"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Monday, December 22, 2014

The NYT is Absolutely Right - Now That It Doesn't Matter

Echoing the reasoning the great journalist Glenn Greenwald offered in his outstanding book, Liberty and Justice for Some, the New York Times editorial staff recently came out with its position that the current administration should investigate and prosecute war criminals.  The American Civil LIberties Union (ACLU) is also writing a letter to Attorney General Holder asking that this be done.  Despite the cozy relationship the NYT had with the previous administration and its war criminals, the paper is nonetheless correct that this needs to happen.  So again, bravo, for your brave journalism pointing out that our rule of law needs to be respected (years later, now that the deeds have already been done, and the torture has been completed and power will be less angry with you for doing your journalistic job).

According to the New York Times:
But any credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.
Yes, there are MANY more names that could and should be considered.  Of course they won't be, and the war crimes will not be investigated, even though they are required to be investigated by law.  Glenn Greenwald's previously mentioned book provides a fascinating look into the measures the current administration has taken to ensure that the issue will never see anything more serious than the corporate media's carefully crafted puppet show, put on for the entertainment of the American masses.

Still, good on the New York Times and the ACLU for pushing for it to happen.

Regardless of what happens, airmen don't forget to do your LOAC training.  We really take that stuff seriously...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

If You Defend Torture, Then You Defend Torturing Americans

Never Thought I'd See the Day - North Korea Chides America For Torture

How embarrassing.  North Korea says they were framed for the hack into Sony, and then say:
“We have a way to prove that we have nothing to do with the case without resorting to torture, as the CIA does,” he said.
I'd just like to offer my thanks to all the war criminals who frequent the media these days, beating their chests like morons, in support of violating American federal law and the memories of American warfighters from World War II to Korea to Vietnam.  Sickening un-American mouthpieces like General Hayden and Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, who have more in common with Dennis Rodman's friend with the silly haircut than they do with actual Americans.

Thanks for embarrassing the United States to the point where North Korea, of all countries, has rightfully pointed a finger at our sins.

This is a disgusting day for America.

We Need to Prosecute American War Criminals - Torture is Unacceptable

I offer the video above, because it's important to know that there are great Americans who actually care about the rule of law, who display the courage that those in uniform too often claim without merit, and who lead the charge against the criminals who break our laws and against domestic enemies who threaten our nation.  The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is one organization that is calling for the prosecution of American criminals. 

This is in sharp contrast to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which, according to their executive director, thinks that our president should pardon war criminal torturers.  The ACLU, though it does much good, has a tendency to get it wrong when the going gets tough or when it benefits their organizational worldview or reserve of political capital, to abstain from defending the rights of Americans (see their failure to defend Americans sent to concentration camps in the 1940s, and take a look at their tortured denial of our second amendment).  While the ACLU does good, and is an undisputed positive in America, they could learn a lesson from the CCR on being fearless when doing right is most important.

In the trenches, I have also seen my peers, not unsurprisingly, defending torture.  I won't get into the moral argument, or entertain the fantastic fictional "what if" scenarios, or even get into the ridiculous splitting of hairs over whether water boarding is torture or not, or explain that they are in fact arguing that it was okay for North Koreans to torture Americans in the Korean War.  Instead, I will simply point this out.  United States federal law makes torture illegal.  Period. 18 U.S. Code § 2441 on war crimes defines torture as:
The act of a person who commits, or conspires or attempts to commit, an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion, or any reason based on discrimination of any kind.
Torture is unlawful.  Water boarding, very obviously, is torture.  American military officers who advocate breaking federal law are not only prime examples that online CBTs on LOAC are useless, but they also make clear that we have many in our ranks who are unfit to wear a military uniform.  In my experience, these same numerous wolves in sheepdog clothing have just as much unconcern for violating the rights of American citizens, as they do when it comes to torturing those we capture on the battlefield.

The rule of law is supposed to mean something in America.  America is supposed to be better than Somalia, where thuggish warlords rule the land.  America is supposed to be a lamp on the hill.

War criminals should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Is America a Police State?

Marc Victor, former Marine and current defense lawyer, asks the question.  Do we live in a police state?  He provides a valuable discussion of the protections of the Constitution, which he says do not exist, and provides a glimpse into the all powerful practice of "interpretation" as a means of removing textual restrictions in favor of unchecked government power.  He says the Constitution is merely words on paper, and then discusses how those words have been interpreted to render limits on government power over the lives of citizens essentially null and void.

While his words are depressing, he still finds a reason for optimism.  His discussion of the Constitution is valuable for public servants.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Root of Police Militarization

As an Executive Producer of the Truth in Media series, I am proud to share this work from journalist Ben Swann.  The militarization of police is something that all Americans should be very concerned with, and it's particularly incumbent upon military professionals to be aware of as lines are blurred like never before in our nation's history.  It is harder today to separate domestic law enforcement from the military, and Americans from the enemy.

It's an important issue.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bob Seifert Unleashed!

Maj Bob Seifert (ret) is beating a drum he first started banging ten years ago.  The other day on Tom Ricks' blog, in an article entitled, A pilot speaks: The USAF is harder on internal ideas than it is on evil insurgents, Seifert discusses the white paper and article to Joint Force Quarterly he wrote about his view of how AC-130 aircraft should be allocated and utilized in the war effort.  Beyond that, he discusses how he believes his ideas led to him being ostracized and punished in the Air Force.

I flew with Bob during the time period he discusses in his article, and later in the training command after we had both left our combat squadron.  My wife was the intelligence officer he refers to in his article, and I know the mission commander and the squadron commander he also mentions.  I don't know if the mission commander made the statement Bob attributed to him.  I remember that I had spirited debates with that mission commander on various non-mission related topics during that deployment, and I know that he did an outstanding job going above and beyond to take care of crews.  He was an exceptional pilot and mission commander.  I also had professional differences of opinion with the squadron commander.  I will unpack this last point a bit, not only because I enjoy a trip down memory lane, but also to provide some alternative context and a differing experience of leadership from that time and circumstance.  My intent is not to cast aspersions on Bob's experiences, but simply to provide my own.

As a co-pilot still green behind the ears, with a couple years of flying slicks under my belt, I deployed in the Gunship for upcoming operations in Iraq.  When I showed up, the squadron commander Bob discusses gave me a letter of counseling because I had not completed my flight physical prior to arriving.  While I was waivered, since I had deployed two days prior to it becoming due, he thought I should have gotten it done before deploying.  I told him I would frame his reprimand and add it to my collection.  We both laughed, though for probably vastly different reasons.  Later in that deployment, that same commander called me to his office and informed me that I had been spotted spending nights in the tent of our intel officer (an all female tent, segregated by sex unlike our aircrew tents where our entire thirteen male/female crew bunked together).  He told me not to enter that tent anymore.  Later that same night, as the commander was hanging out in the "foyer" of our crew's tent, that same intel officer got off the bed I had made from scrapwood for my bunk, and walked past him while in her pajamas to use the latrine, and then walked past him again to get back into my bunk.  He didn't say she couldn't spend the night in my tent, and I never heard anything further about it.

