Tag Archives: United States

The Trip of a Lifetime:  The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

The third stop of our trip was unbelievable!  We journeyed a couple of miles up the road from The Badlands National Park to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  What we found there was one of the most fascinating adventures anyone in our group has ever experienced.  The Site is comprised of a not to be missed visitor center, a missile silo (Launch Facility Delta 09) with a missile still in the silo (It has been defanged), and a command center (Launch Control Facility Delta 01) just down the road.  Although the visitor center and the missile silo are must visits, the highlight of the historic site is the Delta 01 tour.  The tour of the once top secret underground command center, the center from which the fate of the world lay in the hands of twenty something year-old kids (trained young men, but kids nevertheless), was eye opening, frightening, and one of the most remarkable tours I have seen.

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site tour is a relatively new tour, and it is by reservation only.  People who stop at the site expecting to book a tour on their day of arrival are likely to be turned away.  The tour is usually booked solid for three to four weeks in advance and sometimes longer, so anyone wishing to book the tour should do so weeks, preferably months in advance, to ensure a spot on the tour.  Why is the tour so popular?  First, it takes you thirty feet underground to visit a Minuteman Missile operation center that few people have ever seen; second, you get to enter the small command module buried thirty feet underground where teams of two men worked three-day shifts waiting for coded orders authorizing them to insert their individual keys into the doomsday machine that would have launched Minuteman ballistic missiles and ignited World War III.  It is a little disconcerting to think encased inside eighteen inches of steel and concrete layers designed to survive earthquakes and nuclear blasts you are standing in a place that once held life, as we know it, and the end of time in balance; three, the tour is conducted by veterans who were there and know the inside details; and fourth, the tour is limited to six people per tour, which provides easier access to the guide to clearly hear what he says as well as to ask questions.

Having scheduled our tour three months in advance, we drove straight to the tour site as directed.  The tour began the moment we arrived at the gate of a desolate yellow-tan building hidden in plain sight off South Dakota’s Interstate 90 down a dirt and gravel road.  Surrounded by chain-link fence topped by barbed wire, we found ourselves in the world of a Tom Clancy novel, only this was not fiction.  This highly secret command center was once home to a contingent of eight security and maintenance men above ground, a cook, and two teams of two men who alternated three day shifts thirty feet underground with the fate of the world in their hands.  These two men held the keys to launching up to ten Minuteman missiles, each with a 1.2 megaton thermonuclear warhead anchored to its top.  This one site had the capability to launch its missiles with pin-point accuracy anywhere in the world the moment it received the proper orders, codes, and firing sequences from the President of the United States.  Thank God, such orders were never given although the fabulous exhibits at the Minuteman Missile Historic Site visitor center show how close we were to nuclear war on more than one occasion.  It is chilling to think we were almost never here!

As ordered, we arrived at the tour site at 10:10 a.m., thirty minutes prior to our tour time.  At precisely 10:40 a.m., our military escort/guide appeared at the ten-foot chain-link gate.  Air Force Colonel (retired) Brad Riza, a regular visitor to the site during its heyday in the 1960s to 1990s, was our commanding officer for the tour.  After a brief debriefing outside the gate, Colonel Riza led our party of six, the four in our group and a couple from California, inside the building to tour the facility.

Colonel Riza gave a masterful tour, and his pride in his country and the role he played in the Minuteman Missile era was unquestionable.  He spoke in detail of the Cold War between the United States and Russia (Soviet Union), and how the missiles acted as a line of defense for the nation and as a deterrent to the Soviets or any other aggressor who might threaten a nuclear attack against America or its allies.  The missile field was scattered across the central and northern Great Plains of America next door to ranchers, farmers, and small towns.  Their purpose was to protect the freedoms and posterity of the American people as well as allied nations around the world.

One thousand Minuteman missiles were deployed during the last twenty-five years of the Cold War.  If launched the Minuteman Missile would travel over the North Pole and strike its target in less than thirty seconds.  However, within seconds of the launch, missiles would be incoming in retaliation.  There was only one guarantee if these weapons were used – the aggressor and the target nation would both be destroyed, which made an attack by either side unthinkable.  The greatest deterrent to nuclear war – the only trump card the people on either side of the Cold War could depend – was there would be no winners!  Therefore, why play if nobody could win?

Colonel Riza spoke of the Minuteman missiles as a deterrent not as a weapon of aggression, but primarily he spoke of the rigors and stress the young men (many barely in their twenties) endured while stationed in the missile fields.  They spent long mentally draining hours isolated from family and friends, not knowing if they might have to turn the key that would ultimately destroy the world and all they loved.  These men were forbidden to talk to family and friends about their job with the Air Force.  Faced with protocols that meant strict adherence or immediate court martial, imprisonment, or even death, they lived in a vacuum absent of any normalcy most young men enjoyed.

