The Grand Canyon: Fingers of God

There are sights throughout the World one simply must see; and I have many, many more I have yet to experience. This past week we had the opportunity to view one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Arizona’s Grand Canyon!

Our trip, the offshoot from a cross-country family wedding, included stops along scenic Route 66, Tombstone and the OK Corral, and the wild street donkeys of Oatman. These kitschy, curious cultural attractions take a far back seat to the visual wonder of the canyon.

One could be led to believe they can appreciate the awe-inspiring vistas through the magic of modern photography or high-definition documentaries. But the true depth and breadth of beauty and wonder can only be truly appreciated by standing on … uh, near … the rim of the gorge.

Our stay did not allow a trip down into the canyon, which was regrettable as undoubtably an equally incredulous perspective that must be. And from what we learned, they likely wouldn’t have allowed me to overburden some unfortunate burro.

And by the way, it was unseasonably freezing cold for late October, with sunrise mornings reaching lows of 9-18 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course the following week, temps in the mid-60s were expected. Best check the temps and wind forecasts if flexibility allows.

As a first-time visitor, the most impressive aspect is the sheer depths of the canyon, followed closely by the beautiful colors of the canyon walls and the desire to understand how such a desolate, arid – alien planet-like – wonder was created. It makes one feel small, remote and easily overwhelmed.

From a spiritual point-of-view, I was led to wonder what purpose such magnificence might be intended to serve. And yes, I realize as one who is not particularly religious, some may find such thoughts as Purpose to a natural wonder might sound silly or pretentious. And yet, I wonder …

I sometimes hear the expression “the finger of God” often used to express the power and often the devastation of naturally occurring phenomena. To me, my experience on my first view of the Grand Canyon was that of the Fingers of God, creating and shaping a spectacle of nature intended to demonstrate His power and majesty. Reminding Man that he is temporary and peripheral. One who should be mindful of his place and respectful of what was placed here for his benefit and for the benefit of those who follow.

So I leave you with this thought.

No matter whether your higher entity is God in all His glory … or nature or earth or even if science alone defines “purpose” for you, it’s extremely difficult to witness such grandeur without the thought that it exists … was placed here … made available for humanity to witness for some exalted purpose.

Regardless of your views on any of that, the Grand Canyon is an awe-inspiring experience for which we all must take the opportunity!

Diet by App : The Sequel

For those new to Cranky Man’s Lawn, I embarked on a months-long journey years ago to shed a few a bunch a significant number of El Bees awhile back. I used a weight and health app known as “Lose It!” And was quite successful.

I dropped over 35 pounds, but bad habits and habitual lazi-ass-ness resulted in the reincarnation of those lost El Bees. Not all of them but a significant portion …

Now a surprising 6 years later, I am climbing back on that horse. No heavy equipment needed.

This time around I am not skimping by just using the free features of “Lose It!”. I will – am – paying for the premium plan, which offers a bunch of benefits including the ability to monitor hydration, sleep, health measures, etc.!

Let’s see how this goes ….

Beginning weight: 241.1 lbs.

Target weight: 215 lbs.

Plan:  Lose two pounds a week

Daily Calorie Budget:  1730 per day  

Projected Goal Achievement: December 1, 2019

Weight today:  237.6 lbs. (down 3.5 lbs.)

Lost so far: Mountain Brushtail Possum (Adult 3-4 lbs.)

Meet Australia’s Mountain Brushtail Possum

U.S. Navy Fleet Readiness Center Southwest

One of the more fascinating aspects of my employment within the largest military organization on Earth is the occasional opportunity to peak behind the scenes at the infrastructure that maintains the US Navy and Marine Corp capabilities. Due to a recent assignment to attend a training event held at the Navy’s Coronado, California, I had the chance to learn about a limited facet of Fleet support … The aircraft repair and refurbishment facilities at Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) Southwest (commonly referred to as FRC San Diego or North Island).