During that deployment, the commander took over a sortie for our aircraft commander, and we flew a combat mission.  During the mission he gave me some sharp feedback about my radio utilization that I thought was a bit harsh.  In the debrief I asked if I could speak to him outside, and I gave him my feedback over his feedback, in a direct manner.  At the end of this deployment, while flying out of country back to Florida, this commander jumped on our Gunship to go back to the States.  I remember flying an approach into St Johns, Newfoundland and briefing the crew that I was going to slow to threshold speed and maintain it on approach to landing to perform a spot landing.  The commander and I had a difference of opinion over my approach plan, and the landing that he thought might result.  Without getting into the specifics, the conversation we had, on headset, went something like:

Commander: "Yes you will"
Me: "No I won't."
Commander: "Trust me, yes you will"
Me: "No I won't."
Commander: "Yes you will"
Me: "No I won't."

I was a co-pilot.  I had a reputation for being bullheaded and confrontational and outspoken and challenging leadership.  It was a deserved reputation and one that hasn't lessened through the years.  When it comes to challenging leadership and being opinionated, my bona fides are pretty much undisputed.  Despite these character traits, and despite these experiences above, this same squadron commander upgraded me to aircraft commander.  Not all thought I should upgrade, and instructors such as Seifert weighed in with their views behind closed doors.

In my nearly two decades in the service, I have never seen a community that is more tolerant of dissent and confrontation, or that has more secure and mission focused leadership than the Gunship community.  It is a community that from top to bottom is obsessed with the security of our guys on the ground and mission accomplishment and actively seeks better ways of doing business.  The leadership actively provided top cover to crews who thought outside the box and creatively made the mission happen.  The only dogma in that community was mission success.  Nothing else was sacred.  The community was extremely tough, as was the ops tempo and the mission challenges, and it was not a one size fits all outfit.  After all my experiences, my ups and downs, that community remains the unquestioned gold standard of combat operations and combat leadership.  It wasn't just this one commander, it was the culture, captured at that time in that place.  A tough culture, a thick skinned culture, and one that delivered excellence on the battlefield.

So back to Bob's article.  One point that is clear from his article, and one that Seifert perhaps fails to recognize, is that his story is one of how the service got it right.  Seifert had ideas.  He wanted those ideas to be heard and discussed by leadership.  They were then heard and considered.  Leadership then made its decision and Seifert's inputs were part of that process.

It is important to remember that a decision maker who makes a decision we disagree with, is not guilty of not listening to our inputs.  Some have a hard time understanding that point.  Listening does not equate to agreeing.  That is as true for a Gunship pilot and crew as it is for a war fighting organization.  Crew resource management teaches us that we must not allow ourselves to be timid or to silence our inputs when we believe we see something wrong that may affect crew safety or mission accomplishment.  So, good on Seifert for offering up his inputs to the organization.  That takes a measure of courage when those inputs might not be well received.  But once a decision maker, the A-code on a crew or a commander of an organization, takes those inputs and makes a decision then we should back it so long as the decision is legal.

I think Bob's ideas are worth consideration and I'm glad he offered them.  I don't personally agree with his view on resource allocation of limited assets, and I think he misses the mark on centers of gravity, and perhaps has fallen into the old trap of equating strategic success with a body count.  But he does make a good point that it would be better if we could provide more of these surgical close air support effects to conventional friendlies on the ground.  Replicating effects, increasing airpower, is something I can agree with.  More airpower is the answer, not spreading thin a platform that is already spread thin at risk to strategic priorities.  At any rate, while I don't find Bob's viewpoint particularly novel or noteworthy, I am glad he offered up his ideas all the same and I think there is some limited value to them.

And I also think leadership got it right by listening to his inputs.  The community did not need to agree with Bob in order to listen to him.  Likewise, as I am familiar with, leadership is not guilty of punishing a person simply because they do not find them fit to be groomed for command or promotion or given a certain position or responsibility.  We have to be careful not to fall into simple thinking which tempts us to think a requirement of good leadership is that they like us.  It is not true that good leaders must like us.  It is true, however, that good leaders will listen to us.  Just as they listened to Bob's views on asset allocation.

I have never served in an organization anywhere close to as professional as the combat squadron of Seifert's article.  It wasn't a perfect organization.  It certainly wasn't an easy job.  But it was a truly exceptional squadron.  Dissent, debate, storming-norming-performing, and even the occasional fist-fight were hallmarks of that culture.  And our guys on the ground benefited from it greatly.

I have not seen such excellence replicated anywhere else in our Air Force, and I have never been more proud to be part of a squadron.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Terry Bressi on Qualified Immunity

Our nation's point man in the fight against unlawful Border Patrol activity in the nation's interior, Terry Bressi of CheckPointUSA.org, recently blogged about my civil suit against two Border Patrol agents.  He takes on the government's claim that the requirement for brevity, absent consent or probable cause, is not clearly established.  The government's argument hinges on the fact that our nation's courts chose to merely use the word "brief" to limit these interior checkpoint encounters, and declined to numerically spell out the term so that it might be measured with a stopwatch.  The courts have, in fact, explicitly refused to provide a time standard, which makes sense in a situation where facts and circumstances are as different as the individuals driving through the checkpoints.  It would be strange, however, if the courts' diction decision were meant to provide immunity to government agents, being that those same courts have also stated that brevity would be the principal protection of Fourth Amendment rights during these exception-to-the-Fourth-Amendment's-individual-suspicion-standard checkpoint intrusions.

Terry Bressi appears to believe, as it would appear our country's courts also have, that public servants can, and should be expected to understand what a requirement for brevity means without having it spelled out on a time piece.  The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals now has an important decision to make.  If they continue with court precedent to not provide a stopwatch time limit to these checkpoints, then they must expect our public servants to understand terms like "brief" and "reasonably necessary to determine immigration status," and the court must consider multiple court rulings using those terms as equating to fair warning and clearly established law.  If they do not, then the "principal protection" of our rights at these checkpoints amounts to absolutely no protection at all - and these brief, limited, minimally intrusive stops envisioned as a limited exception to our Fourth Amendment rights, will be solidified as being far more intrusive and ironically even less limited than stops based on individualized suspicion of a crime.

It would be an Alice-in-Wonderland development if the court were to rule that 1) brevity is the principal protection of rights, but 2) they will not use a stopwatch to measure brevity, and 3) they can offer no protection of rights because no stopwatch measurement exists.  Such a ruling would make no sense.

Fortunately, I am confident our public servants on the Fifth Circuit bench will get this decision right.  I've reproduced Bressi's recent blog post below:

On March 18, 2010 Major Richard Rynearson, an active duty air force pilot, was illegally detained for over 34 minutes at an internal immigration checkpoint near Uvalde, Texas despite answering all immigration related questions and showing multiple forms of identification to Border Patrol agents. Agents who were far more interested in harassing Mr. Rynearson than verifying his immigration status. Instead of disciplining his subordinates for violating Border Patrol legal guidance, violating the law and violating Mr. Rynearson's rights, Chief Patrol Agent Robert Harris (depicted below) doubled down by writing a letter to Rynearson's command complaining about Rynearson actually exercising some of those rights Harris is responsible for protecting.

Not being one to standby and do nothing while authoritarians like Harris & his band of highwaymen bully the traveling public, Rynearson filed suit in August of 2012 against the Border Patrol agents who violated their oath of office. Not unsurprisingly, the district court dismissed the lawsuit without allowing discovery and under false pretenses that weren't even raised by the Border Patrol defendants in their filings.

Rynearson appealed the lower court's decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on February 28, 2014 and was joined by the Texas Civil Rights Project which filed an Amicus Curai Brief in support of the appeal. In response, the 5th circuit not only agreed to review the case but also allow oral argument. The video appearing above contains the audio from that oral argument which was heard on September 2, 2014. Currently Rynearson awaits the appellate court's decision.

