The Military

Mandatory conscription

The United States benefits from conscription because national spirit increases, national unity improves, neighborhoods become safer and society grows healthier. With conscription, troubled teens who normally head to street corners enter the military and receive the training, discipline and experience that propel them to a stable and secure life. They unite with people of all sexes, races and religions to work toward a common good. This allows neighborhoods to become safer and society to become stronger.

The workforce gets better workers, families get better mothers and fathers, and the country gets a more unified citizenship.


Iraq — should we stay or should we go?

The United States is clearly willing, but the Iraqi people and, more problematically, Iraq's Council of Representatives, must take the steps necessary to allow some U.S. forces to remain.

It is definitely in their interest and ours ... A half-century later we maintain thousands of troops in South Korea, and one must question the logic of not maintaining a similiar partnership with Iraq —- especially in the next five years.

With an ever-expanding Iran and a seemingly endless number of nefarious extremist elements operating in the Middle East — if we abruptly close up shop in Iraq, how does this play out?


VA Palo Alto social-media outreach

The folks at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs center are doing a great job, now using Facebook for social media outreach to local vets, to provide more services for returning troops.

Check it out at They’re getting high scores here and here and for that matter, on Yelp. I also just read that Lisa Freeman, who’s director of the Palo Alto VA center, was cited as one of Silicon Valley’s Most Influential Women. I’ve met her and staff and veterans at VA Palo Alto, very impressed. Bay Area folks should know that they have one of the best VAs in the country and that couldn’t happen without outstanding leadership.


John Lehman’s better idea: Drop ROTC; bring the ivy to the heartland

There is a vision fixed in the mind of power that America is a North/South country and the rest over there is just bushes. And of the two, the North is superior, as per the conquest of 1865 and the conditions of surrender at Appomattox. It is a purely colonial vestige that has injured our progress as a nation and injured especially national institutions like the Army, the Foreign Service and the Supreme Court.

We have, since Reagan, since Carter, even since Watergate, when Tennessee’s Sen. Howard Baker and the venerable North Carolinian Sam Irvin rose as folk heroes, culturally and politically awakened west of the New River, yet the Supreme Court today looks like something cobbled together around 1865: all from Harvard and Yale, most from New York or the Northeast. Some few friends of politicians. (Could we see those law board scores again, please?) I guess U. Michigan, U. Texas, Vanderbilt or Washington U. grads are just too rusticated to be Supremes. But youth wants to know: How exactly do you graduate from Yale Law School and flunk the D.C. bar exam? And after that get to be secretary of State? Friend of Bill is what. Helps to join the Supremes as well.


VA improves services through employee innovation

A principle of Open Government is that workers can build solutions to real problems and get the attention of top management.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been doing a lot of this recently, providing better customer service for vets, and providing better return for the taxpayer dollar.

We have a new example of that, where a VA employee, Renford Patch, wrote some software which helps determine if a vet has hearing loss, how much loss, and feeds that into the claims process. It greatly simplifies and accelerates what was a complicated paper process.

This kind of thing is fairly novel in Washington, but we’re seeing it starting to happen a lot there, particularly in those areas that have embraced Open Government. I’ll try to surface more examples of this.

For more information regarding this example, check out a VA employee-developed hearing loss calculator that has 100 percent accuracy.


The Iraq war is over. We won. Fly the Blue Star flag

From the new Jane Fonda workout video to WikiLeaks, there has been for those who lived through the ’60s and ’70s that sensation Yogi called “deja vu all over again.” But there is a fundamental difference between the war in Iraq and Vietnam. This war we won.

Maybe we’re not used to it. But however one feels about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it cannot be denied. Our soldiers will win.

And America feels it, even if MSM trails in the nihilist nostalgia of the ’70s. We have today a different attitude to our soldiers and vets. Everyone in our town is proud of our men and women in uniform. I wasn’t like that in 1968 for those of us who arrived home from Tan Son Nhut to a country, in Henry Kissinger’s words, on the verge of civil war. The ambiguity of the war in Vietnam and the scorn many experienced on return left a scar on a generation of soldiers. But that was almost 50 years ago. Time to move on.


Republican cheap-shots first lady for Christmas!

I noted with little interest the cheap shot here today by Cheri Jacobus of the first lady, Michelle Obama. This is how hyperpartisan Republicans spend the Christmas season! How sad. There they go again.

This does give me a reason to applaud the great work our first lady is doing to help American military families. She has made support for military families a priority, and I applaud her for it.

Michelle Obama is one of countless Americans helping those who serve our country, and they all deserve our praise and support.


More on the Blue Button: Health records download for vets

Hey, something we all need is the ability to have our medical records are around when- and wherever we need them.

For vets, they can do this now via the Blue Button program.

Of the 1.1 million users of My HealtheVet, more than 233,000 veterans have upgraded (identity-verified) access to data from their VA medical record via Blue Button. During the first two months following Blue Button’s launch on Aug. 28, 2010, about 100,000 veterans asked to view their personal health data using Blue Button, and more than 150,000 PHRs were downloaded.


Semper fi — but not for Gen. James Amos

It’s time that President Obama fire Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos for insubordination.

Amos is way out of line in his opposition to repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

After all, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs says it’s time to end the policy. So does the secretary of Defense. And the commander in chief. That’s not just official administration policy, that’s official military policy, which Amos is bound by oath to obey and follow.


Military deserves action on 'Don't ask, don't tell'

There are reasonable views on both sides of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy debate. The Pentagon is advocating repeal of the 17-year-old law since a recent study suggested the effect of repeal would be positive, mixed or have no effect at all. Opponents are concerned not only about opposition to repeal from those serving in combat units, but also question why the study the Pentagon conducted on this issue not only did not ask whether men and women serving in the armed forces support repeal (only whether it would be disruptive) and why its findings are based on a 28 percent response rate.
At this point there may not even be enough time to debate DADT, with the tax cut debate unresolved and the Obama administration's push to prioritize the ratification of the new START treaty before other legislative business. Yet the GOP leadership still got 42 signatures on a letter this week promising to filibuster anything until the tax cut question is resolved. Fine. But when that is over, the U.S. Senate owes the military a vote on DADT. Why? Because the Department of Defense is asking for it.