Thursday, May 7, 2015

Deflategate Isn’t About Brady – It’s About Poor NFL Leadership

Why does it take a major sport – the most popular sport in America – four and half months to investigate circumstances surrounding a few allegedly deflated balls? An investigation that comes to an uncertain conclusion, to boot (if you’ll pardon the pun). I have one question for the NFL, specifically the commissioner: Why are official game balls in the possession of the teams before games instead of officials?

Let me state that I’m no longer much of a pro sports fan – football, basketball or baseball. For me, college football is the game to watch. Oh, I will watch the Super Bowl and a playoff game or two every season, but after all the strikes in the various professional sports in the late ‘80s and ‘90s and the lack of owner/player loyalty and outrageous taxpayer funding of overpriced venues that are outside the affordability of most young families, I don’t have much patience for the pros any more.

Now I’m not a particular fan of Tom Brady. I mean, after all, he went to Michigan (and was 1-1 versus the Buckeyes, to cite an important statistic). But this situation isn’t his fault. Brady has been one of the game’s top stars for more than a decade and he’s a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. He's sold a lot of tickets. So don’t start dissing Brady. The problem sits in the office of the NFL commissioner, who is responsible for the integrity of the game. So why has he done little more than distance himself from this (using an investigation to duck responsibility) for the last few months?

The solution for Deflategate isn’t complicated. In baseball, the umpire provides game balls for the pitchers. Yes, the bullpens will have balls that teams provide their pitchers to warm up. But the umpire has sole authority over the balls that get put into play. Why can’t the NFL emulate this?

C’mon. This is a kids’ game, played by grownups. Show a little common sense leadership, Mr. Commissioner.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Tea Party Isn’t the Problem – It’s the Solution

The rhetoric on both sides has been hot, not only from the Democrats but from spineless Republicans. Tea Partiers – of which I am a proud, practicing citizen-member – have been called “extremists,” “radicals,” “terrorists,” “Taliban” “racist” (ho-hum)…. Well, you get the gist. Bob Corker was corked off over the efforts of senators like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and many others to live up to the promises on which they campaigned. Everybody was terrified of the “D” word – no, not debt, deficit or depression, but default, for which others wiser than me have pointed out the Treasury receives ample monthly revenues that are 10 times more than sufficient to pay the principle and interest on the nation’s debt (for now, anyway). And besides, the 14th Amendment requires the treasurer to pay the public debt first above all other obligations. So the threat of default was unfounded from the get-go.

So congress has agreed to raise the debt “ceiling” (is it a ceiling if there is no upper limit?) another $1 trillion beyond the already nearly $17 trillion in debt, dwarfing our economy’s annual output by $4 trillion. And that’s only until the 1st quarter next year.

And Tea Partiers are the extremists?

ObamaCare’s national rollout has been a disgrace, with people unable to register or even get to the point where they could compare rates from different insurance plans on a website that was built with more than $600 million in taxpayer dollars by a contractor that somehow got a sweet no-bid contract in defiance of the law. In the meantime, reports continue to mount about “navigators” getting hired without background checks, including convicted felons, exactly the type of people you would like to share your Social Security number and other information an identity thief would find helpful for emptying your financial accounts. As uninsured people get sticker shock from the astronomical rates for the government’s one-size-fits-all plans and insured people watch their rates go up – or, worse yet, get cut back to part-time status so their employer can afford to continue to employ them – people are discovering for themselves that ObamaCare wasn’t exactly what the president and Democrats sold them.

And Tea Partiers are the extremists?

As World War II and Vietnam veterans were blocked out of their own privately-funded, open-air memorials in Washington while illegal aliens were welcomed to otherwise-off-limits areas along the National Mall, the administration flaunted preferential treatment as well as the rule of law. In Yellowstone National Park, domestic and foreign tourists were forced into tour buses by armed Park Service personnel, bused to their hotel into which they were not allowed to exit for the evening, then forced to remain on a bus the next day for 2 ½ hours through the rest of the park before they were allowed to stop (not even for bathroom breaks for the mostly over-70 tourists). Private businesses within the park system were made to suffer, even though their presence entailed no cost to the government.

And Tea Partiers are the extremists?

