You read it in the Sunday papers.

This is a regular feature … as in regular, not weekly … of Cranky Man’s Lawn, where we look at – and comment on –  a few articles that catch our eye during my regular … as in weekly … Sunday morning coffee’n paper lounge-about.  My regular Sunday morning read is The Philadelphia Inquirer.  But if you do not get The Inqy delivered to your door, links to the applicable articles are provided as the header to each discussion.

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Need a watch “dog”?  You can get one for less than $5

Parts of Texas and northwest Louisiana are in the grips of a long-lasting drought.  When drought strikes, it means cattle and sheep cannot be sustained in a way that’s profitable for ranchers.  Aggravating the situation even further is the ragged, slow state of the economy which affects the costs of everything including the price of hay, which is used to feed the herds.  As a result, ranchers have been forced to unload their livestock in order to reduce the financial footprint of the ranching operation.

One unusual consequence of the situation in this region of the country is the releasing of hundreds of donkeys by ranchers who can no longer afford to maintain them, nor can they find buyers when the animals are put on the market.

Apparently, donkeys make exceptional watchmen!   They are able to provide a passive security of sorts for the herds they accompany as they – the donkeys – eat, sleep and live among the cattle and sheep.  The ranchers use FEMALE donkeys to provide security for herds located in isolated pastures on the very large ranches located in this region.  The donkeys are naturally hostile towards wolves and coyotes.  They will even go to lengths to attack them should they come into close proximity!

The problem is that they eat the same hay that the herds eat; so if you are not feeding livestock you don’t have, you don’t need the donkeys or the costs of feeding them.  So what happens is the donkeys are simply set loose or are pushed onto the lands of other ranches … a sort of reverse rustling.

The shame is that the animals are abandoned and left to fend for themselves.  Animal rescue organizations are overwhelmed, their valuable resources used to clean up an unfortunate mess.  So if you could use a sentry animal or a decent burro around your spread, check into acquiring a Watch Donkey.  They’re going cheap!

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Reading the minds of Supreme Court Justices

This has become a favorite activity of cable and television commentators, political bloggers and analysts, State and Federal officials, and health insurance executives over the past week.  Three days of unprecedented testimony was held this week over the challenge by 26 states, including Pennsylvania over the mandates set forth in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare).

We have seen this coming as early as the day former House Speaker (I still enjoy saying that!) Nancy Pelosi stated that to find out what’s in the bill, Congress would have to pass it!

It was an amazing admission of just how rushed and ill-conceived the Obamacare package really was.  With so much power concentrated in the hands of the Democrats in their heady days when Hope and Change were the agenda, they stupidly threw together a terribly complex and pork laden bill (like Nebraska’s special Medicaid deal to land Senator Ben Nelson’s support) and shoved it down the Legislature’s – and America’s – throat.  Even its favorable and sensible aspects, like covering dependent children until age 26 and ending exclusions for people with pre-existing conditions, may be lost because of the short-sighted hubris of the Democrats.

In The Sunday Inqy’s Business section Chris Mondics Law Review column took a look at the comments and questioning that emanated from the Supreme Court Justices to gauge their leanings on the law.  His take was not good news for the Democrats.

There is no surprise that Justice Antonin Scalia was pointed, sarcastic, and a bit testy with U.S. Solicitors representing the Administration’s case in favor of the law.  But the questioning coming from Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy were much more troubling for the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress.  Both Roberts and Kennedy have been seen as the only hope for a majority decision in favor of Obamacare; yet neither seemed impressed with the Administration’s arguments.  Worse yet for the besieged healthcare law, both also seemed unlikely to let separate parts of the bill stand if the central buttress – the individual mandate – gets overturned.

The Democrats should have seen this coming the moment Nancy Pelosi opened her mouth!

The funny thing is, if the Democrats had framed the healthcare law as a tax to pay for national coverage, similar to Medicaid, it most likely would have passed muster with the Supreme Court.  But no, they were not committed enough to covering the uninsured to go to that great length.  Why?  Because they KNEW the word “TAX” would have cost them enormous political capital and a few elections along the way.  I guess being in power and staying there was just a tad more important than universal healthcare, eh?

