Perspectives and contrasts

“We all had that one moment in our lives,”  David C. Dolby said about his fellow Medal of Honor awardees.

Dolby got his medal for actions during one of his five tours of duty in Vietnam. He died in August. An American hero gone away with scarcely any note of his passing. We were getting news instead about Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and an angry flight attendant who is now unemployed. The celebrity perspective–non-stop in the media cycles. It just seems wrong.

Ted Nugent’s perspective on American priorities appeals to me. I’ve never met the man even though we’re both published by the same company. I know he’s a rock-n-roll star, but I can’t name a single tune he does. I’m not one of Uncle Nuge’s following and probably wouldn’t go to Nugent concert, but I think I’d enjoy sitting down to talk with the guy.

That’s no slam on Nugent’s musical talents. I have a tin ear that doesn’t work very well anymore after years of flying loud airplanes. My brother, an accomplished guitarist, is correct when he says I’m musically challenged. I don’t even play the radio very well.

I’d go hunting with Nugent though and shoot Bambi too, since I know the meat wouldn’t go to waste. I like hunting, but don’t particularly desire wild game for my table. It’s a thrill to stalk big game in the wilderness with a skilled hunter. The last few times I hunted, the actual shooting was anti-climatic. The real fun was getting there with good company for the hunt.

Fishing is the same way. My dad, two of my brothers and two old friends revived a traditional Canadian fishing trip we used to do regularly. Our lives got busy and we hadn’t gone fishing for 15 years. I guess we didn’t catch as many fish as on previous “tournaments.” No one caught a monster northern pike this trip, but we sure had a great time. It would probably make us cry to learn the actual cost per pound of the fish we brought back, but from my perspective, it was priceless.

I admire the work Nugent does with wounded and recovering soldiers programs. As a journalist I’ve covered a few of their events and they are inspiring men and women. The experience gives a different perspective about what matters.

It is high time Americans take a hard look at our perspectives and take steps to get them in order. It could be that one moment in our lives.

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Time to fight a smarter war on drugs

This Washington Post story points to one of the major flaws in the United States’ war on drugs—law enforcement agents deeply involved in the smuggling business, and the enforcement agencies’ inability or refusal to crackdown on corrupt agents. 

“La Estrella” was for years a double agent employed by Customs and Border Patrol, but earning significantly more money from a Mexican smuggling cartel for aiding the trans-border shipment of drugs, firearms and people. Martha Garnica earned the kind of money to buy multiple homes, a fleet of high-end vehicles and lavish European vacations impossible to afford on her Border Patrol salary. Despite her nearly decade long lavish lifestyle and the suspicions of her coworkers that she was “dirty,” Garnica was allowed to continue her betrayal of her country and her sworn oath to uphold the law. 

Now serving a 20-year sentence for her crimes, Garnica’s role in aiding and abetting the smugglers has undoubtedly been filled by one or more Americans similarly placed to help the smugglers move their “product” across the border. There can be little doubt that the actions of people like Garnica lead to the deaths of other law enforcement agents, turncoats and innocents. She got off lightly and probably has money from her smuggling days stashed away awaiting her release from prison. 

Ultimately, victory in the war on drugs is an illusion. One promoted by government and law enforcement to keep their budgets flush with big dollars and jail cells packed with casual users and small time dealers. I am not an advocate of legalizing drugs. I can personally attest to the destructive harm caused by a better living through chemistry lifestyle, but a major step in combating the nation’s drug problem is to get law enforcement out of the drug smuggling business. 

In the 1970s and 80s, my primary business revolved around professional skydiving in the American Southwest. I don’t deny being a recreational user then, but I was never involved in the smuggling business. Keeping the smugglers and the anti-drug agencies off my dropzone was a constant struggle. Skydiving utilizes the same types of aircraft that were the mainstay of the smuggling fleet in those days. In fact, some skydiving centers in the southeast and southwest were little more than covers for active smuggling operations. 

In the 70s, jump planes such as Cessnas, Twin Beechs, and DC-3s could be paid for from the proceeds of one flight across the border with a load of marijuana. The profits were huge and the consequences of getting busted relatively minor. At the dropzone I ran for eight years there were more than a dozen attempts to steal our airplanes. After investing in training pilots to fly jumpers, it was common to see them lured away by smugglers offering lucrative pay—and sometimes by law enforcement agents who would entrap naïve pilots and use them to get at the smugglers. 

Up until the late 70s, drug smuggling was a big game for both sides. Nobody got shot and very few smugglers were busted. The anti-drug LEOs knew almost everyone in the business and the smugglers knew most of the narcs chasing them. Bribes were, and remain so, commonly used to ensure shipments made it through without trouble. The Smuggler’s Inn, a Tucson bar that eventually burned down mysteriously after the game turned violent, was a party spot where smugglers and DEA people socialized. It was also a place where meetings to discuss operations, introduce new players and payoffs occurred regularly. 

