Monday, January 31, 2011

Wild Hogs and Jim Fowler

Barrie and I watched a show last night about wild hogs (not the movie) and how they sometimes terrorize people when they come on and around their home and property. These hogs can weigh over 300 pounds, have sharp teeth and tusks and can be very dangerous, particularly if they feel threatened.

The show was filmed in various parts of the country, from Florida to Georgia to Texas and even in Hawaii. The troublesome hogs were all captured alive and most of them were processed as meat and donated to organizations who would use them to feed homeless people. It was a noble cause all the way around. The people hunting the hogs were unarmed except for a knife or two and some of them used dogs to assist in the hunt. Pretty dangerous work but they seemed to enjoy it.

In one segment of the show, in Hawaii, two men had captured a hog by the front leg in a snare they had set up. The hog, a 300 pound monster, was not at all happy about being caught. He was pulling every direction trying to free himself from the rope and would have charged the men with death in his eyes if he could have.

As the two men were approaching, the leader got a large branch with which he said he was going to “distract the hog while Steve goes up and grabs the back legs of the hog.” (Remember, this is a 300 pound, very angry hog.) I was instantly reminded of Jim Fowler, the working half of the two man team on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

Some of my younger readers may not remember Wild Kingdom. It was a show on Sunday evenings, one of the first shows about animals in the wild. Marlon Perkins was the host and the star of the show. He did all the talking and supervising and if something dangerous needed to be done it was deferred to Jim Fowler, who was the risk taker. (Marlon was rather old, even when the show started.)

Anyway, it would be Jim who would have been the one to “grab the hog by the back legs” in this particular show. Jim wrestled alligators, wildebeests, bears, you name it, while Marlon narrated, explaining what it was Jim was trying to do and just how dangerous it was. Marlon was never really in any danger. He stayed by the truck mostly, while Jim risked his life to make the show interesting.

There were many of us who watched the show every week and wished that Jim, when told by Marlon to go over and catch that lion by the back legs, just once would stop and say “I don’t think so Marlon. This time it’s your turn you old fart” and push Mr. Perkins into the danger zone.

I realize this is a bit warped on my part but Jim was always doing what his boss told him and Marlon rarely did anything. We simply wanted to see Marlon take a risk once in a while instead of risking Jim’s life and pitching Mutual of Omaha’s insurance policies. Is that asking too much?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Automatic Teller Machines And Life's Humorous Moments

Yesterday I had to go to the bank to deposit some cash. At this particular bank they have an ingenious new ATM that has done away with the need for envelopes and deposit slips. It’s actually very cool and easy. You swipe your ATM card, put in your code, touch “Deposit” then touch either “Cash” or “Checks”. The machine tells you which slot to put your deposit in (different one for each) but you simply put the cash or checks in the designated slot and the machine scans them, totals them and, in the case of the checks, will print a copy of the check(s) on your receipt if you wish. (It’s against Federal law to scan and print images of money.)

Although I’m sure there are others, this particular bank is the only one I’ve seen with this technology. I find it amazing but not surprising. It was only a matter of time.

The ATM also has audio services for people with visual impairment. I think it’s amazing that the machine’s creators, and the bank, make that service available. It’s a very modern, open minded and considerate thing for them to do. But the humorous part about it, to me anyway, is the sign on the machine that says “This machine has audio assistance for the visually impaired.” I realize the sign is for sighted people to read so they can inform a blind person of the capabilities of the machine but like the Braille keys on a drive through ATM, I just find the sign funny.

Granted, I have a very twisted sense of humor. I happily admit it. I sometimes find things funny that other people see as sad, sick or disgusting. It’s not that I am callous or uncaring, it’s just that I try to find humor in almost everything in life when I can. Laughter really is the best medicine for many things so I try to stay upbeat and look for the humor when possible.

I in no way mean any disrespect of any kind toward people who are visually impaired. I had an uncle who was blind who still ran his own business and was an integral part of the activities in the office every day. I very much admired the man and wondered how he did the things he did. And I feel the same way about anyone with the physical disability of blindness who doesn’t allow it to stop them from doing what they want to do.

Being blind is not funny. People who are blind, just like everyone else, can be funny depending on their personality and their attitude. The sign on the ATM was funny. Braille on drive up ATMs is funny. Many things are funny if you take them in the immediate context without putting too much deep thought into them.

May you all have a wonderful day full of little things that make you laugh, even if you have to do it silently so as not to offend anyone.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Can A Dog's Spirit Inhabit Another Dog?

Those of you who know me on Facebook know I had to put my dog down just after Christmas because she was suffering from cancer. She was a good dog with some quirks that made her endearing. But as difficult as it was to take her that day, I couldn’t watch her suffer anymore. Little did I know that I wouldn’t have to miss her as much as I thought.

Barrie’s dog, Nik, is a 15 year old Jack Russell. He’s a very calm, sweet, very loveable, and well behaved dog who normally just lays around contentedly unless it’s time to eat or time to go outside. (He does go on an adventure when he can – see “Nik – the Flying Wonder Dog” from October 17, 2010.) But overall, he’s simply been a quiet, trouble free dog. But that seems to have changed.

Can dogs come back from the grave and inhabit another dog? I have to wonder.

While Nik was always the one who stayed in his bed, or under our bed, while Lucky used to follow me everywhere, particularly into the kitchen. She was always hoping I would either give her some small treat or drop something on the floor. (Once something hit the floor it was normally hers. It was the only time she ever got to eat people food.) When I would leave the kitchen she’d stay, nosing around for a few minutes just to make absolutely sure I hadn’t slipped and let something fall unnoticed.

When I was feeding her she would always finish her food before Nik and then wait for him to finish so she could lick his bowl and make sure it was completely clean. I swear if it wasn’t for the germs and saliva I wouldn’t have ever had to wash them.

When we went into the back yard Lucky was all about chasing the birds, squirrels and rabbits out of her yard. It was her yard and she didn’t like sharing it with the wild creatures. She was OK sharing it with Nik but no one else.

Once the feeding was done, she’d been outside and the yard was clear she was content to lay down beside me and stay there for hours. That was just her.

About two weeks or so after Lucky was gone I started to notice new behavior in Nik. He was starting to follow me to the kitchen and wait for me to drop things. I then noticed he would remain in the kitchen checking the floor after I left.

We got a new dog in early January (Barrie said it was because Nik was lonely) and now there were once again two dogs in the house. Nik tolerates Gizmo well, except when Giz gets in Nik’s bed, and there has been no problem between the two. What’s interesting is that Nik has assumed almost all of Lucky’s traits.

As I said – he follows me to the kitchen looking for handouts and dropped items. Gizmo, being younger, always finishes eating before Nik and Nik goes from his bowl to Gizmo’s to lick it clean. Nik has begun to notice the birds and squirrels in the backyard and now, when I let him out, he runs around the yard constantly chasing them away. I sometimes have to call him several times before he’ll stop chasing the squirrels (they bother him the most) and come inside.

Finally, once the feeding and chasing are completed, Nik simply wants to come in and lay beside me for hours without moving. He’s content to just be there where we are and sleep when all is right in his world.

So can the spirit of one dog come back and inhabit another? It was so bizarre one afternoon, Nik was acting so much like Lucky that I looked at him and asked “Lucky – is that you?” almost expecting an answer. I didn’t get much of a chance to miss Lucky after she was gone because she seems to have quietly returned and take up residence in Nik. Nik doesn’t seem to mind. He’s adapted to his new activities well, particularly the laying beside me for hours.

Coincidence, you say? Probably. But it’s an interesting coincidence to say the least. The change in Nik is remarkable but fun. Lucky – if it really is you, welcome back.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is A Blanket Pay Freeze The Right Answer?