While the above represents a quick overview of the checkpoint incident and its aftermath, I wanted to bring special attention to the position of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the case. DOJ attorney Steven Frank represented the Border Patrol agents during oral argument and as such Mr. Frank's position represents that of the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

Frank argued that no clearly established rights had been violated because a thirty four minute detention absent consent or probable cause at an immigration checkpoint should be considered perfectly reasonable. When pressed on the matter by the three judge panel, Frank essentially claimed that the court should adopt the same standard for internal immigration checkpoints that had been adopted for cases involving the actual border or its functional equivalent. Cases where the courts had upheld detentions ranging between ten and twenty four hours. This despite the fact that the legal standard of review for cases involving the border or its functional equivalent is very different from that of cases involving immigration checkpoints inside the country.

Since the cases Frank cited to hadn't been referenced in any filings to date, the three judge panel ordered Frank to submit a 28J letter to the court within twenty four hours. That letter and Rynearson's response is available online here.

What's disturbing about all this is not only Frank's apparent cavalier disregard for the truth as pointed out by this article:

Federal Appellate Judge Slams Justice Department Over Immigration Checkpoint Detention -The Newspaper
But also Frank's false claim to the court regarding an alleged lack of clearly established law on the permissible length of detentions at internal immigration checkpoints. To the contrary, several cases have spoken loud and clear on the issue:
The justified scope of the stop was immigration-related questions. Therefore, the permissible duration of the stop was the amount of time reasonably necessary for Agent Holt to ask a few questions about immigration status.” - U.S. V Machuca-Barrera
If Machuca-Barrera had not consented to the requested search, Agent Holt would not have been able to extend the stop beyond its permissible duration. The mere fact that a person refuses to consent to search cannot be used as evidence in support of reasonable suspicion. See United States v. Hunnicutt, 135 F.3d 1345, 1350-51 (10th Cir. 1998) (noting that it "would make a mockery of the reasonable suspicion and probable cause requirements . . . if citizens' insistence that searches and seizures be conducted in conformity with constitutional norms could create the suspicion or cause that renders their consent unnecessary"); Karnes v. Skrutski, 62 F.3d 485, 495 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding that refusal to consent to search "cannot support a finding of reasonable suspicion"); see also United States v. Moreno, 233 F.3d 937, 941 (7th Cir. 2000) (collecting related cases). - U.S. V Machuca-Barrera
"The principal protection of Fourth Amendment rights at checkpoints lies in appropriate limitations on the scope of the stop." - U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte
"Our prior cases have limited significantly the reach of this congressional authorization, requiring probable cause for any vehicle search in the interior & reasonable suspicion for inquiry stops by roving patrols. Our holding today, approving routine stops for brief questioning is confined to permanent checkpoints. We understand, of course, that neither longstanding congressional authorization nor widely prevailing practice justifies a constitutional violation" - U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte
"...We have held that checkpoint searches are constitutional only if justified by consent or probable cause to search....& our holding today is limited to the type of stops described in this opinion. -'[A]ny further detention...must be based on consent or probable cause.' " United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, supra, at 882. None of the defendants in these cases argues that the stopping officers exceeded these limitations.” - U.S. v. Martinez-Fuerte
The reasonableness of checkpoint stops, however, turns on factors such as the location & method of operation of the checkpoint, factors that are not susceptible to the distortion of hindsight, & therefore will be open to post-stop review notwithstanding [428 U.S. 543, 566] the absence of a warrant.” - U.S. v Martinez-Fuerte
Because of the important governmental interest in preventing the illegal entry of aliens at the border, the minimal intrusion of a brief stop, & the absence of practical alternatives for policing the border, an officer, whose observations lead him reasonably to suspect that a particular vehicle may contain aliens who are illegally in the country, may stop the car briefly, question the driver & passengers about their citizenship & immigration status, & ask them to explain suspicious circumstances; but any further detention or search must be based on consent or probable cause.” - U.S. v Brignoni-Ponce
The price of that effectiveness, however, is intrusion on individual interests protected by the Fourth Amendment. We have held that the intrusiveness of even these brief stops for purposes of questioning is sufficient to render them "seizures" under the Fourth Amendment. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 16 . For precisely that reason, the scope of seizures of the person on less than probable cause that Terry [461 U.S. 352, 365] permits is strictly circumscribed to limit the degree of intrusion they cause. Terry encounters must be brief; the suspect must not be moved or asked to move more than a short distance; physical searches are permitted only to the extent necessary to protect the police officers involved during the encounter; &, most importantly, the suspect must be free to leave after a short time & to decline to answer the questions put to him." - Kolender v. Lawson
The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that refusal to answer law enforcement questions cannot form the basis of reasonable suspicion. See Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 437, 111 S.Ct. 2382, 115 L.Ed.2d 389 (1991) ("We have consistently held that a refusal to cooperate, without more, does not furnish the minimal level of objective justification needed for a detention or seizure.") (citing INS v. Delgado, 466 U.S. 210, 216-17, 104 S.Ct. 1758, 80 L.Ed.2d 247 (1984); Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 498, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 75 L.Ed.2d 229 (1983) (plurality); Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 52-53, 99 S.Ct. 2637, 61 L.Ed.2d 357 (1979)). Vague answers may sometimes be a polite way to sidestep impertinent questions." - U.S. v. Santos 403 F.3d 1120 (2005)
And these are just a few quotes from cases that directly address the reasonable length of time that individuals can be detained absent consent or probable cause - be they at internal immigration checkpoints or walking down a public street. While there has been no hard and fast times defined by the courts on when a checkpoint detention becomes unreasonable, court case after court case have made it clear that detentions must be BRIEF in the absence of consent or probable cause and that refusal to cooperate or answer questions can't be used as a basis for reasonable suspicion let alone probable cause.

Frank's embarrassing and ethically questionable testimony to the 5th circuit court of appeals should stand as a stark reminder to all of us regarding just how little regard the DOJ and DHS has for the rule of law and individual rights when the law and those rights conflict with federal interests.

A few additional articles related to the appeal can be found at:
For previous Roadblock Revelations articles regarding this case, see:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bridging the Civilian-Military Gap on the Air

Your humble blogger had the opportunity to discuss military accountability on a local radio show last night.  The conversation centered on whether citizens should hold their military accountable as they also attempt to hold their police forces accountable.  A discussion of military adulation and hero worship, the role of the military, constitutional authority for war, the duty to refuse unlawful orders, the concept of "just war," free speech and the military member, and a brief discussion of anarchy ensued.

Those interested can listen to the radio show here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Time to Be a Great American

In the sands of time, we are less than a blink.  Even the history of America is little more.  But in terms of the human experience, America stands as the pinnacle of lessons learned, of liberty earned.  Each one of us will be one foot in the grave soon enough, and we will look back and we will honestly ponder, despite our rationalizations and justifications utilized up until that point, whether or not we used the time we had to do good.

Did we honor the sacrifices of those who came before us?  Did we do right by those who had less, worked harder, and who gave more than ourselves?  Do we honorably stand on the shoulders of greater generations?  Or do we merely pay those greater generations lip service while "playing the game" and using our fortunate positions for our own advancement?  Have we earned our place in America?