Part of Colonel Riza’s job was to evaluate the metal condition of the men assigned to the doomsday computers buried deep beneath the yellow-tan building on the surface.  There was no room for error or departure from protocol.  Violate protocol and orders were clear – shoot to kill even if it was the cook, your best friend, or the Colonel.  The survival of the nation was at state; everything else was collateral damage including human life in the bunker or outside the bunker.  There were no second chances!  The fate of the country depended on these young men to execute their orders without hesitation or error.  From 1963 to 1991, the fate of the United States depended on the threat of nuclear retaliation as a deterrent to Soviet Union aggression.  Finally, in 1991, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed by President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to reduce the number of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear warheads effectively ending the Cold War.

Today, there are no active ICBM silos in South Dakota, but 400 Minuteman Missiles are still deployed across the upper Great Plains of the United States.  The Russians have a like number spread across their country.  Even though the Cold War has subsided, nuclear missiles intended as a deterrent remain on alert in the United States and Russia.  The biggest difference is today it is no longer a two-nation dance.  China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and others have all bought tickets and are clamoring to get on the dance floor.  This escalation means the Minuteman missiles are more important than ever, and they will remain on alert through at least 2050.  Hopefully, by then the world will have come to its senses.

Every American needs to visit The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site!  The story it tells is a story everyone needs to hear.  All of us have one life, one family, and one country; to jeopardize any of the three with nuclear weapons is the sign of a madman.  We have lived as madmen long enough, but unfortunately, the day of the madman does not appear to be over.  Therefore, I take comfort there are men such as Colonel Brad Riza and thousands of young men who give up their youth and innocence in the service of our country to ensure our freedom and way of life.

Thank you, Colonel Riza for your service and for a great tour!  May God continue to bless you, our country, and the young men and women who serve our country 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours per day.

God bless America!  Americans, if you can, GO visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.  It might scare you, but it will make you proud to be an American.

JL

©Jack Linton, July 23, 2017

Three Ways to Fix America

Dr. Parag Khanna, a leading global strategist, CNN Global Contributor, and author of Technocracy in America: Rise of the Info-State, writes that America needs a change.  He says the American people no longer trust their government and the only way to restore trust is for Americans to learn from countries such as Switzerland.  According to Dr. Khanna, the best form of government for the 21st century is a technocracy, which is a government led by experts and/or panels of experts.  Therefore, he says the United States needs to do three things to fix itself:

  1. The United States needs to move to a seven-member presidency. Instead of having one President, the United States would be governed by a committee of seven presidents;
  2. The United States needs to abolish what Dr. Khanna calls an ineffective Senate and replace it with an Assembly of Governors. Under his plan, each state would have two governors who would jointly govern their state as well as represent their state in Washington; and
  3. The United States needs to build dignity back into civil service jobs by putting quality people – not friends, relatives, and people owed favors – in civil service positions.

Dr. Khanna’s technocracy idea is very similar to Donald Trump’s campaign promises of placing the most qualified people in key government positions.  Unfortunately, with such block headed nominations and confirmations as Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, it is obvious the Trump Administration either has no intention of making good on that campaign promise, or they have yet to get a handle on quality control.  However, to be fair, I seriously doubt Dr. Khanna’s technocracy idea would fair any better.

When it comes to quality control, more people involved in key governing positions and equity in hiring would not necessarily equate to fixing what ails America.  Seven presidents, two governors in each state, and government hiring void of nepotism and political favors might sound good, but would it work in the United States?  It’s doubtful.  Increasing the number of presidents and governors would do little more than guarantee nothing ever got done, and promoting hiring practices void of nepotism and discrimination would send shock waves from Washington, D.C. to Pumpkin Patch, Mississippi.  Simply put, Dr. Khanna’s technocracy idea would not work in the United States!

Technocracy will not work in this country for three basic reasons:

  1. Technocracy Idea #1: Seven presidents govern by committee:

Reason it will not work:  Most everyone knows there is one thing a committee does well – NOTHING!  We can’t get things done with one President, so why would anyone believe seven people with seven separate agendas could possibly make things better?

  1. Technocracy Idea #2: The Governors Assembly:

Reason it will not work:   The reason this will not work is basically the same as #1.  Can you imagine having two Phil Bryants in Jackson, Mississippi? How about a Democrat and Republican governor sharing the governorship?  The Good Lord is struggling to help us with a single Republican governor.  Can you imagine the mess there would be if we had a Democrat and Republican in office at the same time?

  1. Technocracy Idea #3: Do away with nepotism and favors in civil service hiring:

Reason it will not work:   Point #3 makes some sense, but America is a nation of strokers – you stroke mine and I’ll stroke yours, so it is doubtful Dr. Khanna’s third idea would work any better than what we have now.  We are too deep into giving and receiving favors to stop anytime soon!

