Here’s what some think about U.S. border safety today at the nation’s “most dangerous national park”

Dear Survivaltimes Guest:
  Just thought you might want to know what some of our nearby Arizona neighbors had on their minds today.
  Enjoy the read …
Bob Grafe
Editor & Columnist
Fighting drugs and border violence at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: What about the ranger’s M14 rifle, Yogi?
By Liz GoodwinNational Affairs Reporter

Ranger Ken Hires in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. (Liz Goodwin/Yahoo News)

ORGAN PIPE CACTUS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Ariz. — On a hot desert morning last week, a group of 20 tourists gathered in the visitor center in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to attend a mandatory safety briefing before taking a guarded van tour to Quitobaquito springs. The springs is part of the 69 percent of the remote border park west of Tucson that has been closed to the public since Kris Eggle, a 28-year-old law enforcement park ranger, was shot and killed while pursuing drug runners armed with AK-47s in 2002.

Organ Pipe was named “the most dangerous national park” that year and also in 2003 by the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, before the group discontinued the series. The drastic increase of drug activity on Arizona’s southern border since the 1990s has turned Organ Pipe rangers into de factor Border Patrol agents, and spurred state lawmakers to pass several laws cracking down on illegal immigrants within the state.

Since 2009, the park has offered van tours to the springs, as long as rangers armed with assault rifles go along to protect the visitors. Now, ten years after Eggle’s murder, the park’s leadership has decided to open up a portion of the closed areas to the public in March, citing improved safety conditions and a big increase in Border Patrol agents in the area.

In the run-up to Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary in Arizona, immigration has once again been a hotly contested topic in the state: Mitt Romney in a debate last week praised Arizona’s immigration laws as a “model” for the country, while President Obama’s Justice Department is suing Arizona to overturn one of those laws, called SB1070. The law–which has not gone into effect because of a federal court order–requires police to check a person’s immigration status during stops if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is in the country illegally. It also makes it a state crime to fail to carry immigration papers or for illegal immigrants to solicit work. Drug violence has claimed tens of thousands of lives in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in 2006, but spillover violence has so far been minimal in the United States. Still, Jan Brewer, the Republican governor of Arizona, falsely claimed that beheadings occurred in the Arizona desert in 2010, the same year she signed SB1070 into law. Arizona was also the first state to pass a mandatory E-Verify law in 2007, to ensure employers don’t hire illegal immigrants.

Brewer says the law will help police officers combat drug trafficking and crime, but critics say it will encourage racial profiling and interferes with federal control over immigration. Yahoo News went to Organ Pipe last week to witness the challenges of the border as the presidential candidates debate how best to control it.

‘They’ll have M14s at hand. Don’t be worried.’

“There is a chance we might have to cancel the tour if there’s some sort of apprehension in progress,” Park Ranger Karl Sommerhauser, wearing a bulky dark green bulletproof vest, told the tourists last week. Sommerhauser had an ear piece curling out of his left ear. “We expect you to take direction from Ken,” he said sternly.

Ken Hires, an unflaggingly cheerful park ranger dressed in reassuringly normal-looking tan ranger clothes, bounded to the front of the room. Hires is what’s called an interpretive ranger, which means he has no law enforcement duties and does not carry a weapon. (“I spent my five years in Vietnam. Enough shooting,” he said later.) Hires explained that some law enforcement officers would be hiding in the hills and closely watching the two-hour nature hike, while another pair of armed rangers would follow the tourists closely from the ground. “They’ll have M14s at hand,” he told the group. “Don’t be worried.”

“You might see something interesting off the trail, but please don’t go wandering off,” Hires continued, explaining that it made it difficult for the rangers to track people from the hills. “Please be respectful that those people are putting themselves on the line for us.”

As the group loaded into the vans, one woman from Idaho whispered to her husband: “Does it make you worried? They get chest protections, and we don’t get none of them.”

Hires, sitting in the passenger side of the van, began talking quickly into his radio to the rangers. He turned to the back and explained: “We operate this as if it were an incident.”

“You say there was an incident out there?” a walrus-mustachioed passenger wearing a cowboy hat asked warily.

“We’re it,” Ken said, to nervous laughter.

