The Shame in Where We’re Headed

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Shelby Foote

Today I finished the three volume Shelby Foote classic “The Civil War: A Narrative“, a years in the making goal developed from my mid-life interest in the American nation’s biggest challenge to defining its character and identity.  If one period can be recognized as the foundation for all the United States accomplished in the decades to follow, through two World Wars; a global depression; its period of international leadership following WWII; and the social upheavals still occurring to this day, it would be the sense of Nation that resulted through the challenges of The Civil War.

The reasons why the Civil War was necessary are readily apparent.  The men, who created the country from a collection of separate colonies and wrote our Constitution, were inherently human.  Which is to say, they were imperfect and eminently fallible.  Yes, they made mistakes … huge mistakes.  They made a terrible compromise in the name of creating a constitutional republic.

They allowed the possession of other human beings as property to hold the Southern states of the post-Revolution, pre-Constitution confederation.  And that was just their biggest mistake.  Early American politics were complicated, tenuous, and riddled with figurative minefields.  When examined through the lenses of history, humanity, and modern social consciousness, a lot of modern, current day Americans fail to grasp what the expression “grand experiment” means.

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It’s important to appreciate the extent to which these early American leaders knew they were imperfect and eminently fallible.  For that reason, they recognized that The People needed to be protected from the vagaries of Government, which in all practical matters is motivated and directed by imperfect and eminently fallible men.  The U.S. Constitution protected the States from the power and the potential for abuse from the National Government.

The Grand Experiment – as described by non-slave holder Alexander Hamilton (pre-Broadway version) – was hardly intended to be THE perfect solution to the many problems and challenges those early American leaders faced in creating a new nation.  The necessity of amending The Constitution almost immediately (i.e. two years after USC ratification) in 10 ways – The Bill of Rights – was proof that blind spots had existed when the US Constitution was written.  The Rights of the Individual – only the white male ones at the time – had to be protected as well from infringements by all levels of Government.

The Civil War was the inevitable solution for the most egregious shortcoming of those Founding Fathers.  Though not all were slaveholders, and an argument could be made that many who did opposed it as an acceptable practice, they were an insufficient number inadequately strong – in influence and political power – to exclude it.

All out war in the end was the only remedy.  And yet, slavery was not the ONLY reason the Civil War was fought.  It was however the BIGGEST reason and the impenetrable barrier to a peaceful solution to several issues!

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Foote’s “The Civil War: Epilogue” totaled the casualties of setting right the biggest mistake of The Founders:  640,000 Union, 450,000 Confederate casualties.  200,000 total killed in battle; 365,000 total dead for the Union; 256,000 dead Confederates when you include those who died from disease, unrelated crimes, drowning, suicide, etc.  That’s 620,000 military dead from all causes.  Add in another 470,000 wounded (total both sides) to almost reach 1.1 million total war-related casualties.  And that does not include civilian losses.

I would normally write a good bit more about the book in a blog, but my reading of the third and last volume coincided with the egregious death of George Floyd and the latest rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) to such events.  The Floyd death and calls for justice were traumatic enough and certainly understandable.

But then the movement morphed.

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It morphed first into violence and vandalism.  Then avowed anarchist usurped a theretofore justifiable outrage.  It became more about hatred for and retaliation against law enforcement officers; disdain for modern social constructs and government; and a desire to gut American society in favor of certain not-so-grand experiments that have NEVER proved successful in past attempts (e.g. socialism, anarchy, elimination of law enforcement, the overthrow of systems of justice).

As one who admires our history with all its faults, mistakes, and injustices, it’s maddening to see the destruction of monuments to it.  Yes, you can understand the desire of many who want to tear down statues to slave holders; their sympathizers; and their military protectors … as much as I might disagree.  Such reactions are an insult to the our history, warts and all.

If humans cannot achieve perfection, what they create can never be perfect.  Change will ultimately be necessary; and some of that change will be bloody, violent, destructive. How does one learn from history, and prevent the reoccurrence of destructive change, by removing all monuments and remembrances?  How does that help to prevent history’s repetitive inclinations?

Foote’s epilogue contains a quote that appears surprisingly pertinent to recent events. Anaximander, an ancient Greek philosopher, once stated:

“It is necessary that things should pass away into that from which they are born.  For things must pay one another the penalty and compensation for the injustice according to the ordinance of time.”