As a dropzone manager and pilot, I was regularly offered princely sums to supply airplanes, pilots and other equipment, such as parachutes and cargo bags, for the smuggling business. I stayed clear of all of it because I had no desire to go to jail or end up dead. As I said, it was a big game, but it turned into a deadly game as the amounts of money involved went from a few thousands to multi-millions. Ripoffs pulled by smugglers or law enforcement people turned the game deadly. Since the early 80s the violence associated with drug smuggling increased dramatically, along with the profit margins and the competition. What a way to mark Mexico’s 200th bicentennial.

Today, the government of Mexico, already corrupted by cartel influences, is at risk of falling under total control of smuggling cartels. The violence that has killed more than 25,000 Mexicans over the past year is spreading north of the border. Gunfire from the Mexican side directed at Border Patrol agents is a regular occurrence in Texas and Arizona. Cartels, while at war with other smugglers, have already made death threats against a number of police, sheriff and federal agents. It is a matter of time before one of those blood vendettas is carried out. 

Decriminalizing the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana is the first step toward breaking the cartel operations. Remove the value of their cash crop and the marijuana smugglers and dealers are out of business. Forget about legalizing and taxing marijuana as California is attempting to do. Sin taxes never generate the revenues predicted by the governments that impose them. Compare the projected revenues of all the tax increases levied on tobacco and you will find that actual revenues fall far short of predictions and the taxes actually made the tobacco black markets thrive. Canada proved that to be true when that country’s tobacco taxes hit punitive rates. Canada’s solution was to roll back the taxes which greatly reduced the black market demand with no increase in the number of smokers. 

There is ample proof that law enforcement cannot stop the black market marijuana trade. The war on drugs drives the majority of illegally imported marijuana for the same reasons that Prohibition, essentially a war on alcohol, spurred the gangland activity of that era. The war on drugs is a futile strategy that is an immensely expensive failure that continues to waste taxpayers’ money, fills jails and prisons with people better treated by drug rehabilitation programs, and draws a large percentage of law enforcement resources away from the pursuit of other criminals. 

After a period of adjustment settling restrictions similar to liquor laws for driving under the influence or supplying marijuana to minors (which are already in place), the number of marijuana users will moderate, just as they have done in countries that have already decriminalized pot. The bonus is that it ends the profitability of one product of the cartels’ lucrative trade. Harder drugs (cocaine, meth, heroin, etc.) remain proscribed. Harsher penalties for importing, distributing and possessing large quantities of those substances might be considered.

Secondly, mandatory life in jail with no parole sentences for corrupt law enforcement officers convicted of abetting drug smuggling operations should be legislated. The death penalty could be imposed for those officers whose corruption causes the death of addicts, casual users or law enforcement officers. 

The way to win the war on drugs is to fight a smarter war, but we need smarter politicians willing to look at changing policy for that to happen.

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Some thoughts on 9-11

Pastor Terry Jones might just have well stayed in Florida and burned his stack of Qurans. The pastor’s New York trip seeking Imam Rauf’s pledge to move the Park51 Mosque from Ground Zero in Manhattan will be a failure. The media storm will be just as maddening to the Islamics Jones’ doused bonfire offended. And not to worry, because several other fringe “Christian” (and I use the term skeptically) churches plan to burn Qurans anyway. 

Following the official 9-11 memorial service, also celebrated as Burn American Flags Day in some Muslim countries, there will be dueling demonstrations for and against the mosque. New York police plan to keep the groups separated by 12 city blocks. Again we have two major demonstrations in a large metropolitan capitol with all the unity shown when Glenn Beck and Al Sharpton went to Washington. 

Beck went to restore faith; Sharpton (The Reverend) to celebrate the dream of a Baptist minister, but somehow, in the name of God and honor, the two groups never got together for a little joint display of faith and memoriam. At least no violence marred the Beck/Sharpton racial spat, whereas Muslim demonstrators have already died in Pakistan before a single Quran got scorched in America. 

Obama, during Friday’s White House news conference said that Sept. 11 would be “an excellent time” for the country to reflect on the fact that there are millions of Muslim American citizens fighting in U.S. uniforms in Afghanistan. 

Obama disconnected from the underlying truth of the controversy adding “we don’t differentiate between ‘them’ and ‘us.’ It’s just ‘us.'” But some of “us” already want to kill some of “us.” The Quran burnings and Ground Zero mosque are just the latest excuse for more barbarous attacks to kill some of “us.” Just like on September 11, 2001. Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano said another attack could happen at any time. 