‘There’s nothing normal about Organ Pipe’

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a 330,000-acre, surprisingly green stretch of Sonoran desert populated by barrel, saguaro and organ pipe cacti, spans 30 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. The park became a corridor for drug runners in the 1990s after border security tightened at major ports of entry and in urban areas, driving human and drug traffickers to rural crossings. Alan Bersin, the Customs and Border Protection commissioner until last year, admitted that the Tucson sector of the border was “out of control” until recently. In 2010, half of all border apprehensions and drug seizures occurred in the Tucson sector, which encompasses much of Organ Pipe.

Drug runners would cut across Mexican Highway 2 through Organ Pipe’s dirt roads in a car and then quickly hop onto U.S. Highway 85, which shoots up to Phoenix or Tucson. The vehicles blazed more than 200 miles of unauthorized roads through the park, and rangers found themselves in dangerous, high-speed chases nearly every day. An $18 million, 23-mile vehicle fence put up after Eggle’s murder by the Department of the Interior cut down on this vehicle traffic. Now, cartels have had to get smarter, sometimes cutting into the fence, removing it, driving through, and then putting it back together again. Drug runners also started coming more on foot, dropping their packages in designated spots on the highway for someone else to pick up.

The Department of Homeland Security recently put up nine surveillance towers in the park, making it easier for agents to detect this new foot traffic, so the drug runners are now hiding in the hills, where the towers can’t see them. (A Border Patrol helicopter operation last year in these hills netted 800 pounds of trash and a whole “herd” of people, according to Hires.) Border Patrol set up a check point on Highway 85 within the park in the past year, which has pushed drug traffickers to the neighboring Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Tohono O’odham reservation, adding as much as four days to their on-foot journeys. “They’re very adaptive, more so than us,” said Organ Pipe park superintendent Lee Baiza wearily, during an interview with Yahoo News last week.

Baiza said he spends about 80 percent of his time working with Homeland Security and handling border concerns. “There’s nothing normal about Organ Pipe,” he added.

The superintendent, who took over in 2007, has faced criticism for preventing Border Patrol agents from building new roads in the wilderness areas of the park, which is part of a larger struggle between Homeland Security and national park and land agencies that operate on the border. (More than 85 percent of border property in Arizona is federally owned.) Bob Bishop, a Republican representative from Utah, introduced a bill last year that would waive environmental laws up to 100 miles north of the border, freeing up Homeland Security to build roads through the wilderness to combat illegal immigration and drug running. Bishop criticized the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for preventing Border Patrol agents from driving off-road in the Quitobaquito area of the park because of a pond nearby that contains the endangered Sonoran desert pupfish.

“I may care about the pupfish, but I also care about kids getting hooked on illegal drugs that are coming over that border,” Bishop told Yahoo News. Drug runners cause more environmental damage to the border by leaving trash, he said, than Border Patrol agents would by building roads.

“Every congressman seems to have his own idea of what we’re doing wrong,” Baiza said. “The reality is all of that has improved immensely since 2007.”

Apprehensions in the park were down last month for the first time in three years, Baiza said. Border Patrol would not release park-specific data, but a spokesman, Jason Rheinfrank, said that the Tucson sector overall saw a 40 percent drop in apprehensions last fiscal year, while the number of agents has nearly tripled since 2000. Illegal crossing arrests over the entire border were at a four-decade low last fiscal year, in part because of the flagging American economy.

On March 1, 46 percent of the park–instead of 31 percent–is scheduled to be open to the public. Baiza cited the increased fencing, number of Border Patrol agents, and technology in the park as the reasons for the change.

Organ pipe cactus. (Liz Goodwin/Yahoo)

‘What we are trying to do is retake this landscape’

“The real problem we have with safety is drug dealing, not the people looking for work,” Hires said from a loudspeaker system at the front of the van. Three different border patrol agents riding ATVs raced by, waving. “What we are trying to do is retake this landscape so we can all be free to be out here,” he added.

Twenty minutes later, the vans arrived at Quitobaquito, where two young men toting heavy M14 rifles were already waiting. The rangers arrived at the springs two hours earlier to scour the area and make sure no one was hiding.

“Please be respectful and don’t photograph them,” Hires warned. The park service is worried that cartel members would retaliate against the rangers if their faces were publicized. Baiza says Organ Pipe never sends out press releases announcing new ranger hires for the same reason.

