The First Amendment: A Double-Edged Sword

american-flag-1It’s been awhile since last we spoke.  Personally, I have been having a hard time finding subjects on which I feel strongly enough to write.  My writer’s block has however been finally been broken by a flood of Facebook posts deriding the recent trend of National Football League (NFL) players refusing to stand; kneeling through; or raising black fists in protest of varying social conditions during The National Anthem.

The Facebook pleas encourage me to stop watching the NFL; to boycott league-sponsored merchandise and broadcast sponsors; and demand corrective action, even laws to punish the offenders.

Now most people, who know me, will expect me to come down hard and fast on the side of showing our National Emblem the deference and respect we believe it deserves without fail … ever.  And certainly I believe that …

What nags at me however is the thought that Respect for national symbolism – be it The Anthem or The Flag – trumps the Rights of the First Amendment, particularly that of Free Speech.  While I do not appreciate disrespectful displays or treatments of The Flag, what I choose to cherish most are the Freedoms that allow such behaviors as an expression of perceived failures or injustices.

Unfortunately for our various sensibilities, Respect for the First Amendment requires a higher level of tolerance for the ways in which our Freedoms are expressed.  Accommodating the freedom to express oneself requires an Advanced Degree in American Citizenship, particularly when its display encroaches on the symbols, institutions, and rituals for which we wear our Hearts on our sleeves.

This is not easy.  But then again, it was never intended to be easy.

Certainly we can express our scorn and anger at what we interpret to be unconscionable violations of national heritage and symbolism.  That freedom to express one’s disdain is covered in the same protections that allow the type of demonstrations that annoy the bejesus out of us.

We can publicly judge those who burn The Flag or choose not to stand for The National Anthem is the best – or only way – they can express their own anger and frustration.  But punishment and retribution?!?

No, those reactions are the purview of authoritarians, dictators, and oppressors who look to preserve their own peculiar claim to rule by denying Voice to the People!  This is not what Americans do.  It is not how we roll!

No matter how maddening the behavior …

Allow me please to reiterate, since I am sure some will take this message as endorsement of the practices.  I do NOT agree with flagrant displays of disrespect for my Country, its cherished symbols, or the Principles for which it stands.  What I do recognize is that there are degrees of disrespect I can live with, in the knowledge that our Founding Fathers no doubt intended for The Bill of Rights to be a challenge to both the Government and its citizens!

And I have had my moments in celebrating the actions inherent in those who Advanced Degrees in Citizenship spurred them to action!

I applauded – wildly, I might add – the Chicago Cubs’ Rick Monday, when on April 25, 1976 he ran from his outfield position to arrest the flag-burning attempts of two supposed war protesters.

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Those of us who would appreciate Mondays’ quick actions should also recognize that demonstrations of national disrespect sometimes accomplish nothing more than to illustrate a protestor’s failure of perspective, particularly when they simply draw negative attention to the person or position they claim to support by physically mistreating or burning The Flag.  In my opinion, your cause, your candidate – even the people who support them – will suffer in our view.  When they fail to recognize or value the Sacrifices made by others, whose sacrifice allows them to express themselves so freely, they cheapen whatever message they are pushing.

There’s the rub really that protesters of this sort fail to appreciate.  You might attract limited, short-lived attention for your cause or position ; but that transient recognition will fade faster than the headshakes and mental “F— you!”s tossed your way by those drawn serendipitously into your protest.  For those whom your message is intended, you run the greater risk of alienating them rather than changing minds or opening a discussion.

The story is quite different when it comes to the quiet, almost reverential protests we have witnessed recently at football games … at least in my opinion.  These passive demonstrations, inspired by a back-up quarterback no less, where sitting or taking a knee as the National Anthem is played or the slightly more active stance of raised black fists is – if nothing else – much easier to manage emotionally.

We may not like such displays.  But we should also wonder why they are considered necessary by those protesting.

I may not understand the need to turn one’s back to The Anthem or to embellish one’s seemingly reluctant participation with a raised fist.  But many people do understand the need to take such action.  If they did not, we would not be having these conversations today.

And that’s really what that pesky, sometimes irritating Freedom of Speech is intended to do … Give voice to those who feel isolated or left behind, whether or not we can appreciate their position!