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U.S. Grant helped end the Confederacy threat

No stretch of consciousness should dismiss such a concept.  At some point all our acts will be subject to human judgment through the prism of time and the evolution of Man’s thinking as expressed through social mores and their behavioral expression.  Certainly slavery would fit that suggestion.  Judgment of it as one of the bleakest points in the American Experiment is undisputed.  Those that fought to preserve it as tradition, economic essential, or evolutionary dictate paid the physical price 160 years ago.  But we cannot ignore that the emotional scars and even some social behaviors (i.e. racism) remain to this day.

So I can see why removing Confederate statuary would be a comfort to some … or even a political/social imperative.  But there should be a process resulting from consensus and protected by local government for their removal, relocation, or destruction, providing no lesson for history continues to exist.

“… Providing no lesson for history continues to exist” is the crucial thought.  Can we honestly say American society is beyond its racist past?  Are there not still lessons to be learned about what transpired 160 years ago?  How would current and future generations learn from invisible legacy, if all reminders are swept from view?

There’s a difference in suggesting the statue of Bedford Forest, who was a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan, should be removed for its obvious racist symbolism; but quite another to suggest the statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, or James Longstreet offer nothing of value in the way of historical or military lessons.  What do we learn from the past, if we erase all physical evidence of its existence?

In this the anarchist, anti-American factions betrayed themselves.  They went far beyond righting the wrongs of racial suppression.  When you cannot tell the difference – or more accurately don’t care – between Robert E. Lee and U.S. Grant or Abraham Lincoln, you allow us to glimpse the true purpose of your “protest”.

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Freedman’s Memorial:  On Lincoln’s first visit to Richmond after its fall in the Civil War, he told former slaves, who bent knees to pay homage to him, to stand up; to kneel before no man; and to kneel only before God.  It was paid for entirely by former slaves!

It’s easier to understand the visceral reaction of the black community to the death of Floyd.  But in essence that movement was usurped by those with broader motivations as we have seen before.  There is no interest there in making America a better example to the world at large.  They simply want America to die with no regard for all the good the country has accomplished since 1776.

This happens not because they cannot grasp the inherent fallibility of 18th century man or credit the foresight they displayed by even attempting such a Grand Experiment!  They simply hate the fact that the system created 230 years ago requires they appeal to The People to make a difference.  Not just some people, but all The People.  They hate that they have to work hard to convince us that their insight is superior, let alone whether such insight offers a better world.

They don’t want to work for it.  They want to convince you to destroy it.  They want to be able to convince you without offering even the remotest idea of what those changes would look like.

For those reasons alone, you know their ideas are bankrupt!

 

 

 

 

My Corona … Day 55: Enough already!

Question:  If we – The American Public – reach consensus in acknowledging that Corporate America is a). “In this together …” with us; b). Are doing everything they can to recognize our “Heroes on the Home Front“; and c) Are willing to do “whatever is necessary” to serve our needs during the COVID-19 crisis, can we dispense with the endless commercials “celebrating” our “shared experiences” in being incredibly annoyed and monumentally bored?!? 

Please!?!

At this point, what Corona America needs right now is relief from the endless Corporate Corona Imaging efforts!

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On-line image searches suggest the COVID-19 virus comes in an assortment of color patterns. Personally, I like this one best!

So how do I really feel about the COVID-19 crisis?

Like a lot of us, I am pretty fed up with the restrictions, the draconian measures and – as you can tell from the above – flat out getting annoyed with the perpetual message that “Golly gee … Ain’t this a wonderful Community-building opportunity?!?”

As for the crisis itself, I do not presume to know more than scientists and medical experts.  However, based on 64 years experience on this planet, I can offer several rational checks on the emotional responses and the measures taken to protect us Everyone.

My biggest issue here is the premise that ALL people need protecting.  That could be either a pragmatic, experience-based point-of-view or a cynical, sick-of-this-crap response. You decide.