The armed park rangers didn’t greet the group and stayed about 20 paces ahead on the trail. Hires showed the tourists the endangered Sonoran desert pupfish in the pond (the endangered Sonoran mud turtles were nowhere to be found), and answered questions about the names of different plants and flowers. He explained that the springs has been a crossroads for thousands of years, an oasis drawing thirsty desert-dwellers and entrepreneurial shell traders. The tour ended, and two volunteer rangers stood guard as visitors used the restroom in the bushes before the long van ride back.

“You got to show me your visa,” one volunteer ranger joked as people began loading back into the van.

On the way out, Hires pointed out the two park rangers at the top of the hill, green specks on the horizon.

Another border patrol ATV zoomed past the van and stopped the law enforcement park rangers who were escorting the group back to the visitor center.  Two brown packages were tied to the back of the ATV.

“See those bundles? Want to guess?” Hires asked. “Marijuana.” In 2005, the last year the park released border incident data, Organ Pipe park rangers seized 17,000 pounds of marijuana.

The rangers let out a dog from the back of the SUV, as the visitors craned their necks to watch from the van. The dog jumped out and ran to the bundles. He sat down abruptly and pointed his nose at the packages, then looked back at his masters. “That’s the sign,” Hires said. The rangers tossed the jubilant dog a toy, and the Border Patrol agent drove off again in the ATV.

“There’s been a sighting of a UDA,” Hires said a few minutes later, listening to his radio. (UDA means undocumented alien.) “He’s sitting next to a trash can which means he’s waiting for us to pick him up and give him a ride home. He’s given up.”

‘I feel safer here than in Fresno’

Despite all the excitement on the trip, Hires said he thinks the park is very safe because of the law enforcement rangers and the Border Patrol agents.

“I feel safer here than in Fresno,” Hires said after the tour. (He works seasonally in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks near Fresno, California.)

But visitors–or rather, the people who are choosing not to be visitors–still have concerns. In 2010, visits to the park plunged to a 10-year low of 209,600. Baiza says that when state politicians focus on the dangers of Mexico and the border, fewer people visit the park.

“They come here all petrified,” Bonnie Auman, a park volunteer, said. “Then they see all the law enforcement, the Border Patrol.”

Bishop, the Utah congressman, said that while the stagnant economy may have significantly deterred unauthorized migrants who are looking for work, he doesn’t think it has made a dent in the number of drug runners targeting Arizona. “That’s why we need to control the border,” he told Yahoo News. “They’re not going to be affected by E-Verify and the economy, and the Border Patrol needs to have the ability to battle that.”

It remains to be seen whether visitors will be lured back. Hires journeyed to the Quartzsite, Arizona, RV show last month to recruit wary RVers to visit the park. “The No. 1 question: ‘Is it safe there?'” he said. “And the second one was, ‘Are you open?’ People thought we totally closed the place.”

Memorial to Kris Eggle. (Liz Goodwin/Yahoo)

Read more coverage of the 2012 Michigan and Arizona primaries at Yahoo News.

More popular Yahoo! News stories:

Want more of our best political stories? Visit The Ticket or connect with us on Facebook, follow uson Twitter, or add us on Tumblr. Handy with a camera? Join our Election 2012 Flickr group to submit your photos of the campaign in action.

Free Speech Discussion … and it’s free!!

Dear Guests,

This will be my first “post” in nearly 18 months.  This past week has brought to light a serious question about our country’s citizen’s freedom of speech rights.  What were they in the minds of our country’s founders?  What are they “really” today in the true, practical sense of living during this politically charged year of 2012?  And, what might the application of “freedom of speech” look like for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

You may find the link located herein to “Freedom of Expression” of special interest as it applies to the voicing of your own personal opinions.  As always, your thoughtful comments are very welcome.

Bob Grafe

Editor & Columnist  (Some say I “need” an editor!)

Enjoy … from my “new” friends at the ACLU:


Free Speech

Freedom of speech is protected in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights and is guaranteed to all Americans. Since 1920, the ACLU has worked to preserve free speech.

Know Your Rights: Demonstrations and Protests »

Freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly and petition — this set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has written that this freedom is “the matrix, the indispensable condition of nearly every other form of freedom.” Without it, other fundamental rights, like the right to vote, would wither and die.

Make a Difference

Your support helps the ACLU defend free speech and a broad range of civil liberties.