Massive conservative rallies with from hundreds of thousands to 2 million have been held at the Capitol in Washington as well as at the Lincoln Memorial and the citizens left those places cleaner than they were before they got there. And not a single arrest was reported. Compare that to the numerous politically-financed Occupy [fill in the blank] rallies, with arrests for everything from rape to theft, “protestors” defecating on cars and similar anti-society behavior.

And Tea Partiers are the extremists?

Washington’s borrowing and spending binge continues unabated, with virtually no sign of spending reforms on the horizon. Bipartisan recommendations for spending reforms from the president’s own commission (co-chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson), which had garnered support from both aisles in Congress, were virtually ignored by the president. And so the beat goes on.

In 2012, 31 cents of every federal dollar spent was borrowed, giving foreign creditors growing leverage over our future. Mandatory spending, which includes Social Security, means-tested entitlements and interest on the debt, was 58 percent of the federal budget, “limiting” discretionary spending – the portion of spending for which congress and the president hash out their annual priorities – to only 42 percent of the federal budget. And that discretionary portion is certain to continue to decline as Baby Boomers start retiring in greater numbers, meaning that defense and other immediate priorities will inevitably get slashed. The math and trends tell the story and it’s not good for us to continue to ignore.

And Tea Partiers are the extremists?

Most importantly, the government at all levels through confiscatory taxes and overbearing regulation is squeezing the ability of the private sector to grow and generate jobs so we can all afford the wonderfully effective and efficient and responsible public programs (snark alert) that lifetime politicians and their media and academic enablers dream up for their centrally-planned utopia. But the reality is that the economics don’t work. You can’t grow an economy by taking more from the productive sector to fund the unproductive (i.e., government) sector. Only one of these sectors actually creates wealth, and it’s not the public sector. At some point in the near future, there will be a hard landing from the current Fed-generated bubble. All we are trying to influence at this point is whether the landing will be somewhat controlled or not.

And Tea Partiers are the extremists?

Look, I challenge all of you who think you know what the Tea Party is to come to a local Tea Party meeting in your own community sometime. You will hear speakers with demonstrated expertise on a particular topic and you get the chance to talk with them or challenge them directly. The Tea Party may be a national phenomenon, but every locally-instituted group is independent of every other one. These are local groups where the local citizens decide their own leaders and priorities. Meet your fellow citizens, who became concerned enough to involve themselves in trying to influence the course of their local, state and national politics, many of them for the first time in their lives. They are citizens like you who are concerned for their family’s future, especially their children and grandchildren (or, in my case, my nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews). Besides that, good citizenship can be fun and you meet interesting and good-hearted people along the way.

We ALL want a better life for the next few generations and we don’t want to see our life’s work get pissed away by some self-impressed, unaccountable, incompetent, powergaming, arrogant jerks in Washington, few of whom ever met a payroll in their life.

Come and join us so together we can build a brighter future with opportunity for all, not just the politically well-connected. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Washington is Like Products Sold on TV

I love TV commercials that sell items you can order only by phone. Items that will relieve you of the existential hell in which you’ve been living.
You know the ones I’m describing? The ones with the comical actors whose emphatic expressions make William Shatner look low-key by comparison? The ones with the actors who all knowingly nod when they finally have the solution in hand?

For the man who uses garden shears to trim his nose hair? The MicroTouch all-in-one personal hair trimmer allows men to delicately trim hair from their nose and nether regions as well as cleaning up that forest of unsightly back hair!

Looking to make the perfect 10-minute pasta without the unimaginable investment in time and complexity of boiling water in a pan, cooking the pasta then draining it in a colander? Zap your way to fresh-tasting freedom with the Pasta Express!

Tired of putting up with your husband’s snoring or want to listen to what your new neighbors are saying about you? No worries! Just put Listen Up in your pocket, plug in the earphones and the mini amplifier will enable you to ignore your husband and report your neighbors to Homeland Security!

Each commercial shows actors expressing frustration and angst, not to mention incompetence, going through the typical day-to-day challenges we all face. Only the actors make it seem like they are experiencing waterboarding or the seventh circle of hell. Then, with the amazing, time-saving, money-back-guarantee product in hand – Eureka! The crops are saved! The stars are aligned! Life has new meaning!