The following might help …

  • Never in my life has anything even remotely similar occurred, where everyday normal life functions have been curtailed by quarantining the entire populace.
  • Swine flu, avian flu, H1N1, Asian flu (Was not considered “racist” at the time.), Hong Kong flu (ditto) never resulted in responses this restrictive and severe.
  • Is it really statistically possible that there has not been a similarly threatening flu or virus flying around the globe since the 1918 Spanish flu. (Something I really have a very difficult time accepting!)
  • People die of flu-type and viral illnesses every year.
  • In general, it’s the same people, who are most likely to die, regardless of the viral type or its virility.  The elderly, the very young, those with preexisting illnesses are always the most susceptible.
  • There are no proven effective measures at stopping a potent flu or virus from spreading, not locally, nationally, or globally.

Now here’s where my particular brand of cynical pragmatism might get me in trouble with some people.

My salute to dairy farmers on the front line.

Exactly what has been gained by shutting down society; crippling economies; and threatening the very subsistence (e.g. meat packaging) of our healthy population? We still have thousands of the elderly dying from COVID-19, despite the measures taken to protect them. In some cases, the very decisions made by government authorities under the powers bestowed upon them under COVID-19 protocols killed more of the institution-bound elderly!

From the perspective of societal evolution, it’s is always the old, the infirm, the weak, and the very young who are most likely to succumb to such health threats. Does that change in any way by forcing everyone into isolation?

And what of the biology of the healthy? We know that the human immune system works to evolve by creating antibodies when new biological threats present themselves. How is this being affected through attempts to keep everyone from being exposed? How does such an approach help should – as some predict – this virus recycles itself as it circles the globe?

Sweden has taken a very different approach to the corona virus, where the social, economic, and vulnerability issues appear more balanced, based on risk assessments and folkvett, a cultural concept that roughly translates to “good manners”, that – colloquially – can be expressed as “act like an ******* adult”. And although some express caution or even open derision at Sweden’s strategy, their objections are largely based on the lack of sufficient statistical data to support the strategy and emotional responses to the threat to vulnerable populations.

Meanwhile, in Sweden …

In my humble opinion, if you take Emotion out of the risk assessment equation, the Swedish example sounds like a much more pragmatic approach. And let’s recall how often Sweden is elevated as a shining example of sound socialist healthcare management! If such is the case, why do efforts to behave closer to the Swedish model meet so much resistance, particularly in our more liberal states?

Risk, fear and emotion will be the biggest obstacles as we emerge from quarantine. My biggest fear – given how risk-adverse politicians are – is the potential for monumentally slow and tentative decisions on how best to get back to normal (whatever “normal” will look like). Many politicians – in their interests to remain employed as public servants benefactors – may very well approach every COVID-19 decision as a three-sided puzzle (please everyone, risk nothing, minimize emotional responses).

 

img_0320Under such circumstances, a productive and fair balancing act is not impossible. Attempting to avoid any and all losses, which are inevitable, will retard the recovery and accomplish nothing more than prolonging the pain for those for whom normal life means survival (hands-on, in-person workers; small businesses; retail, bar and food employees; personal service providers; etc.)

An interesting example of sensationalizing COVID-19 statistics popped up this morning on Lehigh Valley Live.  The article highlighting a new model forecasting “PA coronavirus deaths to TRIPLE …“!

What the authors neglected to leave out is Perspective, in favor of attempts at triggering Emotion and Fear.  As in … If – as this model suggests – Pennsylvania deaths were to increase to 8600, the overall death-per-capita in Pennsylvania (pop. 12.7 million) would be 0.068%.

Those whose health is compromised or threatened we must continue to protect, but frankly, that should have been the primary focus all along, not necessarily a total societal shutdown. It’s always the duty of the healthy to be mindful of the vulnerable with whom they will have contact (family members, friends, coworkers, etc.). COVID-19 did not change what is – should be – a modicum of human decency.

Put another way, we should prudently reopen the country, especially in less dense population areas (e.g. suburban communities) and demand that people act like adults! Now THAT would be an effective use endless Corporate Corona messaging!

And if this proves too difficult a concept for some to grasp, then maybe Society will benefit from their absence on the evolutionary ladder!

My Corona … Day 47**

** I think … At this point I am having a hard time just keeping track of what day of the week it is.

Tuesday, April 28 was an exciting Day 47.  The combined flights of U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds conducted coordinated America Strong demonstrations over New York City, northern New Jersey, and the Philadelphia region to salute COVID-19 healthcare workers.