Give Now

The ACLU’s Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology (SPT) is dedicated to protecting and expanding the First Amendment freedoms of expression, association, and inquiry; expanding the right to privacy and increasing the control that individuals have over their personal information; and ensuring that civil liberties are enhanced rather than compromised by new advances in science and technology. The project is currently working on a variety of issues, including political protest, freedom of expression online, privacy of electronic information, journalists’ rights, scientific freedom, and openness in the courts.

Additional Resources

Spying on First Amendment Activity – State-by-State (2011 map): Law enforcement agencies across America continue to monitor and harass groups and individuals for doing little more than peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights. From the FBI to local police, U.S. law enforcement agencies have a long history of spying on American citizens and infiltrating or otherwise obstructing political activist groups.

Freedom of Expression (2005 resource): The nation’s commitment to freedom of expression has been tested over and over again. Especially during times of national stress, like war abroad or social upheaval at home, people exercising their First Amendment rights have been censored, fined, even jailed. Those with unpopular political ideas have always borne the brunt of government repression. It was during WWI — hardly ancient history — that a person could be jailed just for giving out anti-war leaflets. Out of those early cases, modern First Amendment law evolved. Many struggles and many cases later, ours is the most speech-protective country in the world.

Policing Free Speech: Police Surveillance and Obstruction of First Amendment-Protected Activity (2010 PDF): A report on Police Surveillance and Obstruction of First Amendment-Protected Activity

Freedom of Expression – ACLU Position Paper (1997 resource): Early Americans enjoyed great freedom compared to citizens of other nations. Nevertheless, once in power, even the Constitution’s framers were guilty of overstepping the First Amendment they had so recently adopted. In 1798, during the French-Indian War, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Act, which made it a crime for anyone to publish “any false, scandalous and malicious writing” against the government. It was used by the then-dominant Federalist Party to prosecute prominent Republican newspaper editors during the late 18th century.

Most Popular

Joint Statement on Censorship and Science: A Threat to Science, the Constitution, and Democracy (2007 resource)

ACLU Calls on Maryland Transit Authority to Cease Unconstitutional Harassment of Photographers (2011 press release)

Freedom of Expression in the Arts and Entertainment (2002 resource)

ACLU Statement on Defending Free Speech of Unpopular Organizations (2000 press release)

ACLU Defends Rights of Citizens to Monitor Police by Representing Motorcyclist Prosecuted by State Police (2010 press release)





Editor’s Note: This site has nothing to do with school board matters.

Note to those who have been referred to this site regarding a recent appointment to a public school board of trustees.  Public school board matters should not be political in nature.  This site is “primarily” in response to the Obama administration’s philosophy and actions that have adversely affected the United States causing its citizens to enter into a “survival times” mode–hence the name of the blog.  The site’s creation and first postings were entered about seven weeks after the 2008 presidential election.  The blog’s commentary is frequently political in nature and is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  You may not agree with the writer’s opinions.  If so, you are requested to make your own comments in an effort to encourage a dialog of ideas–if you wish to.  This posting is being made on February 22, 2012 after receiving several challenges to this writer’s right to publish his own thoughts on matters unrelated to a public school board even when the writings were published years earlier well before the writer was appointed to serve as a trustee on a local public school board.  The writings contained herein have nothing to do with local public school board matters today or earlier. 

UPDATE:  In an effort to curtail the occasional inappropriate comments made by a few readers yesterday and today regarding certain older postings that have become a distraction to more important and current issues, the postings generating increasing hostility have been removed.  (February 23, 2012)

By:  Bob Grafe

February 24, 2012

Please see the “Non-acceptance of appointment” story in the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise at the below link:

The following is my response to Ed Tor’s recent comments about the realities of blogging … even in the U.S.!! 

Reporters Without Borders

 Death threats to journalists and mob attacks on news media

Death threats to journalists and mob attacks on news media

Published on Wednesday 8 February 2012.

Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns a recent surge in media freedom violations and attacks on journalists at a time of political tension in the run-up to the presidential election scheduled for 21 February.

Four journalists and activist bloggers are currently under threat from a fatwa issued at the start of February by senior clerics that explicitly calls for their deaths and for the closure of the newspapers and websites that carried their articles.

It was the appearance of an article headlined “First year of a revolution” by writer and journalist Bashra Al-Moqtari on the Al-Tagheer Net website on 11 January that aroused the anger of religious leaders and members of the Islamist party Al-Islah. In her article, Moqtari voiced the frustration and disappointment of a people that have seen their revolution stolen.