We will ponder whether or not we furthered the cause of America and helped make it the lamp on the hill.  Some of us will be unable to escape the reality that, when tested, we failed to do so and instead dimmed that precious light.  Given so much, in debt to those came before us, some will depart knowing they added nothing.  We are all measured.

Words and faint-hearted professions will not make for a comfortable departure.  When the clock strikes midnight, and you are recounting your life, and asking what was it all for - and you will - are you going to be able to say that you did right by your countrymen?  Did you leave the world a better place than it was left to you?

Did you give back according to what you received from the blood and sweat of those who came before?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Knock It Off, Knock it Off, Knock it Off

Please, please, let me visit my blog soon, and see that this embedded video above no longer works. (ETA: outstanding to see this video has now been removed). This is fail on so many levels, and some on significant levels.  Can you imagine what our enemies who have announced they want to attack our service members on our soil would think after viewing this?  Seriously?  It's no roll on the floor and giggle in your military uniform like a fourth grader matter.  Show some damn pride.

Knock it off, knock if off, knock it off.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Veterans Day - Make Sure You Earn It

Tomorrow those of us in uniform will get thanks from strangers who assume we are protecting them and their rights.  Make sure you deserve the gratitude.  Remember that your oath and your duty applies domestically, just as much as it applies overseas.  The nation needs you to make good on your oath now more then ever.

As David Masciotra wrote recently:
It is undeniable that there are police officers who heroically uphold their motto and mission to “serve and protect,” just as it is indisputable that there are members of the military who valiantly sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. Reviewing the research proving cruelty and mendacity within law enforcement and the military, and reading the stories of trauma and tragedy caused by officers and soldiers, does not mean that no cop or troop qualifies as a hero, but it certainly means that many of them are not heroes.
It is incumbent upon us to ensure we deserve their thanks.  We need to ground ourselves in public service, study our thin Constitution, and ensure when we are tested with the choice between serving our countrymen or enhancing our own career or convenience that we make the choice of a faithful public servant.

Gratitude is not warranted simply by donning a uniform.  Make sure you deserve their thanks.

Friday, November 7, 2014

RIP Fumiko Hayashida

Once upon a time, in a land not far away, a bad king instructed his soldiers to forcibly arrest seventy-thousand innocent, men, women, children, and babies and put them in prison camps despite them having done nothing wrong.  Why?  Because the king said so, that's why.  The king's name was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the victims were ordinary hard working innocent American citizens, and the king's armed soldiers were our men of the United States Army.

Ms. Hayashida was one of those women forcibly removed from her home at the point of a soldier's bayonet, and forced onto a train taking her to an American concentration camp.  She was an American citizen who had a Fifth Amendment right to not have government take her life or liberty or property without the due process of law, but the government was of course unconcerned.  She saw no jury and there was no charge or conviction for any crime, not a shred of her right to due process, and the soldiers who stole her life and liberty were as worthless as their fascist president.  Congress didn't even pass a law mandating this unconstitutional violation of rights, it was simply done via Executive Order number 9066.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tucked tail and declined to represent these Americans in the courts, to attempt to restore the tattered Constitution.  The Supreme Court of the United States got it wrong at any rate, repeatedly, as when tyranny reigns over a nation suddenly clear law and rights become complicated and grey, and not so easily understood without being read into the higher mysteries of a legal priesthood.

It would be wonderful to say that we Americans, and especially those of us who swore an oath to the Constitution, have learned from our history and are resolute to not let such tyrannical acts happen again in the land of the so-called free, and the home of the so-called brave.  But that isn't the case.  It has gotten much worse since the 1940s and Ms. Hayashida is fortunate that she was not murdered by a drone.  Our military officers today lack the concern, character, and courage required to make good on their oaths.  Simply put, they don't care about the rights of Ms. Hayashida or the American baby in her arms.  We have become a police state where our king's men will arrest a ninety-year old World War II veteran for feeding the homeless, just as quickly as they will push a button and remotely kill an American simply because they were told to do so.

Yet Ms. Hayashida's beautiful memorial will help the lesson not be lost on those very few Americans who still inhabit our nation.

Her internment was sad, her death is sad, but what is by far the most sad is that our nation has gone backward since even that dark period.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Not That There is Anything Wrong with Cannon AFB, But...

I told an airman in the squadron just yesterday, after he started talking to me about a fancy car, that he should invest his money and live as cheap as possible, and once his net worth grew to where he could afford that car, buy a model of it.  Paint it, make it sweet, put it on the mantle piece as a symbol of what you could purchase with cash.  As the net worth grows, the collection and quality of model cars also grows.  Then years later you'd have wealth, and you could still buy such a car if you wanted, with cash, but your frugality would give you far more valuable options than simply sporting some vehicle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Living The Dream

For work today, I flew a two-ship formation out and back.  Departed NAS Pensacola out to the MOA and did a full bag of formation work over the beautiful beaches.  After a great time doing formation aerobatics over the blue waters, we dropped into BFM for an overhead, rejoined, flew the battleship tour over the Navy's big guns in the bay, and then did a wing landing at MOB.  Then we grabbed some Chipotle burrito gut bombs for lunch and hung out at the FBO while watching Uncle Spooky beat up the pattern.  Then we did another wing takeoff and flew back into the MOA for more glorious fun, before penetrating weather that had rolled over Pensacola.  Flew an instrument approach to another wing landing back into the NAS.  One debrief later, and I'm back home on my balcony on the beach listening to the fish jump, and watching dolphins cruise by our dock.

This truly is... living the dream.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Communication Style & The Military Officer

"The charge of vanity is the last refuge of little wits and of mercenary quacks! I have long learned, that a man may give offense, and he may still succeed!"

- President John Adams' character in "John Adams"

A commenter on this blog brought up a valuable discussion and various criticisms of your not-so humble blogger, on my recent post discussing how the message of public service brings about disdain and insult from military officers.  The essence of his criticism is that yours truly is not an effective communicator.  He may very well be right.  It's a criticism I have heard repeatedly over the years, and I have thought if there is one area where I could use some growth, it is in the art of persuasion and communication.

More specifically, my critic claims, "You lose your audience not with your argument but with your presentation" and "[i]rregardless, while I think you often have valid, sometimes even excellent points, you marginalize yourself with your methods of communication."  He further states, "I encourage you to acknowledge that simply because you feel yourself to be right does not necessarily make others immoral or wrong.”  He continues, "You owe it to your own stances to be more forgiving, more accepting, and more accommodating in your rebuttals.   Acknowledging opposing viewpoints is strength not weakness. Argue, do not belittle. Accept, do not marginalize."  He offers up, “Josh Billings, a famous 19th Century American writer, wrote that 'Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute.'”  He goes on to explain that, "Edward Gibbon (the author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire), wrote that he 'never make[s] the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinion I have no respect.' Unless you wish to further marginalize yourself, either respectfully acknowledge or simply ignore the opinions of those people and those forums for whom you have little to no respect."

To sum up my critic's argument, he suggests that 1) an argument can be won or lost not on argument, but on presentation and 2) methods of communication can marginalize a person and therefore make their message ineffective, and 3) feeling you are right does not make others wrong, 4) a communicator should be forgiving, accepting, and accommodating in rebuttals, and 5) sometimes silence is the best response to opinions offered in public discourse.

