Ken’s Take on the World

Dog Whistles and Trumpeteers

The rise of Donald Trump to become the leading front-runner for the Republican nomination to be President of the United States has been surprising to me.  At least upon first glance.  When one looks deeper, this success should actually not be too surprising for anyone to recognize.  Not only has his elevation and, apparent success, in the polls continued to surprise me, it has also filled me with a sense of disappointment and sadness.  I am not saddened by his success, after all, how can anyone be made sad by witnessing the success of another person.  I am saddened, however, by what his current success in the Republican primaries is premised on.


Mr. Trump has been a successful businessman.  Yes, like all great business people, he has had his failures.  His initial wealth was inherited which I do not fault him for.  There are many great people who also inherited great wealth.  I believe he exploits others for his personal gain and that makes him unethical and a poor role model.  Prior to his current entry into politics, I would have never guessed that he would be considered by anyone, let alone describe himself, as a, “conservative.”  The only casual link I can identify between a conservative philosophy and Mr. Trump is that he is a business person and I have always tended to think that responsible, self-made, business people trend somewhat conservative, at least financially.  Mr. Trump does not fit the mold that I imagine of the conservative business person.  He is extravagant, opulent, boisterous, and brash.  None of these are qualities I would associate with a truly conservative persona.


Donald Trump has increased his personal fortune through real estate, gambling establishments, and other businesses.  He has owned an airline, hotels, casinos, and has had his name attached to steaks, water, and other consumer products.  He has experienced successes and failures with these operations.  When his businesses were failing he sought out bankruptcy protections.  These are completely legal processes, however, they are inconsistent with a conservative philosophy of personal responsibility.  Bankruptcy is generally harmful to creditors and, when it involves a business, it is always harmful to the workers.  A President Trump cannot take the United States of America through bankruptcy court.  His economic ideas, he has not advanced any specific policies, are not fiscally-conservative by any means.


His personal life makes it even more unfathomable that he would consider himself a conservative and even less likely that he should have the support of those who consider themselves to be, “social-conservatives.”  He has been married multiple times, engaged in affairs, made crude references towards women and to male and female genitalia.  Things that I would have automatically assumed would disgust evangelical Christians and other religiously devout individuals.  I am not judging him, mind you, I am only at a loss to comprehend his support from those who have expressed condemnation of adultery, divorce, non-monogamy, and homosexuality.  On other areas of social conflict, including abortion, I did not even think Mr. Trump had expressed a position.  In fact, I would have laid money on the idea that he was not opposed to abortion, homosexuality, or infidelity.


What is it, then, that fuels Mr. Trump’s rise among the Republican base?  It is not his fiscal constraint nor his fiscal responsibility.  It is not his social mores.  And, yet, a large percentage of his supporters in the primary elections are those who claim to be fiscally-conservative and/or socially-conservative.  It would appear that he is the antithesis of a candidate that these individuals would coalesce behind.  The answer must lie deeper.  It is within these deeper layers that we begin to see the origins of Donald Trump’s rise, and more importantly, of the reasons underlying his support.  The Republican establishment and those who serve in Washington understand, all too well, where this support comes from and they are suddenly afraid of being exposed for this dark philosophy as well.


The truth is much darker, and much uglier, than anyone could imagine.  It harkens back to the days of slavery and the effectiveness with which Mr. Trump promotes this ugliness the more likely it becomes that the Grand Old Party is at a crucial junction in its existence.


From the mid-1950’s, through today, the Republican Party has promoted a philosophy that trends socially-regressive.  It is based on the promotion of fear and anxiety.  From the racial segregation and anti-Communist policies of the 1950’s to the continuing opposition to equality for women since the 1970’s, to the opposition to homosexuality, including non-discrimination and marriage equality, and into recent battles over transgender equality and immigration, the GOP has incorporated the language of fear and increasingly narrowed its base to disaffected white, heterosexual, poorly-educated, Christians.  From the end of slavery, conservatives have used innuendo like a dog whistle to create scapegoats of minority groups in order to advance a white agenda that opposes equality for anyone else.  The Republican Party began to capitalize upon this idea in the 1950’s by promoting fear over reason.  By the 1980’s the Grand Old Party solidified its base of white, Christian, males. The stoking of fear of the, “others” is what has created a, mostly, homogenous base of Republican voters.  The GOP has mastered the art of, “Us versus Them” in politics.  If you are different, in any way, you are not, “Us.”  It is this sense of fear or anxiety that allows the Republican Party to recruit poor whites, who are most harmed by Republican economic policies.  It is for this reason that a candidate like Donald Trump has had the ability to rise so rapidly up the hierarchy of Republican politics to, possibly, become its official standard-bearer.  In light of this, it is really not so surprising that Mr. Trump has emerged as a viable candidate for the Republican Party.  The Republican establishment has employed the use of fear-based rhetoric like a dog whistle for so long that the trumpeting of such dialogue would naturally draw certain supporters out from hiding.