Well, something like that is happening with the news media today. They call it “The Fiscal Cliff.” They make it sound like the same kind of hell-on-earth scenario that those cheesy as-seen-on-TV commercials use to attract their customers. But stop and think about it. What today they are calling “The Fiscal Cliff” was touted last year by the White House as a bipartisan “Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline.”

When all the talking heads agree in their groupthink way about a national problem, I start to get antsy. What are they selling us instead? Yes, they talk about raising taxes, about getting more revenue for government coffers. But why is nobody speaking up about the spending cuts that MUST be a part of any “balanced” plan?

Go back to the last few election cycles and consider what candidates in BOTH parties have been saying and selling to the American people.

“We have to get spending under control.”

“Our national debt will require us to raise taxes.”

Well, the only plan that’s on the table now is last year’s bipartisan agreement that slashes spending and raises taxes. It’s not the most appealing prospect, but no treatment for our overspending binges of the last 40+ years will be painless.

But experience shows that while taxes always get raised immediately, spending cuts almost never happen.

And that’s the game going down in Washington now.

Hold on to your wallets, build up your stockpiles and stand by for Uncle to strip you of more of what you work for. Hey, in the 21st Century, it’s the American Way!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I am thankful for ...

… friends who overlook my faults and accept me as I am.

  another big Buckeye win this Saturday!

… my many siblings who keep me grounded in the things that really matter.

… a father who was always my personal hero to look up to.

… getting to know a heroic father-in-law who taught me a lot about people.

… a mother whose perseverance and independence kept her going long after others would have folded.

… a generous-to-a-fault mother-in-law who is patient with my impatience and indulges my culinary appetites.

… a wonderful wife who is lovely, funny, talented and smart  – my lifelong soulmate.

… living in a country which, despite its many widely reported faults and shortcomings, is still the greatest nation on the planet.

… a loving God who sent His only son to save me from sin.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In the Navy, Size (Numbers) Still Matters

The third presidential debate included an exchange between incumbent President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney that focused on the declining number of ships in the Navy, with Romney’s contention that a smaller fleet may prevent the Navy from carrying out its missions.

Here’s the clip:

ROMNEY:  “Our Navy is old — excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We’re now at under 285. We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me.”

OBAMA:  “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And, so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships. ”

Navy veterans who remember history will note that we entered into World War II with a crippled fleet reduced in numbers as well as capability. Time hasn’t diminished our need for a large naval force as fitting for our status as a superpower and maritime nation. Our Navy’s top leaders had several good reasons on which to base its 313 ship requirement to meet the missions tasked by our elected officials. Here are just a few:

Navy capabilities have improved, but so have those of our adversaries. Yes, President Obama was right: On balance, each Navy ship is much more capable today than earlier ships. Today’s warships are able to project more power into broader areas than ever before. But our Navy does not operate in a one-sided, theoretical, academic world.

What the president didn’t mention is that our potential adversaries’ weapons capabilities are broader and more sophisticated than before, too. Russia, China and other countries have developed and exported quieter diesel submarines that can be a challenge for our shrinking fleet of attack submarines to detect. China has deployed a number of long-range ship-killing missiles on the mainland across the Taiwan Strait and recently started to operate its first aircraft carrier.

And, lest we forget, it doesn’t take high technology to put a warship out of commission. In 2000, the USS Cole was attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists on a suicide bombing mission. The Cole lost 17 sailors and 39 were injured. She did not deploy again for three years.

Only 1/3 of the fleet is deployed at a time. Our ships operate in a difficult environment. Seawater is corrosive. High operational intensity takes a toll on shipboard systems. Sending ships to sea requires a lot of work by the crew and shore support areas to help keep each ship in seaworthy shape.

Each ship typically deploys for six to nine months, then rotates home for crew training and maintenance before they are able to deploy again. Every five to seven years, ships undergo an extensive overhaul, which takes them out of rotation for deployments. These overhauls can take from one year to 18 months to complete, depending on the extent of work needed. Once the overhaul is completed, the ship and crew undergo refresher training as a unit before the ship is considered ready for deployment.