The context of these criticisms comes from this blogger's assertion that military officers must faithfully and sincerely honor their oaths to support and defend the Constitution and bear true faith and allegiance to it, refuse unlawful orders should one be encountered, and put their nation's defense and the rights of their countrymen above their own career ambitions and personal comfort.  Service before self.  And the context stems from this blogger's judgments that those who treat their oath to the Constitution with disdain are not fit for military service, and those who think it appropriate to use machines of war against American citizens are treasonous in their thought, if not their action.  With this context in mind, I'll respond to the various criticisms while acknowledging the truth that my communication could be better.

Argument can be won or lost on presentation.  To tackle this point, we would need an answer to the question, what is winning and losing?  I won't presume to define this for my critic, but I will share that I don't think of argument as a matter of winning or losing.  I wouldn't know how to gauge a victory or defeat in any case.  I have seen many officers who say the right things, who in a discussion of officership would "agree" with me, and I have seen them betray those values when tested in the most grave manner.  Words mean nothing.  Action means everything.  And until a person is tested, there is no measuring a win or loss.  Character is the center of gravity.  Words are often the armament of politicians and scoundrels, they cannot be trusted.

I don't attempt to mentor my peers in order to win or lose.  Rather, I seek to be a cause in a complex and unknowable calculus of causes and effects, in hopes that a person who was raised with some semblance of character, will develop the courage to do right by their nation should they be tested.  Based on my experience of the character of those in uniform, it seems a fool's errand, but the stakes are too high not to try.  Beyond that, the service has requested that I add my voice to the blogosphere, and so I do what I can, limited as my abilities may be.

I also realize that discussion is a team sport.  It's not unlike my college days as an opener.  Guys who were less confident than myself would go out with me, because I would brashly introduce myself to women in a cocky manner.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.  When my communication style didn't work, another guy could quickly move in and apologize for his buddy.  An opening was created.  While that approach was not nearly as successful as mine, sometimes it worked.  It was a team sport between guys who shared the same goal.  It's the same in discourse as it was with that other kind of "course" - although "winning" is much less measurable.

Despite my limited communication abilities, I have seen them work.  I have seen them have an effect on individuals and even groups.  I have seen my inputs shape a message.  I have seen positive effects from the causes I have offered the causal chain.  Admittedly, not often.

But I'm no magician or great persuader, and my viewpoint and my communication style is simply one offered among others.  Nothing prevents other officers from offering their more "effective" communication style, assuming they have the same goal to mentor frat boys in uniform to put away the beer bongs and turn off the football halftime show and develop into public servants.  And two causal factors with the same goal are surely better than one.  Especially on our very herd mentality peers.  They may not have the character required, and one person promoting public service may be marginalized.  But two voices?  Half a squadron?  A majority?  Getting the herd to refrain from unlawful acts, even if merely out of social pressure, is still a success.  So I invite those who are more effective in their communications to join the discussion.  Sadly, I certainly don't see such voices at present.  Perhaps there are some in lofty journals, but down here in the digital trenches, to say nothing of the hallways at work, the message of courageous public service seems to be extremely underrepresented.  Fascist viewpoints, once reserved for the enemies we fought in battle, have instead become the fashion.

Methods of communication can marginalize a person and therefore make their message ineffective.  This brings up, again, the fact that the herd mentality officers of Jonathan Dowty's characterization in his book on fighter pilot culture, and of my own experience of our service culture more broadly, do in fact act as a herd.  A person is marginalized because his message is unpopular or challenges the status quo.  It is the inevitable result of speaking truth to power, and while it may take a toll on the person, it doesn't damage his message.  The message that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights is in no way sullied by the fact that Jefferson owned slaves.  Adams' many professions on liberty are no less true, because he signed the Alien & Sedition Act and violated the Constitution as Jefferson pointed out to him.  Both may have been hypocrites, but that doesn't change the truth, or falsity, of their particular messages.  Those who are concerned with truth are able to distinguish between the message and the man uttering it.  Those who are not able to distinguish, are not interested in truth and are therefore unreachable by any message of truth, though they can be pressured to act with social pressure as the herd animals they are.

Regardless of Jefferson and Adams, I have walked the walk, and not just talked the talk.  I am a faithful public servant, and even those who do not like me and who not agree with me, will pronounce that to be the case.  Weeks ago one airman criticized my communication style.  But his criticism began by mentioning having the "utmost respect" for me, and stating that "I have spoken openly about my support for what you did...and I have stated up and down the chain that it is the single most courageous action of any officer that I have ever worked with."  He then proceeded to criticize my communication style.  Another airman graduated top of his PME course, and gave a presentation about me as an example of moral courage while he was there.  He described me as "the only Airman [he] know[s] who has demonstrated the moral courage and conviction to follow what [he] believe[s], even if it may come at [his] own detriment."  Yet we are not friends, and he criticizes my communication style.  The reason is because I have standards for those who wear the uniform, and I'm not looking for popularity, and I don't play favorites in my criticisms.  And I believe those in the profession of arms should be able to handle, and should expect, direct communication--not the soft sensitive new age communication offered on a pillow that so many in our ranks seem to think is appropriate these days.  We are the most lethal force in human history, and we must set and enforce a high standard to include being able to handle direct feedback (gasp!).  Agree or disagree with my communication style, but there is no doubt I have an impact and regardless of my words, my example and my fidelity as a public servant is unquestioned.  Those who do not like me will say the same.

But those who would marginalize are not interested in the truth of words, or the righteousness of action.  Franklin Spinney, friend of John Boyd, explained in his book, "The Plans Reality Mismatch" that in the DoD budget office, those who pointed out the faults of the weapons procurement process were "dismissed as a pessimist, critic, or obstructionist."  Marginalization is not concerned with truth, it's concerned with power and status quo.

For my part, I'm unconcerned with being marginalized while attempting to mentor my peers to be prepared for the challenges of public service we are seeing today, and will most certainly face tomorrow.  I'm not a politician who requires a nod from above, or support from the masses.  I'm not attempting to build a following for financial or other gain.  Being exceptional and having high standards prevents that as a possibility at any rate.  I'm simply a public servant and I understand that public service means sacrifice.  I adjust my communication style to my audience.  I use this blog to comment in a civil fashion for civil discussions, and I use my M&M page when the discourse is less civil.  My audience is known for lofty more academic discussions at times, and crude swagger-filled, machismo infested back and forth in other instances.  I speak both languages, and I endeavor to be a part of the discussion on either level.  While some may insinuate otherwise, there is no doubt that my voice is heard.

But as previously mentioned, I eagerly await the voices of my peers who are not marginalized, who are "effective" communicators, to publicly discuss the need of officers to be willing to lose their careers and convenience to support and defend the Constitution, and to refuse unlawful orders.  Nothing would prove my critic's point like seeing that.  But I don't see it as of present.

Feeling you are right does not make others wrong.  This is a true statement.  Likewise, feeling you are right does not mean others are not wrong.

A communicator should be forgiving, accepting, and accommodating in rebuttals.  This is where I part ways completely with my critic.  I do not believe certain viewpoints deserve forgiveness, acceptance, or accommodation.

The Saudi who believes he may beat his wife, the slave master who believes other human beings are his property, the Klansman who believes black Americans are not human and should be killed like dogs, the child molester who believes it is an act of love to violate defenseless children, and the military officer who believes it is okay to use the most powerful technology in human history against his countrymen in violation of their constitutional rights are all persons who do not deserve my forgiveness, acceptance, or accommodation.  All those individuals, to include the military officer, are people who prey on the vulnerable and violate their rights.