It is extremely disturbing, however, that a candidate, from any political party, seeking to be a candidate to become President of the United States would actively support, or tacitly endorse, such un-American values.  It is not that any person should be so naïve as to deny the existence of prejudice in this nation.  Neither, should one be surprised that there are some people in 2016 who are bigots or racists.  I am more troubled by the fact that there is such widespread support for the ugliness of racism, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia within this great nation.  This has become even more apparent immediately after the election, in 2008, of President Barack Obama as Republicans immediately expressed genuine hope that he would fail.  It is the extent to which these attitudes pervade our nation that is most alarming to me.  This is something that is genuinely surprising and bothersome.  I find this disgusting and would never support a political candidate that condones such vile attitudes.


The “Others!!”

Watching Mr. Donald Trump win three of the first four Republican Presidential primary contests has been a frustrating, and troubling, experience for this self-identified progressive, independent American.  Political pundits have been explaining for the past several months there is no way Mr. Trump could possibly earn the GOP nomination to be President.  In the past few weeks, this narrative has changed to an assessment of how the Republican establishment has failed to contain the damage he has wrought on their party.  The sad and very tragic truth is that what we are seeing in America has not been introduced by the reality show star, real estate mogul, and entertainer, but by decades of intentional actions by the Republican Party establishment.


As a result of increasing social disapproval of racial discrimination, especially in more populous and northern states, throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, and particularly fueled by the overturning of Jim Crow laws that had existed since the period of Reconstruction following the US Civil War, and the adoption of the Voting Rights Act and the US Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party made a purposeful attempt to draw poor, and working class Democrats (who had traditionally voted Democrat) into the fold.  There was a general appeal to these voter’s conservative economic views and the rampant poverty that existed throughout the South.  There was, also, a much more insidious, and covert, appeal to appeal to the racial prejudices that did not fade away following enforced desegregation of public accommodations, including schools and retail establishments.  Social norms began to evolve and overt racism declined only to be replaced by a shadowy, hidden form of racism that continued below the surface of society.


With the support of Southern Democrats, Barry Goldwater won the states of the Deep South in the Presidential election of 1964.  These states, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.  These states were all a part of the Confederacy during the US Civil War.  While this was not enough to propel Mr. Goldwater into the White House, they served as a foundation for which Richard Nixon would add Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, again, Confederate States during the Civil War, in order to become the 38th President of the United States.  The realignment of the Republican Party was nearly complete based on the racial prejudices that were motivated during this time.  In the late 1970’s and throughout the 1980’s Republicans also appealed to religious conservatives in order to increase their support which was eroding as a result of increased tolerance of racial differences.  However, there was a continuing appeal to the racial biases of poor, poorly-educated, working class white voters.


The rise of the Moral Majority in the very late 1970’s and into the 1980’s, was sufficient to propel Ronald Reagan, a Hollywood actor and former Governor of California, into the White House after the 1980 election.  The Moral Majority railed against women’s right, gay rights, equal pay, the minimum wage, and for a stronger military in order to prepare for a Christian Holy War against Islam.  It probably did not help that President Carter had a very lackluster Presidency noted for the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  There was an increasing anti-Muslim undercurrent present during this election which bears some similarity to today’s electoral climate.  Republican economic policies introduced throughout the 1980’s served to foster increased economic disparities.  As societal attitudes changed, the influence of the Moral Majority faded, somewhat, throughout the 1990’s and through today, although the promotion of hot button issues, including abortion and LGBT equality, has continued to bring out certain religious voting blocs during election cycles.


