Category Archives: Politics

Somewhere along the line it seems folks have lost the thread that makes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge so remarkable. It’s not really about dumping ice-water on your head or shaming your friends into doing the same. It’s about raising awareness and funding to battle a horrific disease. So when I was challenged to participate, I accepted – but I threw in a twist I wish more of us would include in our videos.

Enjoy it or hate it, watch if you will. Then consider how you might do something a bit more beneficial than just dumping water on your head. The concept is timeless, so if you feel a need to help someone, do it. You’ll be glad in the long run.

Screen shot 2013-05-21 at 7.23.00 PMThis is a movie review, written for a film called, Inheritance. Read it. You’ll be glad you did. The James Moll picture originally aired on PBS in 2008.

There are many women who would be flattered, maybe even enthralled to see a star with the talent and sophisticated good looks of Ralph Fiennes playing their father. Monica Hertwig is not among them. Monica, a stay-at-home caregiver who dotes on her young grandson and goes about her prosaic teutonic existence in a way that makes her appear not unlike any one of a hundred other women-next-door at the supermarket where you do your shopping. The difference is Monika has seen Ralph Fiennes dressed in the uniform her father wore, living in the house her father lived in, and indiscriminately exterminating his fellow humans with no more emotion than a man crushing an insect into the sidewalk.

Monika’s father was Amon Goeth, the SS Commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp in Krakow, Poland. You know him as the sadistic killer in Steven Spielberg’s heart-wrenching docudrama, Schindler’s List. Read More →

Iconic CBS newsman Walter Cronkite’s famous tag line seems to be coming back to haunt us. “And that’s the way it is…,” were the words Walter uttered at the conclusion of each broadcast. He was telling us something important, even if the method of communication was casual and concise. His message was simple – he’d just told us what happened. What really happened. He didn’t sugar coat it, or editorialize about why it happened, or what might happen next. Nope, Walter became the most trusted man in America for the simple reason that he reported the news. That’s all.

As I watch political battles being waged today, I miss Walter more than ever. Similarly, when I hear the comments made by Monday morning quarterbacks, political wannabes, and far too many pseudo-reporters, Walter’s words come back to me again. Because they don’t seem to understand the basics, and so they confuse themselves with inventions of their own that cloud issues, foster dissent, and occasionally lead to really bad knee-jerk political action based on fear rather than knowledge, insight, or legal precedent.  Read More →

I tend to write upbeat stories that are intended to inspire and motivate. That’s not always practical, however. For instance, when your house bursts into flames because the turkey frier got out of hand, that’s probably not the best time to ask your guests if they’d like a bowl of ice-cream. Better than you get up from the table and go outside for awhile, no matter how quick a response time your local fire department can promise.

Sometimes something stupid happens. When that occurs, I often find myself fighting the urge to jot down a few words on the topic. Today is one of those days. Something stupid happened. Actually, something happened that is so stupid  it is hard to measure even on an industrial scale.

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Something’s happening in America, and it’s weird. Our affluence has become so ingrained in our daily lives, we no longer notice it. We’ve become convinced that we’re underprivileged, overlooked, and forgotten. The opposite is true, of course. We’re wealthy beyond the imagination of billions of our fellow human beings. Billions, mind you. Not just a few hundred thousand millionaires whose salaries and investments make the average hourly worker’s income look like a tip for good service in a top end restaurant.

Yeah, I’ll say it. We’re so spoiled we don’t even recognize how good we’ve got it. Waaa, that guy has more than I do! So what? Is that guy happy? Do his children look up to him? Does he have real friends, or does he just have a collection of hangers-on who won’t let go until the last dollar is gone? You don’t know. And that’s the whole point. Read More →

Lately I’ve been seeing a staggering number of Wounded Warrior Project commercials on television. They’re always the same. Country musician Trace Adkins pops up on my screen encouraging me, and everyone else watching that particular channel, to contribute to the proud cause of the Wounded Warrior Project. Photos and interviews with military veterans who have suffered significant trauma, both mental and physical, are interspersed throughout the ad. And I can’t help thinking every time I see these commercials, why is this organization even necessary?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but military veterans who are injured in wartime or through military service, are essentially workers injured on the job. Wouldn’t their employer be on the hook for their medical needs? It seems likely that at least a significant portion of those costs would be borne by the company or the contractor who hired those employees and assigned them to perform dangerous tasks under difficult circumstances. And that’s assuming these people were injured while employed in the private sector.