The military officer does so after swearing an oath before God not to do so, and while being paid a tidy sum to make good on that oath.

No, I reject my critic's claim here utterly and completely.

Sometimes silence is the best response to opinions offered in public discourse.  I am sure that is the view from those who disagree with a message, that silence is better.  They don't wish to be challenged or exposed.  They don't want to feel convicted for their failures and their treasonous characters.  My critics can rest easy though, knowing that I am not a very effective communicator.

I appreciate the criticisms.  It's a valuable discussion, and I recognize that my communication could be better.  I tend to believe the impotence of my communication is better described by the words of Frederick Douglass, who said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."  I could, however, be wrong and regardless my communication can no doubt be improved.  I therefore thank my critic, and I will endeavor to keep practicing until I get communication right.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


"We make war that we may live in peace."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

PYB Described as a "Constitutional Jesus"

It was meant as an insult, but it was taken as a compliment.

In the past several days, out in the military social media sphere, an online forum has taken on the question of its relevancy and decline.  Tony Carr provided some input, and that was translated into a thread on the forum by one of its participants.  It did not take long for your humble blogger to be accused of bringing up the issue on that forum, despite my not participating in that forum.  If a minority viewpoint pops up talking about fidelity to our oath, the person is assumed to be me under a new account, and they become a target.  As do I by non-existent association.

So the discussion turned to PYB with the usual vitriol against me for having a differing opinion and challenging other officers to take public service seriously.  The vitriol is standard for an officer who crosses the thick blue line.

Yesterday, one of the board's participants called me a "Constitutional Jesus" and another member, an officer I have flown numerous combat missions with, highlighted this phrase as being a particularly "awesome" description of me.  I do appreciate the compliment, though I don't think my level of sacrifice merits it by a country mile.  Jesus was nothing, if not a symbol of sacrifice for others.  Faithful public servants are nothing, if not willing to risk and sacrifice for their nation's defense.

Why, however, was that compliment meant as an insult?  Why is the spirit of public service, of risking to protect the rights of your countrymen after swearing before God to do so, and getting paid to do so, such a laughable matter worthy of insult?  Why is putting yourself in a position to be spat upon, to be ridiculed, in order to hopefully mentor and reach just one of the olive drab masses, something humorous?

Spoo and I had a long discussion the other night about this idea of public service.  I mentioned how after our combat adventures together, I had volunteered for the worst assignment imaginable to spend my last five years in a less than stellar location, performing a less than stellar mission, because it was important to the nation and because my volunteering might save a newly minted pilot from getting tagged with the assignment while carrying a ten year commitment ball and chain.  We discussed the unlawful order I refused, which he was aware of, and how I tendered the resignation of my commission (which fortunately was not accepted) and how I was willing to lose every financial benefit I had worked for over more than fifteen years.  And perhaps take with me a felony for life, for refusing to violate the law.  We talked about the need to be willing to risk your life, your career, and your convenience to defend this nation and make good on our oaths.

We flew missions together in combat.  We got shot at together in the box.  He has put it on the line overseas.  But I am puzzled by his disdain for risk, courage, and sacrifice here at home and I'm sad that in my experience he is representative of our service's officer corps in the matter.  It's a dichotomy that has been written about in military journals, and it is one that I believe is frighteningly relevant to our national security.

Why is the spirit of public service, service before self, sacrifice for the nation, now a laughing matter that invites insult?

I think Spoo has touched on the key point in this disagreement in the blogosphere.  Perhaps we can learn what it means to be professional fighting men and women from a few of our Army brethren.  It's important that we figure it out.  Preferably before the twenty year mark, if at all possible.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mentoring is Hard Work - Thankless, but Important

I'm sure Colonel John Boyd knew that.  Lateral mentoring and upward mentoring can be tough.  These days, it seems mentoring is something that is done with the focus being almost entirely on getting promoted, checking boxes, getting school slots and all things careerist.  That's not real mentoring.

Not by a BVR long shot.  Real mentoring is centered on helping others be better at their jobs, not helping them understand the nooks and crannies of the promotion system.  Sadly, many today think their job is to get promoted.  They may rationalize their self over service with some silly notion that they can do more good once they get to some undefined position, but that is just a campaign speech statement.  They know they are only in it for themselves.  And when such recipients of public service feedback are of low character, and steeped in prioritizing their career and advancement over being good at their jobs, then it becomes a bit of a challenge.  Such mentorship is not valued by yes-men who do not actually care about serving their nation and strengthening the defense of America.  That kind of mentoring can cause some friction, a war of words, and political and social rivalry.

Colonel Boyd would know what I'm talking about.  Such rivalry from inferiors, I have no doubt, is a large part of the reason Boyd's peers called him the "Mad Major" and described him as being crazy, nuts, and insane.  A quick Google search turns up all kinds of such descriptors.  The Big Blue institution didn't like him, and his peers most certainly did not, either.  But he made the Air Force better and he strengthened America way beyond anything done by his peers who were talking about OPRs and PRFs.  And the Marine Corps loved him, God bless em', and honored him with a statue in their museum at Quantico.

He was superior, and his OODA loop was faster.  How frustrating that must be for the enemy.

I remember having this discussion at length with the late Ed Rasimus, legendary fighter pilot.  Ed couldn't stand John Boyd, and his disdain for him was puzzling to me.  I later understood the reason for the disdain.

I personally admire John Boyd, as do many others who can publicly do so now that it does not cost them a social or professional price.  Boyd was not only intelligent, but he was honest and he was fearless.  He would mentor laterally and up the chain.  He was right, he was better, and what he was saying was important.  "Peers" and "superiors" do not like to face that kind of challenge to their thin skins, however, and they do not like having a mirror showing them their own poor reflections.  John Boyd was a mirror.

Rather, they want to focus on the trivial things like a dumb sorority girl might.  How was his bar game?  Do we like him?  Is he a bro?  "No, he isn't enough like us, oh my god, he's like, like so different."

He wasn't a bro.  He was a military officer who took seriously the defense of those who paid him to defend them.  And that's just not cool with the "bros" who, despite being inferior officers, somehow instantaneously pick up a medical/psychology degree and miraculously become qualified to call their betters (like John Boyd) crazy, or insane, or mad.

America needs more like The Mad Major.  And the Air Force could use a great deal fewer officers who act like sorority girls, after being rejected by them in college.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Disgracing Rich's Hard Work - Discussion in Decline

I'm not going to sully this blog by posting a response to GearPig, here.

With one exception.  I will say thanks for the link to my thesis, The Smartest Guys in the Room and the Best of the Best.  How incredibly relevant that thesis is to this very discussion, and how ironic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Home - After a Life on Layaway

I am nearing retirement after two decades of weary public service.  For the first ten years I lived very frugally.  For the second ten years, my wife and I lived relatively frugally.  I say relatively frugally, because despite my living arrangements being cheap, my wife has had to maintain a separate place due to her job.  Ten years of long distance marriage present some challenges.  First world problems certainly.

But my life has been a life on layaway.  I grew up living almost entirely in mobile homes and, even during my military career, much of my time was spent living in a trailer.  When my wife and I met (she was my squadron's intelligence officer) and after I convinced her to move in with me, she joined me in a mobile home in Florida.  Purchased for a mere seven thousand dollars, and later sold for the same amount.  At a later duty station, she would spend part of her time with me in a different mobile home.  We still own that trailer.

A life on layaway.