Jones’ idiocy could indeed endanger American soldiers, but so does Julian Assange’s revelations on Wikileaks. The presence of American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia do too. The mere existence of a capitalist America makes us an abomination to some Muslims, and there is a world-wide dearth of so-called “moderate” Muslims willing to condemn the “Death to America” radicals. 

The words spoken in 2001by Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer, “Let’s Roll,” are destined to become a part of the American character just like the reply by General Anthony Clement McAuliffe to a German surrender demand at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, “Nuts”! There are hundreds of responses by heroes facing fateful actions enshrined in the American lexicon and memorials across the land. Beamer’s words and the exploit of his fellow doomed passengers is no less inspiring. No less deserving. 

It is not in America’s nature to surrender the American dream to an enemy diametrically opposed to freedom and toleration. When that moral failure occurs, it will mark the end of the American dream. As the President said, “We are not at war with Islam,” but we are at war with Islamics bent on shedding the blood of all “infidels” deemed intolerable because their Holy Quran tells them so.

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Remembering aviation heros

Battle of Britain

This week marks 70 years since the German Luftwaffe came within a day of destroying Britain’s air defenses in the Battle of the Blitz. A tactical error by Nazi Herman Goering and the dogged efforts of outnumbered British Pilots was the inspiration for Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Pappy Boyington Field

It’s been many years since I landed at the airfield in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and just about as long since I chatted with Pappy Boyington. He’s the Marine fighter ace and Medal of Honor winner the field is now named for.

I met Boyington at several airshows where he was a guest speaker and aviation celebrity, including one where a panel of Boyington, German ace and Luftwaffe General Adolph Galland, and Japanese ace Saburo Sakai discussed the war from a fighter pilot’s perspective. I had the pleasure of joining those three and a couple of airshow pilots in the VIP tent for more than an hour-long conversation about flying.

Boyington was no angel in his personal life and would be all but forgotten except for the television series Baa Baa Black Sheep starring Robert Conrad. According to this story, renaming Coeur d’Alene was a contentious issue for the town council. Deserved recognition for a real war hero was long overdue. 

The heroic pilots who flew the fighter planes for their countries in World War II are almost all gone now. It was a different time and a different kind of war than in modern times, but the pilots, sailors, soldiers and marines are not forgotten.

Honor is owed to them, just as honor is owed to all who serve their countries in war and peace.

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Border security does not require unmanned drones and high technology

A story in Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star details a court ruling overturning a conviction for littering against a member of a group placing water jugs in the desert for border crossers. More than 2,000 bodies of illegal immigrants, most, but not all of whom died from dehydration or exposure, have been found in the past eight years.

The court’s ruling exonerating the litterbug also clears the way for the placement of more emergency water stations along regularly used smuggler’s trails. Some trails cross areas protected by environmental and endangered species laws. Access to these areas is restricted or prohibited to American citizens, including the Border Patrol. Illegal immigrants and the smuggling cartels already breaking the law recognize no obligation to follow those restrictions. The acres of strewn trash, clothing and human waste is devastating environmental impact on the desert. If the accumulation stopped today, it would take years to clean up the detritus, including tens of thousands of water jugs despoiling the desert. Perhaps the compassionate groups placing and refilling the water stations could be required to haul out an equal weight of trash for each gallon of water hauled in. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with an alphabet soup of federal and state agencies will be involved in a permitting process for additional water stations. Since apprehending and deporting illegals is a better alternative than the continued trashing of the desert and more deaths, barrels of water should be set out. 

And the area around the water stations should be salted with motion detectors, day and night cameras, and microphones. Other than the water stations, this kind of off-the-shelf technology is what the military used to seal the border area west of Tucson to the California border. Much of that region is bombing and gunnery ranges vital to military training. Note that the military did not need Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano’s high-dollar unmanned drones and the much vaunted and costly high-tech radars to cut the traffic to almost zero in the Yuma sector.

The illegal crossing problem will be passed along just the way it was when the border fences went up in California in the early 1990s. When the western Arizona area became almost impossible to cross undetected, the illegal traffic predictably shifted east. As the difficulty crossing undetected increases in Arizona and Texas, New Mexico’s even more rugged and desolate desert will become the next primary crossing point. New Mexico considers itself a sanctuary for illegals, but when the traffic there increases dramatically the state’s residents will inevitably demand a change to that policy. 

The unintended consequence of limiting border access has been the increase in violence among competing cartels. As yet, the worst of the violence has stayed on the Mexican side, but only fools reject the reality that criminal violence is and will continue to increase on the American side. The border can be much more secure than it is now. That increased security does not have to carry the huge price tag DHS, BP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and elected officials insist is required. Do it smart, and do it now.

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Take care when you decide what to vote for

While walking down the street one day a U.S. senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies. The Senator’s soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
“Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”

“No problem, just let me in,” says the Senator.
St. Peter says, “Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”
“Really, I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the Senator.
“I’m sorry, but we have our rules”, replies St. Peter.