The President and other politicians in Washington D.C., have decided that Federal employees don’t need or deserve a raise in the next five years. This is apparently intended to save Federal dollars but I think, no, I know those making the decisions are overlooking some important areas.
There are numerous Federal jobs out there, probably more than most people realize. Many are overpaid – that’s a fact. Some even do as little as they can do just to get by without really giving 100% of their work time and energy to the job. In other words, yes, there are some really lazy Federal employees who don’t deserve the money they get.

That said – there are numerous people out there working for the government who deserve every penny they earn and more. I’m talking about Federal law enforcement officials who risk their lives daily to protect and serve the people of the United States. Every agency, from the FBI, US Marshals, Border Patrol, and ICE, to the Bureau of Prisons, risk their lives daily when they go to work, yet the President doesn’t want to give them a raise for five years. Does he plan to keep the inflation rate from going up over those same five years or do these people simply have to take a pay cut? I wonder if his Secret Service detail, the one assigned to protect him personally, will be kept from a pay raise? If so, do they have a choice of whether or not to continue protecting him? Or should they only protect him as much as he thinks they’re worth?

Let’s face it - a maintenance person or a secretary working in a government office building, such as the Government Accounting Office or even a Federal courthouse, doesn’t face danger daily. Unless another Timothy McVeigh shows up one day, workers in these environments are reasonably safe and secure from physical harm. Should they get the same pay as those who face dangerous criminals every day? And I’m in no way criticizing these people but their jobs are not really dangerous, are they?

Being retired from the Federal Bureau of Prisons I’m particularly interested in (BOP) employees. Every day these dedicated people go into prisons all across the country and face thousands of convicted criminals, some more dangerous than others, but all dangerous in their own way. These staff members, from the secretary to the maintenance people to the correctional officers to the cook foremen, deal with these dangerous inmates, normally at a ratio that most people would find very frightening, and now they’re going to be asked to do it without a pay raise for at least five years.

Will the people who clean and care for the 211 year old White House get a pay raise? I wonder if, out of loyalty to the building itself and the history, they’ll continue to work there without getting any more money as the cost of living continues to climb? Or will they quit because the occupants of the building don’t want to give them a raise?

Congress has voted against their automatic pay raise again this year. That is two years in a row. I’ll give credit where credit is due on this one since they did the right thing. Will they continue to do it for five years or will they let one or two sneak by without mentioning it? That remains to be seen.

There are those who would say “Federal employees make more than their civilian counterparts.” In many cases this is true. In those circumstances, by all means, consider the job and the civilian pay equivalent and adjust it accordingly. But when it comes to law enforcement, rather than decrease the pay of the Federal employees how about increasing the pay of the local city, county and state employees? After all - is one of their lives worth less than his/her counterpart in the Federal system? And do we want to cut the pay of the people who risk their lives every day in service to the people?

So, Mr. President and members of Congress – here’s what I suggest. When you decide to freeze wages of Federal employees take a good, long look at what it is they do, how important it is and how dangerous it is before you issue a blanket freeze order for all. Mr. President, think about the people who risk their lives daily to protect you and your family simply because you’re the President. Those people will take a bullet for you if necessary. Are you going to deny them a pay raise? If they get it, are they better than the other law enforcement officers because they protect you?

I think these are valid questions. I hope you’ll listen and think before making such a large, and possibly devastating decision. These people work for you. The least you can do is treat them fairly.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

God Bless Our Law Enforcement Officers

In the last week in Florida six law enforcement officers have been shot, four of them fatally. These shootings didn’t happen as the officers interfered with the commission of a crime but when they were attempting to serve warrants on criminals with outstanding charges. Yesterday’s incident in St. Petersburg involved a suspect who was wanted for missing a court date and who had numerous violent crimes in his history.

Four officers were also shot, none fatally, in a police station in Detroit.

My blog today is dedicated to the men and women in blue who put their lives on the line every day to protect the people in the cities and counties they serve. Some people vilify the police saying they harass people and are corrupt. While things like this do happen in this country because people are human, I would guess most people who feel this way have had negative contacts with the police brought about by something they (those people) did to initiate that contact. Of the hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers in this country only a small percentage fall into the categories of corrupt, dishonest or untrustworthy.

Statistically, police do what they are hired, trained and expected to do. Unfortunately, the incidents of corruption and/or illegal acts by the few often end up in the news more often than the good police do every day.
Police and firefighters, like our brave military service personnel, are people who set aside their own safety to protect others. They are the ones who go toward the danger rather than run away from it. Imagine running toward gunfire instead of hiding or running the other way. Sure they take cover sometimes to keep from being hit. They have to. They can’t proceed to stop the incident if they get shot. But they still proceed forward, relentlessly, until the situation is resolved, even if it takes hours.

Following yesterday’s murders of the two officers the suspect’s step-mother stated the police “didn’t come here to arrest him, they came here to kill him.” This is the type of ridiculous rhetoric that gives police a bad name in some people’s minds. While I understand she was upset and grieving over the loss of her son, the man was hardly an innocent victim of police brutality, profiling or harassment. He had a history of violence, sexual assault, had been in prison and had resisted arrest with violence in the past. He was wanted yesterday for missing a court date on a sexual assault charge. When the officers arrived at the home they were told by the resident of the home that he was in the attic and possibly had a gun. And when the police approached the attic to get him to come out he began shooting, hitting two officers, one of them fatally. I feel for the step-mother, I truly do. But let’s put the blame where it’s due – on the suspect who decided he wasn’t going to be arrested.

Having worked in prisons for 22 years I know what it’s like to work in a dangerous environment where a threat can come from any direction. The biggest difference in my job and that of a police officer is that I knew where the threat would come from – any and every inmate around me. Police officers don’t have the luxury of knowing who is a threat and who isn’t. They have contact with numerous individuals daily. Many are simply average citizens who need assistance or simply need an understanding ear. Criminals are interlaced with these citizens and the police have to determine which is which. They also have to worry about those who have firearms who can reach out and touch them from a distance. That makes their jobs much more dangerous than mine was. Don’t get me wrong - working in a prison has inherent dangers that the staff face every day. But we suspect every inmate of possible misconduct or dangerous, aggressive behavior, and with good reason. Police have to suspect everyone as well but I think there is a different line between them and the general public than between prison staff and the inmates. I could be wrong.

Either way, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, Federal law enforcement – you all have my respect and admiration. I thank you all for the job you do every day and your efforts to keep our communities safe for all of us. Sometimes people forget you are also working to keep the neighborhoods safe for your own families.

I ask all to say a prayer for the families, co-workers and friends of the brave men and women who gave their all in the performance of their duties, and for those who survived that they may fully recover. Thank you all for your dedication and sacrifice. May God keep you all safe and may He put a stop to the senseless actions of those who seek to harm you. God bless you all.

For Bucky and Dana. Please stay safe.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Should Teachers Be Armed?

After a Nebraska student entered his school, killed his principal, wounded the vice principal, and then killed himself, there has been legislation proposed in that state for school officials to be authorized to carry firearms on their person in the school. In the wake of so many shootings at schools and universities around the country in the last decade it’s not surprising that some are thinking in this manner. It’s terribly sad but it’s not surprising. Nebraska is not the first and it may not be long in coming.

Several years ago, to help deter airplane hijackings, pilots were authorized to carry firearms in the cockpits of their planes. They had to successfully complete a training course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center prior to arming themselves but once they completed that training they were authorized to carry the weapons on the plane. Fortunately there have been no instances where a pilot has been forced to use one of those weapons but I’m sure it’s merely a matter of time.

Teachers and administrators face real danger every day in our schools – even more so than pilots. Everyone who gets on a plane is screened for weapons. Granted, sometimes the screening fails to find a weapon but many people, I’m sure, won’t attempt to carry a firearm on a plane for fear of getting caught by security. Most schools today don’t have that type of security. Some do, and that itself is a sad testament to where we are as a society. But most schools haven’t gone that far so no one knows what may be in a student’s back pack.