It's almost time to realize our investment, after many years of paying our monthly allotment to the person behind the counter at the back of the proverbial K-Mart.  As a military dependent myself, finally nearing retirement from the military, and after more than ten years of long distance marriage....I cannot wait to lay down roots, and for once, finally, get to really know this idea of "home."

Even before we bought this condo we intend to retire to, we knew the importance of defending home.  And we did.

Soon we hope to enjoy it.  After many years of a life on layaway.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Stress of Foreign vs Domestic Battle

My career can be neatly divided into two parts.  The first ten years were spent in combat operations, while the second ten are better characterized by battling for the integrity of good government.  Oddly enough, the last ten years have been the most difficult and stressful of my career.

This may partly be due to air power and the relative safety of altitude.  My time in combat was spent trying to protect the guys on the ground who were truly in combat, and therefore my experience of war is limited.  In my first ten years I had one deployment flying missions into Bosnia, and eight deployments flying missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I flew a dangerous mission on the first night of OIF, and got to experience being shot at by SCUD missiles while making my way to the aircraft in chemical ensemble, only to hours later be shot at while in the air.  We were all familiar with the fate of Spirit 03, and we all knew that our community had lost more people than any other during the first war in Iraq.  We were all familiar with that piece of history.  Later in the war, I got to experience the blast wave of a mortar that exploded on the open airfield yards away from me and my crew, much closer than the typical nightly mortar barrage.  The toughest part of war was witnessing great Americans wounded and killed in combat, and being unable to stop it.  Fortunately that was exceedingly rare when we were overhead.  And thankfully, I was able to play a role in saving American lives and removing our enemy from the battlefield in a very direct manner.

In total, I spent more than two years in combat operations overseas.  But my domestic battles best characterize my service to this nation.

The last ten years, outside of remote combat operations, have not involved combat and have instead been spent defending the Constitution and myself from bad government.  Sometimes people will hear me rant about our rights and the importance of defending them, and will ask me how I can be a part of government when I hate government so much.  I explain to them that I do not hate government.  Rather, I hate bad government, and I am a part of good government.  In the past ten years I have spent a great deal of my time and my personal wealth, supporting and defending the Constitution against domestic enemies.  This has included a lawsuit against a police officer who unlawfully pulled me over and arrested me, and who lied in his attempt to justify his unlawful actions.  It has also included my refusal of a deadly serious unconstitutional order, and having to face removal from the service with more than fifteen years in uniform, even after tendering the resignation of my commission.  And it has included a lawsuit against Border Patrol agents who violated the fourth amendment, and who contacted the military to cause damage to my career through their false claims.  The uncertainty of keeping my job after refusing to commit treason, having my loyalty challenged by those without a single shred of loyalty to the American people, and having to change retirement plans in order to pay legal bills, has taken a toll.  Much more than being shot at.  But such is the life of a faithful public servant who took an oath to support and defend the Constitution and bear true faith and allegiance to it.  Nobody said it would be easy, and as I have learned, faithful public service ain't no chump game.

The several videos in the playlist above detail my latest act of service, a battle fought within our third branch of government, via Rynearson v. United States of America, et al.  I still find it odd to read the title of the lawsuit.  As far as I'm concerned, I am acting on behalf of the United States of America, not against it.

I am good government trying to correct bad government.

That is a difficult task.  Fortunately, I learned from previous experiences and began recording my interactions with law enforcement and even those in my line of work when they gave me reason to doubt their integrity.  I can prove the truth of events in this latest fight.  Now, I simply need good government to hold bad government accountable, and to uphold our law and give it teeth.  It's stressful waiting on good government to do right by the nation.  Good government and accountability are so rare, and yet faithful public service is incredibly vital to our nation.

Fighting against domestic enemies of our constitution is done with words, money, community and creativity, rather than with the bullets and bombs used against foreign enemies.  But, in my limited experience, these domestic battles can leave far more painful scars.  We expect our foreign enemies to do us damage.  But it really hurts when those among us, those who we pay to protect our rights, do more damage to us and our constitution than a foreign enemy ever could.  That truly hurts.  And it makes the memories of brothers who have fallen on foreign lands, that much more painful as the value of their sacrifice seems less clearly established.

As public servants, we can never allow ourselves to be on the wrong side.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Drones by Shakespeare

It is only comedy that can even broach the most important topic of our day, and of our nation's history.  Only comedy.  Like Shakespeare in his days, it was only actors and jugglers and entertainers who could challenge the monarchy.  Words were the weapon of the day.  They still are.

Words must be destroyed, if law is to be destroyed.  If rights codified into law are to be overcome by tyrannical forces, then words must be vanquished.  We have seen this several times in recent history.

Notice in the video above, the Department of Justice's explanation of what an "imminent threat" means, in order to justify assassinating Americans without due process, in violation of our Constitution's clear words.

Or as Shakesepare said in King Henry the Fourth Part I:
Supposition all our lives shall be stuck full of eyes; For treason is but trusted like the fox, Who, ne'er so tame, so cherished and locked up, Will have a wild trick of his ancestors.
It is so very sad that Shakespeare tells this tale of Americans being murdered by Kings upon their whim alone, without evidence or a jury of peers or any of those old-fashioned rights secured through bloodshed and sacrifice so long ago.  It's a sad tale. 

It is far more sad that his audience couldn't care less.  They have fantasy football picks to make.  Let the show go on.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Anticipation - Rynearson v United States of America, et al

"We have already noted that the permissible duration of the stop is limited to the time reasonably necessary to complete a brief investigation of the matter within the scope of the stop.  The scope of an immigration stop is limited to...determining the citizenship status of persons passing through the checkpoint."

- Machuca-Barerra, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2001

"In United States v. Machuca-Barerra, we addressed those limitations in detail and noted that 'The scope of an immigration stop is limited to...determining the citizenship status of persons passing through the checkpoint...'  It bears repeating that the permissible duration of an immigration stop is the time reasonably necessary to determine the citizenship status of the persons stopped."

- Portillo-Aquirre, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2002

To be determined...

- Richard Rynearson, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2014

"4.3(C) - Federal Court Decisions: DHS is often involved in litigation that affects its operations. Although not as common, judicial decisions not directly involving CBP can also affect operations. You need to understand these decisions and the authority of the Federal courts in order to know if they affect your duties."

- Customs & Border Protection, Inspector's Field Manual (2008)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Every American a Border Jumper Now?

It's the nature of government power, insatiable, never ceasing, never sleeping in its quest to dominate people.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are displaying that tendency yet again.

They recently made the argument that Border Patrol agents stopping innocent American-citizen motorists up to a hundred miles from any border without any border crossing whatsoever, may detain those motorists for at least twenty-four hours.  You read that right.  Twenty-four hours.  Without any suspicion for any crime whatsoever.  That is ridiculous on its face, of course, but it serves as a great reminder about the nature of government power to overstep, push and prod, budge and force itself further and further away from any limitations set upon it by our Constitution or judiciary.

I'm no Lewis Carroll, but imagine this to perhaps get a better idea of what we're talking about:

Imagine you are driving your family on a well earned vacation across the great United States of America.  You've previously taken your kids to see Washington, DC and the Jefferson Memorial on last year's vacation.  You remember the kids were mesmerized by the thick protective glass around the Constitution that you showed them at the National Archives.