The oceans haven’t gotten any smaller. The Obama Administration has appropriately changed our defense posture from a Euro-centric to an Asia-centric one. Since a larger and growing proportion of the world’s economy and population resides in the Asia-Pacific region, this change makes sense. Yet, the Pacific remains a very large ocean with several vital sea lanes of trade that an adversary could use to choke off or limit shipping to their advantage. When you add in other vital maritime areas of interest to our economy, like the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the North and South Atlantic, you can start to see the problem.

The speed of today’s ships is not very different from World War II. The top speed of our most important ships – our 10 aircraft carriers – is about 35 knots (nautical miles an hour), or roughly 40 miles an hour. Cruisers and destroyers can max out at about 32 knots, while the top speed of most supply ships and tankers is 25 knots.

The combat range of carrier aircraft hasn’t improved much in the last 60 years. Planes have gotten faster and more sophisticated, but also larger and heavier. The powerful jet engines of an F/A-18 Super Hornet drinks more fuel than the smaller piston-driven F-4U Corsair of the World War II era, and the combat radius of each is roughly 400 nautical miles. Laser-guided bombs improve accuracy, but airborne weapons do not appreciably extend the combat range of our fighters and attack planes.

Showing the flag still matters. No other form of diplomacy is as impressive – and effective – as the sight of a carrier battle group sailing on the horizon. Unless you have the ships to arrive on the horizon, like the cavalry days of old, you don’t achieve the desired effect. Then you’re just left with words to try to influence behavior. And the messianic effect from The One has pretty much worn off by now. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The State of the Race

Observers of last night's debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney generally agree that Romney scored more points for his energy, respectful aggressiveness and general focus. By contrast, Obama was generally perceived as a bit passive and lacking in energy (well, he is a Vulcan, after all!) and specifics to couter Romney's arguments. I believe that puts Romney in a good position for the rest of the race. Here's why:

There are three more debates scheduled weekly over the rest of October. Next Thursday is the Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Joe Biden. And Paul Ryan. Do we really have to say anything more about this one? Seriously?

The third debate - and the second between the two presidential candidates - will take place Tuesday, October 16, and will be in a town hall format, with audience participants able to ask questions on foreign and domestic policy. Romney has participated in these town hall style meetings throughout the primary season and during the recent campaign, whereas President Obama has limited his exposure mostly to speeches on college campuses and fundraising events while avoiding questions from serious journalists. That said, I expect the president to be better prepared and more aggressive in this format, although he will have to be careful not to "overpursue" (to use a football analogy). On balance, I think Romney's recent experience in this format and his discipline and relaxed charm will keep him in good shape in this debate.

The final debate is set for Monday, October 22, just over two weeks from Election Day. The debate format will be the same as last night's and the topic will be foreign policy. And unless things start to improve drastically in the Middle East and elsewhere on the foreign policy front (with tensions between China and Japan threatening the peace in the Western Pacific and a leadership vacuum in Europe feeding its bleak economic outlook), the president will likely be on the defensive again.

That is where Romney will need to be careful not to overreach. Americans are tired after fighting two wars and having its servicemen (and women) targeted for murder by our earstwhile partners in Afghanistan. By committing the U.S. to withdraw in 2014, we have invited the Taliban and its Al Queda allies to bide their time while biting at our heels, drawing blood and weakening our resolve. The problem with Afghanistan is that it is not strategically important, as the centers of gravity in the war against terrorism remain state terror sponsors Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Romney needs to avoid committing larger U.S. forces to Afghanistan and Republicans need to face the fact that we can no longer afford to keep unlimited commitments overseas while the economy continues to suffer at home. Growth with an economy that produces more jobs (putting more people on the tax rolls) must come first, along with a serious reform of the Pentagon's procurement process. And we must prioritize our spending to fall in line with strategic realities.

As a maritime nation with the primary and flexible power projection platform of Navy aircraft carriers, we must first arrest our decline in our fleet's size so it can better perform the mission of keeping our sealanes open in areas of potential conflict. But other areas of military spending, including major deployment of ground forces overseas, need to be rethought, particularly in Europe.

If Romney restrains his military enthusiasm by following his typically cautious approach to commitments, he should be in reasonably good shape to win the election.