Whether Dr. Khanna’s ideas would work is something we will probably never know.  Americans are too wrapped up in themselves and personal agendas to risk changing anything before they receive what they feel they are entitled; therefore, the cycle will continue.  However, it is nice to see someone calmly offer solutions rather than screaming for change between obscenities and name calling.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 24, 2017

9/11: The Day We Drank from the Same Fountain

As we remember the horrors of September 11, 2001, it is important to recognize a similar evangelized hate and belief in superiority once again threatens to destroy us as a nation.  The difference is this time the monster is not external but internal.  We have forgotten how we rallied together as one in the days after the senseless attack on New York.  We have forgotten how for a brief moment we stood together as brothers and sisters and defied evil.  No American was superior to another on that day or in the days that followed; all Americans drank from the same fountain.

As we remember and say a prayer for the lives lost on that tragic day, let us not forget to say a prayer for ourselves.  We should not be a nation divided by conservative/liberal beliefs, religious beliefs, lifestyle beliefs, or racial beliefs; as a nation we are united by a Constitution, philosophy, and common sense and decency that says all men and women are created equal and have the right of expression and personal pursuit of happiness.  In America, to believe otherwise is oppression.  The destruction of the twin towers in New York is a reminder of the destructive power of hate and a warped sense of superiority.  It is a reminder that we are vulnerable to such evil.  Therefore, it is time we drank from the same fountain once again.  It is time we tore the tags, signs, and dialogue of division from the fountain and welcomed all to drink – if not for our sake, for the sake of our children and the future of America.

A child is not born believing in superiority;

Out of fear of inferiority a child is taught,

To believe in superiority by birth right;

To believe in superiority by skin color;

To believe in superiority by religious affiliation;

To believe in the inequality of man;

To believe in equality with God; and

To disguise hate with righteousness.

May God have mercy on the teachers.

May God continue to have mercy on America, and the shining good she represents for all people.

Jl

©Jack Linton, September 11, 2016

School Free: Eliminate Public Schools in the United States

I have been thinking about the recent Mississippi vote against fully funding public school education. I realize it does little good to rehash old wounds, but sometimes a second look is warranted. That is especially true in light of the emotions that flowed so freely on both sides of the issue in the days leading up to the vote. So, putting aside the confusion caused by the ballot and the chancery judge issues that dominated the discussion prior the people’s decision, I took a second long look at the main reasons people gave for voting against fully funding education. The primary issues I looked into were school consolidation, over paid school administrators, throwing money at education, and lack of performance and fiscal accountability. Rather than focus solely on Mississippi, I decided to take it one step further and examine how Mississippi attitudes toward education compared to public attitudes of education across the nation. I am glad I did; it changed everything!

First of all, when it comes to public attitudes, I found Mississippi pretty much flows in the same direction as the rest of the nation. We also seem to be perfectly in sync with the other education bottom dwellers – Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and Washington, D.C. I found the negative attitudes displayed toward public education by so many Mississippi voters differed little from attitudes toward public education in other parts of the nation. Like most of the nation, Mississippi is facing an education crisis spurred by a thinly disguised Republican agenda to privatize public schools, a movement for greater parental choice in education decisions, and an unwavering belief that the public knows more about what is best educationally for their children than educators. In addition, the overall lack of political and public respect for public schools as well as the political and public resolve to influence, dictate, and control the selection and development of local and state school curriculums appears to be common across the states. What truly bothered me though was the discovery of a deep underlying – unspoken – opinion held by many in the political arena as well as the public that suggested the United States would be better off by eliminating ALL public schools!

After years of lackluster academic performance, it appears the public’s respect and trust of public education falls somewhere between their respect and trust of politicians, TV evangelists, and used car salesmen. In seems, many people in the public believe they can do better teaching their children at home than public school teachers can in the classroom, so they question the existence of public schools. Of course, as an educator, I regarded such reasoning as nonsense, but after immersing myself further into the issues, I came to the realization that maybe they are right. Maybe, it is time that as a nation, we face the possibility that public schools have outlived their purpose. If we are honest with ourselves, public schools today exist primarily for childcare, sports, free lunches, and of course, testing. Even academic courses, to create jobs and sustain student interest, have been subdivided and disemboweled to the point of irrelevance. When lack of subject substance and continuity is meshed with the present public school focus on social interactions, celebrations, playtime, political correctness, and curriculums we dare not make too challenging, we are left with little more than a hypothetical school. Again, let’s be honest, that game can be played at home with less expensive overhead than public classrooms. Current politics, local pandering, inclusiveness, and permissiveness have left many public schools little more than thirteen years of leveled kindergarten with a senior year that according to the public should exclusively be about having fun and building memories.