Would arming teachers and administrative staff solve the problem? I think not. It’s possible that an armed teacher or principal may stop an enraged, murderous student before he kills or injures a large number of people but unless they are able to act before the child begins his actions, people are still going to get shot. And if a student bent on killing believes a teacher to be armed and a threat who do you think he’ll shoot first? But should the teacher have the right and the ability to protect himself, his students and/or his colleagues?

On television, when a kid shows up at school with a gun, some kindly teacher, cop, or the class hero normally talks him out of hurting anyone and giving up the gun. As is proved over and over in our society today, this is rarely the case. (Where is Jethro Gibbs when you need him?) With few exceptions these days no one finds out about the gun until the student begins using it. And by then it’s too late; people are already beginning to die.

While I am not an advocate of banning all guns from ownership by private citizens I am very much in favor of reasonable gun control. Gun ownership is a great responsibility and should be limited to those people who pass a thorough background check that not only focuses on any criminal history but any mental health history. And it should be done for all gun purchases, not only from gun stores. Private gun sales and purchases at gun shows should be subject to the same regulations as the stores. What is the point of background checks for some if not for all? It makes no sense.

This is not a problem I have an answer for. I can see the solution both ways and neither of them is great. Not arming teachers and security personnel in schools will lead to more unchallenged killings and injuries in our schools across the country. Arming these staff could help minimize the extent of the carnage but won’t prevent it. And there are two things I worry about: 1) What if the teacher snaps one day and instead of being the protector of the students he/she becomes the threat? And 2) If a teacher or administrator is forced to shoot one of their own students, how will that effect that person’s ability to continue performing as an educator?

I’m going to let each of you ponder the question and answer it for yourself. I suppose I’m not living up to my usual, opinionated attitude but this one baffles me. I just don’t know what the right answer is in this case. I hope they can figure it out.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is Hate Speech Really a Right Wing Exclusive?

In Washington on Wednesday, on the floor of the House of Representatives, the ugly rhetoric of politics returned in full force. Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) invoked the Holocaust when speaking of the Republican stance on health care and compared their statements concerning the controversial law to the work of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels," Cohen said. "You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That's the same kind of thing.”

It didn’t stop there.

“The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it - believed it and you have the Holocaust. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care. Politifact said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover," Cohen said.

Cohen didn’t tell anyone to go get a gun and shoot anyone but then, neither did anyone else. What he did though was compare Republican opposition to a law that was forced down the throats of the American people to the propaganda constructed by the Nazis that eventually caused the deaths of millions of Jews during World War II.

Maybe Cohen agrees with Alan Grayson, the shamed, former Florida Representative who claimed, during the health care debates, that Republicans want people to “die early”. (Grayson lost his bid for re-election in November last year. Go figure.) What’s interesting is there was virtually nothing about Cohen’s statements from any of the mainstream media outlets. If a Republican politician (or pundit) had made a statement comparing Democrats to Nazis (which I believe actually did happen during the debate) it would have been front page, headline news on all channels. Yes, I said all channels, including FOX.

The liberal bias in the main stream media is getting to the point where nothing they report can be taken as fact anymore. I remember when news reporting was mostly unbiased, honest investigation of stories and when reporting on Washington was about keeping politicians that way. Today it seems most main stream media outlets simply look the other way when there’s bad or controversial news from the left.

Steve Cohen should be ashamed of himself for his comparison. Political rhetoric has been the focal point of the news since the Tucson incident and even the President has called for people to scale back the rhetoric on both sides. Obviously some people on the left don’t worry about what the President says or what he wants. Mr. Cohen made that very clear.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Texting While Swimming

A few days ago a woman named Cathy Cruz Marrero, while walking through a mall and texting on her cell phone, failed to watch where she was going and fell into a fountain. Mall security cameras caught the unfortunate mishap and it somehow went viral within a few days. Ms. Marrero was apparently unhurt, judging by how quickly she jumped up, got out of the fountain and hurried away (no doubt trying to distance herself from her embarrassing incident as quickly as possible.)

I saw Ms. Marrero in a television interview on Thursday saying she was going to sue the security staff at the mall because rather than rush to her aid they laughed at her. While I understand that a concerned and compassionate security person would probably have done just that, the woman was only in the fountain for a few seconds before she got out, under her own power, and walked quickly out of the mall. I think you can actually see a couple of security personnel on the right side of the video laughing as she walked by. Cold blooded? Absolutely. An offense worth a lawsuit? I sincerely hope not.

Human compassion varies from person to person and from incident to incident. It would have been gentlemanly, and a good public relations move for mall security officers to rush to her aid. Let’s face it – it would have been the decent thing to do. But we’re talking about mall police here. Can you say Paul Bortz?

I feel badly for the woman (between giggles, that is) and feel for her embarrassment but I hope she doesn’t go through with the lawsuit. She probably would win just because she was embarrassed and a jury might feel sorry for her. But she is a mall employee who knows the fountain is there and she distracted herself by texting while she was walking. That is her own fault. Let’s go back to my post on January 11th, (Stupidity Runs Deep) about having to label every product in an attempt to keep people from hurting or killing themselves with it. Do we need to put labels on cell phones and warning signs in malls and other public places to alert people to the dangers of texting, lest they fall into a fountain, or worse? How about a big warning sign on the driver’s side visor in every new car to make sure people don’t text and drive? Lord knows if you text while driving and have an accident there must be some way to sue the car manufacturer, the phone company, and any passerby who doesn’t show the appropriate concern for your safety.

America becomes more crazy with each passing day. One day there will be a lawsuit filed by someone against their parents for bringing them into the world without their consent. And the scary thing is – they might just win.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Is MTV's 'Skins' Child Porn?

This was the headline of an article on AOL this morning. Jean Bentley of “TV Squad” reported that the show’s executives had an emergency meeting to discuss “toning down” some of the future episodes that could be considered child pornography under Federal law. One episode, set to air on January 31st, purportedly shows the buttocks of a 17 year old boy running naked down the street. This may seem tame compared to some of the things we see on TV on other shows during prime time but a 17 year old, naked, on national television? Really?

The first question that comes to my mind when I read about this show is “Why?” Why is it necessary to make a television show that depicts “hard-partying, drug-taking, sexually active teenagers” and why is it necessary to show one of them naked? I realize it may be a reality show of sorts, or at least it depicts reality for some. But when did it become OK to show naked, minor age teenagers on television? For that matter – when did it become OK to film naked teenagers? Isn’t that, in itself, against Federal child pornography laws? The producers may take that scene out of the show for the 31st but based on the information in this article, shouldn’t the FBI be moving in to investigate what’s already been filmed?

So that’s my second question: Is the FBI investigating this show, its producers, its director and the crew that films naked 17 year old kids? I’ve never seen the show and won’t watch it but I have to wonder if they’ve already crossed the nudity line for kids what must the sex scenes be like? I’m sure teenagers all over the country love the show and watch it every week. That would be normal teenage behavior. And they wouldn’t see anything wrong with it because for many of them it is reality. But the parent in me, and simply the adult in me, screams “How are these people getting away with this kind of garbage??”

Have we sunk so low as a society that putting naked 17 year old kids on TV is acceptable? Some will say “It’s only his butt” to which I say “Why is that acceptable? Would it be OK for someone to film your son or daughter naked and put it on TV? And remember – the scene shows a kid’s naked butt but the kid had to be naked in front of a lot of adults for the scene to be filmed. What’s next?”

