♪ Does (everybody) really know what time it is? ♪
Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton accused Russia of attempting to influence the election via hacking into unflattering emails. She, John McCain, CNN and virtually everyone on the planet but former presidential candidate Donald Trump cited the conclusions of seventeen intelligence agencies to support the accusations.
Seventeen! They are: Air Force Intelligence Agency, Army Intelligence Agency, Navy Intelligence Agency, Marine Corps Intelligence Agency, Coast Guard Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and my personal favorite, The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. These sixteen all fall under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The Air Force Intelligence Agency alone deploys 50,000 military and civilian intelligence personnel. I was one of those at one time when I served in Air Force Intelligence. You who know me can make your own judgments or trite jokes.
Each of these agencies has subdivisions. For example, the Army Intelligence Agency contains five more “major” military disciplines within its overall functions: Imagery Intelligence; Signal Intelligence; Human Intelligence (yeah, I wondered too); Measurement and Signature Intelligence; and Counterintelligence and Security.
I will leave it up to you, Gentle Reader, to analyze the meaning behind President-Elect Trump’s rejection of the “intelligence” of the groups that gave us “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. As for me, I am transfixed by the notion that America has all these agencies containing hundreds of thousands of people whose job it is to spy on someone. My concern is who? There are only a few folks such as Russia, China and, an assortment of enemies our intelligence agencies created for us by surreptitiously toppling their governments, who might actually need watching.
What about the other 5 billion people on the planet, especially the 330 million Americans? All those thousands of spies have to either spy on somebody or get jobs, judging maybe. I fear our firewall against foreign enemies might turn inward out of boredom or partisanship. But after years of having our country insert itself in places such as Cuba, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc., etc., my real fear is eventually our intelligence manipulators will get us into a hole even the most powerful country in history cannot claw its way out of.
Usually Peg is the only one who reads these articles. However, I feel as if someone will be peering over her shoulder this time. Oh well, it will probably be some of the same disingenuous spooks who have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully (so far) to get us to bomb Iran; so there is probably no need for us to worry.
When I was 16 I worked at a Phillips 66 gas station. I made $1.00 per hour; if I worked 12 hours I made 12 dollars.
The station had one pump for regular (leaded) and one for ethyl. Mr. Cummins and Mr. Miller of Columbus, Indiana had not yet perfected the marketing of the diesel engine. Gasoline prices ranged from 25¢ to 30¢ per gallon.
My boss, the owner, and I were the only workers. We would check and air up the tires, check the oil, put distilled water in the battery, have the customer re-start the vehicle so we could check the transmission fluid, wash the windshield and headlights, whisk broom out the floorboards, fill the gas tank and, if asked, would put the vehicles up on our lone hydraulic lift and apply new grease through the fittings. We did not accept tips but we did talk with every customer.
Whenever an out-of-town car or pickup or tanker came through we would tell them where they could get a bowl of chili or a chicken fried steak. We also gave directions to delivery locations or residences.
Yesterday my car told me my tires were low and that I should take it in for service before I drove another 2,800 miles. The computer did not offer to tell me where I could buy a bowl of chili but, if I had asked it, it would have.
For some reason these memories and events brought E-filing to mind. If you happened to read last week’s column you may recall our local legal system will soon be virtually paperless and, pretty much, human contact-less.
I am not sure of the exact time frame our world began its inexorable march toward exchanging ones and zeros for “Hellos” and “May I help yous?” It was probably either when self-service gas stations or drive through fast food places appeared or maybe when television allowed us to watch ball games alone in our living rooms. Or it might have been when Wikipedia replaced conversation. Of course, Wikipedia is my best friend when I am writing these columns.
As a youngster I sought solitude in long hikes out onto the prairie. Now I am almost completely alone in every group I encounter. If I crave an exchange of human speech I must first send the people next to me a text then try to remain focused until they deign to say something. Other than cashing the checks for Christmas, I am not sure our grandchildren make the connection of us to them. The thank yous come by text. On the other hand, my Grandfather would have thought he had found heaven early if we had had computers then. He thought grandchildren were an unnecessary disturbance, better neither seen nor heard. Some people just wind up in the wrong century.
Be that as it may, we are discussing the irreversible conquest of human interaction by technology. The salient feature of contemporary society appears to be the general desire to isolate itself from itself. I ask you to examine your own world. In mine, I no longer need to leave my chambers to either attend or teach continuing judicial education. Banking is on-line. Taxes are paid electronically. One can get instructions on everything from curing a hangnail to impeaching the president via the Internet without talking to another person. Even toll bridges and highways are self-serve.