As a dutiful patriot, this was an opportunity to share with those unable to witness the spectacle first-hand, using my drone’s live-broadcasting capability.  We get very few opportunities to see and record our military’s precision and power on display, especially from the front yard.

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Photo Credit: James Beaver

But as Murphy’s Law goes, several aspects of the operation went awry. This due largely to the Navy and Air Force’s inability to be predictable, practical, and cooperative!

Sons of bitches …

Anywho … An intricately laid plan was dreamed up roughly an hour before the scheduled flight down the I-95 corridor towards Center City Philadelphia, then out north towards Doylestown.  A Cranky Man aficionado, located to the northeast of Drone Central in the Langhorne area, was an obliging volunteer spotter. Far enough north – I believed – to give plenty of warning as the DoD’s Finest passed to the east from NYC.  By either sight or sound, I should have sufficient notice to get Little Bird off the ground and into position.

images-1But no … no, not at all …

Our Heroes of the Flight Line evaded my spotter through stealth and a general reluctance to cooperate. Our frustrated spotter claiming to have neither seen or heard our elusive subjects. (Frankly, I think she wasn’t really paying attention.). After waiting five minutes past the expected FOP (Forward Observation Post) alert, I launched Little Bird and took it to its maximum altitude (400 ft).

Expecting – at best – to catch a glimpse of the 12-plane formation zipping down the I-95 corridor somewhere in the vicinity of NE Philly, I trained the drone to the east.  In assuming the flight would be traveling high enough, but likely be too far for Little Bird’s camera to pick them up, Plan B was to look for them heading north up Rt. 611.  The drone’s dedicated WIFI allows me to link my personal devices with the drone camera.  On my iPhone, I could see Center City as a slight rise of tall buildings well out to the southeast.

philly-flightpathAfter 5-10 minutes of fruitless searching a neighbor announced that they were already flying out over West Philly; and I had the sinking feeling that my op was lagging far behind the action.  Plan B was executed, and I scanned the skies to my immediate south, hoping to catch the flight on what I was assumed to be a direct line from Philly towards Doylestown.

Of course this was where the Greatest Military on the Face of the Earth decided to prove –  once again – their complete disregard for best laid plans.

Perhaps I missed an important tidbit of information, difficult as that may be as its a 1000-acre property no more than a 1/4 mile from my house.  Somehow I never considered the potential for a flyover of the largely abandoned Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove.  Also missed was the only military presence at JRB Willow Grove was an Air Force drone facility (oddly enough) and that the Thunderbirds were – ya know – in the Air Force!

Seconds after my neighbors started screeching, “There they go!”, came the realization … I was now at the mercy of events.  Trying to multi-task, a dangerous development, especially when trying to do three things at a time (fly, watch the video, and eyeball a large uncooperative 12-plane formation).  All the while a large formation of military jets speed where they aren’t expected and quite obviously flying a lot lower than predicted.

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Photo Credit: James Beaver

Remember the drone?  I had it at 400 ft, as I expected a fairly far-off sighting at altitudes approximating that of the tall buildings of NYC and beloved Philadelphia.

Suddenly the roar of jet engines grows, reminiscent of days-gone -by when JRB Willow Grove hosted airshows with bi-annual appearances of the Blue Angels.  Yep … They used to fly right over the house at treetop level!

Right over the house they screamed, and at that instant I realized Little Bird was in big danger!  Not to mention the potential for damaging a $18-30 million copy of an American fighter … The thought, “How much damage a drone could cause if sucked into an engine intake”, came from my professional though vague familiarity with the intricacies of military jet engines.

I frantically looked to spot the drone, which at that height is visible to the naked eye, but barely.  When I found it, I realized the Thunderbirds had just passed it to the south.  But the Blue Angels were actually flying directly BENEATH IT!

It would have been the Video of all Videos … if only its camera were pointed down, not out.

I do not take lightly the ultimate stupidity of allowing Little Bird to get anywhere near any aircraft, let alone high-performance jets. It was a brief, terrifying in moment.