I truly hope adults, parents, all over the country will contact Federal authorities and demand an investigation into this television show and those who make it. Our kids today have enough problems without TV producers exploiting them even worse than they are already. The fact that “a flurry of meetings took place during which executives discussed the possibility of facing criminal charges if especially racy episodes were shown without editing” proves they know what they’re doing but were trying to push the envelope of decency. I’m disgusted by it and hope others are as well.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Does Truth Matter Anymore?

Almost two weeks after the tragic shootings in Tucson, and more than a week after most of the left-wing media and even some left-wing bloggers stopped blaming Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and others on the right, I’m still reading columns and blogs that are continuing the hateful rhetoric against the right and still accusing them of culpability for the actions of a mad man. I find myself wondering if truth matters in the minds of some people.

The more deeply authorities delve into the mind and background of Jarod Loughner the more obvious it is that he has mental health issues that have nothing to do with politics. I could go on about his left-wing beliefs, such as hating George Bush, hating religion, anti government, flag burning, etc., but I’m not here to blame anyone except Loughner, nor should I be. No political party, pundit or talk show host was responsible for Loughner’s actions, from either side. Loughner is mentally ill. His documented planning of the incident indicate that he is not insane by any means, but I think you have to be mentally ill to carry out the act he did. And I hope he gets the treatment he needs, while living in prison.

It worries me that people are not only quick to blame one side or another for a tragedy of this type, but continue to blame even after the facts prove there is nothing to the allegations. I have one acquaintance who blames practically all violence in any political arena on the right and cites various sources as factual. He cites the increase in threats toward Congressmen and Senators since 2008 as evidence yet seems to forget left wing violence, even bombings of Federal targets and law enforcement agencies by the Weather Underground years ago. He says since that group no longer exists it is irrelevant. I contend those people are still out there, they’re simply lying dormant right now but he calls that simple speculation not based in fact. In his world all the violence is from the right and the right only.

James Fuller, a victim of the shooting and a professed liberal, during a town hall meeting took a picture of Trent Humphries, the leader of the Tucson Tea Party who was speaking about gun control, and yelled “You’re dead!” He was promptly arrested and referred for a mental health examination. I see people commenting about it who say “Leave the man alone. He was shot. He’s been through a lot and just needs some rest.” Yet I guarantee if he threatened a liberal politician the fact that he’s been shot and has been through a lot would be completely irrelevant. Those on the left would be calling for his imprisonment and again blaming the right for the violent rhetoric.

The bottom line here is that no matter what you read, no matter who you listen to on the radio or television, no matter what videogames you play or movies you watch, no matter what music you listen to – you are responsible for your own actions. Rush Limbaugh has the top rated talk radio show in the country, Sean Hannity is #2 and Glenn Beck has the number three show. They all have millions of listeners. Despite what critics say none of them ever advocate violence against others and, in fact, say specifically that violence should never be the answer and is certainly no solution. Yet there are those who blame these people, along with Sarah Palin and others, of inciting violence and say Jared Loughner was influenced by them despite overwhelming evidence that it’s simply not true. If these talk show hosts were communicating and advocating violence against liberals, and people were actually listening to them and carrying out that violence, don’t you think there would be a huge increase in political violence in this country?

It’s time for people on both sides of the political spectrum, and everyone in between, to focus on facts and stop pointing fingers where they shouldn’t be pointed. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion and I don’t ask anyone to change theirs based on mine. But I do ask them to think about the facts before they accuse people of something abhorrent. We have enough violent acts in this country that defy logic. We don’t need unsubstantiated blame thrown around so carelessly. It serves no purpose but to foster the hate that’s already there.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

MLK's Legacy One of Service?

Monday was the Federal holiday dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. It was created to honor the man who spent so much of his life working to not only improve race relations in this country but to improve and enhance the civil rights of African Americans and improve the way we all get along. Dr. King advocated peaceful protests against racial segregation, racial discrimination and racial hatred and decried the injustices perpetrated against African Americans in the United States in the 1960s.

Dr. King’s speeches were inspirational and uplifting. His skills as an orator moved people, black and white, and brought attention to the shameful way black people were treated in the United States. The early 60s were marked by bigotry, hatred by whites against blacks, and segregation, particularly in the South. Separate restrooms and separate drinking fountains were common, as were white schools and black schools. Even government officials, such as George Wallace and Robert Bird, were openly racist and fought against civil rights and equality for all. Dr. King bravely stood up for the rights of African Americans even though doing so put him in physical danger.

So when I heard President Obama say part of Dr. King’s legacy was “service” I had to ask myself “When and where did he say or imply that?”

According to Rev. Jesse Jackson a couple of years ago, Martin Luther King Jr.’s ultimate dream was not just equality of the races, but also apparently more gun control, universal health care and guaranteed employment. Granted Jackson spent a lot of time with King and knew him pretty well but to make such a statement without evidence to back it up (other than himself) is lame. In all the speeches I’ve heard and read by Dr. King I’ve never once heard him advocate community service, gun control, universal healthcare or guaranteed employment.

Over the years since his death people have attributed things to Dr. King that he really didn’t say. Would he have been in favor of more gun control, universal health care, guaranteed employment and community service? I’m not sure, although many of his views were somewhat conservative. He wasn’t registered with either party but his father was a staunch Republican. I think he’d have weighed each issue individually and decided what he thought was best for America. I don’t think he’d have been opposed to community service but that’s not what he was about when he was alive. And for the President to make that part of his legacy is, in my opinion, taking creative liberties with the man’s more than honorable intentions and efforts.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not against people performing community service to honor Doctor King. In fact, I think if it’s something that furthers race relations, equality and/or helps fight racial hatred and injustice then it’s a good thing. But Mr. President, Reverend Jackson, with all due respect, let’s not add our own agenda items to Dr. King’s legacy. He did well enough on his own, without your help. And if I’m wrong about King’s legacy, I’m open to correction.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nice To Be Back In Florida

The last few days have been quiet news-wise so I haven’t had anything in particular to write about. I hope everyone had a good holiday yesterday and at some point reflected on the man and ideals that brought that holiday about.

Today’s topic is simply a little about my life. Sorry if it's less interesting than my normal topics.

I lived in Miami, Florida, from September, 1999, until June, 2006, almost 7 years. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I was 19 years old (I’m 53.) My career with the U.S. government, both military and Civil Service, kept me moving just about every 2 ½ years, on average. Between 1977 and 1999, the longest I lived anywhere was just under 4 years on two separate occasions. But I also lived in two places for less than 18 months so the average worked out. My point is that I moved around every 2 to 3 years during my 30 year government career.

I don’t regret those moves. I’ve lived in some very interesting places. I lived in Colorado twice. I lived in California twice. I lived in Germany and Puerto Rico. And I lived in Florida. I also did some time in Alabama and Kansas, two of my least favorite assignments (although, I have to admit, Alabama was a very interesting and friendly place and it’s a beautiful state.) In my lifetime I’ve lived in 18 different places, although a couple of them have been in the same state, just not the same, exact place. That actually averages out to moving almost every three years throughout my life. I personally think I’m a much more rounded and knowledgeable person for it.

I know people, my sister for one, who have lived in the same town for most of their lives, if not their entire life. And while I don’t disparage that in any way and sometimes envy it for the stability and the lifelong friends they have, I prefer to have lived my way. I have enjoyed the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen and done. I’ve truly enjoyed the people I have met along the way. I have friends in half of the states in the Union and outside the country in at least two different places. Most of my friends and family don’t know what that’s like.

And now I’m back in Florida and it’s time to settle down. Barrie and I are in the right part of Florida. We’re not close to the beach but close enough. We’re an hour away from any major city but that’s close enough for us. (There is no traffic, no crowds and no noise like in Miami.) We could be a little further South where it would be warmer during the winter months but there isn’t anything in the center of the state South of Okeechobee except the Everglades so no place to live or work.