“The revolution thieves have taken over the revolution of the Yemeni people,” she wrote, urging them to take to the streets to continue their fight for freedom and to refuse “the tragedy of a slow death, a tragedy perpetrated by the political elites, religious leaders and soldiers.”

The fatwa’s three other targets are Fakri Qassam, an intellectual and editor of an independent newspaper in the southern city of Taiz, the satirical writer Mohssein Aeyd, and the Internet activist Sami Shamssan.

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns this fatwa, which aims to silence journalists and activists who say the revolution has been confiscated and who reject the 23 November accord mediated by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Many newspapers meanwhile continue to be the target of threats and attacks by the supporters of former President Ali Abdallah Saleh, who is currently in the United States for medical treatment. Armed demonstrators surrounded the Sanaa headquarters of the newspaper Al-Thawra on 2 February to protest against the removal of Saleh’s photo from its front page.

They branded editor Yassin Al-Masroudi as a traitor and prevented journalists from entering the building. Saleh’s supporters then stormed the building and supervised the preparation of the next day’s issue. Reporters Without Borders deplores such practices, which were typical of the outgoing regime, but the Union of Journalists claimed that many journalists supported the action.

Armed Saleh supporters also surrounded the headquarters of the newspaper Al-Jomhuryah in the city of Taiz on 4 February, while security forces watched without intervening. Editor Samir Al-Yussoufi reportedly received threatening messages in which he was told that the newspaper’s offices would be shelled. The day before, dozens of gunmen stormed the newspaper’s bureau in Sanaa.

Reporters Without Borders stresses its support for the management and staff of both Al-Thawra and Al-Jomhuryah. Such practices constitute a serious obstacle to the ability of the media to operate in Yemen.

“The intimidatory practices and death threats to which journalists are currently exposed must stop,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Freedom of expression and media freedom are essential conditions for change in a country that is trying to rebuild after years of authoritarian rule and a year of repression.”

On 4 February, demonstrators also forced their way into the building that houses the Yemeni satellite TV station in order to prevent its chief from entering the building. The intervention of soldiers was needed for him to be able to get to his office. The protesters were demanding the removal of the heads of the three state-owned TV stations – Al-Yemen, Saba’ and Al-Iman – and the restoration of the satellite station’s former logo.

Kingston Trio Comfort Music Continues

By:  Columnist Bob Grafe

When I mention to friends that I grew up along the banks of San Francisco Bay, I have to be careful these days how I mention that I was always attracted to the goings-on at the hungry i (or as people referred to it then as “the eye”) night club in North Beach, San Francisco.

At that time, the club was located in the basement of the International Hotel at Kearny and Jackson streets. The club only sat about 300 people around its three-sided stage and would usually run a couple of shows each night — frequently offering up yet-to-be-discovered talent appearing on stage just before the headline act.

During my youth, the hungry i (the club’s name remains a mystery with some thinking the lower-case “i” was meant to represent “intellectual” while the club’s owner, Enrico Banducci always claimed that it was Freudian and short for “the hungry id.”) was one of “the city’s” hot spots to launch a performing arts career.

Today, however, (and this is why I have to be careful how I tell this story today) the hungry i has relocated from its original location to Broadway Street and is now a topless strip bar operated by Déjà Vu beginning their business venture after the original club closed its doors in the very late 1960s and the “hungry i” name was sold off separately.

What I think about most from those “early” days of my race to adulthood, is the music that was generated from within the walls of the hungry i from the likes of The Limeliters, jazz legend Vince Guaraldi, master folk singer Glenn Yarborough, a young Barbra Streisand and my favorite folk group, The Kingston Trio.

I could hardly wait for the moment when I was actually old enough to enter into the depths of the club to actually see and hear “in person” The Kingston Trio.

No longer would I be relegated to standing next to a side door of the club where I could actually hear Trio member Bob Shane knock out his favorite rendition of Scotch and Soda or Trio member Nick Reynolds verbally play with the audience while singing his story of The M.T.A. or Tom Dooley.

By the time I actually made it “legally” through the doors of “the Eye” the original Kingston Trio had dropped (via an expensive buy-out) singer/banjo player Dave Guard from its ranks and welcomed in John Stewart, a 21-year-old member of the folk group Cumberland Three.

Over the years, I have been a side-line follower of the Kingston Trio collecting bits and pieces of their history as I could — intended to enhance the listening pleasure that I have always received from them during most of my life. From written biographies of the original and subsequent members of the Trio, to song books, to albums to tapes and now to CDs.