I take all the blame, but never ever expected to see the fly-bys so low and that close.  I should have known better though.

In the end, the balance sheet has no videos, no photos, no property damage, no federal prison time. Could have been worse …

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The shot would have been epic, if I had gotten it. On the other hand, the pilot would likely be giving Little Bird a one-finger salute!

 

 

 

 

My Corona! Day 36

18Techfix-illo-mobileMasterAt3xTeleworking is either the bane of our civilized existence or the greatest invention since the beer keg … depending on your personal perspective. Being an old school diehard, I have avoided teleworking, despite the encouragement of the US Navy, largely because I did not trust myself around so many home-bound distractions.

Before big, bad Corona reared its ugly dangerous head, I was forced by Necessity to experiment a bit with the whole work-from-home phenomena when – somehow – The Most Powerful Navy in the World tripped over their Internet cord.  We have many alternate definitions for the acronym NMCI (Navy Marine Corp Intranet), and none of them are flattering.

On such occasions I suggested to Carol that this might be our retirement dry run, as I am painfully close to pulling the plug on my illustrious civilian Navy career. Those practice sessions improved neither my views on teleworking or the prospects for a stress-free retirement. Let’s just say, when you aren’t around as much, people get used to you not being around.

My first mistake teleworking was setting up the Command Center within sight and sound of the Activity Monitor. It was impossible for the monitor to avoid observing – and commenting – on how many “breaks” I took for silly things like eating, drinking, and personal hygiene.

Retirement-wise, I began to wonder what working into my 80s would look like.

z-funny-75-1When Corona confronted me with the prospect of living for WEEKS in constant, uninterrupted work-from-home contact, I knew we had to make this work. If not, one of us – likely me – would end up buried beneath my thick, weedless, pillow-like Best Lawn in Horsham, Pennsylvania.

The first couple of days were tough. You know … The usual “Are you eating again?!?” and “Do you do this at the office?!?”

It was time to get realistic.

So I moved lock, stock, and barrel to the basement apartment. Comes with it’s own half-kitchen, Keurig, fridge, TV and semi-comfy furniture! It also has a bed (wink wink). The benefits in peace, quiet, and unlimited, unjustified man-breaks are a boon to navy supply support!

It’s been an enlightening experience. And I found a solution to the inevitable post-retirement “What the … You’re still here?!?” adjustment period!

I will only have to disappear for 10 hours a day … five days a week!

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My Corona! Day 27

img_2447As this unprecedented health event hopefully approaches “curve flattening” – if not it’s true apex – continued uncertainty, a myriad of stressors, and a drastic curtailing of normal life, I am trying to look at some of the positive aspects of Life’s disruption.  This is not always easy, particularly when you wake up each morning wondering if that cough, sneeze, or runny nose means anything.

Just allergies, I think/hope/pray.

The biggest positive is the timing of this COVID-19 crisis in the beginning of Spring.  Here in Southeast Pennsylvania the crocuses are blooming; tulips have already pushed up through the soil and are blooming; and the landscapes are a verdant green (assuming of course that you subscribe to Cranky Man’s Lawn’s Program for Lawn Love).  Bought a new lawnmower the weekend before the lockdown hit, and cutting the lawn has been more “fun” than usual!

I’m hopeful that warmer temperatures and how it entices people outdoors could be a positive effect.  It’s a welcome benefit to spend at least an hour or so each day outdoors when temps and weather permit.

Outdoor exercise is always a benefit when the weather is nice.  Carol and I have been taking semi-regular walks together just to get out and about.  It lifts the spirits a bit and invigorates … important when trying to avoid the potential for anxiety and depression, given the constant media obsession.

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Try a puppy instead of The Media

Here’s a solution for Constant Media Obsession: Turn off the TV. Get off the internet. I don’t even read the newspaper much anymore. Try NOT reading any corona-related stories and see just how quickly you can read a newspaper!

Let’s face it. Ten minutes of COVID-19 coverage and you know all you need to know. There is no (confirmed) cure, no significant flattening of The Curve (yet), no loosening of the isolation standards.

Back to the positives …

  • Although spending a lot of time with family offers opportunity. Spending quality time – even an inordinate amount – with your children can work with a little creativity and ingenuity. Examples abound on social media.
  • Take advantage of your backyard.