We used to look to our colleges as places where people of different backgrounds would mingle and appreciate one another’s views and cultures. However, even the “best” colleges now offer degrees on-line. When our son was in the Army stationed in the Middle East he started and completed his Masters of Business Administration and never saw a professor or a classroom.
Surely, before long, everyone in America will be homeschooled in the sense no child will need to leave her or his house from kindergarten to doctoral programs. And, unless the Russians interfere, soon all voting will be done without the need for polling places.
I guess we still may want to maintain contact to continue procreation. However, we artificially inseminate everything from pandas to pigs. Maybe we will eventually be able to just “mail it in” after we get married via Skype.
Well, I have to go. This column is carried by several digital newspapers and I need to email it in before the deadline or I’ll get a nasty note from some device somewhere.
At a time when monks were reverently transcribing the Bible law clerks were laboriously writing down commandments issued by English monarchs. Often both were in Latin. Almost nobody but priests and lawyers could read Latin. The general public was told how it had sinned and why it was going to prison by these ecclesiastical and secular insiders.
As the ability to read became more common, laws were written in English. However, the general public still found the legal system mysterious. But while many may question the validity of my thesis, I postulate the major thrust of America’s legal system in this modern era has been toward making the law less arcane and more accessible for lay people as legal professionals are gradually relegated to the role of cloistered monks.
Today millions of citizens file and handle their own lawsuits. From divorces to property disputes and even murder trials people can and do represent themselves. Frequently the only role left for the legal profession is to try and repair the damage caused by an inarticulate lay resolution. As for judges, they are often relegated to simply signing their names to documents they had no role in crafting. And starting in 2017 in Posey County, Indiana, Electronic Filing will continue the march toward universal access to court records.
Soon, other than for laypersons, all court filings and record keeping will be done electronically. E-Filing is what it will be called. Documents will be scanned and, except for a few confidential categories, will be available via the Internet. One will no longer have to resort to third party reports of cases. Instead of gleaning our gossip and satiating our curiosity at the coffee shop or the tavern we can go right to the source day or night.
Now, after being embroiled in legal matters for almost half a century I might question the sanity of someone who finds Judge Judy and the like of any interest, but others may differ. If so, they will soon be able to emulate the Russian hackers without even needing to hack. I can envision millions of bleary-eyed voyeurs eschewing sleep to delve into the misfortunes of their fellow travelers electronically and a legal system where contact with an actual human being is as dead as Latin.
A ninety-five year old guy died of cancer in an Ohio hospital a few days ago. Seems like a rather expected thing. So why all the fuss? I guess you almost have to have gone through those farcical exercises of hiding under your school desk to understand.
Did we really believe such actions would save us from atomic bombs? Maybe so, but it is hard to relate now to those Cold War fears and lack of hope.
After we lost a quarter of a million military personnel in World War II and fifty-eight thousand more in Korea America was about warred out. But the Soviet Union and “Red” China still loomed over us.
When Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth in 1957 we did not have a space program that could get off the ground. Then in April of 1961 our C.I.A. stumbled its way into the disastrous Cuban Bay of Pigs Invasion. This was followed by the closest the world has come to blowing ourselves up during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
America was tired, back on our heels and scared. We were in the crosshairs of enemies on several sides and at a crossroads of ennui. What we needed was what the Greeks needed during the Trojan War. We needed an Achilles to inspire us, a hero whose confidence, ability and bravery could take our minds off of our fear and fire us with a will to win. Enter John Glenn.
This Midwestern, small town, normal sized unassuming product of the Great Depression, World War II, Korea and the Cold War climbed aboard an exploding cannon and rode it around the Earth less than one year after Gagarin thrilled the world and sent us under our desks.
To those of us who lived through the Cold War John Glenn represented the ability to fight back. So when Senator Glenn appeared with Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy at the Indiana University Auditorium on April 24, 1968, we students who packed the place to boo Kennedy for running against Gene McCarthy turned into hero worshipers when John Glenn appeared.
That’s what a true hero brings out, gratitude and respect. If John Glenn thought Bobby was okay, then he was okay with us. Some might say we were fickle; I say we were converts.
