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.

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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.

Horsham (PA), It’s Primary Tuesday in Pennsylvania!

Tomorrow, May 16 (2017) is Primary Tuesday in Pennsylvania.

No …. The Choices are neither sexy or controversial.  There were no debates, no surrogates flooding the cable wires, and – thankfully – no commercials or robo-calls.

I doubt even the Russians are interested …

But you should be!

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Tip O’Neill

The following excerpts (with one edit) from an important township election in 2013 rings true in every election. One of my favorite quotes comes from Tip O’Neill, “All politics are local.”

Local elections have a greater direct effect on you, the Taxpayer; the community in which you live; and the schools your children attend.

No other election will affect your quality-of-life more directly than local government offices that control spending, your schools, property, income and township taxes, not to mention the potential for your township’s Economic Future.

No other elections will affect you more directly or intimately.  From the state of your schools, neighborhoods, finances, emergency services, local public works … Most things you touch on a daily basis in the course of normal life are managed by the people your friends, neighbors, and supermarket/soccer/PTA semi-strangers will elect FOR YOU, if you decide a local election is not “important enough”.

There are important School Board and Judge selections to make tomorrow.

Make the effort and cast your ballot!

Did Putin’s Kremlin hack the Oscars?

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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!

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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

The First Amendment: A Double-Edged Sword

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No matter how maddening the behavior …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I leave you with this

 

 

 

 

 

Mao Lives!

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

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

Mao is alive!  And he has a LiMO!

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

 

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A most unlikely Senator

The 2016 election cycle will bring enough fireworks at the National level for many people to forego down-ticket races that do not directly involve their vote. In a political season where being The Outsider threatening to turn over the Party Table and chase the money-changers from the Temple, it’s the long shot, disruptive dark horse that is drawing attention and excitement … with varying degrees of success.

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John Fetterman … an unmistakable physical presence

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders draw the bulk of attention at the Presidential level. For those not living in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it might also be interesting to watch the race for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania … especially if John Fetterman wins the Pennsylvania Democrat primary for the Senate nomination!

Al-Franken-SNL

How does a U.S. Senator live something like this down?

Fetterman is nothing, if not the most atypical candidate for Senate since Al Franken attempted – unsuccessfully IMHO – to shed his Saturday Night Live persona when he went on to win a Senate seat in Minnesota. The difference between the two is that John Fetterman has been a serious man … always serious. And he has a successful background as a man who has gotten things done politically and socially.

Fetterman was born to teenage parents who struggled financially until John’s father started his own insurance business.  He attended his father’s alma mater – Albright College – and successfully completed his Masters in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  In between, he did volunteer stints with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America and AmeriCorps.

His AmeriCorps gig landed him in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a bedroom community to the long-gone steel mills of Andrew Carnegie in and around Pittsburgh.  The town lost most of its jobs with the disappearance of the American steel industry.

In 2005 Fetterman challenged the incumbent mayor and won election by a single vote!  The job paid $110/month, barely adding much financially to his $30,ooo/year job directing the Out-of-School-Youth Program.  He won re-election in 2009 by an almost 3-1 margin.

He purchased the First Presbyterian Church, slated for demolition, a nearby abandoned warehouse, and numerous house, which he redeveloped and offered with cheap or free rent.  Fetterman used the promise of cheap rent and initiated a rebirth of Braddock as an artsy Renaissance town complete with a two-acre organic garden managed by the Braddock Youth Project.

091023-Fetterman-hmed-10a.grid-6x2Those accomplishments certainly qualify John Fetterman as a most interesting and active public servant.  But it’s his non-conforming physical and vocal presence that really sets him apart from the usual dry, buttoned-down Senate types.

Fetterman is physically imposing at 6’8″ tall, weighing 320 pounds.  He has numerous tattoos, an imposing bald head, huge unruly chin beard, and a manner of plain dress that will definitely shake up the sleepy U.S. Senate chamber, if he were to get that far.

So deep is his dedication to Braddock, he has its Zip Code tattooed inside one arm!

Unfortunately, Fetterman trails a lightweight front-runner in Katie McGinty, whose limited claims to fame were serving in various National and State environmental roles and as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s campaign manager …

… And then there’s wacky Liberal re-tread Joe Sestak.

As a Republican sure to vote for incumbent Senator Pat Toomey, I tend to tune out the most liberal Democrats, as I was John Fetterman.  That was until I saw the following Fetterman ad.  Then I read his resumé …

If one concedes John Fetterman has a hopelessly uphill battle to bring his unorthodox – but productive – style of politics to the Senate, one cannot but hope he finds a way to continue his work in Pennsylvania. His sense of empathy and get-it-done attitude is something from which we all might benefit!

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