Today, June 14, 2011, is Flag Day across America, when we celebrate the symbol of our country. Certain diehard patriots are sure to assail any attack on the Stars and Stripes and someone somewhere will no doubt again propose a Constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

Meanwhile millions of citizens will give at least lip service to such proposals while flying the flag outside their homes 24 hours a day, unlit and exposed to all manner of inclement weather. Or they will wear pieces of ill-fitting flag- emulating clothing stretched across ultra-cellulitic tummies or asses violently distorting the familiar image.

And during the summer outdoor concert season which is now upon us, sundry performers, rock, country, rap, punk, will work themselves into sweat-drenched entities who will then produce a large U.S. flag to rhythmic chants of U—S—A, U—S—A from their audience and proceed to enwreathe themselves with the flag,  forever staining the banner.

Perchance these superpatriots could be persuaded to actually read the Flag Code which discourages such vulgur displays of the emblem.

But in any event we too often misdirect our patriotic tendencies towards symbols rather than the substance of what makes, or should make, America great.

Today, for me, there is a confluence of news items or trends that epitomize the never-ending struggle to perfect our still quite experimental Republic.


Liberal economist Paul Krugman attempts to negate the idea currently making the rounds that Medicare IS the problem with our health care system when it would be better characterized as a model for improving the system. He makes points such as this:

Indeed, as the economist (and former Reagan adviser) Bruce Bartlett points out, high U.S. private spending on health care, compared with spending in other advanced countries, just about wipes out any benefit we might receive from our relatively low tax burden. So where’s the gain from pushing seniors out of an admittedly expensive system, Medicare, into even more expensive private health insurance?

and this

OK, the obvious question: If Medicare is so much better than private insurance, why didn’t the Affordable Care Act simply extend Medicare to cover everyone?

The answer, of course, was interest-group politics: Given the insurance industry’s power, Medicare for all wasn’t going to pass, so advocates of universal coverage, myself included, were willing to settle for half a loaf. But the fact that it seemed politically necessary to accept a second-best solution for younger Americans is no reason to start dismantling the superior system we have for those 65 and older.

Krugman most certainly does not consider Medicare the IDEAL system, only that it should not be dismantled in favor of a far more untenable private insurance one.

I submit that substantial and effective health care for our citizens of all ages is a very patriotic goal. Don’t you agree?


Gun control is a major issue in this peaceful nation of ours. Opponents of any controls on the sale or ownership of firearms form a large, vocal and active lobby to protect their Second Amendment rights, apparently with no exceptions permitted.

Fine, I’m not here to argue that issue. But I question why they, or other groups, are not equally as vehement in objecting to the active assault on other liberties procured by that same Bill of Rights.

In today’s Post-Gazette, Tony Norman, one of my favorite non-syndicated columnists, notes what is happening under President Obama, that perhaps most of us assumed was confined to Patriot Act permissiveness or was simply a trait of the George W. Bush administration. But as the ever-mounting body of evidence proves, power corrupts.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.”

Pardon me but those seem rather egregious violations of the Fourth Amendment. The only organized group likely to make any noise at all is the ACLU. Unfortunately, that outfit’s very existence and purpose is too often attacked by the unthinking who mistakenly fail to recognize what a patriotic service the ACLU provides.
Goodness knows I’ve railed and railed against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve questioned their legality, practicality and morality. Lately there has been somewhat of a bipartisan call to immediately end our adventure in Afghanistan (Iraq at least has an agree timetable for total withdrawal next year).
This should be an issue in the fore as the preliminary skirmishing for next year’s Presidential election heats up. Last night a number of potential GOP nominees particpated in a debate in New Hampshire. I haven’t found full reportage of the event to be able to link to the particular sound bites I heard on this morning’s news shows, but here is what I heard from two of the debaters about withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Mitt Romney gave kind of a roundabout answer and concluded that that decision would be based on consultations with his generals.
To his credit, Ron Paul said, in effect, the hell with that, he’s the Commander-In-Chief and it’s his decision and he’d bring all our troops home now. As used to be said on The Family Feud, “Good answer, good answer!”
The President is superior to any military man. It is his job to listen to the top brass so far as the actual conduct of a war goes, but it is his job alone to determine when to “pull the plug”.
All you patriots, beware of any present or future President who gives an answer that differs from Ron Paul’s.
 Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. All are under attack. Hot dogs and apple pie are calorie and /or additives laden unhealthy parts of the diets of Americans who are already too fat. Chevrolet is part of that socialistic bailout of General Motors, regardless of the fact that company has apparently been restored to health after almost being left for dead.
But baseball. BASEBALL. Considered by many sports fans/pundits to be dying, surpassed by the NFL and even, oh my god, Nascar of all things, is alive and well and even flourishing on many levels.
TV ratings be damned. The NFL plays once a week and a large part of its interest derives from, if not totally depends on, gambling.
If you’re in the “baseball is dead camp”, do you realize that Major league baseball draws more attendance to its stadiums each season than do the NFL, NBA, and NHL do together?. Do you realize that minor league baseball, where potential future stars play in 180 towns ranging from specks on the map to cities as large as Indianapolis and Brooklyn, draws more fans to it games than either the NFL, NBA, or NHL do to theirs?
Well, maybe a large number of you live in the Pittsburgh area where the home team, the Pirates, has not had a winning season since 1992. The climax to that season is one of the most gut-wrenching entries in any team’s record book in any sport and will not be regurgitated here (fearing actual regurgitation).
The 2011 edition of the Bucs has a record of 32-33 so far this season, unremarkable out of context, but quite surprising within. Several times in this 18 year skein by this time of the season it was evident that, whatever day was scheduled for the last game, the players would be quite available to begin the honing of their golf games the following morning.
This year has seen a significant improvement in the performance of the pitching staff, individually and collectively. The hitters have struggled with inconsistency and a notable lack of home run power, but have come through often enough that many fans just believe this team has a “different feel” to it that distinguishes it from previous teams that collapsed into ineptitude in the second half of the season.
This Friday will see the Corsairs re-enter the arena of interleague play, for 12 games, where they have proven to be the most-overmatched team in the history of this yearly diversion from over a hundred years of constancy and tradition. So the record two weeks from now will be more indicative of what the final record may look like.
But this year the Pirates have a secret weapon. Throughout the season they hold a series of “Skyblasts” on Saturday nights which feature a post-game concert and a great fireworks display. Just this past Saturday Huey Lewis and The News were the musical guests.
Huey did an in-game interview with the Bucs announcers and remarked that he had never appeared in PNC Park, the team’s home, previously, and his last Pirate post-game perfromance had been some years earlier.
Well, I have not fact-checked this but will dare to make a public proclamation that his last ballgame concert was July 5, 1992 at Three Rivers Stadium which I attended.  Returning to the new venue with the same tenants just shy of 19 years to the day after the last strains of The Power of Love
echoed through the old multi-purpose oval is an omen of monumental import.
Just listen to James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams.
Oh, but ain’t that America for you and me
Ain’t that America somethin’ to see baby
Thank you, John Mellencamp.
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