So no … Do not ask me to boycott the NFL or Pepsi or Hyundai or Papa John’s pizza simply because your sensibilities were offended by a kneel or a clenched fist at an inappropriate time.  Because I have news for you …

The emotions you feel, the reactions you have to such displays are exactly what the Founding Fathers were likely hoping might occur when one group or another feels the need to draw attention to their perceived plight in any way that stirs our emotions.  The Stars and Stripes is a collection of fabric to which we attach a great deal of pride and symbolism; but it’s the Fabric of our Nation, expressed in the Freedoms passed down to us, that makes all things possible.

I leave you with this

 

 

 

 

 

Horsham’s Water: The Way Forward

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Horsham residents listen at June 27 Council meeting on water quality. (Bucks Courier Times)

On June 27, 2016 the Horsham (Pennsylvania) Township Council held a meeting with residents where the issue of Horsham Water Quality was addressed in a presentation, followed by a period of Q&A.  This was the latest in a series of informational meetings specifically addressing perfluorinated compounds PFCs (PFOS/PFOA) in the township water supply as a result of operations at the now-closed NAS-JRB Willow Grove.  Previous information sessions were organized and staffed by elements of the U.S. Navy’s Base Review and Closure (BRAC) office, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Horsham Water and Sewage Authority (HWSA).

Of all the points to be made in writing this blog post, it must be recognized that pollution issues existing at the base for decades prior to BRAC are hopelessly entwined with the redevelopment effort.  Their impact in the redevelopment effort was anticipated by all parties from the very beginning.  The officials responsible for its management, Horsham Township Council, HLRA, and the U.S. Navy have always been up front and transparent, presenting all known information directly to area residents!

For this reason, I have been able to blog about the various complications that hazardous materials and pollutants pose to the community on at least FOUR occasions, marking Horsham’s progress in efforts to control the future of the NAS-JRB.

  1.  Horsham’s Big Wait, status of the airbase redevelopment (April 2013)
  2.  A Look at the NAS-JRB Willow Grove Environmental Impact Statement (February 2014)
  3. Water Contaminants and NAS-JRB Willow Grove (December 2014)
  4. Playing Politics with Horsham’s Water (October 2015)

images-2Regardless of how one feels about the U.S. Navy’s role of environmental indifference since the 1940s at NAS-JRB Willow Grove, the present-day Navy has been proactive, transparent, and honest about what was done on the Base; how it affects the residents of the surrounding communities; and identifying solutions for remediation.

You can find the latest information from the Horsham Water Quality presentation – available on-line.  The 38-page Powerpoint slideshow taught me a few new things about PFCs.

Some interesting points:

  • Just two months ago, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drastically lowered its PFC Health Advisory Level (HAL) from a high of 400 parts-per-trillion (ppt) for PFOA and 200 ppt for PFOS to 70 ppt.
  • PFCs are a National and International problem, with wide-ranging allowable levels for the substances’ projected effects on humans outside the U.S.  For example, in comparison to the current EPA standard (70 ppt), Canada allows 600 ppt for PFOS/200 ppt for PFOA; Germany and Great Britain allow 300 ppt for both substances. (This illustrates the largely unsettled science on PFCs and their potential health impacts.)
  • 98% of people tested around the globe have tested positive for PFCs.
  • One part-per-trillion (ppt) equals one drop of liquid to 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.  The recently revised EPA HAL at 70 ppt would allow 70 drops of liquid over those 20 Olympic-sized pools!
  • Most PFC applications were phased out of production in 2015.

Of course none of these cute little facts serves to minimize the real health concerns of Horsham’s residents (or Warminster’s or Warrington’s).  Those concerns are real; should be researched and studied to determine the potential for effects on human health; and those effects – if any – mitigated with the costs accruing to the U.S. Government.

So what will be the way forward for Horsham’s water quality?

epaMy experiences in following the BRAC/HLRA processes have proven that Township officials and the U.S. Navy have been up-front, practical, and immediately responsive to all issues affecting the community. From making the earliest decisions on an airport; developing a redevelopment plan; and setting in place the organizational infrastructure to move the effort into its next stages.  This was no different when the EPA triggered the recent groundswell of public attention by significantly reducing the HAL levels for PFC compounds.

When the original HAL (400 ppt PFOA/200 ppt PFOS) levels were set in July 2014, both the Navy and Horsham Township responded quickly, and two municipal wells that tested above the HAL limit were taken off-line.  The same reaction was witnessed this past May when the EPA dropped the safe HAL level by several orders of magnitude.  The Navy set out immediately to test suspect wells; and the Township quickly removed HAL-exceeding wells from the municipal water system.

