11. Let Freedom Ring!

07/04/2011

To my fellow Americans who may be reading this, I hope you are having, or have had, a very happy Independence Day.  To anyone else who might be reading this, I trust that you enjoy your countries’ national days as much as we do ours.

It was 235 years ago that John Adams, later to become our second President, wrote to his wife Abigail as to how he thought the day should be commemorated in the future.  He said, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

I definitely think we Americans took Adams’s musings to heart in celebrating Independence Day.  If we could bring him back, 185 years after his death, I wonder what he would think of how the country he helped found celebrates its founding.

[TRIVIA:  Today is the anniversary of the deaths of three American Presidents — John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom died in 1826; and James Monroe, who died in 1831.  It is also the birthdate of one other President — Calvin Coolidge, who was born in 1872.]

Back in April, I wrote an interpretation of the Declaration Of Independence, partially as a way of better understanding it myself.  As I mentioned in that particular entry, I imagined it as if I were explaining it to a group of elementary school students.  Since I posted that entry, I have taken another look or two at the Declaration, and I have one more opinion about it:

It is an indictment.

The Continental Congress was sitting as a grand jury, and the Declaration Of Independence was the true bill that they returned.  In essence, they accused George III of tyranny, and the main section of the Declaration is a list of specific charges against him.

Once I reached this conclusion, I began another train of thought.  There are those who believe that Barack Obama is just as great a tyrant as George III was, if not greater.  If a Declaration Of Independence were being written today, what would be the specific charges of tyranny leveled against Obama?

***jn***

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10. The Pledge, According To Norcross

06/14/2011

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of The United States Of America, and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”

Today is Flag Day.  It was on this date in 1777 that the Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution, which stated, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”

I knew that I would be writing something today.  I also knew that, after I wrote about the interpretations of the Pledge Of Allegiance from Red Skelton and John Wayne, I have been thinking of my own interpretation.  And it seems to me that Flag Day would be the right time to post this entry.

Now, keep in mind that I have drawn my inspiration from both Mr. Skelton and Mr. Wayne, and there may be places where I may — no, make that will — sound similar to both.  And there may be a couple of other inspirations that will creep in as well.

So without further ado, here is my interpretation of the Pledge Of Allegiance:

I . . .

Me, an individual, one of some 300 million such individuals who call this great country home.

Pledge . . .

Promise, swear, affirm, or aver.  Give my solemn word of honor.

Allegiance . . .

Loyalty or fealty, respect, devotion.  My alignment with the principles and tenets of this country.

To the Flag . . .

Old Glory.  The Stars And Stripes.  The Star-Spangled Banner.  Thirteen red and white stripes that symbolize how our country began, and 50 white stars on a blue field that represent who we are today.  Wherever it flies, from Detroit to Houston, from New York to LA, from the sands of Iwo Jima to the Sea Of Tranquility on the Moon, it stands as a beacon of hope and a symbol of liberty for all.  May it always remain such a symbol.

Of the United States Of America,

We began as 13 very different colonies, coming together to overthrow the bonds of a common tyrant.  We formed a union, believing that the union would be greater than the sum of the individual colonies.  Or to use the line often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “We must hang together, or we shall surely hang separately.”

After winning our independence as a nation, we grew, extending to new territories the same concepts of liberty that were behind the founding of this country.  And each of these new states were treated as equals; it does not matter if a state was one of the original 13, or if it was one of those that most recently joined the Union, all are the same.

And to the Republic for which it stands,

Republic — A form of government where the citizens choose those who will lead them.  It is those elected leaders are accountable to the citizens, and not the citizens who are accountable to the leaders.  And if those leaders ever forget that little fact, they not only could, but they should face the wrath and displeasure of those who put them in power at the ballot box.

One Nation,

Our ancestors came from every corner of Earth, all seeking what is now called The American Dream.  The Great Seal of this country carries the Latin phrase E pluribus unum — out of many, one.

Under God,

Our government does not allow the establishment of a state religion.  People living in America have the freedom to choose whatever form of worship they want, and the variety of churches, synagogues, and cathedrals are testament to every faith known to mankind.  But the freedom of religion should never be equated with the freedom from religion.  Our government, whether federal or local, should be allowed to recognize and acknowledge the role religion has played and continues to play in the life of our nation without it being seen as an endorsement of any one religion.

Indivisible,

Our nation was forged in the fires of revolution.  That unity was sundered in the throes of a civil war that pitted neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, and brother against brother.  But that civil war not only shattered this nation; it served as the furnace that reforged it into something even stronger than it was before.