I loved the Miami area with all the things to see and do. South Beach was just up the road, the Everglades were the other way, and there were hundreds, if not thousands of things to see and do all over town. Fort Lauderdale was a great place to go for a day and Key Largo was just an hour to the South. However, the number of people and the traffic often destroyed any fun you might have. I lived 18 miles from downtown Miami, where I worked. If I left my house at 6:15am it took me about 28 minutes to get to work. For every 15 minutes later that I left the house you could add about 15 minutes to your drive time. If I left at 7:30am it took at least an hour and a half to drive the 18 miles. The freeways and US-1, the main thoroughfare from Homestead to Fort Lauderdale, were parking lots after about 7am. Driving home in the afternoon took at least 45 minutes to an hour, depending on which route you took. I found back roads that added 5 or 6 miles to the distance but cut the drive time because there was less traffic.

When I moved to Ohio a few years ago and people complained about the traffic I just laughed. I wasn’t trying to be mean or condescending but after living in Miami and Puerto Rico (where it once took me 3 hours and 45 minutes to go 8 miles), traffic in Ohio just wasn’t all that bad.

Barrie and I both love the ocean and the beach. As the crow flies we’re about 22 miles from the Gulf of Mexico however, there is really no good beach closer to us than about 90 minutes. We can be in Clearwater in less than 2 hours and in Daytona in just over 2 hours. Beach trips will be day-long excursions but I can live with that. In fact, I plan to live with it.

We’re where we want to be in a state that has warm, sunny weather at least 10 months a year. The colder temperatures in December and January only serve to remind us why we left Ohio and Kentucky. We plan to stay here after Barrie retires and travel to the other places we want to see. Moving to Florida was like coming home. All in all, life is good.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"I Have A Dream" - Martin Luther King's Wonderful Speech

This is a bit long. It is Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech text in it's entirety. It is one of the most moving speeches I have ever heard and read in my lifetime. To fully appreciate it one must look back on the civil rights movement in the early 60s and how very ugly and shameful things were at the time against black people in America. On this day, the holiday that celebrates Dr. King, I thought it appropriate to post the speech so those who have never actually read it can do so. Enjoy.

'I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"'

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jared Loughner and Sarah Palin

A very good friend of mine in Miami, with whom I’ve had several interesting and meaningful political discussions (he’s a liberal) asked me yesterday why I didn’t post my opinion of Sarah Palin’s speech on Facebook. (Before I initiated my blog I used to post things on my Facebook page, if you can believe that!) I thought I’d share my answer to him, and my reasoning, with you.

To answer this question I had to first refer to comments and rhetoric about Sarah Palin in the days before her speech. Within hours of the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, some liberal pundits and media outlets were blaming Palin for the actions of Jared Loughner. There was no evidence Loughner had any connection to Palin, her website, her TV show, or any other form of information put out by the Republican former governor, (and still isn’t) yet the blame game was being played in full. And every article posted on the internet that blamed Palin also had numerous comments at the end by people vilifying Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and virtually every other conservative media figure. People said Loughner killed because of Palin’s remarks concerning guns, reloading, and her campaign strategy map that used crosshairs on the districts where her campaign efforts for various candidates would be concentrated. Since she “targeted” Tucson it was obviously her fault that Loughner shot Gaby Giffords and others. Some people were even demanding her arrest and prosecution even though there still is no evidence to support such a move.

This assault on Palin went on for several days before she responded to the allegations made. Her seven minute speech, which in my opinion was very eloquent, explained the reasons we need to be civil in our discourse and stop accusing each other of things that we know aren’t true. Before she released the videotaped speech those criticizing her were asking for her apology to the people of Tucson and to America for causing this great tragedy. After her speech hit the internet those same people were demanding she shut up and stop her political grandstanding. No matter what Sarah Palin says the liberals are going to try to use it against her in a negative way. It’s what they do.

I did post her speech on my Facebook page so my friends can see it, even though I know some of my friends do not agree with her. Some don’t even like her much. One friend consistently belittles Ms. Palin, calls her stupid and feels completely justified doing so. I figured I’d get at least one or two negative comments about the speech from my posting. I only got one and it wasn’t terrible. So I let it go.

I guess I’m getting soft in my old age. Only a year ago I would have pushed people to get some kind of response. But I really didn’t want the conflict on Facebook. I’ve had at least two people remove me from their Friends list because I disagree with their political views. It seems some friendships have certain boundaries and one of them is the line between liberalism and conservatism. Personally I enjoy political discussion and disagreement. It’s what makes America great. But some people just can’t handle it.

Anyway - I chose to sit out the Palin discussion, this time, simply because I think there is enough hatred being thrown around between people on opposing sides. The poor victims of the tragic shooting in Tucson have been used for political posturing enough and I refuse to be a part of it. Hatred for Sarah Palin is rampant even though most people I know who feel that way cannot give me a concrete reason why their feelings are as strong as they are. It’s quite odd, really. Interesting…. but odd.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Will We Soon Have Word Police?

Until the shootings occurred on Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, there was a billboard advertizing Rush Limbaugh’s show on radio station KNST, the local station that airs Rush’s show each day. The sign, placed there by the radio station, depicted several bullet holes with the words “Rush Limbaugh – Straight Shooter”. It had been there for some time but was removed on Monday, two days after the shootings just five miles away.

Amazingly, after the shootings occurred, suddenly this sign meant Rush Limbaugh is advocating violence. People vilified the talk show host (even more than usual) saying the sign went overboard with the bullet holes and could easily cause some poor mentally unstable person to go out and kill someone.

Really? Have we really gotten to a point in our society where a sign with a graphic of bullet holes that says “Straight Shooter” causes people to murder other people? In reading the article about the billboard and the comments afterward, I found that many people on the left still truly believe talk show hosts and conservative political personalities are to blame for the actions of Jared Loughner on Saturday. There isn’t a single shred of evidence to support their allegations. Even liberal media outlets are retracting their statements that blamed people like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh because law enforcement officials are confirming what conservatives knew all along – that Loughner is a deranged individual with no real political ties and widely ranged beliefs that spanned both sides of the aisle and in between. Yet people on the left still blame the right.

Do we have to watch our words now to the point where any word that can be used in a violent context is off limits? Are the words shoot, gun and bullet going to be banned from everyday speech to keep some nut from shooting someone? Will basketball players no longer be able to “take a shot” or “shoot the ball toward the rim”? Will football have to outlaw the “kick” or the “tackle” because they could be construed as violent terms? We all know how guys like to watch and practically worship football. Will employers no longer be able to “fire” someone because the word “fire” could mean a hot flame or even a gunshot? How far will it go?

It seems sometimes that if a conservative talk show host opens the show with “Good morning listeners. I hope you’re having a good day” and then ends the show, someone will find something offensive about it. Conservative talk show hosts are vilified on a daily basis even though many people who vilify them admit they “will never listen to those people”. Excuse me but really, if you never listen to them, how can you offer an intelligent criticism of what they say? If you want to criticize someone at least use factual information that you gathered yourself. Is that too much to ask?

Blaming people on the right for the actions of a few deranged individuals is a stretch but it’s a stretch more and more people on the left are wanting to make. I posted a joke last night online about the left having two dictionaries: one that has all of the words known to man for their own use and another, exactly the same but to be used to attack the right called “Words Of Violence Used By The Right.” I know it sounds ridiculous but it’s equally ridiculous for people to translate every word or phrase uttered by a conservative as violent hate speech. Don’t believe it’s happening? Go to any article online about Sarah Palin, Rush, or Glenn Beck and read the comments at the end. See for yourself how hateful the left can be when they’re talking about someone who opposes their views.

The hatred and verbal attacks come from both sides and I’m in no way saying people on the right are innocent. In fact, according to the Senate Sergeant at Arms, threats against members of Congress have risen 300% in the last couple of years. It’s obvious people are not happy with the government and that unhappiness is reaching a boiling point. But does that mean we can no longer voice our opinions because someone might misconstrue them and act in a violent manner? I truly hope not.

