up to the job of president. The net result is the GOP nomination is increasingly valuable as the 2012 election is ours to lose.

So regrets be damned, the slate of candidates we have are the options to be chosen from. I am not going to invite the wrath of my fellow republicans who have already formed passionate allegiances by going down the list of candidates one by one pointing out why each has not captured my imagination and support. Rather I want to look at what I would love to see in an ideal presidential nominee.

  1. First, above all else is character. Often discussed, this is a complicated characteristic in people. My nominee has to have core values and the commitment to them to stick by them even when the political winds blow in the opposite direction. If you think of the presidential elections of the past, the issues that defined their presidency are almost never the ones which drove the election which put them in the White House. We need a president who when they get that 3am phone call, will not need to consult a pollster.
  2. My candidate must have a commitment to conservative values and principles which were not adopted after extensive focus group testing but rater from their long term personal considerations. I have no problems with people who evolve over time, even Ronald Reagan was a democrat once upon a time (he even voted for FDR, more than once!). Yet some candidates who get the words right, just give you the feeling they were written by committee.
  3.  I can’t support stupid any more. Call me whatever, but I want a President who can stand up to the tests of the office and deal with the complexities of the issues we face. Make no doubt we are at a crossroads in the history of our republic, and we cannot afford another president who needs training wheels for the first 4 years, or is simply a puppet for advisors.
  4. I totally agree with Anne Coulter’s recent column in which she said, in essence, electability is not a bad word! To the contrary I believe in all my heart that if President Obama is reelected with a Democratic congress, America will be taken in a left ward direction from which there will be no turning back. We need a nominee who can take Obama on head to head and emerge from the ideological battle that the 2012 election is shaping up to be victorious.
  5. No longer will I support any candidate who simply attacks the other contenders. My belief in Reagan’s 11th Commandment that thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican is absolute and those who break it will drive me to the primary with absolute certainty I will cast my one vote against them. It is essential our eventual nominee emerge from the primaries stronger for the process and not damaged. Republican unity has always been a strength and any division will simply guarantee a second term for Obama.

For years, I like many conservatives have been looking for another Ronald Reagan, always with disappointing results. However I think the Gripper would have said stop looking to the past for direction, look to the future. So I look for that candidate who reflects my values and also has the ability to capture the imagination and spirit of the American people. This election is just too important to settle of less, or allow victory to slip from our figures.

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Filed under 2010 Election, 2012 Election, American Leadership, Barak Obama, Bill Clinton, Jeb Bush, Leadership, Mitt Romney, Politics, Republican Party, Rick Perry, Rudy Giuliani, The Grand Old Party, The White House

The Ridiculous Act of the National Debt Limit: A Call for Change

As we approach the August 3 deadline set by the Obama Administration, the ridiculous nature of the entire debt limit would be a source of considerable amusement if not so serious. On or about the deadline, Congress will pass some sort of extension and the President will sign it into law at a level neither of them have any intention to honor. That will result in another performance of the debt Limit Two Step in 18 to 24 months. In truth, the national debt limit is utterly meaningless given congress has the ability to simply raise it to facilitate the annual budget shortfall whatever that may be. It would be as if you had the ability to raise the spending limit on your credit card whenever you bumped into that limit. It is simply ridiculous.

The 112th Congress

To be of any effect, the national debt limit must have real meaning which would force the congress to manage its annual budget within a fixed limit of unfunded expenditures. Some have suggested a maximum level of debt to GDP as a way of limiting the total level of debt. While this has some merits, it provides an administration incredible incentive to modify or tamper with the calculation of GDP, or to fuel inflation to increase the nominal amount of debt available to fuel their spending. The reality is there needs to be an ability to increase the debt limit; it must however be much more inflexible than the budget process the debt limit should be driving.

While in general I do not support legislating by way of the constitution, the primary purpose of that document is to define how the government should function and thus it is only right that the process by which the debt limit is raised should be defined by way of an amendment to the constitution. My proposed amendment would provide two ways by which the debt limit could be increased, both reinforcing the federal nature of our government and imposing upon the Congress and the President a limit they simply could not change at their own whim.

Part 1 would require the Congress to pass a change in the debt limit my way of a two thirds majority vote of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Upon passing any debt limit modification, the resolution would then be forwarded to the states and would require the approval of the legislatures of 50 percent plus one of the states representing at least 50 percent of the population of the United States as at the most recent census. At neither the national of state levels would executive (President or Governor) approval be required.

Part 2 would allow any state’s legislative branch to propose a change in the national debt limit, and if adopted by two thirds of the states representing at least 50 percent of the population, that modification of the limit of the national debt would come into force. As with part 1, no approval would be required by any national or state executive. In this case the federal government would have to function within the debt limitations imposed upon it by the states, the people’s democratically elected representatives at a much closer level.

Such an amendment would make the limit on total debt financing available to the federal government a real constraint on spending. Part 1 would allow the congress to initiate changes they viewed as essential and an opportunity to convince a majority of the people’s state represent ivies of the validity of the change. Part 2 would allow the peoples elected representatives at the state level the ability to restrain the federal government’s ability to mortgage the nation’s future. In no way would this control federal spending so long as such programs are funded. It would however made the national debt a truly limited funding option controlled by elected officials representing the people other than those spending the money.

Is this radical? Absolutely. Would it allow the federal government to function? Absolutely, so long as they spend within their ability to pay for the expenditures with current revenue or to convince the states of the rational to increase the nation’s total indebtedness. The current system of unlimited deficit spending threatens the very existence of the republic; radical change is required to preserve our nation’s future.