Note: Nothing discussed here would be considered clearance-required information. The only access granted was perhaps a step above common base access permitted for normal, non-clearance business operations. No photographs were allowed or taken.

Our visit was arranged by my supervisors (NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support) through comparable supervision at the FRC for six visitors, including myself. Our focus was the maintenance of aircraft repairable assemblies, although our organization also deals heavily with shipboard systems.

As we drove to our pre-tour meet ‘n greet, we caught glimpses of the work going on. The most interesting was a hanger area full of older version F/A-18s going through tear downs we learned would lead to de-militarization of the aircraft and disposal through approved de-mil processes. One aircraft – which I think I saw – was a fanciful aircraft in unique painting purportedly used in the remake of Top Gun (i.e. Top Gun 2), serving as Maverick’s (Tom Cruise) ride!

Pretty sure I saw a glimpse of this aircraft in a teardown hanger.

Since the DoD frowns on old components finding their way onto Amazon and e-Bay. Most components are scrapped following the harvest of any special metals used in their original manufacture.

What strikes even the most experienced civilian desk jockey is the lengths in maintenance management, repair and refurbishment, quality artisanship, and exacting process the military services expend in maximizing the service longevity of its aircraft fleet! No small order when one gets the opportunity to see it first hand and dwells on the infinite amount of detail required to make those exacting processes flow.

Of course with operations so involved, so broad in scope, conducted both CONUS (contiguous U.S.) and OCONUS (outside CONUS), across large complex military facilities, not everything is perfect. Flaws develop in handling and processes; material get waylaid, mismanaged, lost; and facilities become disorganized and unimaginably cluttered.

But again, the Services (in my experience The Navy) have adapted to become more reactive and corrective in ensuring the most efficient and effective industrial facilities are available to support the War Fighter. FRC Southwest, for example, recently endured a reorganization and reinvention of its industrial facilities after an audit by a private consultant found much lacking in the efficacy of its operations.

I had been to several commercial defense facilities in my Navy aircraft support experience (e.g. McDonnell-Douglas, Sikorsky). But I had never seen a facility as clean, well-defined, exacting, and organized as the repair and refurbishment operations at FRC Southwest! Even the floors were clean enough to eat off.

Not that I would recommend that …

My own duties at NAVSUP WSS involve Contracting Officer Representative (COR) duties for a program elegantly titled Technical Assistance for Repairable Processing (TARP). This program manages the flow of retrograde material (i.e. used repairables which can be refurbished to like-new condition) from ships and aircraft units scattered all over the globe. These items can be as small as circuit cards to helicopter rotor heads and aircraft engines shipped to and fro in immense protective cans (many designed in part or in whole by coworkers, who labor only feet from my desk).

The point in all of this is to stress the Herculean effort the Services – at least The Navy – undertake to manage – as best as is possible – the service life and availability of crucial components needed by the War Fighter to conduct operations in an increasingly complex, technological world.

Meanwhile, back at FRC Southwest, we viewed F/A-18 wing panels awaiting either refurbishment and reassembly or demilitarization scattered about a huge warehouse/hanger bay in varying states of disrepair and dressing. In an enormous industrial space, you could see a spotless areas dedicated to various intake, evaluation, repair, and testing of components from Navy fighters, helicopters, aircraft and even ship engines all benefitting from a collection of artisans, trained and developed in exacting capabilities.

On a drive and park tour, we also viewed covered, open-sided building were four H-53 type helicopters were shown in the varying stages of refurbishment. From right to left, you could see one aircraft in the evaluation stage, then one in electronic and component removal, a third in complete strip-down/rebuild, and the fourth in completed/testing awaiting its first test flight before being released back into the fleet. From right to left, you saw old and fatigued evolving to almost new, ready-to-go condition. It was quite the impressive migration as each aircraft would be moved down the line to eventual service life extension.

All this benefits not just the War Fighter, but also the Taxpayer, who – in the end – receives more bang for the tax dollar in terms of the original investment in major military equipment!