The election of President Obama in 2008 served as a catalyst for racist groups to increase their public rhetoric which, in turn, helped to fuel the establishment of the Tea Party as a significant political influence within the Republican Party.  The 2010 midterm elections saw a number of Tea Party-backed candidates elected into Congress including Senator Marco Rubio.  Senator Ted Cruz joined him in the US Senate in 2012 with significant Tea Party support.  The 2010 midterm elections began to expose the developing rifts between the Republican establishment and its base.  In light of a Federal government that appeared to be unresponsive to the desires of a Libertarian-leaning base that promoted to an extremely weak Federal government and expressing a, “States-Rights,” mantra, the Tea Party managed to increase gains in Congress during the 2012 election cycle.  Failure of Tea Party candidates to produce desired outcomes saw a bit of a pullback during the 2014 midterm elections.


President Obama’s election in 2008 came on the heels of the greatest economic downturn since the 1920’s and 1930’s.  While all economic groups suffered as a result of the collapse of economic powerhouses including banking, housing, and manufacturing, the recovery was most beneficial for those at the upper ends of the economic strata.  This has fueled the frustration of middle-class and working-class folks who believe government is not working for them.  The Republican Party has capitalized upon this by diverting attention away from three decades of failed economic policies and re-directing this frustration against immigrants and the poor.   Don’t blame government, we (Republicans) have been saying government cannot do anything.  It is, “The Others,” that are to blame for your economic and social status in life.  It is the gays who are responsible for the moral decay of our nation.  It is the immigrants who are responsible for low pay for your hard work.  It is the Muslims who are responsible for all terrorism.  It is not the fault of the wealthy that you are unable to advance economically and accumulate wealth, it is the fault of the poor who waste your tax dollars through food-stamp programs and, “Obama phones!!”


Mr. Trump, has capitalized on this message of using, “The Others” as a rallying cry for his poor and working class white supporters.  This ugly message of division, as untrue as it is, is remarkable for its effectiveness.  The American people, who should be too smart to fall for this message from a candidate such as, “The Donald” have reverted to an emotional response to fear.  This is what has become so perplexing about the Trump campaign.  Mr. Trump has not waged a political campaign on a single substantive idea.  He is not a conservative in any sense of the word.  He is not a moral man nor does he demonstrate fiscal responsibility.  And, yet, he has garnered support from evangelical Christians and a Libertarian base that supports lower taxes and smaller government.  He promises to spend more on increasing the size of our military and an incredible amount to build a wall separating the United States from Mexico.  Mr. Trump says that he will make Mexico pay for such a wall to the delight of his supporters who surely must know this is an impossibility.  He insults and threatens anyone who disagrees or opposes him.  He has insulted war heroes, journalists, women, Muslims, Jews, LGBT people, our current military personnel, first responders, and people who do not possess college degrees.  These things, alone, should have been enough to doom his campaign earlier in this election cycle.  Instead, his racially-tinged, misogynistic, bigoted, and Islamophobic, comments have drawn some of the biggest applause lines at his campaign rallies.  This is all inexplicable but for one thing.  His promotion of white, Christian, heterosexual, people as being better than others has actually increased his support among people who should know better, but are giving in to the emotions of anger, fear, and hatred.


While I still do not believe Mr. Trump has the ability to win a general election (I still have faith in the American people) the fact that he has used differences to successfully pit Americans against one another, and against others, is seriously troubling.  I do not believe Mr. Trump even believes much of what he is promoting, he is an entertainer, after all, but the fact that many Americans support the message lays bare a certain ugliness that is more than simply troubling.  That there exists, within Americans, animosity towards others based on their skin color, their religion, their heritage, or their gender is quite disgusting.  It would be naïve to ever think these attitudes did not exist in 2016, however, the prevalence of these attitudes is bothersome.


It should be noted that this concept of, “others” is not unique to the Republican Party.  The Democrats have also promoted a philosophy of others.  The difference between Democrats is that they frame this issue as one of a small group of ultra-wealthy Americans versus the rest of America.  The candidates on the Democrat side point out that the wealthiest of Americans are harming the rest of Americans.  In this battle, we are all Americans, first!!


Another difference between the two main political parties that has become evident to me over the past several election cycles is that the Democrat Party promotes an overall message of optimism and hope while the Republican Party markets a message of pessimism and fear.  Fear and anxiety are very powerful motivators, particularly for individuals who are insecure with themselves.  Take Mr. Trump’s campaign slogan:  “Make America Great, Again!!”  Yeah!!  Wait.  This slogan implies that America is no longer great.  I reject this suggestion completely.  The United States IS a great nation!!  It can be made even greater with the proper guidance and leadership, however, to insinuate that, at some point, America has lost her greatness is a reprehensible message to put forth!!