Now, after 50+ years of being a true “fan” of this singing group, it finally dawned on me, and I reluctantly accepted the fact, that “they” wouldn’t be around forever to share their musical talents with us.

Original Trio members Dave Guard and Nick Reynolds have already passed on and Bob Shane resides relatively quietly in Arizona fighting an uphill battle with chronic health problems.

At that same time, I pondered just how much time “I” (not to be confused with “i”) would have left as I phase into the early years of senior citizenship, how I would miss the actual live performances of the Kingston Trio that I’ve attended or viewed electronically over the years, and I questioned how I could keep their “comfort” music for me going on forever during the remainder of my life.

While today three new members of the Trio continue performance tours as a tribute to the original and later Kingston Trio members, it just is not quite the “same” as it was originally.

In a deliberate rather than a desperate effort, I began to search out ways that I could still enjoy the original Kingston Trio performances and the other musical skills of many wonderful performers who have provided me with a variety of musical enjoyment excellence over the years.

When I searched the Internet for my personal selections of “comfort” music, I really hit a treasure trove. Not only did the Internet sites offer access to the lyrics of most of the music that I was interested in, but many sites actually offered full or abbreviated sheet music — especially for piano and guitar.

But, when I searched for the Kingston Trio and hundreds of other performing artists, I was absolutely amazed at how many films from actual live performances and musical movie excerpts were available to me.

Music has always been a comfort for me throughout my life. Now, as a slower-than-I-used-to-be senior citizen, I really appreciate the skill and knowledge of computer geniuses that now allows us to access literally unlimited musical forms — right in the comfort of our own homes.

I guess if I ever return to my city-by-the-bay — San Francisco — there won’t be the pull to once again stand by the side door of the hungry i with my ear near the opening attempting to pick up on any new musical numbers.

And, I certainly won’t be trying to get a peek in the door to see any new talent!

Flag Day – A Time To Salute The American Flag

By:  Columnist Bob Grafe

Flag Day has always been one of my favorite days of reflection. As a native born citizen of the United States of America, the flag brings back many positive memories as I look back over the years.

My earliest recollection of the American flag having special meaning came during my elementary school days when I stood at attention each school day morning and recited my Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.

“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.”

As I recall, I did not then, nor would I ever, pledge “allegiance” to any other country’s flag; I knew in my heart that I was a part of a very special “republic” for which the flag stands; I gave many thanks that I was a part of one nation “under God” that was indivisible, a group of like-minded mostly righteous men and women from the various states; and that I was proud to live in a land allowing liberty, free from the tyranny of an unfettered government, and a land where justice for all of its citizens was a common goal.

I can remember many of my public school teachers explaining the history of the flag and sharing the inspirational story of Betsy Ross, the woman who sewed the original stars and stripes flag for the United States in her Philadelphia upholstery shop under the direction of George Washington and others.

Also, I can remember back to the time when I was so proud to become a Cub Scout at the age of 8 years old. With two fingers extended I was able to actually salute the American flag when I was in uniform as I recited the Pledge of Allegiance. That salute to my flag has continued as I progressed through life as a Boy Scout (a three-fingered salute), as a member of the United States military (a full-hand salute), and today as a member of the American Legion.

During all of those experiences, the American Flag was never far from sight — often being displayed on my various uniforms, at various schools of learning, at my place of employment, at my place of worship, and at my home.

For the vast majority of citizens of the United States, the American flag represents all that is good about our country.

However, occasionally, there are anti-American flag burners who catch their brief moment of notoriety with some media coverage — but, the incidents are few and are dramatically over-shadowed by the showing of strong American pride by the majority of citizens throughout the year.

Perhaps the most flagrant disregard and lack of respect for our nation’s flag has come recently from visitors to our home country who choose to display another country’s flag in place of our American flag in an effort to gain attention to their various political causes.

Those who use the American flag in disrespectful ways to further perpetrate their frequently anti-American causes should be strongly reminded that if they are legal citizens of the country they should be ashamed; and if they are “visitors” to our country perhaps they should re-think how they would react if American citizens came to their country, took down their country’s flag, and then replaced it with our Old Glory.

Bad manners regarding our flag should not be tolerated regardless of who is being disrespectful to it. The patriotic and rightful use of our American flag belongs to the legal citizens of the United States — not to anyone else.