Obviously, our military vets with injuries are not private contractors. They are volunteers who make the conscious choice to pick up arms to defend our nation and its people. They willingly embark on a noble career path that will at least potentially put them in harm’s way. And they do it without regard for high pay, special perks, or lavish retirement benefits. They ask only one thing of the rest of us – they ask us to have their back if things get ugly. Read More →

I’ve never been very good at tooting my own horn. But I enjoy it as much as anyone else when my work gets noticed in a positive way. So with sincere thanks to the fine people at AOPA, I share the notification here that I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the 2012 Let’s Go Flying Award recipient. 

Aviation has been a magnet for me since I was young. Frankly, I didn’t get into it as a pilot until I was in my late 20s. But once I took the plunge, I went whole hog. And I couldn’t be happier with the decision. Aviation in all its various forms has been a real driver in my life. It’s adventurous, it’s rewarding, it’s educational, motivational, inspirational, and a whole lot of fun. What more could I ask for in life? What more could anyone want?

The best news is, aviation is never filled to capacity. If you’re interested in getting involved, we’ve got room for you. Whether your interest is in designing, building, maintaining, restoring, managing, flying, or just standing on the sidelines enjoying the view – we’ve got an opportunity for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, young or old, tall or short, thin or chunky. Aviation doesn’t care about any of that. It just wants to give you the greatest thrill of your life by allowing you to enjoy your time on earth and above the earth as fully as you possibly can.

Thanks AOPA. I really am humbled by the attention. And rather than tuck the award away at home, I’ve loaned it to the City of Winter Haven, which will put it on display at Gilbert Field. My hope is the users, tenants, and visitors to my favorite airport on the planet will be inspired by the attention AOPA showers on those who work to promote and advance aviation, and find a way to put their efforts into earning this or another award themselves.

Now, on to the next thing…

by Jamie Beckett —

This is an open letter to the public. Because the news outlets in my city and county have been unwilling or unable to share this information with the public at large, the responsibility to share with the public an honest view of how the process of replacing a departing city manager was managed, has fallen to individual citizens. As one of the five residents of Winter Haven who are currently charged with overseeing the management of the city, I will share what I know of the process, for the benefit of anyone who wishes to better understand how the most recent transition occurred.

Dale Smith, the sitting city manager of Winter Haven, Florida, publicly announced his intention to retire at a city meeting on August 27, 2012. It was not news to many city residents, or senior city staff. Smith, whose wife retired from her career with the school system previously, had made it known to friends, staff, and at least this commissioner that he was considering retirement for himself in the not too distant future. The decision was on his mind. Read More →

by Jamie Beckett —

It will come as no surprise if I were to report that a person who is often in the news said something stupid today. Some will immediately think of Mitt Romey’s 47 percent comment, I’m sure. Others will reflect on Barak Obama’s claim to have visited 57 of the 58 United States. It makes no difference. When mouths open, goofy words can come out. It happens to everyone. It’s worse when recording devices are rolling, though. What would have been a regrettable but forgettable slip in Lincoln’s time is now a permanent part of the historical record. It is the journalistic equivalent of collecting lint – pointless. But at least we’re doing something, right?

No, we’re not. And the fact that we think we are is truly sad. We’re cheapening the political process and limiting our options by constantly trying to find the perfect, Teflon coated, squeaky clean candidate who never misspeaks, never missteps, never over-reaches, and never postulates on the future incorrectly.

Heaven forbid if we were to seriously consider a candidate who doesn’t espouse his everlasting love for his (or her) mate. Or jump at every chance they get to go out back and throw the ball around with their kids, or grandkids.

Are those the qualities that really make a good president, or governor, or mayor, or supervisor of elections? I don’t think so. No, wait. I take that back. They aren’t at all. They’re merely feel-good distractions from the real issues and challenges of the job. Something that can be spun when there’s nothing of substance to share.  Read More →

by Jamie Beckett —

As the American public slides into another political campaign season with reckless abandon, it seems appropriate to offer a word of caution to all concerned. This message is pertinent to Republicans and Democrats, alike. Libertarians, Greens, and the membership of any other party you can think of will benefit as well. Provided they listen, of course. And there’s the rub, because listening isn’t common during campaign season. Instead we tend to focus on name-calling, reputation-bashing, muck-raking, and mud-slinging.

Keep this in mind if you can; politics is about philosophy. It’s a debate of opinions, not personalities. There is no absolute right. There is no absolute wrong. There is only the consensus we agree to accept for the moment. Rest assured, whatever that consensus is, it will change over time. It always has. It always will. It will change because we change. It’s fated to be so. As surely as the weather rotates through various seasons, political opinion and social norms are in a constant state of change. Read More →