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him. 

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the Devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises… 

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
“Now it’s time to visit heaven,” St. Peter says.
So, 24 hours pass with the Senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and the 24 hours in heaven passes by and St. Peter returns.
“Well, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now which will you choose for your eternity?” St. Peter asks. 

The Senator reflects for a minute, then he answers, “Well, I never would have thought it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be happier and better off in hell.”

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. 

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above. The Devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

“I don’t understand,” stammers the Senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”

The Devil looks at him, smiles and says, “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today … you voted.”

Just something to think about while the campaigns continue until the day in November when important decisions about the future of our towns, counties, states and the federal government will be made.

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A musical interlude courtesy of Ray Stevens

Ray Stevens is known for his quirky ballads and humorous dittys. I’m told be a couple amateur musicians that he’s a darn good guitar player. His latest music video, God Save Arizona, is on a more serious note, but the guitar music is good. Enjoy it on Youtube.

This song cost the composer his job. Perhaps he has a brighter future in the music business than in education because When You’re Holding a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail.

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Guns and shooting training piece up at Guns & Patriots

I wrote a short piece about firearms coach Ed Chavez a couple weeks ago. An expanded version is now up in the Guns&Patriots section at Human Events.

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Liberals crossing Canadian border raising concerns

Found this article (wink wink) in an airplane forum I frequent. It, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, was too good not to pass along:

Allegedly from The Manitoba Herald

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they’ll soon be required to hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it’s not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

“I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn,” said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn’t have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?”

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields. “Not real effective,” he said. “The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn’t give any milk.”

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves.

“A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions,” an Ontario border patrolman said. “I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet, though.”

When liberals are caught, they’re sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half- dozen young vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the ’50s. “If they can’t identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age,” an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies. “I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can’t support them,” an Ottawa resident said. “How many art-history majors does one country need?”

In an effort to ease tensions between the United States and Canada, Vice President Biden met with the Canadian ambassador and pledged that the administration would take steps to reassure liberals. A source close to President Obama said, “We’re going to have some Paul McCartney and Peter, Paul & Mary concerts. And we might even put some endangered species on postage stamps. The President is determined to reach out,” he said.

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NRA, don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining

            The National Rifle Association’s Executive Director Chris W. Cox begins September’s American Rifleman political report quoting Harry Truman who once said that politicians seeking a friend in Washington, D.C. should get a dog.

            I would suggest to Mr. Cox that should the NRA desire that dog be its friend, it would behoove the NRA to not beat the mutt—or the membership of the NRA, myself included, who remain unconvinced the organization’s motivation in backing the DISCLOSE Act with an NRA exemption included was some noble statement of political opposition.

            This unconstitutional legislation, again euphemistically labeled as a campaign finance reform bill is designed to muzzle First Amendment rights, again. It should be vehemently opposed to the bitter end, just as was its precursor, the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act which met its end in the Supreme Court case Citizens United vs. FEC.

            “NRA is a single-issue organization made up of millions of individual members,” writes Cox, who also insists that, “Without NRA, the Second Amendment will be lost …”

            Both statements are the purest of hubris. I have supported the NRA for a number of years because, for the most part, the organization has been effective in battling the anti-gun forces, but the NRA is not alone in this vitally important fight. Until this latest abomination of First Amendment rights infringement, if it passes into law, is tossed out by the courts the NRA will be the sole gun rights group not muzzled by egregious legislation. The NRA tossed its allies in the fight under the bus on the DISCLOSE Act, and it smacks of cheap political trickery.

            Numerous firearms aficionados belong to several gun rights groups that lobby against Second Amendment abridgments. NRA members like me recall the hypocrisy of presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s “I was for it before I was against it” stance on the Iraq war. The NRA’s we were against it until we got an exemption, so now we’re for it echoes that hypocrisy.

            Despite Cox’s eloquent protestations otherwise, the NRA excuse carries overtones of jack-booted thuggery (and we all remember the last time the NRA invoked jack-booted thuggery) trampling the First Amendment disguised behind noble intentions, only this time around the NRA is the jack-booted thug.

            Cox claims “ultimate responsibility for defense of the Second Amendment, but NRA’s actions illustrate that the leadership is out of touch with the membership that finances the battle. It is not only fair to criticize NRA leadership’s hubris, it is necessary when our lobby begins to resemble the misguided government that is stirring American voters to revolution at the polls.

            So NRA, if you want a friend in Washington don’t beat the dog, and if you desire to stay in Washington to fight the battle, don’t beat your membership. We are not that stupid; the NRA is not as omnipotent as its leadership so pompously states. Your membership speaks through its checkbooks and the NRA is not the only game in town.

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