The Fleet Readiness Centers in concert with a well-integrated supply and distribution network perform what many a civilian taxpayer would consider practical miracles in the capabilities demonstrated in maximizing the service life, performance, and availability of American military equipment. The sad truth is not many of my fellow civilian Navy employees get the opportunity to witness and thereby appreciate the fruit of their individual labors where the proverbial rubber meets the road!

As an NAVSUP employee with over 39 years of experience, even I am immensely impressed by the quality of the Navy’s industrial capability. And I have not seen more than a tiny sliver of total Navy effort. It is – quite frankly – an experience that every single NAVSUP employee who directly or indirectly affects the Navy’s repairable management, procurement, and support operations should be required to enjoy!

Golfin’ California: Trump National GC, Los Angeles

Trump National GC, Los Angeles #9

For two weeks this August we had the opportunity to enjoy another combined work/family excursion to sunny Southern California. And as I am won’t to do, I wander off with my more golf-talented brother to indulge our mutual hobby of choice.

So we found ourselves on a gorgeous Tuesday morning preparing to explore the oceanside beauty that is Trump National Golf Club, Los Angeles! It’s a golf course we had lusted over even though brother Pat had played there once before.

As a warmup, we had played Steele Canyon Golf Club in Jamul, CA. A solid 27-hole track that cost $125, making a $195 investment for a circuit at a Trump golf property, overlooking the Pacific Ocean a no-brained!

For me, a consistently semi-talented golf hack, the Trump LA track was more than a little intimidating. We had the chance to view Trump LA a year or so previously while in SoCal for a family wedding event. The picturesque ocean-front scenery is dotted a bit too generously with deep, gaping, fluffily white sand traps. The greens billiard-smooth … if you like your billiards played on elephant graveyards where the pachyderms are buried just barely below the surface.

Yeah … only regular golfers will understand that last reference.

Yet the actual play was much less threatening than the visual would suggest. Like any golf course demands you must – as the pro shops resident Captain Obvious pointed out – “Hit the ball straight” as consistently as is possible. Certainly trouble lurks on almost every hole, but it’s easily avoided with a modicum of talent. True life golf hacks are in for a rude and rough ride!

Now permit me a bit of what my bro would call “golf heresy”.

On previous visits to California (Always good to strategically position a close relative on the Left Coast!), we have played Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, local muni tracks in the Long Beach area, and another whose name escapes me in the wine country of Temecula. And frankly, I more thoroughly enjoyed – from an entertainment, relaxation, and playability point-of-view – The Trump experience more so than Pebble!

Perhaps my opinion is jaded by a struggling round years ago at Pebble, or what I like to call the Disneyland of golf. Difficult holes with tough carries and greens so tough to read, you might rather take up bowling. Frankly, I even like Spyglass Hill much more than Pebble Beach!

My biggest problem playing Trump LA was keeping my mind on golf and off the incredible scenery. And yes, that’s impossible. The crystal blue waters … the homes on the cliffs overlooking the course and the Pacific … the natural flora and fauna … the beauty of the well-manicured grounds …

Yes, it was a struggle of monumental proportions, but what’s not to like? And let’s not forget, one also gets to play on a property bought, redesigned, and improved upon by one of the best American Presidents to grace The White House in decades!!

Yep … Worth every penny!

https://speakerdeck.com/obfusc8or/california-golfin-trump-national-gc-los-angeles

Why is recognizing and fixing Voter Fraud considered a political issue at all?

Report from Chicago

We are trapped in a “Twilight Zone” of deliberate ineptitude when we are prevented from resolving very fixable problems for reasons having nothing to do with protecting the sanctity and our confidence in reliable institutions such as voting!

‘Facts matter’: FEC chairwoman challenges Trump’s voter fraud claims
— Read on www.politico.com/amp/story/2019/08/19/fec-chairwoman-challenges-trump-voter-fraud-claims-1467224

Voter fraud does not need to be “rampant” to be a problem requiring correction. We don’t allow occasional financial fraud or identity theft to go unpunished or uncorrected, especially if there are systemic flaws. What’s the difference here?