With Liberty . . .

The underlying concept of America is personal liberty.  The opportunity to live your life as you see fit to do so, as long as doing so does not violate the laws of the land.

And Justice . . .

We are a nation of laws.  Not forced upon the people by a king or other hereditary lord, but debated and written by the representatives elected by the people, and often proposed by the people to and through their representatives.  Our courts see to it that those laws are carried out fairly and justly; that all who come to them seeking redress or justice are treated equally, irrespective of race, creed, color, or status.

For All.

We believe that justice denied to anyone is an injustice to everyone.  Our government is not perfect, but we try to see that when an inequity arises, it is dealt with as best as we possibly can.  One part of the Preamble to our Constitution states, “in order to form a more perfect Union,” and while that goal may never be fully achieved, it does not mean that we do not try.

Okay, that is what the Pledge Of Allegiance means to me.  What do those words mean to you?

***jn***


9. Gutsy? Not Really

05/31/2011

I have been meaning to write about this subject for a few weeks now.  The subject at hand is the death of Osama Bin Laden.  I am hoping that the delay in writing has given me some time for at least a little insight and reflection.

First things first, though.  To the SEALs who carried out the mission, I have one thing to say:  Well done, gentlemen.  Well done, indeed.  I wish I could tell each and every one of you this in person.  Because of security concerns, I know that it is highly unlikely that I will ever be able to do so, but rest assured, the planet Earth is a far better place now that Bin Laden is no longer among the living.

One thing I did notice was the number of people talking about the “gutsy call” or the “gutsy decision” that Barack Obama made when he authorized the strike on Bin Laden’s compound.

Really?

Osama Bin Laden was an enemy of the United States, indeed an enemy of the free world.  He was the one who not only claimed responsibility for the attacks of September 11, 2001, he boasted of his evil accomplishment.  He wanted to impose his own narrow view of Islam on the rest of the world.  He had nothing but contempt and hatred for our values, and I do not think I exaggerate if I say that it was his desire to destroy our way of life.

Given that, how is the decision to go forth with a mission to kill him such a “gutsy move”?  How is it anything but the right decision to make?

I would like to draw a parallel with World War II.  In 1943, US Naval intelligence in the Pacific intercepted and decrypted a memo that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (the commander of the attack on Pearl Harbor) would be making an inspection tour throughout the South Pacific.  This tour would bring him close to the Solomon Islands.

When presented with the information, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the mission to “Get Yamamoto.”  From what I read about this mission in David Kahn’s book The Codebreakers, the primary concern in whether or not to carry out the attack was that the US did not want Japan to suspect that the US had broken their codes.  (A cover story that was given when the news of Yamamoto’s death was later announced was that coastwatchers had spotted a high-ranking Japanese officer boarding a plane at Rabaul.)

Note that FDR did not hesitate in ordering this attack.  He knew that there were risks involved in the operation, and he judged the successful outcome worth any of the risks.  If FDR were around today, and he heard about how Obama dithered over whether or not to go ahead with the operation to kill Bin Laden, I strongly suspect that his comments would be less than complimentary.  I know that President Harry Truman, never one to mince words, would have been more than a little derisive in his commentary.  And I would say that his decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki qualify as far more gutsy than anything that Barack Obama could ever make.

I also find myself somewhat bewildered, and perhaps even annoyed, at the barrage of information released after Bin Laden was killed.  Announce that he was killed, fine.  Giving a vague — and I mean a very vague — description of the operation, no problem.  But I see no need for the detailed history of the operation that was reported following the death.  We do not need to be telling Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization how we carried out this attack.  I would think that we might want to use those same tactics again some day.

I think I am particularly angered over the disclosure of the intelligence windfall obtained in the raid — the computers, flash drives, files, and so forth.  There is no need for the American people to know this, at least not at this time.  To draw another parallel with World War II, the details of how the Allies broke Germany’s Enigma Code were not made public until the 1970s — at least 25 years after the war ended.  By contrast, I almost suspect that people in the Obama administration were talking about the intelligence windfall before it was even delivered to the analysts at the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies.

The disposition of Bin Laden’s body — the burial at sea — was a good move.  His followers do not have a martyr’s grave to use as a shrine.  But in my opinion, the corpse was treated with far more reverence than it deserved.  I think it should have simply been thrown over the railing of the <EM>USS Carl Vinson</EM>.  Better yet, I think that the body should have been fed into a wood chipper, and the remains shot out into the ocean — and that a video should have been made.