From this point-of-view, the problem of PFC contamination has been fairly easy to manage.  Removing offending wells from the municipal water system effectively reduces the level of contaminants in the system.  This approach is so effective, Horsham’s current PFC level is 18 parts-per-trillion … or less than one-third the current EPA HAL standard of 70 ppt!

Some suggest that all confidence is lost in the safe-ness of Horsham’s water supply.  For me, the experience is quite the contrary.  If it’s relatively easy to remove bad-testing wells from the water supply, Horsham’s water supply remains safe insofar as PFCs are concerned.  I continue to drink the local water as I did 30 years ago (or more), drinking water right out of hand pumps located on the old Hidden Springs golf course (now Commonwealth National Golf Club)!

However, safe water decisions resides with each township resident!  Nothing in my discussion is intended to downplay the seriousness of the issue. My approach here is rooted in a confidence based on the demonstrated reactions by those who manage our Township and its infrastructure – above and below ground.

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Granular Activated Carbon Filter

The long-range view is even more promising water-quality wise.  The solution is in the construction of Granular Activated Charcoal (GAC) filters.  The filters are large, custom-made, and housed in buildings roughly the size of a garage.  The filters are roughly $1 million per copy; and the U.S. Navy has agreed to pick up the costs associated with the construction and installation of the GAC filters!

The Township expects to have all five filters currently needed on-line by years end, resorting to temporary GAC filters while permanently housed filters are manufactured and installed.  It’s a solution that is reasonable, practical, and most importantly prompt and decisive!

One of my neighbors plans to invest in something called a reverse osmosis filter.  EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection do not recommend in-home filters as being particularly effective.  However, the reverse osmosis system is available with carbon filters which are effective in eliminating PFCs from the home’s water supply.

The most important point to remember however is that regardless of which choices you make in regards to your family’s water quality, none of us would have the information we need to make these choices, if those in charge of the NAS-JRB redevelopment effort were not completely forthcoming and demanding of the U.S. Navy in ensuring Horsham’s quality-of-life is protected!

 

Cranky Man’s 5 Stages of the Gym Mourning

‘Tis annoying when one goes to the gym or “fitness center” and encounters those “lunks”, as hopeless gym rats are derisively described by such authority figures as Planet Fitness.  Face it, some people were born to spend copious amounts of time in the gym.  They actually look forward to it!  Enjoy the hard work and sweaty toil … the Pain needed to make the Gains … the form-fitting workout gear only the lunky or curvaceous gym apostle can wear.

Bastards …

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For the rest of us – which I would venture is the most of us – going to the gym is three rungs above a Dental appointment and one rung below dinner with the In-Laws.  A sad – but honest – admission …

As for me, I go through my own personal 5 Stages of Gym Mourning just to get out of bed and through a workout.  Similar to the more infamous 5 Stages of Grief, the stages to my gym morning are saturated in emotion and the desire to hide from painful Truth.  A sense of Loss lays the foundation for both.  In the case of anti-gym types like me, it is the Loss of Youth, the Loss of Leisurely Morning Routine, the potential Loss of Health, the Loss of Body Form and Image, the Loss of Laissez Faire Eating Habits, the Loss of Hair …

Need I go further …?

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No one likes the pretty gym people … except other pretty gym people.

After all to morning anti-gym rats, “grief” fairly accurately describes the process of hauling our sleepy bodies from our warm beds for the purposes of strapping ourselves to Machines of Torture!  For me, that’s 2-3 mornings a week depending on Mood, Physical Health, Weather, or if I absolutely have to fit into those pants I bought when I was oh-so-proud about recent weight-loss.  There are few things more demoralizing than your Significant Other perusing your chosen evening wear and saying, “Those pants have gotten a little tight there, chubby.”

So for all those reasons, I subject myself to the following Cranky Man 5 Stages of Gym Mourning pre-workout routine …

0515 hours … “What is that incessant noise?!?  Who the hell set the alarm clock on a Saturday?!?  This is freakin’ ridiculous!”

“OMG … It’s only Thursday.  You have got to be kidding me!  There’s no way I’m getting up this early.  This is stupid!  Who does this every morning???  Son-of-a ….”

ANGER … is always the first response.

0524 hours … The alarm again … “Oh c’mon … I can’t do this. This is inhuman!”

“No, you have to do this. You can do this!”  And rounds of BARGAINING begin.