Does anyone truly believe an example such as the proven and recent occurrence of Dead People voting in Philadelphia cannot or should not be addressed in a systemic way that would make such instances much less – even if not entirely – likely to happen in the future?

Prove to me that such reluctance is not simply an overreaction to Political Objectives callously anchored in false racial sensibilities!

Are my gym labors finally paying off …?

An unexpected interaction during my semi-regular gym program yielded the kind of feedback that drives you to keep torturing yourself.

Well almost …

After a brisk cardio workout and innumerable pushups (I forgot to count.) in sweaty heat-induced stuffiness, I head for the locker room and my pre-office shower. Wrapped discreetly – and considerately – in a towel cinched at the waist, I headed to the shower.

As I passed a significantly younger gym denizen leaving the showers, he called out, “Now I know who you remind of!”

I stopped and turned, curious and asked, “Who?”

Goldberg“!, he said, “You know, the wrestler.”

I was momentarily stunned. Goldberg? The once-upon-a-time WWF wrestling superstar!?! One of the very, very few wrestling personalities I recognize?!? (Sorry, boys.)

THE Goldberg?!? Wow!!

Holy freakin’ moly!! I wanted to run back out to the gym and do another 10 pushups … maybe flip that huge truck tire from hither to yon, just like all the other pumped up studs do!! Throw in a few dead lifts and power squats … and where did I put heavy bag gloves???

Then I ruined it all.

Instead of basking in the glow of an unexpected compliment and allowing the ‘roid-flavored accolade to soak into my obviously impressive physique, I said the stupidest thing possible in such a situation.

I said, “Really?” … a bit too eagerly, maybe a tad desperate.

“Yeah …”, he said, “Just a lot older.”

“Great …”, I muttered, and shuffled off to shower my deflated ego.

Moral of the Story: Shut up and keep your head down … especially at the gym!

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that perhaps my gym counterpart was simply referring to me from the neck up; was high on highly-concentrated endorphin powder; or legally blind!

There is no evidence to support any of these claims. The observation was entirely free of descriptive limitation, qualification, bribery, mental defect, addiction or fanciful skullduggery!

Bella Vista GC: Where “Relaxing Golf” is an Oxymoron

We have been playing golf for over 30 years, some even longer.  We enjoy and respect The Game.  We love the fresh air and exercise.  We love The Game.  We are considerate and observant of golf’s expectations for efficient play and the condition the the courses we play.

What course would not want us as patrons willing to play and pay?

We have had our bad experiences, usually at the hand of golfers who are not quite so mindful or considerate.  From those experiences, our appreciation for The Game and the correct way to play it has grown.  Ultimately though, our pleasure in playing Golf comes from the enjoyment of playing with good friends on quality golf courses on beautiful days!

However, if you can identify with the pleasures of the game described above, you may want to avoid Bella Vista Golf Club in Gilbertsville, PA!

For my foursome Bella Vista has become a golf course to avoid. The golf course’s current management has completely ruined a very good thing.  And for what?  A customer service approach that emphasizes speed of play over the Enjoyment of Golf!

Don’t rush Tony S. on a golf course!

The Big Aha:  What we did learn was a valuable lesson about the abuses of golf course GPS technology that would make Tony Soprano blanche.  The cart-mounted units allow Big Brother to micro-manage golfers like a incentives-crazed production line supervisor.

Our Experience:  Teeing off at 0824 on a beautiful June morning, we settled in to enjoy a relaxing day on the golf course.

After some early struggles, our round settled in to a nice rhythm. We were playing our round at a pace not unheard of for a Saturday morning in June.  At least in our opinion …

Being well-experienced golfers, we are always mindful of those playing behind us and the drag it can be when waiting around to hit your next shot.  But forcing players – to the point of confrontation – to maintain sight of the group ahead can be subjective and unfair, since several factors can magnify any gaps between foursomes.