I believe in the inherent good of people in general. I believe most people, whether they agree or disagree politically, want what’s best for the country (in their opinion) and want things to progress peacefully no matter in which direction we’re moving. Radical extremist fringe is radical extremist fringe, regardless of which side of the aisle they’re on. And those radical extremists should not be allowed to change the discourse in our country. We’re better than that. At least I believe we are.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Is More Gun Control The Answer?

Since the tragic shootings of 19 people in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, there is a lot of debate over gun control and whether or not we need more gun control legislation. Gun control advocates want even more scrutiny of people who are attempting to purchase guns. Those who want legal guns outlawed for all United States citizens are even more adamant and are using this incident to push their agenda, even though evidence shows outlawing guns leads to increased crime. Representative Peter King is introducing legislation to make it illegal for anyone to be in possession of a gun within 1000 feet of a public figure. These are all visceral responses based on the emotion generated by the horror of the shooting and are completely understandable. But are they right?

Jared Loughner had no criminal record nor did he have any documented mental health issues, with “documented” being the key word. He has been arrested several times in his young life but each and every charge against him was dropped for various reasons. Even though he had these interactions with law enforcement and the justice system his record was clean. Many people who know him think Loughner has mental health issues and some said he seemed a little crazy. Yet he had never been examined for these issues and without documentation, legally these are simply lay opinions that mean nothing. Without a criminal record and/or documented mental health issues there was no reason whatsoever that he could legally be prevented from buying a gun.

We can place blame for these circumstances I suppose but do we want these things to change? If someone is arrested and completes a diversion program their record is wiped clean. Do we want to change that? Do we want to expunge charges only from those we deem worthy or mentally stable but not for everyone who meets the legal requirements?

Along the same line, do we want to create mental health documentation on everyone who is deemed by someone else to act crazy? How many people in the country would be referred to a mental health professional if it was that simple? You could report someone for mental health issues because they make you angry one day, just to complicate their life. I’d like to believe that wouldn’t happen but we all know if getting someone caught up in the mental health evaluation process is made as simple as an opinion something like that will happen.

We’re now up to the proposed law to outlaw gun possession within 1000 feet of a public figure. If this becomes a law guns will be banned in large areas of Washington DC. No one will be able to walk on the Capital Mall carrying a legal gun because at any time they may be within 1000 feet of a public official. No one would be able to carry a gun anywhere around a state or county capital building for the same reason. And just how does the Congressman plan to enforce this law - more searches of the general public? Maybe the government could assign the TSA to do this since they’re already getting up close and personal in their searches. It was suggested that police in areas around a politician’s public appearance set up a perimeter and question people entering the area. Do we have that many police available? And more important – do they really believe someone who is illegally carrying a weapon is going to admit it to the police?

Let’s face it – for the most part people who are legally licensed to carry a weapon in public are not the ones we have to worry about. And those who illegally carry firearms are not going to change their ways because of new legislation. The proposed law will be a showpiece and nothing more. I’m actually surprised it’s being introduced by a Republican. And that’s not a partisan attack but merely a reference to the statistics that show Democrats favor increased gun control much more than Republicans.

I’m not opposed to our elected officials having increased security if they believe it’s necessary. But let’s be reasonable about it and take effective measures that will help rather than grandstanding steps that will really do nothing more than look good. Gun control has many merits in this country however, let’s not get carried away and make it just one more example of government control going overboard.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Still Doing Satan's Work

The Westboro Baptist Church has announced plans to picket the funeral of Christine Taylor Green, the nine year old girl killed on Saturday by Jarod Loughner in Tucson. In their statement they said “God hates Catholics and God hates fags.” These are the reasons they will be protesting somewhere near the funeral.

I’ve written about Westboro before concerning military funerals. (See “God’s Work Or The Devil’s” from December 10, 2010) I am appalled and disgusted by the actions of these people on a nearly daily basis but their hatred and vile agenda never ceases to amaze me at the same time. They claim to be doing God’s work yet everything they stand for screams hate, intolerance and goes against everything Jesus taught.

The church itself is not affiliated with any Baptist group in the nation; I’m sure because they are so radical and outspoken on matters that inflame the public. I’m not opposed to churches getting involved in moral issues. Churches should have opinions on moral issues. That’s why many people choose a church – because they believe the same things the church teaches. But Westboro goes into the community all around the country and literally preaches hate. The hold signs that say God hates certain groups or behavior. I’m not a religious person but I’ve always been taught God is love. Never, until this church became a public issue, have I heard that God hates anyone. The simple fact that this church is out there telling certain people that God hates them says enough about who they are.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed emergency legislation to prevent protests from taking place within 300 feet of any of the funerals planned for the victims of Saturday’s shootings. I applaud Governor Brewer for taking this stance and encourage her and other governors to pass even more legislation making protests illegal within 300 to 500 feet of any funeral. Westboro’s disgraceful presence at military funerals is equally disgusting and should be banned.

A ruling is pending by the Supreme Court concerning Westboro’s freedom of speech rights versus the rights of grieving families to be protected from willfully inflicted emotional pain and suffering during a funeral of their family member. While I am a staunch supporter of free speech, like yelling “Fire” in a theater, spreading hate speech at a funeral, while not inherently dangerous, causes severe emotional responses in those who are already suffering emotionally from their loss.

Westboro’s actions are reprehensible and vile. They need to be stopped. If we can’t stop them from publicizing their hatred at least governments can limit the places where they are able to publicize it. Everyone has the right to their own opinion and to voice that opinion as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. That is not the case with Westboro. They deliberately inflict pain and suffering on others, I believe to draw attention to themselves. This is my opinion and I truly hope the Supreme Court will agree.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stupidity Runs Deep...

Here’s a question…  when did we, humans, mankind, become so blatantly stupid?   I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a comedian talking about a car battery and how, just under the list of maintenance items is a small warning that says “Caution.  Do not drink battery acid.”  The comedian made a joke of it and asked “Who does this?” but my first thought was “Why are warnings like this necessary?"
On many small appliances, such as curling irons, hair dryers, etc., are labels that either say, or have a picture that instructs you not put it in a bathtub full of water while it’s plugged in.  On a can of hairspray or a can of foaming bathroom cleaner is a warning label that says “For external use only.  Avoid spraying in eyes.”  On microwaveable food products, and now on many coffee cups you get from fast food restaurants and coffee shops, is a warning that says “Caution.  Contents may be hot.”  Have we as a people really become that stupid that we have to be warned of the obvious?
There are some people I have met (or seen on the news) for whom the answer is definitely “Yes.”  If not, these labels would never have been created in the first place.  There have been cases of people, many of them Darwin Award candidates, who have done exactly the things these labels warn about.  And some attorneys got extremely rich because of it.  Thus, the main reason we have so many different warning labels today.  The hot coffee incident at McDonalds’ a few years ago, when the woman spilled hot coffee on herself and won an incredible amount of money in the lawsuit, made companies put warning labels on anything and everything they manufacture to prevent future lawsuits by people who could possibly find a way to hurt themselves with a particular product. 
Some are so ridiculously funny though one has to wonder why it’s necessary to have a label.  For example – microwaveable food products.  The instructions tell you to put it in the microwave and heat on high for so many minutes.  Then, after that is a warning that says “Caution – contents may be hot.”  If the people purchasing these products are really so stupid they have to be told that after you heat something in the microwave it could be hot, what are they doing with money and out of the house, much less operating a microwave?
How many people (who are not mentally ill) do you know who drink battery acid or spray chemicals in their eyes intentionally?  I’ve gotten hairspray in my eye accidentally and I can tell you, I’d never do it on purpose.  Nor would I pour drain cleaner in my mouth and swallow it.  What kind of people do this besides children, who don’t know any better and need to be protected, and someone who is mentally ill?  Answer?  No one.  But people also have to be protected from lawyers.
Many people don’t understand that when someone gets a large settlement in a lawsuit chances are the attorney is going to get more money than the victim.  That’s why practicing law is such a lucrative business and why you have so many injury and wrongful death attorneys.  There are big bucks to be made when someone gets injured or killed and there’s always someone to sue, even if the victim hurts or kills himself.  Lawyers could possibly be the greatest threat to human intelligence yet people continue to pay them exorbitant amounts of money to allow them to profit from being stupid.
Anyone who has never read anything from “The Darwin Awards” should do so at their earliest convenience.  You will be amazed by just how incredibly stupid some people can be and worried that they are still walking around in society.
Bottom line – stupidity is alive and well in the world today and even manufacturing companies know it.  It can be a lucrative business for some and it’s great entertainment for others, particularly since Al Gore created the internet and thus, Youtube.  Youtube is better than “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and you can watch it anytime. 
So read those warning labels on the products you buy and smile when you remember there’s a person or persons out there who actually made that label necessary.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Arizona Shootings - A Tragedy In All Ways