The message that must be heard by every person is that we are ALL Americans, first and foremost!!  We must reject the idea that there are, “others,” completely!!  This November, it is critical that we, as Americans, get out and vote.  Vote to reject the notion of, “others.”  Vote to KEEP America great by continuing to promote our ideals of justice, fairness, equality, and opportunity!!  YOU can keep America the greatest nation on Earth!!

The Drumbeat of War
September 2, 2013, 12:36 pm
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Much discussion has taken place about the conflict in Syria.  In particular, recent allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its own people have been raised.  These developments, if proven to be true, put the United States into a very difficult position.  For the record, I am opposed to any unilateral action to put boots-on-the-ground combat troops into Syria.  Having said this, there is a serious case to be made for US intervention in this conflict in light of recent allegations against the Syrian government.


The American people are tired from a decade of war that has strained our military servicemen and women, military equipment, our national treasury and, of the deaths and injuries suffered by those who proudly wore the uniform in service to their country.  The US military is the strongest and most capable force on the planet.  The brave men and women who volunteer to sacrifice their lives in the service of our nation’s values must be honored and protected, and, yes, sometimes, placed in harm’s way.  That is the way of the warrior.  That devotion to duty must not be abused by politicians and any decision to place our young men and women in harm’s way must not be taken lightly but as the single-most serious decision that a leader must face.


The US military is in a unique position in the world.  The United States has more military power in its arsenal than any other nation on the planet.  For more than two centuries, brave men and women have answered the call of service and our military forces have served with pride and dedication in service to our Constitution and to our, particular, American values.  This is why the conflict in Syria is so troubling for me, personally, and for Americans in general.  I wore the uniform of a Navy Hospitalcorpsman with pride and would gladly do so again if called.  I have seen young men die and suffer serious injury.  While I did not serve in combat, I would have proudly served in combat with any of the sailors and Marines that I worked with.


There are two main schools of thought on Syria.  The prevailing view, and, temporarily at least, easier position to follow is to not involve the United States or its military in the events occurring in Syria.  This provides great relief to the majority of men and women currently serving in the military and for their friends and families back home.  This position is worthy of serious consideration with the recognition of our current fiscal concerns and the potential dangerous inherent to combat functions.  It must also be noted that the events in Syria resulted from populist protests against an oppressive government and that those early protests presented the US with some potentially viable candidates to assume governance in Syria should the government fall.  The US failed to act in a timely fashion to identify and nurture these potential leaders and subsequently others have joined into this civil war.  There are those with interests that are diametrically opposed to our own national interests.  Forces aligned against the Assad regime include those who have sworn their opposition to the United States and our western allies.  Individuals and groups that despise American values are among those currently fighting against Assad forces.


A second school of thought advances a position that military intervention is recommended, or even demanded, to address the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  This position, too, requires careful consideration and discussion.  There are those who support limited engagement with the use of Cruise missiles to destroy or degrade strategic targets.  A minority favors a more involved approach that might include the use of ground forces.  Personally, I am leaning toward the prior approach.


It is easy to form an opinion based on emotion and personal experience.  Because of the gravity of using military force, an ethical approach is necessary to decide a proper, and moral, course of action.


There are certain values that we, as Americans, hold critical to our identity as citizens of this great nation.  One of the characteristics of our nation is that we are a Constitutional Republic.  Every federal elected official and every uniformed service member pledges an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  This charter vests in Congress the responsibility of, among other things, declaring war.  The document also names the President as Commander-in-Chief.  It incorporates our nation’s values through a Bill of Rights.  Along with individual rights come individual and communal responsibilities.  These, too, are values that we, as Americans, cherish.  One ideal of Americanism is that the American will always stand up for the oppressed.  Our armed forces have practiced this for at least two centuries.  Our nation’s leaders have also generally supported this American value.  There is an ethical responsibility of ensuring the tranquility of a civil world.  This obligation demands that the United States government and its military forces act to promote and preserve this tenet of justice.


In 1941, Congress passed the first War Powers Act.  This resolution afforded the President greater ability to utilize the armed forces in order to quickly respond to domestic or international threats to our security or interests.  Since that time, American President’s have sought an Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) from Congress 18 times.  Not one AUMF has been denied.  The most recent AUMF was a request to use military force in Iraq to force compliance with United Nations (UN) resolutions.  On numerous additional occasions, a sitting President has authorized the use of military force under the extant powers afforded under Article II of the US Constitution.