On this Saturday, we can claim that at no time were the golfers playing immediately behind us ever standing around and waiting to play a shot.  In fact, when going over the incredible developments of that day, we could not even remember seeing the trailing foursome after the 2nd or 3rd hole.  Only on the 10th tee did we delay our play in the name of Bloody Marys and hotdogs!

Napoleon could marshall at Bella Vista GC

Somewhere around the 5th or 6th hole a wandering Course Ranger (Let’s call him Todd.) approached us and advised that we had a hole-and-a-half open in front of us.  Not a desirable pace, so we agreed to pick it up as best we could.  Again, no golfers waiting behind us. In fact, we could not even see the following foursome.

Fast forward to the 11th hole, when “Todd” approached us again and now DEMANDED that we pick up our pace, claiming that we were holding up the entire flight of golfers behind us.  When we pointed back to the 11th tee, where we had been just minutes before, no golfers were visible.  Yet “Todd” actually claimed that those golfers – invisible to us on the fairway – were “being polite” (whatever that meant) … apparently wearing camouflage and hiding among the bushes and trees!

Camouflage may be the new trend at Bella Vista GC

Apparently a new trend born at Bella Vista GC for “polite golfers” …

When we argued, “Todd” whipped out his iPad and proceeded to show – via a full-color graph – how our pace-of-play was “holding up everyone on the golf course”! So we once again pointed back to the empty 11th tee, and asked him where the hold-up was?

But at least the iPad revealed what the REAL problem was. A data-driven “golf quota”, no doubt fed from cart GPS units to a programmed spreadsheet that fed “Todd’s” tablet and drove him to become a golf course pest of unequaled persistence.

Tony Soprano was right all along! The Authorities could use the cart GPS to harass golfers!

Take out the GPS. I don’t want the FBI tracking us with it.” – Tony Soprano

That’s what I like about you, boss; you are always thinking of the big picture.” Paulie Walnuts Gualtieri.

Then the ridiculous turned unbelievable when “Todd” demanded that we SKIP the par-3 12th hole to bring our pace-of-play up to standard!  We pointedly demurred as we struggled to determine which episode of “The Twilight Zone” we had stumbled into.

Fast forward to the 13th tee after we ignored the “advice” to skip a hole.  And here comes the course superintendent to add in his $0.02, which was more like $4 as he proceeds to argue for 10 minutes.  In other words, interrupting our round to preach about pace-of-play while repeatedly stating that he “hated to be out there” harassing his customers.

By now we were disgusted; could not wait to get out of there; realizing we were playing our last round at Bella Vista GC. We have been spreading the word and this ridiculous story ever since!

But let’s review …

1. Yes, nothing screws up a golf round more than playing behind extremely slow golfers and having to wait continuously to play a shot.

2. Our foursome never saw anyone playing behind us, let alone waiting to hit their shots. Not ONCE anywhere during our round, including the roughly 20 minutes during which we were preoccupied by the lunacy of being accused of slowing down the entire golf course!

3. Pace-of-play is a noble concept. But it needs to be pressed judiciously, not a blind data-driven blip on a graph or spreadsheet!  Think Gabe Kapler pulling Aaron Nola in the 5th inning on Opening Day!

usa-ap-gabe-kapler-aaron-nola-braves

The dangers of obsessive data-driven management …

4. How do you blame golfers for delaying play when none of the foursomes playing behind are being directly held up by your “slow play”!  If they were, for any length of time, many golfers will either confront you directly or will take the passive-aggressive approach of “hitting up on you”.  Neither occurred this day …

And that’s where we will leave this episode of “The Twilight Show”, Tony Soprano-golfer style.

What we will never do again is play Bella Vista GC. A review of on-line ratings suggest this is not the first time course personnel have made dubious pace-of-play claims that have ruined the good mood, experiences, and monetary investments of area golfers!