I know that there have been some complaints about the disposition of the body.  That it wasn’t given the proper treatment according to Muslim traditions.  That it was not treated with the proper respect.  Big deal.  The war criminals executed after the Nuremburg Trials were cremated after their deaths, and the ashes scattered, so that their graves could not become memorials.  (I have not done too much research on the subject, but I think it is safe to say that the wishes of their next of kin were not taken into consideration.)  As I said in the previous paragraph, Bin Laden did not deserve a fraction of the respect he was given.

As for the decision not to release any photos of Bin Laden after he was killed because they were allegedly “too gory” or “too gruesome” — I believe the appropriate line here would be, “Give me a break!”  I suspect that most Americans want to see proof that Bin Laden is dead, irrespective of how gruesome or gory they might be.  Indeed, I suspect that there are some who would think that the gorier the photo, the better.

As a matter of fact, I rather doubt that the photos are as gory as some might have you believe.  Fangoria magazine recently published its 300th issue; I believe that the current issue is either #303 or #304.  I would be willing to wager that you could pick up any one of those 300-plus issues, and you would find photos that would be far more gory, gruesome, shocking, and disturbing than what the administration would have you think the Bin Laden death photos are.

Eliminating Osama Bin Laden was a good thing.  Earth is a far better place with his absence.  I just wish that his elimination did not leave me with the feeling that Barack Obama used this mission more as an opportunity to make him look good, rather than getting rid of one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.

***jn***


8. Is It Over Yet?

04/29/2011

Is it over yet?

By “it,” I mean the royal wedding over in England.  Is it safe to turn on the TV or radio again?

Now, I have nothing against the happy couple.  I wish them well, and I especially hope that they escape the predations of the cockroaches of the Fourth Estate that plagued the groom’s late mother.

Having said that, I will now state for the record something that I believe I have at least implied in my prior entries.  I am an American.  I do not have a monarch; I have a president.  Admittedly, the current holder of that office is an extremely pathetic one, but he is still a president.

If I remember correctly, America had a slight difference of opinion with Britain back in 1776.  As a matter of fact, it was that little disagreement that led to this country having a form of government headed by someone chosen by the governed, and not by someone who holds the post by circumstances of birth.

In other words, while it is entirely possible that a future leader of America is getting married today, that wedding most certainly did not take place in Westminster Abbey.  So why is the American media devoting so much coverage to the event?

In all honesty, I have never understood the fascination that the British monarchy has for some of my fellow Americans.  I will concede some measure of nostalgia on the part of those who have emigrated from Britain, and possibly the same for those with some British ancestry.  But why does a good part of the rest of the country hold such a fascination for something that has little if anything to do with America?  It would be nice if some of these people showed the same amount of interest next year during the presidential election campaign.

While I think I have managed to avoid most of the journalistic excess, I have encountered my share of coverage.  There was one story that I found particularly amusing.  A young member of the Buckingham Palace Guard had made some, shall we say, less than complimentary remarks online about the bride.  Cameron Reilly was relieved of all duties connected with the wedding.  One of his fellow soldiers called him “incredibly naive,” saying that it was a huge honor to serve at the Royal Wedding.

Yes, it does sound like a case of engaging the mouth (or the keyboard) before the brain, but part of me thinks that he just wanted to stay at home and watch the whole thing on TV.
***jn***


7. All I Know Is What I Read On The Internet

04/17/2011

If you are thinking the title of this entry sounds a little familiar, it is an homage to humorist Will Rogers, who opened his performances with the line, “All I know is what I read in the papers.”  If he were performing today, he might well use the variation in the title — but I would be willing to bet that he would still be reading the papers.

I began thinking about Will Rogers after a couple of seemingly random incidents.  In my mind, they seem to serve as proof of Gabriele Veneziano’s theory of quantum physics; that everything is connected.  And as I have discovered, sometimes those connections can be quite astounding.

The first incident President Obama’s speech on the deficit last week.  The relevant point is during the speech, when cameras cut to various shots of the audience.  One of these shots caught Vice President Biden as he was apparently nodding off — completely asleep, it appears.  (He was not the only one; a couple of women behind Biden can also be seen apparently visiting the realm of Morpheus.)

The second incident happened last night.  I have a book of quotes by Will Rogers, and for some reason, I picked it up and started flipping through it.  As it happened, I opened the book to the page that held this quote:

“Why sleep at home when you can sleep in Congress?”

Or as Rogers might say if he were around today, Why sleep at home when you can sleep while listening to the President?

***jn***


6. Simply Declaring

04/13/2011

Recently, I have been reading the Declaration Of Independence.  I am certain that I have read at least parts of it over the years, but I wanted to get a better feel for it.  I wanted to know for certain that I understood what I thought I understood.