This year, you've decided to drive the family to San Antonio, Texas to show them the Alamo and explain how courageous Americans took a stand and displayed that once-American trait of courage.  As you're driving on the highway and thinking about how your hard earned tax money has contributed to the nice new asphalt, you see a sign telling you to pull over for an immigration inspection.  You think, "I haven't crossed any borders, this is strange."

You pull over and the agent asks you where you work.  You reply.  Then he tells you to pull into the secondary area off to the side and sit tight.  He informs you that you and your family are going to be there for awhile.  For at least twenty-four hours.  You offer him a driver's license and a passport and ask if there is any way you can help speed the process up, but he tells you to just sit tight and he'll get back to you.

Obviously that is insane, but that is what the DOJ argued it has the power to do in my appeal at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  You can read the DOJ's letter to the court, and my response to it, here.

Now while you ponder how ridiculous this assertion by the government is in common sense terms, consider that it is just as ridiculous in legal terms.  And herein lies the lesson.  Our Supreme Court of the United States said that these suspicionless immigration checkpoints not on the border, are ordinarily a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  Because they seize us Americans without any suspicion for any crime, and that is unreasonable.  While admitting this, still, the high court provided a "narrow exception" to allow these checkpoints not-on-the-border, to seize us without suspicion, but said that our rights would be protected because these checkpoint stops would be "brief," limited to inquiring into immigration status, and would therefore present a "minimal intrusion."

What I experienced was not brief, limited, or a minimal intrusion and I am still dealing with the impacts of that encounter.  I'm not the only American who understands these checkpoints are often anything but a minimal intrusion.

But now the government is doubling down, claiming it can keep you for twenty-four hours without any suspicion.  When you give government power an inch, it will take a mile.  The Supreme Court gave that inch, and the government took a mile.  Now it wants to take every single paved mile that exists, and it argues it has the right to do so.  Because, you know, that's limited, and narrow, and brief, and a minimal intrusion.

The government now claims the right to treat us as though we've all jumped the border and have illegally entered our own country.  Never mind that the Border Patrol is horribly ineffective at catching actual illegal aliens, and please disregard their apparent aversion to actually being on the border.

Pro tip:  those two facts above might be related.  We are through the looking glass.

Friday, September 19, 2014

ISIL Threatens Troops in USA - Bases Still Ban Second Amendment

Intelligence reports are now coming out saying that ISIS is asking lone terrorists in the United States to attack American troops in their homes.

God knows if the terrorists were to wait until service members were on their way to work, they'd be less able to defend themselves given the military's insane policy to disarm service members who travel onto base.

I'm never less safe than I am going to or from work, because the military does not respect my right to keep and bear arms, while I train and deploy to keep and bear and employ arms overseas.  So for an hour a day, I'm disarmed in my vehicle driving to a military base and away from a military base.  Like so many others.  Good thing the terrorists won't think to target vehicles going to or from military bases.

If only there were a CBT that discusses things you can do to protect yourself.  Wait a minute...

I don't mean to be cheeky.  This topic is far from funny. As demonstrated at Fort Hood, twice no less, this insane Alice in Wonderland policy puts service members in harms way.  At home.

At home.  That's bullshit.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Constitution Day Quiz

Took this quiz and only got ten of thirteen correct (I missed #6, #10, and #13).  I did get a chuckle at question #7 since it reminded me of our good friend, Tony Carr.

Take the quiz yourself to see how well you do.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

PYB an Executive Producer of Truth in Media

One of the best journalists out there, Ben Swann, has released the first episode of his second season of Truth in Media.  I'm proud to say that I'm listed as an executive producer, because I support the great work that he has done and I appreciate his words on the need for "confrontation" in the realm of ideas, as he discusses near the end of this video.  Ideas need to be challenged if positive change is to be made.  But before ideas can be challenged, people need to be well informed.

That's where Ben Swann comes in, and he's a breath of fresh air to those who wish to have their news reported objectively.

Ben Swann created the single most courageous and valuable piece of journalism I have seen in recent time, when he interviewed President Obama in this clip.  That interview was extremely relevant then, is relevant now, and touched on the most important issues facing America.  I  would argue, the most important issues in all of American history.  I am looking forward to supporting and watching more of Ben Swann's fearless and well researched media pieces.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Veteran Fights for Constitutional Rights

In the video above I share why this case is particularly important to me. Real freedom lies in the thin space that separates an American from an armed agent of their government. Once lost, it's very difficult to get back peacefully.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Cooperation Not Even Enough Anymore?

In the video above I discuss my thirty-four minute suspicionless checkpoint detention with journalist Ben Swann, and liberty champion Terry Bressi.  In this video I talk about the importance of my case, and discuss how out of control the checkpoints have become, to the point now where complying with the scope and purpose of the checkpoints isn't even enough to guarantee that our rights will not be violated.  Good discussion from all involved.

Monday, September 8, 2014

How Long is Reasonably Necessary for a Suspicionless Stop?

Oh, about that long.  Less than twenty seconds.  Add maybe thirty seconds for the agent to ask, "can I see a passport" assuming the driver didn't have it ready (which I did after the thirty-four minute detention from six weeks prior).  Which is why court precedence gives them a couple of minutes, which make sense.

Notice my window was rolled down much less than the stop several weeks prior that formed the basis for my lawsuit.  And there were two people in the vehicle this time.  Somehow this agent was able to do his job despite these "unusual facts."  I mean, how many people do they encounter who pull up with their passport at the ready?  Very unusual.  How did this agent know what to do?

These guys are not making Boeing 747s.  When a non-Border Patrol agent, non-lawyer, motorist driving through knows the law governing these checkpoints from the past several decades, shouldn't they?

They should know their job, and when a couple of them, to include a supervisor with a great deal of time in the business, get it wrong and violate our Constitution, given the clear laws set by the judiciary, they need to be held to account.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Clearly Established - Filming to Establish Truth of Events

"4.3(C) - Federal Court Decisions: DHS is often involved in litigation that affects its operations. Although not as common, judicial decisions not directly involving CBP can also affect operations. You need to understand these decisions and the authority of the Federal courts in order to know if they affect your duties."

- Customs & Border Protection, Inspector's Field Manual (2008)  

The video above is a very good look at the power of recording technology to protect oneself against public servants who are unconcerned with truth.  It also touches on the law concerning suspicionless Border Patrol checkpoints, like the one outside Laughlin AFB, and presents clearly established law which has been distilled into Border Patrol manual procedure, on what is appropriate during these seizures.

It should be noted that the oral argument before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was edited in the making of this video, and therefore it is not a contextually accurate account.  Liberties were taken to highlight a particular viewpoint.  For the actual audio transcript of the oral argument, please see my previous blog post.

If you find yourself thinking this video is too long, consider that it's still shorter than the suspicionless checkpoint encounter I faced.  Imagine if every time you try to drive to work, this could happen to you, and your cooperation wouldn't be enough to make it stop.

"We have already noted that the permissible duration of the stop is limited to the time reasonably necessary to complete a brief investigation of the matter within the scope of the stop.  The scope of an immigration stop is limited to...determining the citizenship status of persons passing through the checkpoint."

- Machuca-Barerra, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2001

"In United States v. Machuca-Barerra, we addressed those limitations in detail and noted that 'The scope of an immigration stop is limited to...determining the citizenship status of persons passing through the checkpoint...'  It bears repeating that the permissible duration of an immigration stop is the time reasonably necessary to determine the citizenship status of the persons stopped."

- Portillo-Aquirre, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2002