Do the smart thing, if you enjoy a relaxing round of golf, and avoid playing at Bella Vista GC in Gilbertsville, PA!

Campaign 2020 Prep

In a moment of rare disappointment, I just tossed a work of fiction in the trash as I found myself rolling my eyes at the hero’s exploits way too often. And no, the book is not worth sharing …

Instead, I will take this time to begin prepping for the upcoming 2020 Democrat Primary campaign season with a historical look into the ancestry of one Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator …

Next in line:

Kamala Harris

… followed by Cory Booker

Philadelphia Soda Tax Reality Check

2017062101025444_DMR_AP3I7328We have not lived in Philadelphia for over twenty years now, but I still work within the city limits. My youngest son finds living in the city more energetic and interesting than our sleepy ‘burb. That’s fine for him, but the methods The City has chosen to fund operations and programs (i.e. taxing people and property more than ever) have made our decision to leave seem all the wiser.

Horror stories abound on how The City has executed its real estate reassessment initiative. Tales of how the Philadelphia Beverage Tax (PBT) has affected the people are far less dramatic, but perhaps more insidious for those who live and work there.

I haven’t really paid much attention to the dynamics and effects of the PBT, aside from noticing a 33% increase at the office vending machine and changing my drink-buying habits accordingly. Instead of laying out $2 for an 18.5 ounce bottle (formerly $1.50) of Turkey Hill’s magic ice tea elixir, I began to lug 64 ounce bottles into work, purchased near home at a savings of over $4 per bottle based on volume.

I guess you tend not to think about such things until you are gobsmacked through real-life experience. So after that adjustment was made, I never gave the issue another thought. Not my problem anymore …

06-16-16 Soda tax

Then a few weeks ago, I forgot a critical ingredient to my latest healthy lunch fad (Greek yogurt*, honey, fresh berries, granola* … * low sugar options) at my Philadelphia work location. Granola – the critical missing ingredient – brings it all together.

So I trudge over to the local ShopRite to granola-up and – being low on precious Turkey Hill DIT – I decide to check on availability and price. After over a year of not buying ridiculously taxed, unsweetened drinks, the horror must have faded from memory.

For home use, I buy the full gallon (128 oz.) version of Turkey Hills best. Simple math and you can see where this is headed.

At home (Acme Markets) I pay $2.99 a gallon. (Sale price this week $1.99!) As I wander the ShopRite aisles, I eventually find the object of one of my obsessions … at $5.12 a gallon!!!

Pretty sure I now have PTSD (Philadelphia Tax Stress Disorder) …

DISCUSSION POINTS:

(I don’t pretend to have all the answers … just questions, reactions, and observation … and maybe one solution)

1. How does such a phenomena NOT affect the food shopping habits of Philadelphia families, the profitability of City food markets, and the tax revenue projections?

I know my shopping habits would be affected if still living in Philly. People are not likely to shop twice for groceries just to avoid an intrusive tax. More likely is the obvious solution of moving all grocery shopping outside the City limits.

SE1SODA05P

2. Does the tax impact the economically disadvantaged in Philadelphia disproportionately?

It’s easy for most to hop in the car and head over the City Limits to shop in suburban soda tax havens. But what about the poor? Do they shoulder the disproportionate bulk of the tax burden, when bad habits are hard to break and the corner bodega is the only short-term food source?

3. It’s difficult to deny the health benefits of laying off sugary foods and drinks. This is how Government justifies taxing cigarettes. So what happens to the economic goals of the tax if the citizenry wised up and changes their drinking habits?

IL_Infographic_png

Philadelphia levies a 1.5 cent/gallon vs. the above

Frankly, this will end up being a win-win for the City of Philadelphia, regardless of where actual soda-tax revenue falls.  If the citizenry fails to make healthier choices, the city cleans up.  If they are successful in changing their habits and sugary drink sales – and the taxes – dry up, the city will claim Healthy Choices Victory!