“OK … If I go today, then I don’t have to go tomorrow.  Tomorrow’s Friday … You can sleep all the way to 0630 tomorrow if you just go to the gym today.”

“No … No way!  This is stupid!”

“Now, now … Listen!  There’s a half-gallon of Breyer’s Ice Cream in the freezer, Slick.  Go to the gym today and maybe – if you’re good all day long – you can have low-guilt ice cream tonight!” 

“OK … OK … OK … I’m getting up!”

(Now of course such a thing as “low-guilt ice cream” is impossible, as any reluctant prisoner of the Healthy Gym Workout cycle can tell you!)

gym-rat+treadmill+wheelA Bargain will eventually be reached.  And you will drag yourself from that warm bed  … unless the Bargain was reduced to sleeping in today for “guilt-filled ice cream” and a workout tomorrow.

The majority of those who go the gym, do so because they can eat whatever they want with little in the way of Rationalization.  That and a lighter load of Bad Food Guilt is as good as any endorphin buzz a workout can give the reluctant gym denizen!

ACCEPTANCE is usually the easiest phase to live through.  By this time, I have dragged my weary body from my soft, warm bed … one appendage at a time; pushed myself squint-eyed through the morning bathroom routine, bouts of resolve-strengthening mental cheerleading, and perhaps a few additional rounds of Bargaining. Then, once prepped in my gym-enduring workout clothes, primed for another day of attempting to fool Mother Nature, I resolutely head out the door.

Truth is the warm months of Summer make the Acceptance process all the easier.  Being able to roll out of bed and head off to the gym in the same clothes I wore to bed the night before makes all the difference in the world.  I can do everything up to climbing into the car with my eyes still barely open!

The biggest difference from the more well-known 5 Stages of Grief is the feeling of ACCOMPLISHMENT one gets from completing a strenuous, exhausting, and sweat-filled workout.  Let’s face it … The biggest reason many of us hit the gym is that feeling of doing something entirely for yourself.  Improving your health; increasing your Stamina; sharpening your Focus … blah blah blah …

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I don’t really look older when you work out. I just feel older … a lot older.

Yes, it’s a good feeling … That lasts all of 20 minutes until you realize you have to repeat the process in a few days ….

Forever and Ever and Ever!

That’s the realization that sends this Cranky Man into the final stage of his 5 Stages of the Gym Mourning …

DEPRESSION!

 

Ali is down!! Ali is down!!

My look back at the Ali-Frazier rivalry. Ali was a polarizing figure back in the late ’60s-early ’70s. I didn’t agree with him on much, but learned to respect his point-of-view on race and the Vietnam war.
In any case, there is no denying his athletic talent.

Cranky Man's Lawn

It’s funny how some events seem to stand out more brightly in the vast warehouse of memories we carry around.  It was forty – yes 40! – years ago today that the classic Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier heavyweight championship fight took place at Madison Square Garden.  They haven’t made heavyweight matchups like this since … well, since then. 

I was not a big boxing fan as a kid, which makes that fact that the Ali-Frazier fight stands out in the memory all the more interesting.  I believe it has more to do with the political/social climate back in 1971, my awakening – if you will – to the important events going on around me, and with the development of  a 15-year-old’s social conscience as I sorted through and examined my own set of values, beliefs, and judgements. 

I can remember a fellow Immaculate Conception (Germantown, Philadelphia) classmate, Timothy Cantwell (another weirdly clear memory) trying to get me interested in the Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston fight in 1964.  At the time…

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Cranky Man’s Guide to Lawn Fertilization

All Cranky Man lawn tips are based on local experience in the southeast region of Pennsylvania in the good ol’ US of A.  Many of these tried and true tips are compatible with a Humid Subtropical Climate.  If you are reading this from the jungles of Central Africa, you probably have a lot of more important things to worry about … like day-to-day survival.  If you live in the southwest of the U.S. of A., just start a rock garden! 

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Memorial Day is fast approaching.  Spring is well on its way to morphing into Summer, although in our little slice of paradise, Spring has been but a rumor to wax nostalgic over between the cold and rain.

That being said, there are certain steps you should already have taken or will be taking shortly to ensure the health of your lawn over the impending hot days of Summer.  For instance, pre-emergent should have been applied several weeks ago to forestall the hot weather loving sprouting of crabgrass.  In addition, you should be prepared for or at least entertaining the idea of Weed ‘n Feed applications that will fertilize your lawn; rid it of weeds; and keep them away.