A national hero is an extremely rare person. Adrian Peterson is a great football player and Madonna is a great entertainer, but to call them heroes is to miscomprehend the term. As commentator Charles Krauthammer said, we may have had only two true national heroes in the last one hundred years, Charles Lindbergh and John Glenn. That’s why the old guy’s passing is such a big deal.
My great friend from our days at Indiana University, Dr. Walter Jordan, has an eclectic bent and a background in science. Over the years he has patiently striven to exposit for me numerous scientific phenomena. Occasionally I get it. However, even though I began college with the goal of defeating the Soviet Union in the space race, reality sat in during my freshman physics class.
It was not my fault that physics and I fell out of love when I was an eighteen-year-old freshman at Oklahoma State University. It was O.S.U.’s fault for seating the students alphabetically which resulted in my sitting right next to Dana Darlene Reno who was not only a fellow student but also Miss Oklahoma 1961. Somehow my mind never quite focused on the exciting mysteries of space and time. As for Miss Reno, I am fairly certain her ability to concentrate was not similarly impacted.
Regardless, it turned out that the formulation of sentences suited my abilities better than the formation of formulas. English and psychology were substantially less confounding to me than cascading atoms. However, my friend Walt has never given up hope that the light of scientific discovery might seep through my dark layers of linguistics. In fact, his most recent effort to lift the veil from my frontal lobe involved human speech and evolution. For Christmas Dr. Jordan sent me a copy of Tom Wolfe’s new book, The Kingdom of Speech, which points out that Charles Darwin’s claim that Natural Selection is the cosmogonism for the human race is disputable.
Darwin dearly wanted his theory to be the “Theory of Everything” (that’s the definition of cosmogonism) when it came to Homo sapiens. However, according to Tom Wolfe’s book, not only does Natural Selection not explain everything in Man’s development, Darwin was not even the first to have the idea. Wolfe posits that Darwin usurped the theory of Evolution from Alfred Russell Wallace and then spent the rest of his life, Darwin’s, trying to justify his chicanery.
The real problem for Darwin and numerous others such as the contemporary guru Noam Chomsby, was and is language. If Natural Selection is the total answer to Man’s rise from amoeba to atomic power, there should be gradations of speech such as from apes to humans; there are not says Wolfe.
Well, Gentle Reader, I know you might prefer, as did I, to daydream about things other than the lack of evidence for the progression of speech from specie to specie to us. If so, blame Walt. He is the one who sent me the book. I only read it because Peg threatened to have me clean the attic if she caught me with any idle time.
Christopher Columbus commanded three ships: the Niña with 20 men, the Pinta with 26 men, and the Santa Maria with 41 men. There were no women. Chris landed in1492 in what we now call the Bahamas. He thought he had reached his goal of the Indies.
That group of Pilgrims who landed in what they hoped was northern Virginia was composed of 102 passengers. While there were women on board only 41 adult males signed the Mayflower Compact in November 1620. The Mayflower Compact set forth their original destination: “[A] voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia”.
Half the passengers of the Mayflower died during the harsh northern winter of 1620-21. The main men in charge were William Bradford, Myles Standish, Edward Winslow, John Carver, William Winslow and John Alden. No women had any say in navigation from England to America.
Had the Mayflower landed in Virginia instead of Massachusetts it is unlikely so many passengers would have expired due to the weather and lack of food. A slight turn to the left while still out to sea could have resulted in a landing in a more temperate and hospitable clime. On the other hand, as the Jamestown settlors of Roanoke, Virginia experienced, the locals in Virginia were less hospitable than those who saved the Puritans of Plymouth, Massachusetts, some twenty years later.
Of course, the Wampanoag Native Americans who saved the lives of the Plymouth Bay colonists may have eventually experienced the realization of the adage, “No good deed goes unpunished”. They were, at least, invited to the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621.
The Mayflower compact set the proper tone of America’s democratic ideals. It was a solemn commitment to, “… combine ourselves together in a civil body politic” and to, “ … adhere to future laws as are just and equal … for the general good of the Colony”.
President George Washington signed a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789 recommending a commemoration on the first Thursday of each November. President Abraham Lincoln, during the midst of the Civil War, 1863, set a national day of Thanksgiving for the fourth Thursday in November and Congress in 1941 established a national day of Thanksgiving as a federally recognized holiday.
The events that have transpired since 1492 and 1620 due to two incidents of missed directions give those of us of the male persuasion great credence when those on the distaff side claim we do not know where we are going. It is not so much that we may be lost, it is that we have great confidence we will eventually arrive at a better place.