4. If the selling point is #3 above, why are drink distributors (who actually pay the tax to The City) allowed to price the tax across its entire product line … whether the drink contains sugar or not?

This really rubs the wrong way! Sugar tax? Fine … So why are Philadelphians and visitors paying the tax on drinks without sugar?!?

One might understand if the tax 1.5-cent tax was applied proportionately over sugar and non-sugar drinks. But my calculations indicate that the full tax is being paid on non-sugary drinks as well, which should at the very least be considered a fraudulent act on the consumers!

related-story-charter-bus-companies

Do you see a common thread?

5. A “Big Aha” was revealed last week, when John Dougherty – leader of the Philadelphia chapter (Local 98) of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – was revealed to have supported the sugary drink tax as a way of punishing the local Teamsters affiliate for running a political ad during the 2015 Philadelphia election that portrayed Dougherty in a negative light.

The really funny twist to this curiosity is that apparently Johnny Doc targeted the wrong union!

Now I doubt Dougherty carried the day for the tax-happy leaders of Philadelphia; but it is an odd twist to see labor unions trying to stick it to each other using a general tax issue!

6. This discussion will become much more interesting if reliable grocery sales data were shared alongside the figures for actual beverage-tax collections. Both The City and grocery industry affiliations have been lobbing claims back and forth about the health of the city’s grocery industry as affected by the tax.

Frankly, I would be shocked if the figures did not show a significant decline in grocery sales in the city (as adjusted for the ridiculously high beverage tax). I would be even more surprised if The City ever admitted as much!

7. Finally, as recent as last year the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were willing to package $5.7 billion in tax breaks and incentives to mega-billion-dollar Amazon in a failed attempt to get the corporation to locate its eastern headquarters there. This in addition to huge financial packages to keep other corporate entities, such as Comcast and some Philadelphia sports teams in the city, and other smaller real estate abatement used to attract development.

Putting aside smaller development deals, and recognizing the civic commitments by those “such as” corporations named above, would it be too much to ask potential mega-tax-break corporations to pick up the tab for an initiative like full-day kindergarten as a legitimate giveback to taxpayer-funded corporate largesse?

In reality such a giveback would benefit employees of those city-based corporate entities by ensuring more attractive public education alternatives. This would be – in effect – an indirect employer-provided benefit, especially for those younger corporate employees with young children or expecting them in their future.

To me, it sounds a lot better than punishing those without the wherewithal or strength to break an unhealthy and expensively taxed bad habit.

Free Speech, the NFL, … and what about Security Clearances

To be honest, my nose was never out-of-joint over the protests by NFL players during img_0042-1the  National Anthem.  But in the interest of honesty, I will admit I have been a fan of the NFL (Fly, Eagles fly!) since the 1960s.

It’s not that I agree or enjoy watching million-dollar athletes taking a knee or raising a fist in protest of a Country that enables their lucrative careers. There are quite simply expressions that madden me much, much more, such as the burning of U.S. flags.  However, I do reserve a special level of rage for the sickly Westboro Baptist clowns, who are fond of expressing their Rights in the most insensitive ways at the most inappropriate times.

Maybe I prefer reserving my wrath for the greatest threats to Free Speech. The rage and discomfort we endure is the price one must pay for belief in our Constitution and for faith in the world’s most successful free and open republic.

Amendment I, United States Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Free Speech requires an appreciation for Advanced Citizenship in the U.S. of A.  The more centered and focused you remain on the guiding principle of Free Speech, the more likely you will recognize that such citizenship sometimes requires herculean self-control when someone expresses thoughts and ideas in ways that infuriate.

It’s a concept a lot of people have a difficult time accepting, whether the issue involves a student opting to sit for the Pledge of Allegiance or a couple of knuckleheads burning an American flag.  And sometimes – maybe at when it’s needed most – a remarkable moment unfolds in a way that’s unexpected and ultimately memorable!

