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.

Did Putin’s Kremlin hack the Oscars?

kremlin

Possible origin of Best Movie conspiracy

Mistrust in the motivations and actions of the Russian government has been growing since allegations of Russian hacks against the U.S. election process have been made in the fallout from Hillary Clinton’s come-from-ahead loss to President Donald Trump last November.

And let’s face it, why wouldn’t the Russians want to destabilize or at least create disillusionment and distrust in American institutions???  As recently as the Obama Administration, there was an attempt made to sway the British electorate on the Brexit vote, and the dispatch of a DNC (Democratic National Committee) operatives to Israel in a bid to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yet at some point someone has to draw another red line.  Messing with the Oscars might just be A Bridge Too Far!  It’s not a far leap to suggest the Russkies might be interested in causing Academy Award angst, despite the fact that ratings for last Sundays show came in at an all-time low.

Anyone working in an office where a water cooler might be located, can attest to the confusion, anger, and conspiracy theories bantered about the morning after Warren Beatty looked as if looking for the hidden Punk’d cameras.  At least he collected himself sufficiently to make the best decision – for Warren Beatty – and hand the card to Faye Dunaway, so she would go down in “lone assassin” history.

warren-beatty

Does Warren Beatty appear drugged in this photo?  Was he slipped a mickey by Faye Dunaway?

Come to think of it though, why did Warren Beatty seem to sense the card was wrong??  Was he tipped off by the Kremlin??  Or did Beatty sense DNC-like duplicity in Hollywood???

We need to know!

And if that wasn’t enough to convince you of potential Putin-esque skullduggery, consider gross ticket revenues for the eventual Best Picture winner, Moonlight ($22.2 million), versus faux winner La La Land ($140 million) and Hidden Figures ($152 million).

Talk about ignoring The Popular Vote!!!  There must be an investigation!

Finally, consider these bizarre visuals.

Whatever your impressions of the bollixed Best Picture announcement, you have to consider the somewhat Slavic features of Brian Cullinan, the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant responsible for the Oscar’s  “nuclear football”.  He looks like a Russian general!

cullinan

PWC’s Brian Cullinan

 

 

Then consider the striking resemblance Cullinan has to Jason Bourne, renown renegade U.S. spy, whose whereabouts are unknown and loyalties routinely questioned.

 

 

 

 

jasonbourne

CIA operative extraordinaire, Jason Bourne

To further blow your mind, did you know Jason Bourne was actually AT THE OSCARS Sunday night?!?

jimmy-kimmel-matt-damon

Bourne doing an unusually poor job of blending in. Did he slip Kimmel the phony Best Picture envelope as Kimmel tried to pick up one of these ladies?  Were these women Bourne plants?!?

Heck … We needed less circumstantial evidence to realize Hillary Clinton was lying and condemning her to the Ash Heap of History!

Now about that Special Prosecutor …

putin-wink

Could you walk a mile in her shoes?

logoOK … Let’s get this out there right away.

I did not try it.

  • I was ill prepared for the challenge.
  • I was there – volunteering – with an entirely different task set.
  • I’m not sure I could or would want to.
  • I have weak ankles.

There it is.  My expansive list of extremely relevant factors restricting my participation.

The guys who did it? They looked like they were having fun.  Well, some did …

The event was the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event sponsored by the Laurel House in Norristown, PA.  I was there as a favor to a dedicated instructor and had no idea what the event was about.  We were there to help out with traffic flow and parking for an event at Heebner Park in Worchester, PA.

AR-150429760Laurel House advocates for and empowers those impacted by domestic violence by providing crisis intervention, safe haven, supportive programs and resources.  They also work to advance social change through preventative education and through community training and collaboration to foster a coordinated response to domestic abuse.

Apparently, this women’s shelter was a huge favorite of one of my Citizens Police Academy instructors.  So when he mentioned he was looking for volunteers for a few hours on a Saturday morning, I enlisted.

But it wasn’t until I got there Saturday morning that I saw the red high heels.  At first it didn’t click … That was until I saw the one guy get out of his car in a badly fit red cocktail dress and shiny red, thigh high, 4-inch heel boots.

CLICK!

No way, I thought.  Gotta see this!

But first some relevant facts:

  • 1 in every 4 women in the United States will experience domestic violence at some point in her lifetime
  • An estimated 1.3 million women in the United States are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year
  • The majority of family violence victims are female (86%)
  • The cost of domestic violence in the United States exceeds $5.8 billion each year, $4.1 billion of which is for direct medical care and mental health

11150612_377547345771124_6507808536351055125_nAfter two and half hours of Acting Enforcer of Ingress and Parking Privilege, I headed over to the event to watch the antics.  A mile … in ill-fitting high heels … Some of these guys were running in them.  Some just trying to run until realizing there is no way to walk in them let alone run.  How women walk around in those things, I know not.

It was funny.  It was absurd … some guys simply shouldn’t even try.  But it was also very cool to see some men getting the seriousness of the problem and doing what they could to help out.  Each participant collected pledges to be donated if they completed the mile.

Now, I have been very lucky.  I was never a witness to or present at a domestic violence situation.  At least not that I know of …

With 25% of all women experiencing domestic violence at some point in their life, you have to wonder.

I’ve been lucky … I think.

Sequestration: The President’s ugly Child

obamaHow many people realize sequestration, which The White House continually warns will be a “disaster” for the country and its citizens from Arizona to Connecticut, was actually The White House’s brain-child???

Don’t listen to the hype … or the lies.  The sky, if it falls, will not be the sole responsibility of Congress.  Heck, it wasn’t even their idea.

The Public is a pawn in this chess game.  The political pressure being applied by The White House, in the form of Dire Economic Impacts on individual states and even the victims of Superstorm Sandy, is intended to force Congress (i.e. Republicans) – by portraying them as the troublemakers – to cave in so they can pass to the American people an even bigger financial federal budget burden without cutting a single one of the Democrats’ Sacred Cows.

Sequestration was the gamble suggested by then White House Chief-of-Staff Jack Lew (Secretary of the Treasury nominee) and White House Congressional liaison Rob Nabors.  It was endorsed by President Obama before being presented to the Senate Finance Committee, and proposed as a negotiating strategy to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) during the 2011 negotiations to raise the National Debt Ceiling.

Certainly House Republicans accepted the sequestration as part of those negotiations, but it wasn’t their idea; it wasn’t their gamble.

It was the President’s idea of “leadership” in difficult political times.  Push it off; deal with it later.  Maybe, just maybe it will go away on its own.

Keep that in mind as you continue to hear about how Sequestration will damage your benefits; your income; your local economy!

Remember it when The President shows up on C-Span or the nightly news speaking about the dangers of sequestration and surrounding himself with Emergency Responders, teachers, healthcare workers, and seniors warning about all the damage the sequestration cuts will entail.

Sequestration:  The President’s ugly child!