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Yes; I like titles that are a play on words.

Salient – (say-lee-ent) adj. Projecting or jutting beyond a line or surface; protruding. Strikingly conspicuous; prominent. Noticeable. Springing; jumping.

As we are seeing, many Americans who have held silent over the years are now speaking out about the condition of the human condition (and especially THEIR condition); how exclusive our “representative” form of government has become; how they can feel a positive future slipping through the loopholes in legislation passed in the dead of night, when few were watching; how the “needy” have become the “greedy” with their selfish sense of entitlement; how “community organizing” is nothing more than code for organized demonstrations that are designed to deceive the majority into thinking that they are the minority; and how they are seeing their voice getting smaller, as the private sector shrinks and government grows bigger by the day. It has allowed for the unions to add another layer of bureaucracy onto the already-bloated bureaucratic behemoth of government.

Of course; I am stating my opinion, which is salient.

Have you ever noticed how some will disguise their opinions as statements of facts?

Or, how some will state fact and then offer up their unsolicited opinions? The news media has been doing a lot of that lately.

No; it isn’t just the “mainstream” media doing it.

TV, radio and print media have all been practicing various spin mastering for the candidates of THEIR choice. Bias has been around for some time in that once unbiased arena known as our world of news.

It’s funny, but I could never figure out where Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, John Chancellor, Peter Jennings or Dan Rather were positioned politically, because they approached their jobs as newsmen; as if they were asking questions for the rest of the nation, regardless of political affiliation.

But, look at the state of the media today. Truly; it’s not like the old days. Investors with political agendas pour money into a news company and exert tremendous influence on the political direction of the news outlet. I’ll stop there for fear of sounding like Glenn Beck.

But let me ask you this: if people with special interests are spending millions of dollars in political campaign contributions in the various political parties, then how can they NOT be buying influence on legislation that affects them? If that is not the case, then why can’t they put containers out like UNICEF and get their money that way; that is, if what the money is going for is a worthy cause?

I have to point out the irony in National Public Radio (NPR), though.

Their name would lead one to believe that they exist for the public-the ENTIRE public, but it doesn’t. Yet, they receive public (taxpayer) funding. I suppose if you are an intellectual elitist or have liberal tendencies, then you probably have the channel programmed into your radios and I would suspect that you also enjoy your share of public television too. It’s OK; public radio/public TV; it’s all the same. It’s funny but it was public television where I first met Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Benny Hill, Black Adder, Fawlty Towers and Red Green. Exquisite comedy is its only redeeming quality, I guess. Wait; I can’t forget Austin City Limits. It reminds me of the old days of Midnight Special hosted by Wolfman Jack or Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. I must pause…

How can groups of people, who are participating in freedom of assembly, exercising their rights to free speech-both that are rights provided to Americans under the Constitution-use these very tactics to trample the same rights of those with opposing views?

When did it become fashionable to shout down differences of opinions?

Don’t bring a bullhorn to a PA address.

When live, streaming video shows these organizations using tactics designed to intimidate or coerce their political opponents, then why is it so surprising that some reporters would refer to them as a “mob”? Why is there a criminal charge of “mob action” that can be filed under the law under certain circumstances, but disrupting the workplace of elected officials and littering state property is OK?

These are just some of the questions that populate my mind.

Next subject:

I have read many articles lamenting about the fire services’ loss of status; post 9/11.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the heroes of 9/11 were at Shanksville, the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on that day. From every day Joes to the police, port authority, fire/EMS and hospitals; heroism was on display for the rest of the world to see on September 11, 2001.

Suddenly and without warning, ALL fire, police and EMS were seen and treated as heroes.

9/11 wasn’t some PR campaign. It wasn’t a “light bulb” that went off in someone’s head.

It was the darkest day in the history of our fire service and of our country.

While families and friends of those who died on 9/11 were grieving, many others were recognizing and realizing the complexities and risks of those in public safety. A profession that was already held in high regard was taken to even greater heights.