And yes, when Rick Monday swooped to the rescue of the national standard, he too was expressing his Right to Free Speech as well!  He spoke with his actions.

Advanced Citizenship – a level of patriotism fewer Americans seem to achieve of late – demands the ability to grit our teeth and chalk your outrage up to a higher national calling. Not that such a thing makes the demonstration any easier to accept. Consider these challenges a test … an opportunity to exercise your appreciation for the ability of those with whom you disagree to exercise their Free Speech, not matter how infuriating.

And no … the excuse that “They do it!” is insufficient.  Let their actions define their character and Patriotism. Don’t let your reactions negatively define yours.

Keep in mind, it’s the lesser of us who choose to shout down or violently suppress Free Speech. It’s a tactic favored by those who would rather tell us what to think or how to vote at the point of whatever weapon might be handy. White supremacists and elements of the Far Left, such as Antifa, have much in common in that regard.

In the case of the National Football League, their recent misguided attempts to rein in the pre-game protests in the face of withering public opinion (more free speech about Free Speech) actually exacerbated the problem. My opinion is that the Players would likely have allowed the protests to die had they not been confronted in such a direct and public way.

But even as I encourage a daunting level of civic sainthood, I cannot give those Westboro Baptist idiots a sliver of accommodation. They are vile, mean-spirited, and unworthy – in my estimation – of even being called Americans.

Yes, if nothing else, I am a flawed American. But I can live with that …

There are nuanced limitations to this Freedom of Speech thing.

  1. You cannot scream “Fire!” in the proverbial crowded theatre.
  2. You cannot express thoughts or opinions under the name of your employer, especially if they serve to somehow conflict with business or embarrass them among consumers of their products.
  3. You cannot defame an individual or organization with false statements. A student’s free speech rights are limited somewhat while in school.
  4. You cannot openly exhort people to violence.
  5. At events deemed to be National Special Security Events (e.g. political conventions, inaugurations, Super Bowl), your Speech can be restricted to specified protest zones.

John Brennan

former CIA Director John O. Brennan

The recent hullabaloo over the National Security clearance of John Brennan, former head of the CIA, appears to fall into several of the above exceptions. Brennan’s security clearance was revoked by the Trump Administration, likely at the direction of President Trump, for – among other things – making wild, unsupported accusations of Treason on the part of The President.

My rationale for accepting the Trump Administration’s action against Brennan comes from the following:

  1. Although precedent has set the standard that former National Security officials keep their clearances in order to assist succeeding officials in consultation during sensitive events, the same precedent forms a link (in my mind anyway) between the former officials and the current Administration. In some ways, the relationship mimics the employee-employer relationship ,,, in a quasi kind of way. If the former official becomes an embarrassment to the Government, the Government should exercise their authority to withdraw the privilege of access to sensitive information.
  2. Brennan was spouting a lot of unsubstantiated viewpoints that in essence defamed the Government and The President. It would be impossible for anyone to successfully argue that Brennan – or anyone else – deserves to retain such access as they openly and continuously cause embarrassment and suggest treason unencumbered by any attempt to factually document the accusation.
  3. Yes, rescinding such access is a bit retaliatory in that it can affect Brennan’s ability to benefit monetarily. Yet that very sentiment underscores in a way that quasi-employer-employee exception to Free Speech. Ask yourself if any Administration (the quasi-employer) should allow a pointed and factually unreliable critic the ability to earn money using the very information managed, controlled, and heavily relied upon by the current Government? Seems like a slam dunk …
  4. Removing his security clearance does nothing to restrict Brennan’s Free Speech. He can still appear in forums, on cable TV, in print media. Brennan can say anything he wants, subject to the restrictions the rest of us are expected to observe. He might not make as much money doing it as he did before (in theory), but nothing about removing his clearance affects his ability to express his views.

And there you have the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of a beautiful Freedom instilled upon a Free People to ensure their freedom prospers and perhaps spreads to freedom lovers the World over!