Spent early evenings the previous two days (rain today) on our backyard deck and saw more neighbors than you would normally see, even on the most glorious of Spring Saturdays!

  • Working from home?  I have avoided it up to now, actually enjoying my suburban commute to work and the socializing the office provides.  But there are a few extra benefits to working two flights from the bedroom.  And that’s even as I refuse to work in my PJs!
  • Cannot remember the last time I had to buy gas for the car.
  • With everyone under our roof being home all the time and no eat-in restaurants open, home-cooked meals almost every night. (Disadvantage Carol)
  • People are friendlier. Every time we take a walk or step outside, someone is around getting exercise and fresh air; walking the dog; trying to exhaust their pent-up children; doing outdoor chores, etc. And all seem ready with a smile or a wave.
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Sunset over Horsham (PA) this evening

They say hard times make tougher people, truer friends, closer families.

What I think is that these difficult times force us all onto a relatively common level of hardship, challenge, and vulnerability.  It strips down the barriers that tend to keep us apart and prevent  interaction.

Take advantage of that!  But only from a safe distance …

 

Ma-ma-ma My Corona! Day 9

The-Knack-My-Sharona-1581713180As this unprecedented health event continues to progress with its uncertainty, stressors, and a drastic curtailing of normal life, I dedicate My Corona – Day 9 to a nameless fellow coworker. Let’s call him Bob.

Bob – on one of our last days in the office – attempted to poke fun at my role as office DJ by asking me why I wasn’t playing the song “My Corona”. I told him – somewhat indignantly – that the song was The Knack‘s “My Sharona“. Little did I know until I checked that there actually was a parody song called “My Corona”.

I took the liberty of previewing it. And my recommendation is to skip it; but I link it here just in case you are not already depressed enough being sequestered like a petulant 3-year-old in “timeout”. Remember you were warned.

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The following version is a bit better … as in a bit better than being stuck in your house with eight of your offspring all under the age of 6.

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But this extremely short video is by far the best so far …

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My obvious point here is that with all the stress, uncertainty, hyper media coverage,  doom and gloom predictions, etc., etc. … it will be our ability to maintain perspective; use common sense; and maybe laugh a little at our human frailty are our best attributes that might just help in getting through all this.

Keep safe. Be smart. Enjoy the time with those most important to you … despite how “scary” that might be.

 

My Corona! Day 6

Yesterday – Day 5 – was my second consecutive day of teleworking from home. A small personal first which included a conference call that set forth NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support official response to the corona virus crisis.

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For the foreseeable future, I will be tethered to the military-industrial complex via the Ethernet from home. NAVSUP WSS Command initiated its Continuance Of Operation Plans, appropriately named as its acronym describes the status of home-bound hostages, as in “I’m freakin’ COOPed up in this freakin’ house”!

The immediate essentials are the prohibition of employees in the work spaces unless absolutely essential; the continuance of systems and interactions that support US Navy and Marine Corp operations; and the collection of data on things like systems availability and the quality of networking connections. The latter data requirement the product of this event as the first implementation of the COOP.

As one, who never worked a regular telework schedule as a personal preference, this is a big adjustment.  As mentioned yesterday, this will also be a challenge for Carol as well!  

As is my habit, when I leave for work (in this case the basement) I gave her a kiss as I left our bedroom. A bit sleepy and confused she asked, “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to work”, I said.

“You’re a weirdo …” was her loving response!

Love is a many splendored thing!

I leave you today with this observation plagiarized and paraphrased as follows:

“If we go through all of this bullshit (paraphrased part),

and absolutely NOTHING happens to us …

Well, that is the point!”

– a known but forgotten author

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

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!

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

In 1966 I was 10 years-old; and as 10 year-olds are wont to do I was infatuated with sophomoric behavior and attracted to silly comedy on TV and The Big Screen.  In May of that year a comedy hit the silver screen, starring Alan ArkinCarl Reiner, Brian Keith, and Jonathan Winters.

Editors-Pick-The-Russians-are_-Coming-The-Russians-are-Coming

The movie was called “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!” in an oblique reference to the Ride of Paul Revere when the British were on their way to Lexington and Concord.  The synopsis of the movie on IMDb reads as follows:

Without hostile intent, a Soviet sub runs aground off New England. Men are sent for a boat, but many villagers go into a tizzy, risking bloodshed.