President Obama, rather than taking action under his Article II authority has sought a Congressional AUMF in regard to Syria.  The President will now have to prove to Congress that there is a legitimate rationale for his request for approval of military force.  The majority of Americans currently oppose any military intervention, even in light of evidence that chemical weapons have been used against civilians.  The Administration has an opportunity, and an obligation, to demonstrate to members of Congress and the American people that chemical weapons were, a) In fact used; and b) That use of such chemical munitions were used by Syrian government forces against civilians.  The use of chemical weapons, by itself, violates international law.  The use of chemical weapons by a government constitutes a war crime.  If it was a party other than the government of Syria that used chemical weapons, there is a more serious concern involved than simply the use of chemical devices.  It is incumbent on the Administration to establish the facts of this crisis.


It is the obligation of Congress, if it is provided sufficient evidence that the Assad regime in Syria did employ chemical agents against its citizens, to reach a decision that is consistent with our American values.  While some lawmakers are tying themselves to the mantle of, “vital national interests,” I would remind them that it is in our nation’s best interests to protect those who are oppressed.  The most tragic historical moments in our nation occurred when we, as a nation, failed to respond promptly to the oppression of others. There is a small cadre of legislators who are advocating for a very strong military response and it is not clear if they would support the deployment of ground forces into Syria.  I would strongly oppose the involvement of ground forces.  The Syrian conflict began as a civil war and it is not within the purview of our military forces to assist in the overthrow of a government because it is opposed by its own citizens. 


I believe the AUMF that is currently in effect (since 2001) fails to pertain to the current situation in Syria.  If it is demonstrated that rebel forces (instead of the Assad government) used chemical arms, President Obama may find that military action is supported under the current AUMF.  If it is true that the Syrian government ordered the use of chemical agents against its citizens, then the President is best served by seeking a Congressional AUMF against Syrian strategic targets.  On Sunday, Senate Democrats expressed concern that the AUMF request submitted by the President is overly broad and is trying to more narrowly tailor the request before it is introduced to Congress for debate.  There are many options for the use of military force that do not involve putting troops on the ground.  Each of these should be carefully considered.


America has long enjoyed a sense of credibility on the stage of nations.  This credibility was damaged after it was determined that misleading information was used to initiate military intervention in Iraq.  Our nation’s reputation was tarnished by these revelations and Congress, rightly, is demanding irrefutable evidence of the allegations made against the Assad regime.  This is how our government works most effectively and responsibly.  If the United States fails to address crimes committed by nation’s, what then, can we expect of our own government?

President Obama and the Glass of Water

Tuesday is Election Day, or if you are Dr. Ruth, “Erection Day.”  I for one will be relieved that this campaign season will be over.  The campaigns this year have been particularly over-the-top and there has been more negative campaign advertising thanks to a flurry of unaccountable money that allowed nearly a billion dollars to be spent on the Presidential campaigns alone!


When I look at the state of our nation, and of the economy in particular, I look at a glass that is half full.  Of course, I tend to be an optimistic person by nature.  When I listen to Republicans, the message I hear is this:  President Obama has been in office for four years and the glass is still half empty.  The President has failed to fill the glass completely.


Think about this.  When the President took office in January of 2009, the glass was completely empty because it had been shattered and all of the water had poured out.  Since 2009, the President repaired the broken glass and began to refill it.  The President repeatedly asked for a fire hose so the glass could be filled faster but Congress would only permit him to have a garden hose to use.


Remember to vote on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.  The nation is counting on you!!

Memorial Day 2012

This Monday, American’s will celebrate Memorial Day with parades and barbecues and picnics with family and friends.  At 3:00 in the afternoon, the nation will pause for a moment to remember the men and women who have given their lives in the service of our country.  Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1868 to honor the fallen Union soldiers of the US Civil War.  Over the years, Memorial Day has been a time to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice paid by servicemen and women of all conflicts that our nation has become involved.