So, yes, maybe there is credibility to the idea of eliminating public schools altogether. With the Internet, cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and texting, children have little need for the social aspect of school anymore, and the academic possibilities and resources available online far exceed what many underfunded and understaffed public schools can offer. Regardless of parental income level, the Internet is available with very few exceptions in homes via a connected computer, smart TV, Ipad, or data linked cell phone, so why do parents need to send their children to school? For a fraction of the cost of what parents spend on local school taxes, school supply lists, workbooks, monthly school fundraisers, school field trips, school uniforms, and private tutoring lessons, they can have everything a school can offer in the comfort of their homes or the public library, and still have time to drop the kids off at the mall for the afternoon.

This has not been easy for me to swallow, but as an educated person, I have no choice but to face this new reality. Schools are no longer relevant in America! The sooner this is accepted, the sooner we can put an end to the many school related issues handcuffing our society. Since everyone who has ever attended grade school or high school is recognized by most American political leaders as experts on what children need to know and be able to do (especially in Mississippi), the United States could easily abolish ALL public schools and save billions of dollars in education wages, salaries, and benefits. I dare say, making America “School Free” would most likely have a major positive economic and social impact on our nation. If there are any doubters, please look carefully at the following benefits . . . .

If we made America “School Free”. . . .

  1. Parents could teach their children the way they were taught;
  2. Parents could assign homework not too difficult, so they could help their children with the homework;
  3. If we made America “School Free,” the national budget could be balanced and the national debt paid off with the money saved on education;
  4. The cost of childcare for working parents could be drastically reduced. Parents could reduce childcare costs by dropping their older children off at the mall, movie theater, park, or zoo during the day. For younger children below the age of five, there would be an abundance of teenagers available and willing to babysit for a small fee since they would not be burdened by school;
  5. Eliminating public schools would drastically impact the economy for the better:
    • Revenue for businesses in malls would increase;
    • Local sales taxes would increase;
    • State money normally spent on education could be divided among other state agencies to hire extra personnel, improve services, rebuild crumbling infrastructures such as bridges, and there would even be money to build more prisons. Who knows a little extra money in the budget may even solicit a smile from the highway patrol personnel in the driver’s license office;
    • Without such expenses as school taxes, school fund raisers, and school supply lists, parents would have more money in their pockets;
    • If America was to become “school free,” unemployment numbers would spiral downwards since malls would need to hire extra security and sales floor people and more police and highway patrol personnel would be needed to patrol the streets.
  6. If We made America “School Free,” kids too cool for the mall or without transportation to the mall would have more social time on street corners;
  7. School buildings could be converted to climate control storage units, which would create additional local government revenues. Of course, the broken windows and air and heat would have to be repaired or replaced first, and better security systems would have to be installed in most public schools used for this purpose;
  8. Football and baseball stadiums as well as gyms could be turned over to local club sports. Clubs would be responsible for hiring and firing coaches at their discretion. There would be no more of the “namby-pamby” talk about character building; it would be “win or the highway” for coaches and players alike. Kids could practice eight hours a day, five days per week or even seven days a week if coaches and parents desired;
  9. There would be no testing, which means no more shaming comparisons to other schools in the state or countries around the world;
  10. Since they would no longer be needed, School buses could be parked bumper to bumper along the USA/Mexico border to provide an inexpensive wall to keep out illegal immigrants. School bus drivers could be hired full time to sit in each bus with a shotgun to repel all illegals trying to cross the border;
  11. Money saved on education could be used to create a wall of isolation around the United States. Only information and people deemed pertinent to the political agendas of the governing party or pertinent to the success of collegiate or professional athletic teams would be permitted to enter the country;
  12. The government could control all free thinking, or at least quarantine free thinking troublemakers to restricted zones in barren thinly populated areas of the country. The Democrat and Republican parties would be free to indoctrinate or brainwash the American people with any ideology that suited their agendas;
  13. Providing services such as sex education, suicide awareness, health screenings, counseling, providing for children with disabilities, and serving breakfast and lunch would once again become the moral, parenting, and monetary responsibilities of parents;
  14. State and Federal legislators could concentrate on issues such as poverty and not simply focus on the symptoms of poverty such as poor academic performance. Without public schools as a whipping boy, legislators might finally do the job they were elected to do;
  15. If we made America “School Free,” freeloading teachers would finally be forced to get real jobs like everybody else!

These are only a few of the benefits of getting rid of public schools in America. Based on the current attitudes toward public school education in Mississippi and across the United States, I am convinced the public is ready for such a move.  It is bound to happen sooner or later.  How much longer can public schools in this state and this nation exist without the confidence of the people? Public school educators have endured about all the disrespect and votes of “no confidence” they can tolerate. So, why not simply put them out of their misery and close public schools altogether? Except for Friday nights in the fall, I wonder if public schools would even be missed.

JL

©Jack Linton, December 14, 2015