Past writings for this very blog have recommended the general idea of Five annual fertilizer treatments:

  1. Pre-emergent treatment to prevent crabgrass (early to mid-Spring)
  2. Spring Weed ‘n Feed (late Spring)
  3. Anti-grub application to obliterate beetle grubs that feed on lawn roots (early to mid-Summer)
  4.  Fall Weed ‘n Feed that maintains the clean & healthy momentum (late Summer-early Fall)
  5. Winter feeding (mid-late Fall)

In the years since those wise and eloquent words were first written, I have learned even more or have had to adjust my fertilizing treatments according to “facts on/in the ground” or events that shaped a different approach. Certainly the old tried and true outline above is timeless as a general guide.  But every lawn in different.  Every lawn aficionado with their own quirks and preferences.

It’s the stuff that makes the Lawn World go ’round!

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In the years through which I have been caring for my own 1/4 acre, I have learned a lot and have changed the way I approach lawn treatments.  For instance, I no longer do anti-grub treatments after dealing with an infestation and learning about the milky spore.

This also helps out quite a bit in the wallet, as anti-grub treatments are the most expensive ones, so long as torturing a few grubs doesn’t bother you. For this reason, I have suggested most recently that anti-grub treatments can be optional, if (Big IF) you pay attention to the potential presence of grub-producing beetles in the late June-early July time frame.

Another change is the use of Starter fertilizer as a way of helping the lawn recover from the hot Summer. This is an optional treatment, not used in years when Summer has been wetter and not so brutally hot. Those summers are few and far between however.

So my present-day fertilizer schedule is closer to this now:

  1. Pre-emergent
  2. Spring Weed ‘n Feed
  3. Starter fertilizer (Optional, based on Summer’s Heat and Rain and the condition of the lawn; applied in early to mid-September)
  4. Fall Weed ‘n Feed (Optional, based on your decision on “if and when” to apply 3. above; mid-September to mid-October)
  5. Winterfeed (no sooner than six weeks after 4. above, no later than first week of December, weather permitting)

Lawn fertilizing should be approached as a balancing act. Balancing the current condition of your lawn with its future health.

You never want to apply any fertilizer during hot, dry Summer conditions. Never apply a fertilizer within a month – as a minimum – after previous applications; six weeks is optimal.  Most important … Use simple common sense; pay attention to the weather and condition of your lawn; and remember, long-term health is more important that present-day appearance. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking short-term appearance over long-term lawn health.

Carry on …. And be Green out there!

 

No, I don’t … Honest!

49370Dear Sam’s Club Shopper:

I want to be completely open and honest, now that you’re not standing in front of me with that inquisitive look, no doubt thinking to yourself, “Does he use these things?!?”

I don’t … honestly.

I know you saw me perusing the selections and placing the Bulk Economy package (Then again, what else does Sam’s Club sell?) into my cart.  I know that you were only looking for a recommendation … from a guy … who MIGHT use them, even if you can’t come right out and ask that question without running the risk of insult or embarrassment (mine, not yours).

I know I shouldn’t feel awkward or uneasy discussing what has become a more frequent, open, and necessary product.  Of course I knew that whenever Carol asked me to pick up “feminine needs”.

I know there’s nothing odd, weird, or emasculating about running such a loving errand. Still it made me a bit skittish and self-conscious.  Just like our conversation today.

I swear … I really was buying them for another family member. I swear …

Just stop looking at me like that!

Or was that just my skittish, self-conscious imagination?  Maybe it was the fact that I had mumbled to myself … right before you walked up to me,  “I wonder if anyone who sees me thinks I need these things?”

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.

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By the way, your father seemed like a very nice man when he rejoined you and we exchanged knowing glances.  He’s lucky to have someone, who is looking out for him and doing everything they can to maintain his dignity in a difficult, but thoughtful way.

My wife, Carol, could teach a few things on the subject of taking care of our parents.

I hope I helped what little I could.

It’s never easy to confront the ravages of age.  Most of us will get there in due time.  Let’s hope we have those to take care of us when the time comes.

Mao Lives!

Normally, I don’t pay a lot of attention to cars with vanity plates.  I find many of them too difficult to decipher … especially when tailgating … in traffic … trying to just read them.

But today, I stumbled on a discovery that shook me up …

Mao is alive!  And he has a LiMO!

But, Mao …. a Chevy Equinox?!?  How very proletariat!

 

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