By the way, if you have ever had a meltdown speaking in front of an audience during an important presentation, listen to find audio of Soliciter General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. hemming and hawing; uhing and duhing; gulping copious amounts of water; and rambling barely coherently during his presentation on the individual mandate.  It goes on and on for much, much longer than presented in the link.  One wonders if he suddenly realized as he began his presentation, “Sh*t, this law really is unconstitutional!”

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U.S. Navy and environmental pollution

Seems the U.S. Navy has been getting a lot of attention from environmental groups over it SINKEX program, under which they tow old out-of-commission ships to sea and allow Navy ships to hit them with bombs, torpedos, and missiles until the sink.  They do this quite naturally to give its sailors the chance to use the same weapons they will be called upon to use in a real ocean conflict.

The problem?  The ships often contain unacceptable levels of toxins from PCBs to asbestos.

I won’t get into the rest of the article, which makes a lot of good points about sinking toxins in the ocean.  Instead I wanted to address the work being done by the Navy in its efforts to REDUCE the environmental footprint it leaves on the oceans it travels through and operates in.

For several years I have worked with a group responsible for environmental policies applicable to all Navy ships, though I have not worked directly in any of these programs.  The Navy has spent a lot of money on reducing the amounts and types of garbage they eject from their ships every day.  All ships do this, from those luxury cruise ships you like to travel on to those tankers and cargo vessels our economies rely upon.

Garbage in the form of biodegradables like foods, some paper products, and human waste generally present no harm to the ocean environment provided they are treated in some way before disposal.  Other trash like plastics, styrofoam, caustic solutions and industrial products are another story altogether, and should never be dumped into the seas.

The Navy has been working deliberately and diligently to eliminate the dumping of any non-biodegradable substances into the oceans.  The fleet is under strict guidelines to prevent to eliminate the need to dump dangerous substances into the ocean.  The Navy has re-engineered the way it collects, handles, and removes harmful substances that are unavoidably generated by ships holding hundreds – if not thousands – of sailors along with their weapons, aircraft, and equipment.

I have worked for a short time on one program that dealt with the handling and disposal of trash generated aboard nuclear submarines as they spend upwards of six months cruising – non-stop at times – around the world’s oceans.  You can not grasp the difficulty of this effort to reduce ocean pollutants until you appreciate the problems faced with the mess that gets created aboard a cramped, closed system – essentially a tube filled with people, electronic equipment, and war fighting capability.

Suffice it to say, the U.S. Navy has been doing a heck of a job in getting on top of their waste issue and in its efforts to eliminate to the extent possible its fleet’s impact on the ocean environment!

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Generation Y is having a difficult time with life after college.

This post is already getting a bit too “wordy” as my friend, Bob likes to remind me; so I’ll leave you to read the specifics of the series in The Inqy that started on Sunday about the problems college graduates are having finding work  in a stifled economy.

I have one son just out of Millersville University and exploring the job market.  But he just completed his requirements in December, so he’s fairly new to the market.  And my youngest is a freshman now at Temple University.  So the details of Generation Y’s post-college job market frustrations is of particular interest.

I was not really sure how to take the stories provided in The Inquirer article.  I guess I hope that these are the worst case scenarios.  But as a parent you worry.  You want the best for them.  Who wouldn’t?

So my message to my sons – all three of them – is to make sure you are making the right decisions as you build your background and your resume’.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Don’t blow off classes.  Don’t be satisfied with “OK grades”.  Maintain your flexibility when it comes to future employment opportunities and career choices, unless you are truly fixed on a very specific field of study and profession.  Don’t limit yourself to specific jobs to certain employers in limited geographic areas.

The reality is that you could do everything right and still not land a suitable opportunity.  But a well-developed resume’ and maximum personal flexibility should give you the best chance of getting a job of which you can be proud.

Good luck to them and to all who are searching for a fair post-college opportunity!

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