The American flag is our country’s most precious symbol. It is a strong part of what binds us together as a nation of those who believe strongly that our Constitution was written by men of God through divine inspiration.

As we approach another Flag Day in this great country, let us not forget that the flag deserves our constant respect, attention and protection. And, when the cloth of our nation’s flag no longer has the physical strength to withstand the burdens of the wind, the sun and other natural elements let us remember to retire the American flag with the dignity and respect that it has so dutifully earned.

A look at the law regarding respect for our Old Glory … our Stars and Stripes … our American Flag:

Federal law stipulates many aspects of flag etiquette. The section of law dealing with American Flag etiquette is generally referred to as the Flag Code. Some general guidelines from the Flag Code answer many of the most common questions:

The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source.

The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use.

The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.

The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.

The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.

The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.

The flag should never have any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind placed on it, or attached to it.

The flag should never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.

The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.

When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

A Pop Quiz On The U.S. Constitution

By:  Columnist Bob Grafe

Most senior citizens living in the United States are familiar with the country’s Constitution. In fact, many of us have actually read it “cover to cover.”

Remembering what year in elementary or high school that we actually read it may be difficult to accurately recall. However, we do remember reading it … don’t we?

Therefore, we can declare with all honesty that we have “read” the Constitution!

Can we state with that same honesty that we also comprehend the Constitution? That may be much more of a “stretch” for us to answer in the affirmative.

The Constitution actually only contains 4,543 words in the original, unamended Constitution, including the signatures. Average English readers, reading for comprehension, will average reading between 200 — 400 words-per-minute.

Even using the slower rate of the “average” results in the total time to read the Constitution with comprehension to less than 23 minutes. If you throw in reading the amendments to the Constitution as well that pushes the total time commitment to actually read the entire Constitution to 30 minutes or less for the average English reader.

Interestingly, if you are a legal immigrant to the United States you had to pass a naturalization test in order to be granted citizenship — including some questions pertaining to the Constitution.

Here are a couple of questions (and correct answers) from the actual United States naturalization test which is administered in the English language:

Q: What is the supreme law of the land?

A: The Constitution.

Q: What does the Constitution do?

A: Sets up the government; defines the government; and protects basic rights of Americans.

Q: The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?

A: We the People.

Q: What is an amendment?

A: A change or an addition to the Constitution.

Q: What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?

A: The Bill of Rights.

Q: What is one right or freedom (of several) from the First Amendment?

A: Speech, religion, assembly, press and/or petition the government.

Those questions require some limited recall, but other parts of our Constitution require much more thought process to fully grasp the real significance of the document keeping in mind the prophetic wisdom of John Adams who stated “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Perhaps it is time that senior citizens and others dust off their copy of the Constitution (or just go online and Google “United States Constitution text”) and take a few minutes to regain familiarity with that document that permeates all aspects of our American way of life.

If we just look at the opening words of the Constitution we realize how important this document is to our very existence as a sovereign country and society.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union …”

Our founders had the vision for all of us that we should continually strive to better ourselves and others. This perfect “union” of the states took many drafts and many revisions to the Constitution before it was adopted. Not everyone got everything they wanted in the document; but, everyone involved had a place at the negotiating table during those 116 days during the hot summer of 1787 when the Constitutional Convention took place.

“ … establish justice …”

Even with all of its warts, our judicial system is still the envy of the world thanks to the judicial foundations laid out in the Constitution.

“ … insure domestic Tranquility … ”

This goal continues to be a work in progress as the Constitution seems to mandate that our country’s leaders strive to provide a peaceful atmosphere for its citizens to dwell within — something that is occasionally illusive.

“ … provide for the common defense …”

If not “the” most important provision in the Constitution, it certainly ranks near the top.

“… promote the general Welfare … ”

The founders never intended that a corruption of this concept into today’s “welfare system” would exist.

“ … and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity … ”

The Constitution clearly sets forth the responsibility of each generation to “secure” the blessings of liberty for both the current generation and for the generations to follow. The strict reading of this would suggest that it was intended to apply to citizens of the United States as stated in the closing words which are:

“… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

If Thomas Jefferson were alive today he would probably challenge all senior citizens and others to reacquaint themselves with their Constitution. He might even repeat this admonition that he stated while he walked among us: “Say … whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people. This last is the most certain and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”