I can’t help but be saddened by the events in Arizona on Sunday morning that left six people dead and thirteen wounded, including the apparent target of the shooting, Representative Gabrielle Giffords.  People who follow my blog or know me well know I am a conservative who has no problem sharing my disagreement with most liberal/Democrat politics.  I’ve been very clear on that over the last couple of years.  They also know I would never, ever wish this type of event on any politician, regardless of their party affiliation and/or what’s going on in Washington.  It’s senseless and tragic.
That said, I also can’t help but be appalled by some of the rhetoric I’ve heard from people who want to blame specific individuals for this tragedy.  Within hours of the shootings some left wing bloggers were blaming Sarah Palin for causing Jared Loughner’s rampage.  Others blamed Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and anyone else on the right who has been outspoken against the Obama administration.  Some were even calling for the arrest and prosecution of these people as if they’d personally given Loughner the gun and instructions.
In turn, people on the right were blaming left wing politics for Loughner’s actions.  Friends of his said he was a liberal and some of his favorite books, according to the media, were The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf, which automatically made him a left-wing extremist in the eyes of the right.  The hatred flying back and forth on the internet yesterday was absolutely incredible. 
During the 2010 campaigns Sarah Palin’s strategy team used a map and put certain politicians on it they were “targeting” for their election campaign to get them voted out of office.  This word “targeting” along with her comment two years about reloading caused people on the left to decide Palin wants all Democrats to be killed.  Glenn Beck talks about government takeover of America and how a revolution could be possible in the future if Americans continue to grow more angry with the direction of the government.  Some liberals posting online yesterday decided Beck’s words had encouraged Loughner to start shooting.  Some even said Beck uses subliminal brainwashing techniques on his shows to get conservatives to kill liberals.  The thought that some people actually believe this would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetically tragic.
Interestingly, President Obama has made remarks over the last couple of years that could be (and have   been by the right-wing posters) construed as encouraging violence as well.  The President has said “if they bring a knife we’ll bring a gun”, and recently told a Hispanic group that “it’s time to punish your enemies”.  He told other groups “you need to get in their faces” and “hit back twice as hard.”  These remarks by an elected  U.S. President could easily be construed as instructions to hurt or kill someone, couldn’t they?  Or is it different because he’s the President?
Anyone with a working brain knows remarks made by Palin, Beck, and even the President of the United States that refer to guns, targeting your opponent, calling your opponent “the enemy”, etc., is political rhetoric only and is not meant to incite violence of any kind.  For all of the talk by Glenn Beck about revolution he has repeated over and over that people should not, for any reason, go out and commit violent acts of any kind.  If those who accuse Beck actually listened to what he says in full context they would know that. 
My point in all of this is that Jared Loughner alone is responsible for his actions.  No matter his political beliefs, no matter his group affiliation, likes and dislikes, the books he read or even who he did or did not listen to on the radio and television, Loughner is responsible for his actions.  No one else.  From what I’ve read and heard Loughner has beliefs all over the political spectrum.  He is anti-government but he is also anti-religion.  He is supposedly a liberal (as described by his friends) yet he shot a Democrat Congresswoman.  I mentioned two of his favorite books as being The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf.  There is debate all the time about whether Hitler was right or left wing in his basic beliefs, although the right is not known for big, autocratic government.  Again, my point being Loughner has numerous, often contradicting interests and beliefs.
There is no question America is strongly divided by politics.  In 2009 the left touted Presidential candidate Barack Obama as “the great uniter”.  That hasn’t happened.  Of course, many will claim the only reason it hasn’t happened is because anyone who disagrees with Obama is simply a racist.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  The fact is many Americans, conservatives, independents and even some Democrats, are unhappy about the direction the current administration is taking the country.  And those who are unhappy are squaring off against those who are pushing the far left-wing agenda. 
See how simply it can happen?  I just said they’re “squaring off” which could easily be translated by some as an indication of violence.
Violent acts by extremists from either side are still the responsibility of the perpetrator of that violence.  There is currently no real evidence that Loughner acted on political beliefs from either side nor that he listened to any talk show host and acted on the words and rhetoric of one of them.  Loughner acted alone on his own volition and is totally and singularly responsible for six deaths and thirteen wounded people.  Both sides need to tone down the hate and accusations.  Politics have been the reason for many civil wars and bloodshed throughout the history of the world.  We need to learn to disagree without the hatred otherwise the violence will continue to escalate to catastrophic levels.  If that happens we all lose.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Don't Paint the House Without Fixing the Foundation

In 2006 Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling saying it would burden our children and grandchildren.  Now he's considering raising the debt ceiling and blaming it on Bush.  Below is the quote from Obama and Robert Gibbs' bungling response to the reporter who asks about it.
“The fact that we're here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign - is a sign of leadership failure.  Leadership means the buck stops here.  Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.  America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership.  Americans deserve better.  I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.” – Senator Barack Obama, 2006
Robert Gibbs was asked about that particular statement by Obama in 2006.  His response is below:

“The president used it to make a point about needing to get serious about fiscal discipline.  And we, as I've said earlier, are dealing with the legacy of decisions that have been made over the past many years - not paying for a prescription drug benefit, not paying for wars, not paying for tax cuts - that changed our fiscal situation much more markedly than anything ever had.  So I think it is up to and it's important for Congress - because we know - not to play politics with this, not to play games - to find a way to raise that debt limit, understanding that we have to - as I mentioned to Matt, we're going have to have to take some serious steps to get our fiscal house in order. But we understand -- we know what happens.  We know the catastrophic actions with things like Social Security and Medicare if you threaten the solvency of the government.”

So Mr. Gibbs…  did then Senator Obama mean what he said or not?  And is it OK to raise the debt ceiling when you’re President but not when you’re a Senator affiliated with the other party?  Why is it the President has now been in office for two years and still wants to blame the previous administration for everything?  When will President Obama actually take responsibility for anything that is happening or has happened while he’s been in office?  Just once I’d like to see Mr. Obama stand up and say “I’m the President and ultimately the conditions in this country are my responsibility.  President Bush is gone and it’s all on me.” 
It’s my guess we won’t be hearing anything like this from President Obama .  Taking responsibility for things that go wrong is not part of his Saul Alinski agenda.
Raising the debt ceiling instead of cutting spending is the most illogical approach possible to reducing the debt.  It’s like raising the average unemployment numbers to accommodate the current unemployment level so it doesn’t look so bad.  It doesn’t solve the problem – it’s merely a cosmetic change to make things look better, like painting a house that’s falling down.  Making it look nice on the outside doesn’t fix the cracks in the foundation.  And the foundation is what needs to be fixed.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Let God Back In

I have been watching the news of the latest school shootings, this time at a high school in Omaha, Nebraska.  I first posted this a couple of months ago but given the circumstances I thought it should be posted again.  Once more I ask - what is it about America that has turned our young people into murderers?  Will it ever end?  If so, how?