In my opinion, it is denigrating and disrespectful to even consider an “upside” to this tragedy, because there should be no mistake that this act of war was perpetrated on a country with a rich heritage of helping the rest of the world for nothing more than humanitarianism. No upside; no takeaways; simply people helping people.

But, one “upside” discussed in several articles on the subject was the new-found elevated stature of public safety employees.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I have seen 9/11 used as a “marketing” tool and I think that’s wrong. It is my opinion and there are those who will disagree with me. That’s cool.

I believe that our “fall from grace” is due to over exposure; too many pictures and video clips of public servants “just doin’ their jobs” as they would say. The public face is one of compassion, commitment, strength, honor and courage. It is a reminder of why communities could sleep easy at night. THEY are fearless because their public servants are fearless in protecting them.

And at the time, the cost for that protection didn’t seem to matter. No one seemed to care. Very few participated in their participatory form of government, so unless the very few were very vocal or worked for the newspaper and felt that public payroll issues were “newsworthy”, then it was regarded as budget expenditures…no big deal!

That seems innocuous enough, but then, the economic bubble burst.

Cities and states began “skipping” their payments to the pensions, mistakenly believing that their financial house would improve and the money would be paid into the pension fund at some point. And the money that WAS getting into the pension funds and then into investment funds were taking a beating along with the rest of us who had retirement funds.

With less money coming into the cities, states and yes, the unions; no one was doing anything to rein in spending. Their “economic engines” weren’t very “fuel efficient”!

So; with regards to what I have seen with fire departments: taxpayers believe that they are paying taxes that are too high. They won’t say that they are being assessed a fair cost for services; they only know that it costs too much in their opinions.

All of a sudden, benefits and pensions are “Cadillac” plans. Illinois firefighters contribute 9.5% of their paycheck into their pension. What I don’t know is what is contributed by their “employer”. But in the end, the firefighter is to get somewhere around 85% at retirement. It will vary because there are five public employee pensions that are governed by five different pension boards and that could be lending to the problem. That is; Illinois wasn’t paying its agreed-upon contributions; yet nothing was popping up as a cause for concern. It’s also an example of how close state government-i.e. representatives-have gotten to public and private sector unions. Who was the union listening to while payments were being skipped? The people that they supported for election/re-election; that’s who.

If you listen to Illinois Republicans on the most recent legislative session; they are the only ones trying to reduce spending. They want legislators to “be honest with their constituents” and to tell them that the money isn’t there to spend. So; has the process lacked honesty, if they are now calling for honesty?

It’s interesting to note that, when THEY had the majority AND a Republican governor, THEY weren’t that interested in spending cuts. Oh wait; they would want to pull out the “we had a surplus back then” argument. Really? My taxes didn’t go down.

NOW; everyone in government and their lobbyists on a leash claims that they have seen this coming for YEARS. So; I guess that they are complicit after-all.

Anyone with a stake in this can shoulder some of the blame.

From governments not honoring their commitments to an apathetic/disengaged electorate to unions feeding their own bureaucracy; the once rosy picture is now a harsh reality.

No one should be shouted down for raising questions or for voicing opinions.

Solutions may very well be found during very heated exchanges.

Hopefully, if the debate remains respectful, consensus will build and communities will flourish once again.

Regardless; you have the right to remain salient!

TCSS.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author, Art Goodrich, who also writes under the name ChiefReason.  They do not reflect the views and opinions of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. Articles written by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form.

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Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on June 8, 2011 at 7:41am

I am thankful to the IAFF for the many improvements in firefighter safety that they have helped to shepherd in over the years. I am grateful for their charitable work on behalf of MD, burn camps and others. I applaud them for their continued efforts to fight understaffing issues.

I admire every firefighter in this great nation that pursued their dream as a young kid.

I still believe in America.

And I try not to paint with broad brushes.

Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on June 7, 2011 at 3:42pm
-Thank God for the IAFF to protect me from those self centered, aggrandizing Tea Party people who yearn for the eradication of the middle class and a return to 19th century labor conditions.

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