I thought that the best way of knowing would be if I could put the Declaration into my own words, much like the explanations of the Pledge Of Allegiance that were the topic of a previous entry.  And so, I have written my own description of the Declaration Of Independence.

When I wrote this description, I envisioned it as a presentation to a group of students; probably elementary school students.  More than likely, they had heard of the Declaration, but had not yet studied it.  Here is how I would describe it to them:

“It is easier to understand the Declaration Of Independence when you realize that it can be broken down into three sections.  In the first section, the Continental Congress is explaining why this step is necessary:

“We, the United States Of America, are declaring our separation and independence from Great Britain.  In doing so, we feel it only just, right, and proper that we present our reasons and arguments for doing so to the rest of the world.  We have the following grievances against the present King of Great Britain:

“The second section is a list of those grievances, which the Continental Congress hoped would demonstrate how King George III had violated the rights of the colonists repeatedly.  Those charges and grievances, they felt, were proof that he was no longer fit to rule the colonies.

“The Continental Congress also mentioned that they had made appeals to the people of Great Britain, hoping that they might convince the British Parliament and the King to reverse his stand on the colonies.

“In the third and final section, the Continental Congress stated why they finally concluded that any connections with Great Britain must be broken:

“We have tried to resolve these grievances and differences many times, only to have those overtures rejected at every attempt.  We regret that we must do this, but as a last resort, we hereby declare that the United States are now free and independent, and that all ties to and with Great Britain are hereby dissolved.”

How well does this stand as an interpretation of the Declaration Of Independence?

***jn***


5. The Multiple Learning Curve

04/11/2011

This endeavor, as the saying goes, is a learning experience.  As in the sense of a button I saw years ago, which said, “Oh, NO!  Not another learning experience!”

If I mention one other datum, you might have a better idea comprehending my initial statement.  This endeavor is also an exercise in OCD.  These entries are crossposted to four different blogging sites — Xanga, LiveJournal, Blogspot, and WordPress, not to mention that notifications of new entries are posted to my Facebook page.  Learning the various quirks of each site, and trying to overcome said quirks, can be just a little . . . well, I would have to say that the feeling is somewhere between “irritating” and “annoying.”

Getting things to look the way I want on each site has probably been the first learning curve.  As you might well imagine, each of the sites has its own ways for customizing the look of an individual blog.  So far, Xanga has been the easiest to nudge, tweak, or otherwise sledgehammer into looking the way I want.  I selected its most no-frills approach, and after that, it was merely a matter of adjusting the colors.  I may still need to adjust a color or two a little, but I think I have that site looking the way I like it.

With LiveJournal, I believe I may have looked at just about every theme they offer before I selected one — and looked through them again when I decided that I did not like my first choice after all.  I need to adjust the color on the links, but I believe that it should not be too difficult a task.

I am still trying to find a look that I like on both Blogspot and WordPress.  I have not yet found anything that I can say that I like; it is more a case of going with something that I do not overly dislike.  I may have to spend a few hours looking at all the alternatives on each site, then seeing how I might be able to customize a choice.

(Incidentally, if you are curious enough to wonder how each site looks, that can be easily satisfied.  My username on each site is the same — “jamesnorcross.”  Simply go to the address bar of your browser, and replace the site where you are currently viewing — be it Xanga, LiveJournal, Blogspot, or WordPress — with one of the others.)

While getting the look right for each site has been interesting, I have been more surprised by how the last two entries looked when I posted them.  I write the entry first, then copy and paste the text into a “New Entry” page on each site.  And I adjust the time so that it is the same for each site.  (I did mention that this was an exercise in OCD, did I not?)

When I posted “Sum Qui Sum, Et Qui Omnis Sum,” the entry included the code for the results of the online quiz I took.  With Xanga and LiveJournal, the images of the results posted just as I thought they would.  With Blogspot and WordPress, however, the images did not appear.  Instead, what you see are the blocks of code that should have been translated into the images.  There must be a simple reason why everything did not post correctly, but I am still trying to determine what that reason might be.

I had a different surprise when I posted “The Pledge, According To Red And The Duke.”  Each site handles the posting of links a little differently.  LiveJournal makes the links automatically; Xanga and Blogspot need a little nudging to change plain text into a link.  The big surprise was when the entry posted on WordPress.  Instead of the expected links, what actually appeared were the videos from YouTube.

As I said, I am trying to master multiple learning curves at the same time, and hoping that I will not be too surprised by what I might see once I click the “Save” button.

***jn***