Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thoughts on 14 Fathers

On this Father's Day weekend, I would like to share with you some thoughts on 14 fathers for whom I am grateful.

First, of course, is my father, Gunnar, shown above on his wedding day in 1932. Dad has now been gone from us for 26 years, yet there never passes a day when I don't think about him and all he meant to me.

Second is a father named David, who raised my daughter when I believed, under the circumstances, I could not . David did a magnificent job and then provided his exceptional daughter the opportunity to find the Queen and me. I am forever thankful for his efforts, his achievements and his willingness to share.

Next are the four fathers I am privileged to call my sons. Christopher, Thomas, Travis and Matthew are shown below in their monkey suits with gorgeous brides. Each of these men are now fathers as well, and excellent ones at that. I am thankful that all of them have done so well in leading and loving their families.

Well, that's six of the fourteen fathers I want to thank. Who could possibly be next?

The next seven are my six grandsons and my grandson-to-be. While not yet fathers, they are fathers-in-waiting. So Christopher, Owen, Jonah, Soren, Samuel, Hugo and (can you hear me?) Baby Boy X - pay attention to your Dads and learn from them how to be the great fathers you are destined to be. I'll be watching...

Finally, at Number 14 but actually at Number 1, I want to thank my Father in Heaven for the many blessings he has bestowed upon both me and my family. Last year at this time, my condition was pretty bad. Now, thanks to the tender mercies of my Heavenly Father and the prayers from all of you, I am happy and much more healthy. There are still challenges ahead, but I have confidence in the future.

So, Happy Father's Day to each and every one of you who have earned the title, "Dad."
Of all my degrees, ranks, awards and decorations, "Dad" will always be my proudest

As the current country music song goes,

"Fathers don't just love their children
Every now and then...
It's a love without end,

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Remember Them - They Died for Your Freedom....

  • The Wall Street Journal

The Meaning of Bloody Omaha

On D-Day, the U.S. saved Europe from itself.

The skies over Normandy are invariably filled with dark rain clouds. But on one day in late April the sky was cloudless and the English Channel tranquil. Youngsters built sand castles on Omaha Beach and dogs romped in the surf. It was a vastly different scene from the bloodshed and violence that occurred on this same beach 65 years ago.

In an effort to understand what the GIs experienced on that fateful day of June 6, 1944, I climbed up a steep hill to the plain above the beach. Unlike the soldiers, I didn't carry an 80-pound pack on my back. And even though I observed German fortifications on my way, no one was firing at me.

These fortifications are a reminder that despite feints to Calais and bombing along the coast prior to the invasion, Nazi forces were well ensconced when the U.S. and its allies landed. Most of the bombs aimed at these German installations landed several kilometers inland -- a condition that distinguished Omaha Beach from Utah Beach. Omaha Beach was Bloody Omaha, a scene of so much death that it was unprecedented in American history. One soldier noted "there were body parts everywhere and the sea turned red with blood."

Many never made it to the shore from their landing crafts. Some were shot and some drowned, not realizing that if you wear a flotation device around your waist instead of under your arms it may not be possible to stand in the turbulent surf with a heavy pack. There was panic, confusion, camaraderie and bravery on the beach that day that changed the world.

The cemetery for the fallen overlooks Omaha Beach. It was noon when I stood at the edge of the cemetery, looking out at row after row of the graves. The bells played "God Bless America." There was a burly fellow wearing steel- frame glasses standing in front of me, most likely an octogenarian. As the bells sounded our eyes met. I wanted to say something to him, but he removed his glasses and wiped the tears from his eyes. Words were unnecessary; he and I shared a silent understanding.

There is simply no way to describe the sacrifice Americans made on the D-Day invasion to reclaim Europe from the grip of totalitarianism. Even the notoriously dispassionate Europeans realize that this is consecrated ground, a place where angels spread their wings to honor the deeds of youthful warriors. No St. Crispin speeches were necessary here, for this Band of Brothers knew what need not be stated: They were saving Europe from enslavement.

As a local Normandy resident wrote during the occupation, "A German lieutenant said 'we are your masters.' Well they were, until the Americans arrived." Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was a 20th century Moses. Gen. George Patton's Third Army fanned out across the northern tier of France. Though he had his detractors, Gen. Patton knew how to fight and win.

We have grown complacent as a people in the last six and a half decades since the war in Europe reached the beginning of the end. But it is hard to remain unemotional at the hilltop cemetery that honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in freedom.

Though we owe these men a debt we can never repay, what we can do is honor them. Their bravery can still inspire if the story of D-Day is told with passion and honesty.

The world offers challenges each year since freedom is tested in each generation by new pharaohs. We need the guardians of liberty to remind us how precarious that freedom is. We need to rise to the occasion the way young American soldiers did on June 6, 1944. They are a constant reminder that liberty requires vigilance and courage if it is to survive.

Mr. London is president of the Hudson Institute and professor emeritus at New York University. He is the author of "Decade of Denial" (Lexington Books, 2001) and "America's Secular Challenge" (Encounter Books, 2008).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Intergenerational Wealth Transfer

Above is a picture of some young guy and the first car he ever owned, a Chevrolet Corvair Corsa.  Not nearly as sporty as the Corvettes, GTO's and Pontiac Le Mans
that many of my West Point classmates bought, but for $2300, pretty cool.

Of course, that was purchased before Ralph Nader wrote Unsafe at Any Speed.

Turns out, old Ralph was right - putting the engine in the back was something that only Volkswagen knew how to do.  The General Motors attempt at that made for a dicey ride in which the car seemed to want to spin around with a mind of its own.

The Corvair was taken to Germany and sold when I left for Vietnam.  Some unsuspecting German bought it for more than I had paid two years earlier, and that was after two accidents, both spin outs!  I told him that it was very temperamental and needed to be driven with care, but he wanted it anyway...

That, however, was the last General Motors car I ever owned.  From there, several Ford products and a Mercedes in Germany until the Queen discovered a used Honda Accord.  Since then, we have bought nine Hondas in a row, and I have now graduated to an Acura.  Change the oil and those cars run like a Swiss watch.  Plus, most are made in Ohio!

But several months ago, I did buy another General Motors product - their common stock.  Just could not bring myself to believe that GM could go under.  After all, talk about too big to fail...

Well, on Monday, my GM stock became worthless but my grandchildren and great grandchildren now own 60% of whatever the "new" General Motors will be.  Their co-owners are the few remaining bondholders who successfully argued that a secured GM bond ought to be ahead of the UAW pension fund, but lost out to the Obama Administration's Automobile Restructuring Committee, who know how to count votes rather than preserve bankruptcy law hierarchy.

I can only "hope" that my small loss will become a great gain for the grandkids and great grandkids, since my best guess is that they will own GM for a long time, with direct payments being made to the "New Government Motors" from their tax dollars, as well as the interest they will have to pay on the ongoing and incredible process of doubling the National Debt.

I also "hope" that all this money being created from thin air by the Fed can somehow be removed from the economy at exactly  the right moment so as to avoid a massive dose of inflation.

However, as my former boss, General Gordon Sullivan, was fond of saying, "Hope is not a course of action."  

Pay attention, folks...  Maybe we are going to need some of the change that these tax and spend policies ought to cause.  2010 elections are not too distant to consider.

D'ya think?