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Filed under 2012 Election, American Leadership, Barak Obama, Budget, Congress, Conservative, Constitution, National Debt, Politics, Spending, Taxes

The Reality of National Debt

After years of uncomfortable silence, the nation’s political discourse is now full of, if not dominated by, discussions of the crisis created by the national debt. This is long overdue as the seeds were planted for this over decades. Headlining the news today is the social unrest created in Greece as they have finally reached the edge of the financial cliff and faced with the prospect of going over that rim, are trying to find a solution which apportions the pain across the population. It is easy for American commentators to dismiss the situation in Greece as a flawed comparison which could never happen in the United States. Indeed Greece is a small country with a population of just 11.3 million, as part of the euro zone it had limited monetary control and is not considered a strong economy. The United States is still the largest economy in the world, both in nominal terms, but also more importantly on a per capita basis among the major economies and among the most diverse economies in the world. The US Dollar is the international reserve currency and considered the safest in the world; the one international investors seek in times of financial and political risk. Most importantly the Greek debt has passed 125 percent of GDP while the US is at a much more manageable 75 percent. While all this is true, it overlooks some of the challenges we face in the US in resolving the debt crisis, the liabilities within the social Security System which are not counted in the national debt calculation and the potentially devastating effect of an international exodus from the US dollar if investors lost faith in our ability to manage our finances.

Greek People Take to the Streets to Protest Government Cuts

What the Greek situation today does illustrate is the significant social strains which will be places on American society in the event we do not find a long term solution to our fiscal situation. Somewhere around 2026, just 15 years from now, the majority of Americans who as of now depend on Social Security for a majority of their retirement will get a shock when their benefits are cut by 30 to 40 percent when the Social Security runs out of money. The social implications of this should be alarming to policy makers as it will place at risk the basic structure of American society. On one hand we will potentially have a massive displacement of older Americans, many of whom will be facing homelessness or massive restrictions of basic needs of life which we as a people have found to be unacceptable. On the other hand there will only be between 2.0 and 2.5 workers in the workplace to support each of those then receiving benefits and any tax increase to support those receiving benefits could easily double their total effective tax bill, a situation which would be socially, let alone politically unacceptable. The massive cuts in all spending and unavoidable tax increases would likely send Americans to the street.

Back in 1985 Ronald Reagan’s commission on Social Security proposed relatively modest adjustments to the cost of living increases in Social Security, many of which simply better reflected the actual cost of living for seniors, as well as a gradual increase in the retirement age. This represents the inevitable truth of Social Security, when created you received benefits at 65 when life expectancy was just 62. Then Senate Majority leader Bob Dole courageously endorsed the commission’s recommendations and as a result saw the Republican majority reduced to a minority in the 1986 midterm elections as the Democratic demagogues portrayed it as forcing seniors to eat cat food. Thus the myth of Social Security being the “third rail” of American politics was born, a myth reconfirmed in 2005 when President Bush half heartedly attempted to allow private investment and management of social security. Policy makers today can only wish they had options as painless as those Bob Dole chose to champion.

At its core, the federal budget deficit is a reflection of the fight for America’s self identity in the coming decades. President Obama is in fact a social-democrat, progressive, socialist or whatever you want to label those who seek a dramatically expanded a European style role for government. If you choose to support this view it is impossible not to dramatically increase taxes to pay for those services. This will also result in a change in the nature of American society to one where government replaces the entrepreneurial private sector as the leader of society. Those of us who believe that government’s role should be limited to national and domestic security and providing only a social safety net enough to ensure our citizens are not neglected must recognize the time has arrived to stop the inertia of government spending. This means revitalizing the private sector and true capitalism. We must restore the concept of moral hazard to the private sector: if your business is not successful and well managed then it should fail to be replaced by those who can. We must stimulate the private sector not with shovel ready dreams but with tax cuts to spur investment (a dramatic acceleration of capital depreciation on new investments as an example), reductions in government regulations and eliminating regulatory activists such as the NLRB (if Boeing wants to build a factory in South Carolina, it is no concern of the federal government, period). And raising the debt ceiling should be done to a reasonable ceiling, then prevented from increasing the next time we fail to live within our means.

The riots in the streets of Greece should be seen as a somewhat blurred and distorted by the filter of time look into our future if we stay on our current track. Over the past few years I have resisted supporting some of the more emotional movements calling for reductions in government. I believe we as Republicans must present a free market alternative to Obamacare rather than simply call for repeal. The responsibility of governing calls for the adoption of real solutions not just opposing the socialist programs of the left. We must show true fiscal stewardship of all elements of government spending such as defense (the elimination of programs even the Generals don’t want like the F136 “alternative” engine for the F 35). Every American must embrace less government spending even in their home town, not just the rest of the country. This will not be a one program Silver bullet but rather a line item by line item review of spending. While I truly fear the empty rhetoric we hear from all sides in Washington today, I have tremendous faith in the American people. When challenged the people have always faced sacrifice and restraint with strength and resolve. What is needed is the courage of leadership to make the case to the people those real solutions exist and a path to stability is defined. What we need is detailed reforms, not empty rhetoric; what we need are real leaders, not blow hards and demagogues. It truly is time to man up.

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Filed under 2012 Election, American Leadership, Barak Obama, Budget, Congress, Conservative, Free Markets, Health Care, Liberals, Obama Administration, Politics, Social Security, Spending, Taxes