Happy 4th of July

US_Flag_color.gifOnce again, our glorious blue orb completes its annual circuit around the sun. For us, it’s the 230th such circuit since the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

For Americans, it’s a time for barbecues, fireworks, family outings to the park or get-togethers in the back yard. It’s a time to ooh and ahh at the spectacular pyrotechnics displays. In between bites of the hot dogs, we remember that the fireworks recall the turning points in US military history when we won the critical battles on the road to freedom and independence.

For our allies in Europe, Asia, Australia, North America and the Indian subcontinent, it’s a time for head-scratching and disbelief: where are these blokers headed, and why don’t they tell us what they’re doing? As for the other continents and regions, it might be presumptuous to invoke the term “allies”.
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Burning The Flag

I received a thoughtful note from a reader who indicated that we have had many men die in so many unnecessary wars, to protect the flag, our symbol of freedom. I spelled out my thinking:

Hi, thanks for writing. I appreciate your position.

Actually, what I meant was that the freedoms for which our flag stand are more important than the symbol itself. So, if we had to choose between defending those freedoms, and defending our flag, we should choose defense of our freedoms.

So I and many people actually believe we had so many innocent men die in wars that were not necessary to begin with (and some wars that were necessary), to protect our freedom of speech.

It is a shame for people to choose to attack such a fine and honored symbol as our flag. But better we let them do it, in exercise of their constitutionally protected rights of free speech, than that we become like the dictators and unjust rulers who outlaw criticism of their governments.

So, I don’t like the idea of people burning the flag either. I never did. But, I would fight to defend a country that defended their opinion as strongly as my opinion. I don’t think I would fight to defend a country that wanted to put protesters in jail.


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Flag Amendment – Here We Go Again

Like poison oak and Montezuma’s Revenge, there are some things that just won’t go away. According to the American Civil Liberties Union:

With several Senators absent due to presidential campaigns, sickness or the aftermath of Hurricane Frances, the Republican Senate leadership is planning to slip in a vote on the flag desecration amendment  – a measure that would not otherwise pass. But due to these absences, this proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution — which has already passed in the House — has a real chance of passing in the Senate…

The flag desecration amendment would alter the First Amendment for the first time. Civil libertarians, coalitions of veterans, religious leaders and other Americans have been vocally opposing this un-American initiative for many years, but its supporters have been waiting for a moment like this to slip it through…

Click here to get more information and to take action:


Following is my own response to my congressional representatives:

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA )
Barbara Boxer (D-CA )
As your constituent, I urge you to oppose HJ Res. 4/SJ Res. 4, a constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the flag. This legislation would undermine the very principles for which the American flag stands. Let’s leave fundamentalist Islamic laws and attitudes in the Middle East — and not start imitating them here.

As a US Army veteran, I served proudly in the fight for the freedom that this legislation would desecrate: if enacted into law, this amendment would accomplish the exact opposite of its stated purpose. Make no mistake, its sponsors intend exactly that chilling effect on freedom of speech.

Do not amend the First Amendment for the first time in history. Old Glory represents freedom. It is not the personal property or symbol of some particular clique, sect or viewpoint. Please oppose any effort to ban flag desecration.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this very important issue.

Most Sincerely,

Alex Forbes

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Patriot Euphemisms

Civil libertarians are noting with unease how Washington is whitewashing the law’s impact with unimpeachably popular nick-names.

Concealing the sinister aspects of a new bill with a heart-warming name is nothing new. Americans have already learned to equate “Agricultural Reform” with farm subsidy, “Equal Opportunity” with glass ceilings, and “Family Values” with systematic class discrimination.

The PATRIOT Act already expands unnecessary surveillance and other police powers that threaten civil liberties, across a broad front of ordinary America.

The PATRIOT Act does so many things it’s hard to keep track of. According to tonight’s San Francisco Chronicle, we can already: “engage in secret surveillance, phone and Internet monitoring, and searches of personal records with little or no judicial review.” We can use roving wiretaps, secret record searches, dentention and deportation of noncitizens, monitoring of religious institutions, and we can make sure that only US citizens get to screen our persons and baggage at airports.
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Pledge declared Unconstitutional

Yes, I knew it was wrong back in 1954 when we were more or less forced to insert those two extraneous words. I recall that our teacher was uncomfortable with it, too. In my family, we were not brought up in the practice of any particular religion, so I would just mumble the words, or substitute an extra “indivisible” because who would notice?

I always thought it was a stupid sop to the few people who were trying to prove a point that there’s no room here for folks who don’t attend their particular church. Suffice it to say, the world is full of more evil and much bigger stupid sops – the kinds that kill and maim.

I know that this phrase has been cited as justification for any manner of bigoted schemes and cabals, but honestly, these have never flown because they have the Constitution to reckon with yet.

So of course it figures that this has to come to a head almost 50 years later precisely when we need our solons focused on controversies like the Mideast, Al Qaeda, the economy and oops, here you go, WorldCom. This will give the movers and shakers something comparatively meaningless to soapbox about, instead of getting back to work and generating negative spin.

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Enough Already: John Walker

telling it like it is: Jacoby Armchairs John Walker

Following is commentary on a Boston Globe column by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe. It was published December 13, 2001. Normally, we will only provide a link or quote excerpts from syndicated material. For archives, the Boston Globe wants $2.50 per article and you must open up an account to get the article. This effectively seals Globe commentary from public commentary after an arbitrary grace period, so the full text of the forwarded article is reproduced below my “Letter to a friend”.

Letter to a friend:

Interesting article. I will admit that none of the evidence I’ve seen so far leaves me any sympathy at all for either Walker or his parents. Between you and me, yes, you could probably see it coming (if you were there, which Jacoby was not), and thanks for sending it.

Jay Leno said it first: Continue reading

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My Country, Right or Wrong

The world’s shortest civics quiz

“My country, right or wrong” – Did you know know there were actually two popular interpretations on what this could properly mean? With which interpretation would you identify?

  Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right, but our country, right or wrong.Stephen Decatur, April 1816
 I can never join with my voice in the toast which I see in the papers attributed to one of our gallant naval heroes. I cannot ask of heaven success, even for my country, in a cause where she should be in the wrong. Fiat justitia, pereat coelum [“Let justice be done though heaven should fall” – anonymous, circa 43 B.C.]. My toast would be, may our country always be successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right.John Quincy Adams, August 1, 1816

U.S. flag - Freedom Series

A third quote, thanks to A. Edgars. We think this is the most apropos of all (Jan 2005):

 Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right, when wrong to be put right.Carl Schurz (1829 – 1906)

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