Apparently, little has changed when it comes to the reaction of “the villagers” whenever we spot someone from Mother Russia!

OK … It’s really the Media that’s largely having apoplectic seizures over Russians, Russians, Russians.

As we slog through yet another so-called Trump “scandal”, I am having much difficulty in understanding where all the hubbub is about.  So allow me to summarize what I know with the hope that someone can make better sense of this confusion than I am able.

  1. lead_960Donald Trump, Jr. is approached by a long-time friend of his father’s, who happens to be connected to the Russian entertainment industry, requesting a meeting on behalf of a Russian lawyer with dirt to share on opposition candidate, Hillary Clinton.
  2. Said points-of-contact could very well have “connections to the Russian Government” – though that’s certainly up for interpretation – in the same way that many in the Legal and Entertainment industries in the U.S. of A would know and interact with US Government officials in the course of professional duties.
  3. A meeting is arranged, and it quickly becomes apparent that the source really has nothing of value related to Clinton and the meeting devolves into a discussion of Russian adoption programs, discontinued by the Russian government in response to sanctions imposed by the U.S Congress in the Magnitsky Act, which seized assets and denied visas to Russians suspected of corruption and human rights abuses.
  4. The meeting lasts all of 20 minutes; does not result in any valuable information on anything; and no future contact between the principles occurred afterwards.

Now that appears to me to be a rather thin basis for all the clamoring about collusion and treason.  I will attribute my inability at being shocked to my pragmatic way of looking at all things.

lead_960-1If one looks at collusion as something akin to a contract, you would need to see some form of consideration or value passing between the principles.  So what was that thing of value?  Even if one can argue that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskay had acknowledged connections to the Russian Government (She denies it.), what was the benefit to them?  Much was made today about the man who accompanied Veselnitskay to the meeting … until it was noted that he was actually an American citizen!

Or let’s look at the definition of Treason, which requires the witnessing of overt acts against the Country or in aiding and abetting the Enemy.  So what exactly was the overt act that accomplished either of those circumstances.  Some argue that Russian operatives may have been dangling the Clinton information to draw out one of the Trumps.  Maybe they did.  But simply looking at the dangle, but not taking the bait in full is nothing to get the villagers running around like beheaded chickens.

Now indulge me as I surmise what might have been the reaction in the Hillary Clinton camp had the same “dangle” been made to them for dirt on Donald Trump, Sr..

  1. Clinton Gives Speech On American Global Leadership At Washington Conference

    John Podesta with Hillary Clinton

    John Podesta is approached by a long-time friend of Bill Clinton’s, who happens to be connected to the Russian entertainment industry, requesting a meeting on behalf of a Russian lawyer with dirt to share on opposition candidate, Donald Trump.

  2.  A meeting is arranged, and it quickly becomes apparent that the source really has nothing of value related to Trump and the meeting devolves into a discussion of Russian adoption programs, discontinued by the Russian government …. etc., etc.
  3. No damaging opposition research results, yet The Clinton Foundation obtains a $2.35 million donation; the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, takes over a Canadian uranium mining firm; and Hillary’s husband, Bill is paid $500,000 to give a speech – on Russian adoptions perhaps – to the Russian investment bank with links to the Russian Government that is promoting stock in the aforementioned Canadian firm.

Now THAT would be an excellent example of Consideration passing from one party to the other!  If it ever actually happened …

But it did!  Every single overt act described above happened in a common thread … Russian interests to corner uranium mining and the Clintons’ interests in building up their political war chest!

hillary-stateHillary Clinton was Secretary of State when that happened, serving in an official capacity at the highest level of U.S. Government, supposedly representing the interests of Americans and National Security.  No way does a Canadian uranium mining firm wind its way into a Russian Government asset portfolio without the tacit approval of the U.S. Government!

You really have to admire the Clintons.  They only do they know how to collude; they have the Treason thing down cold too!

Donald Trump, Jr. and company are guilty of being naive, even stupid … but not criminal.

As political neophytes, the Trumps could learn a lot of bad habits from the Clintons.