This Memorial Day, as I have for every Memorial Day since 1987, I will reflect on the lives of nine particular US Marines.  All were members of the Second Marine Division attached with Marine Amphibious Unit aboard the USS Saipan (LHA-2) during Operation Northern Wedding during August 1986.  To this day, I cannot recall their names.  They were young men called to volunteer and become one of the few, the brave ones we call United States Marines.  Two of them were pilots of a CH-46 helicopter.  The rest were just young guys around my age who had, perhaps, visions of bravery and valor and glory.  They had their entire lives to look forward to.  Or so, as we all did, they thought.

Tragedy often strikes without warning.  It cuts down the strongest and the smartest.  It takes the weakest and the bravest.  Over the course of a single week in late August, 1986, tragedy took the lives of nine brave young men.  Their lives intersected with my own as I was a young Navy Hospitalcorpsman stationed aboard the Saipan at that moment in history.  The first tragedy involved a helicopter crash.  It happened early one evening while I was in a class in a room several decks below the flight deck.  During the lecture klaxons sounded alerting us to a fire on the flight deck.  We thought this might be simply a drill, one of many in which all of us routinely train for in order to work as a team.  More alarms sounded announcing there was a man overboard.  We could each feel the ship heel as the giant engines began to backdown and turn.  Without a word, class was dismissed and we began to hurry to our duty stations.  As I ran up five decks through Main Medical, I asked another HM who was the SAR (search and rescue) corpsman.   When he told me, I knew that he was a junior guy and would need support.  I told the HM to pass on that I was taking the lifeboat and to hold the SAR duty corpsman at his duty station.

We dropped the SAR boat into the North Atlantic area of the Arctic Circle off the coast of Norway.  Five of us, uncertain but speculating as to what we might find.  We had been informed that it was a two-person spotter plane and then it was a chopper returning to our ship after ferrying Marines to one of the other ships.  The bridge directed us to a search point and there we saw two men standing on the wreckage of a shattered aircraft.  We thought it was, in fact, a spotter plane.  As we drew near, we saw an inflatable life raft with several men in it.  As we rounded the wreckage, we could see this was the bottom of a helicopter that the two men were standing on.  We could also see that a few of the men in the life raft were struggling to hold a third Marine up but they were unable to get him into the raft.

The sailor who was acting as our bow hook and safety swimmer, Troy Durbin, and I along with the engineer lay down on the bow of our boat and heaved the waterlogged Marine onto our deck.  I immediately began to assess him and discovered he was not breathing.  I opened his airway and inserted an oropharyngeal airway, preparing to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while the bow hook and engineer were bringing the second man aboard.  My Marine started to gag and cough and I pulled the airway out so he could vomit and clear his lungs out.  I briefly turned my attention to the second Marine, also unconscious and not breathing.  I opened his airway, retrieved the OP tube and inserted it again prepared to perform artificial respirations.  Like the first Marine, he again began to cough and gag and I pulled the tube out and rolled him onto his side.  I glanced over at the first man and he had again stopped breathing, so I repeated the process I had first used with him with the same result.  After turning him to his side, I noticed the second Marine had, too, stopped breathing.  I again opened his airway and he gasped for air and began to weakly cough.  Meanwhile, the first man had stopped breathing.  The bow hook was helping the remaining men in the life raft onto the boat and the engineer had to go help the Boat Officer bring a couple of people floating of the stern of the boat.

I turned my attention to the first Marine who also had a facial laceration but no other significant, obvious, injuries.  When I was able to return to the second Marine, I was not able to revive him and returned my focus to the first Marine who remained unstable.  I had Troy stay with the first Marine and went to assess the remaining Marines as we headed back to the ship.  After assessing the Marines, I had the Boat Officer call in a triage report to let our medical team know what to expect.  Transfer of the injured from our 36’ boat to the Saipan was challenging as we were bobbing around in six to ten foot swells that wanted to smash us into the ship.  The Boatswain’s Mate who was our pilot and the engineer kept us as steady as possible.  We received information that the chopper carried 21 men and six Marines were still unaccounted for.  After off-loading, we conducted a full Search and Rescue for several more hours before securing the wreckage of the helicopter and towing it back to the ship.  In a single moment, the lives of eight US Marines were lost.  Six of them were never recovered, claimed by the ocean depths.