In August of 1966, Charlie Whitman, a product of an abusive home, a former Marine and a student at the University of Texas in Austin, opened fire on the city of Austin from atop the university tower.  An expert marksman, he killed 14 people and injured dozens of others before finally being killed by police.  While Whitman's story is somewhat different than the shootings happening in our schools today, he was the first.  He started this insanity.

Since the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999, there have been so many incidents that people aren't shocked anymore.  Saddened yes, but shocked - no.  It happens everywhere from major cities to small town Arkansas and North Carolina.  It happens in all levels of society and the perpetrators are from various families, with money and without.

Monday's tragic carnage at Virginia Tech is just another example of society gone wrong.  It's time to stop looking at these killers as disturbed individuals and begin looking at them as a group.  We need to find out what is turning these kids into monsters and we need to find out quickly.

People can say what they want about what I write here but this is my take on the whole thing:

In 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock published his first book on raising children.  A highly intelligent man who meant no harm, Spock and his book were the beginning of the downfall of the young people in this country.  Spock told parents to be more relaxed and flexible and to be more of a friend to their children, treating them as individuals.  He said spanking them was harmful.

Until this information became popular, discipline in the home was one of the top priorities.  Of course there were parents who went overboard, as there are today.  But children were raised to respect the law, their elders, their country and each other.  In the 1950s, children (teenagers included) were polite and respectful for the most part.  They got in trouble but didn't blame society or their parents.  They had a good work ethic and got part-time jobs so they could have spending money instead of having it given to them.  When they were old enough, if they wanted a car, they worked to save the money to buy what they could afford instead of having Mommy and Daddy buy them a new one.  They did what their parents told them to do and would never even imagine the idea that they could sue their parents if they weren't happy about something.

They went to church with their families, ate meals with their families and prayed; not only in church but at home and even in school.  They said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in school and proudly stated “one nation, under God.”  There was no shame and no one complained about their rights being violated.

Dr. Spock’s well intended books encouraged parents to stop teaching their children the three R’s:  respect, responsibility and reason.  Instead he promulgated the idea of children doing what they wanted, when they wanted, without worrying about the consequences.  I know he didn’t mean to do this.  But this was the result.  When parents stopped punishing their children for doing something wrong, those children stopped learning the consequences of their actions.

To get a glimpse of the major changes that began in the Spock generation, look at the difference between the young people of the 1950s and the young people in the 1960s.  The 60s generation was the beginning of the result of Spock’s influence on American parents.  Young people changed their appearance dramatically because they didn’t want to conform to society’s rules.  And their Spock-trained parents hugged them and encouraged them to be individuals.  They began to experiment openly with chemical substances.  (Not that substance abuse hadn’t been going on already but it was never in public until the 60s.)  They began to leave home and family and flock together to places where they could do what they wanted and not worry about consequences.  They did what they wanted without conscience because as children they were hugged and encouraged when they did something wrong instead of disciplined and taught consequences.

Somewhere in the middle of this Spock influence another group of Americans began telling us what we were doing wrong.  They began telling the U.S. courts their rights were being violated by the vast majority of Americans and that things needed to change.  Somewhere, somehow, amidst all of the other negative changes in this country, atheists began wielding power in the courts and convinced the Supreme Court that they (Atheists) were being abused.

In 1963, Madeline Murray (she didn’t become O’Hare until after this court case) won a decisive court battle that eventually ended prayer in public schools.  While it took a while for prayer in school to totally disappear, it was this woman and this case that eventually stopped children from being allowed to pray in school.  And it was just another pathway to a tragic future for our children.

Throughout the next forty years atheists continued working to stop the majority of people in this country from practicing and living their religious beliefs in public because it “violated their rights as non-believers.”  In 2002, an atheist in California convinced the Supreme Court that subjecting his son to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance was harmful and violated his rights.  The Supreme Court, in all their wisdom, decided because the words “under God” made this man feel uncomfortable the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance by school children must cease.

It’s called “living constitution” philosophy, which allows that judges decide what the Constitution meant rather than following the Constitution as written.  Two of three Supreme Court Justices decided this man’s discomfort was more important than the beliefs of the overwhelming majority of Americans.  And these same judges “swear or affirm” that they will uphold the law and judge cases to the best of their abilities “so help me God.”  I don’t know how they could be qualified to make a decision involving God or religion after taking that particular oath.  ??

For the next four decades the circle of life continued.  The children of the 60’s generation grew up with less discipline and less values than their parents.  They, in turn, taught their children even less responsibility and respect until, in the 90’s, children grew up thinking their parents and society in general owed them something.  Many parents agreed and gave their children everything.  They meant well.  They only wanted their children to have the best in life.  Sadly however, their children don’t know the value of a dollar, how it feels to work hard to get something you want, or what it means to wait for something until you can get it yourself.

My siblings and I were born in the late 40’s and throughout the 50’s.  We were raised by parents who not only didn’t agree with Dr. Spock’s ideas but who had an idea what the results would be.  We were spanked – sometimes even with a belt or a switch – and had our mouths washed out with soap for using bad language or talking back.  We spent time in our rooms for bad behavior and were grounded for a week or two at a time.  We were made to apologize to people if we did them wrong and made to take responsibility for our actions.  We suffered whatever consequences arose from those actions.  Through all the punishments we received over the years none of us felt we were abused or would ever have thought of calling the police or taking our parents to court.

We went to church on Sundays, sometimes twice.  We prayed before eating dinner together as a family, at night before going to sleep, in school and in restaurants before a meal, and anytime we felt we needed to talk to God.  We were taught to respect other people and their beliefs, even if their beliefs were different than ours.  We would never have asked that others be prevented from practicing their beliefs just because we didn’t believe the same thing.  We were taught to love and respect our country and flag and that it’s sometimes necessary to defend them.

We grew up in this manner, completely opposite of the way Dr. Spock said we should be raised.  Yet we grew up to be honest, hard working, God fearing people who still respect other people, our country, individual rights and your freedom to believe as you wish.  We have all successfully raised children in the same manner.  Each of those children has respect for their parents, for other people, for God and their country.

We never killed anyone in school when we were growing up and neither did our kids.  We were disciplined and taught to love and respect others no matter how different they were.  We risked going to jail or being sued by our kids and spanked them, grounded them and sent them to their rooms when they did something wrong.  They had to apologize and make things right when they wronged someone.  And I’m pretty sure most of our kids even tasted soap at one time or another when they were little.  I know mine did.  They were taught about God, His love, prayer and faith.  They went to school in the 90’s and 2000’s.  They never brought a gun to school and never killed a classmate or a teacher.  And fortunately for them (thank God), none of them ever had to face a gun at school either.

So how do we correct this growing problem of school violence and kids who kill?  Activist Michael Moore thinks gun control is the answer.  Those who believe gun control will stop people from having guns and shooting people are sadly mistaken.  I, for one, believe the answer lies with every parent and with God.  Teaching our kids discipline, respect for others, principles and family values, teaching our kids that hard work and perseverance to achieve something are more rewarding than having everything given to them, and bringing God back into our homes and schools are the first steps toward healing our nation.  You can bet God was in Virginia Tech on that Monday and that many of those students and faculty were talking to Him.  He was in Columbine and in Arkansas and in North Carolina.

I say let God back in and let Him, along with their families, straighten out these disturbed kids.  I could be wrong.  But what we’re doing now certainly isn’t working