About a week later, a call came in that they were flying in by helicopter a critically injured Marine, injured after being struck and run over by one of the Marine vehicles while conducting mock beach assault operations.  Another corpsman and I set up the trauma room while the ship’s Doctor and surgeon along with a Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) went to the flight deck to meet the arriving casualty.  They set him on the deck for a very brief assessment before rushing him into the trauma room.  We hoisted him onto the operating table and began to cut him out of his clothes.  The anesthesiologist was attempting to establish an airway and as I attempted to suction out his mouth the anesthesiologist discovered what may have been the fatal injury, a massive scalp laceration and skull fracture.  We pronounced the young man, cleaned and dressed his wounds and prepared his body, as we had already prepared two others, for transfer back to the waiting families who had received that dreaded visit from uniformed officers coming to express the thanks of a grateful nation and their condolences.

Over the next several weeks there would be a few more servicemembers whose lives were lost, including two Navy pilots when their aircraft suffered a catastrophic failure in our area of operations.  These young men I mentioned earlier, are the last servicemen who died aboard the Saipan before I was discharged in 1987.  Perhaps it was my relative youth, I was only 19 at the time, but the deaths of these fine young men had an important impact on me and in the person that I have attempted to be.  To make sure that my technical skills are always sharp, so that when called on, I can serve others as well as our team tried to serve those nine Marines in 1986.

This year, however, marks a special significance to me.  This Memorial Day will be the first time in the history of our country that we may openly, and proudly, pay our respects to gay and lesbian service members who have served with honor and distinction in each of our nation’s wars and in peacetime and who, also, paid the ultimate sacrifice for a people who, for far too long, would treat us as second class citizens.  Because my discharge was based on the fact that I am gay, this is especially important to me as I, along with many others advocated for repeal of the ban on gay servicemen and women and spoke out against the enactment of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  We pushed for the repeal of this nonsensical legislation from the moment it was signed into law and we applauded the support for repeal from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullin, and President of the United States, Barack Obama.

I am thankful for all of the brave men and women who have donned a uniform and stood watch over our freedoms and ideals and responded ferociously to any attack on these principles which make our nation so great!  Your dedication and service will never be forgotten.

Capital Offenses

Perhaps it is simply me, but the right-wing can’t seem to get many things right.  The latest dust up regarding Mr. Romney’s successful career at Bain Capital is the latest example.  Right-wing talking heads have been blasting President Obama for comments made regarding venture capital.  Of course, these comments have been misconstrued.  Please note that I am not suggesting they have simply taken Mr. Obama’s comments out of context.  They have not even related the context of the President’s comments to their rhetoric.

Mr. Obama has, on multiple occasions recently, commented that venture capital has an important role to play in the economic development of businesses.  He has further commended Mr. Romney, who is a candidate for the Republican nomination for President this year, for his success as a person who had a job in which he promoted the investment of money in companies in order to maximize a profitable return on these investments for those who made the investments.  Mr. Obama, consistently and correctly, has identified that Mr. Romney’s primary objective was not to create or even maintain American jobs in his role as an executive in Bain Capital.  In fact, Mr. Romney’s primary responsibility was to grow the financial portfolios of investors in these projects.

This is not to say that having money that enables you to invest in a business is bad.  Nor has anyone stated that investment for the purpose of increasing a financial return for the investor is necessarily bad.  Mr. Obama, and many thoughtful and logical folks are simply acknowledging that the role of a President of the United States is significantly different from the role of a Chief Executive at a venture capital firm.  The Chief Executive of the United States has a responsibility to ensure that those without the secure financial advantages of capital investors, remain protected from the whims of the wealthiest.

Of course, right-wing commentators have blasted the President suggesting that he is anti-capitalism, anti-success, and would prefer to see businesses fail instead of becoming successful as a result of the influx of investment money from companies like Bain Capital.  What?  Do these folks even listen to the same words that the rest of America hears?  What an easy job these folks have.  Simply state whatever you want to your audience regardless of its remotest relationship to the truth.  The only truth I hear from folks like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh is, “President Obama said” with everything else being a complete fabrication or, at the very least, a gross mischaracterization of what the President actually did say.

I would like to say that I am confident that the American people are too intelligent to fall for these tactics.  Unfortunately, as I listen to folks who call in to Rush Limbaugh each afternoon, I am not certain this is even close to being true.  For the record, President Obama, nor most progressives, are opposed to successful venture capitalists.  Do not claim, however, that your primary focus is on the creation of jobs.  It is not.  It never has been and it never will be.  With wise investments, it is fully expected that some jobs will be saved or created, however, the Americans I know are very well aware that this is not your primary goal.  Keep up the good work, just stop lying about your mission!