Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Interesting Take On Illegal Immigration

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently gave a brilliant response to negative comments from an opponent of Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law.

The owner of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, Robert Sarver, opposes AZ's new immigration laws. He has been outspoken about it and even had his team wear jerseys with the name “Sol” instead of “Suns” to show support for the illegal Mexican immigrants. Governor Brewer released the following statement in response to Sarver's criticism of the new law:

"What if the owners of the Suns discovered that hordes of people were sneaking into games without paying? What if they had a good idea who the gate-crashers are, but the ushers and security personnel were not allowed to ask these folks to produce their ticket stubs, thus non-paying attendees couldn't be ejected. Furthermore, what if Suns' ownership was expected to provide those who sneaked in with complimentary eats and drink? And what if, on those days when a gate-crasher became ill or injured, the Suns had to provide free medical care and shelter?"

So far as I know Mr. Sarver hasn’t responded to Governor Brewer’s questions. It would be interesting to hear his answers. I wonder how he’d feel in Governor Brewer’s proposed situation, if people were sneaking into games and draining his budget? Governor Brewer left out one thing. Let's add that in some cases people sneaking into games were killing anyone who caught them and/or tried to stop them. How about it, Mr. Sarver?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Government Bias Toward Islam?

Safoorah Khan, with the assistance of the United States Department of Justice, is suing a Chicago school district for discrimination and denial of religious rights because she was denied a period of unpaid leave to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. According to initial reports Khan, a Muslim, had been working at the school for about 7 months and was denied the three weeks she requested based on the fact that she hadn’t been employed that long. Khan claims religious bias and the government is supporting her saying the school has violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

It is the duty of every Muslim to join the millions of pilgrims at the Hajj (the pilgrimage) in Mecca at least once in their lifetime. Kahn hoped to go in 2008. She was denied the requested three weeks of unpaid leave at the time and she resigned. The government has asked that she be reinstated with full back pay.

In the Mormon church all able bodied men are required to complete at least one missionary assignment and all able bodied women are allowed to complete one. One has to wonder if a Mormon had requested three weeks of unpaid leave, so soon after being employed by the school district, if the Justice Department would be so vigorously pursuing the case. In its efforts to show the United States has no bias against Islam the Holder Justice Department, and the administration in general, seems to be pushing things the other way and showing bias toward Islam.

The mosque near Ground Zero is a good example. President Obama eventually came out in favor of the mosque being built, accurately citing the Constitution as the legal grounds for allowing it. And while I agree Islam has every legal right to build the mosque wherever they please, morality and compassion would dictate, to most people, the mosque should be moved to another sight to avoid causing pain and anger to the majority of the people of New York. The “healing” that Islam stated was their purpose for building the multi-cultural mosque and community center could have easily (perhaps more easily) been accomplished in a mosque built in an area away from the 9/11 site. The President certainly could have said this when he addressed the issue. He did not.

If Safoorah Kahn wins her case it will be a major step toward employers no longer being able to refuse any request for time off by employees. Time on the job is a consideration for most employers when it comes to taking time off, paid or unpaid. The reason for the request is another. Islam requires all Muslims to make the pilgrimage “at least once in their lifetime.” Was it necessary for Kahn to make that pilgrimage in 2008 and take three weeks away so soon after she was hired? I guess the court will decide that, with Eric Holder’s help it seems.

I’m sure I’ll be called a racist or bigot for my views but that’s OK. As far as I’m concerned it’s not about religious bias but what’s fair for both the employer and the employee. Again I ask – would a Christian request be granted as asked in the same circumstance and would the Justice Department be fighting for Christian rights as they are for Islam? Something tells me they wouldn’t. But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Friday, March 25, 2011

One Amazing Man - A Tribute To My Father

In 2006, for my father’s 85th birthday, my sister came up with an idea that we (all of his kids and grandkids) should write down our favorite memory of him and she’d put them all in a book that he could look at and have in his possession. It was a wonderful idea and a wonderful, thoughtful gift for the man who has everything in life he needs (except good health.)

The only real problem was that I couldn’t think of a single, unique memory that I thought was appropriate. I thought of several things that were special to me but couldn’t come up with just the right memory to put in the book. The big day came and went, Dad got his book of memories and I was feeling badly about not having an entry to put in it.

A few years went by and my his health got worse. In 2000, at the age of 79, (he’ll be 90 in May!) he had suffered a massive heart attack and a stroke at the same time, surviving quadruple bypass surgery, then numerous trans ischemic attacks (TIAs) which are, in essence, mini strokes. Over the years he grew steadily weaker, losing more and more sensation and movement on his right side and eventually losing sight in one eye from damage to the optic nerve due to a lack of proper blood circulation. He went from still being able to walk unaided to walking with a cane, to using a walker until, eventually, he bacame unable to walk at all and is confined to a wheelchair. He battles with speech disabilities, sometimes unable to say what’s on his mind even though his thought process is working perfectly. It frustrates him terribly when he can’t get the words out. Imagine living like that for eleven years.

As time goes by and I watched him deteriorate very slowly it occurred to me why I hadn’t been able to write about my favorite memory of my father. It was because that memory was ongoing. It wasn’t finished yet and still isn’t.

OK, you may be lost by now. Let me explain. This ongoing memory is not about what is happening to my father physically. It’s about what he does every day mentally and emotionally. You see, not once in the entire time he’s been dealing with his ailments has he spent any time complaining. He greets everyone with a smile even on the days he can’t talk. He has never lost his sense of humor, even when he’s feeling his worst. He teases the girls and women, flirts with them even on his bad days and he loves nothing more than being surrounded by his five children. The man is cheerful and happy most of the time despite his circumstances. He has bad days when he’s grumpy but those are rare. He has full time nursing assistance at home right now and the nurses and aids marvel at his attitude and at what a kind, cheerful and pleasant patient he is all the time, regardless of what is going on with him physically.

Even on his best days he’s hampered both physically and mentally by his disabilities yet he is thankful for every day he wakes up in the morning. He has told me on more than one occasion he never thought he would live this long and he wonders why God has kept him around. My sister once stated “I just don’t understand why God is taking him just a little at a time.” His doctors call him their miracle patient because, in their words “He should be dead. We don’t know why he’s still alive.” I can tell them all the answer to that question. It’s because he inspires so many people with his outlook on life and his attitude toward each and every day. People who know him and visit with him feel better about themselves and their situations after seeing this special man deal with his life as it is with a smile on his face. And I think God is using him for that purpose.

Throughout the last eleven years, through the suffering, the surgeries, the physical therapy (which he absolutely hated), the speech therapy, and the realization that each time he lost another piece of himself it wasn’t coming back, he never once lost or even questioned his faith in God. Even on his worst days, when he can’t put two words together in a coherent manner, if he’s asked to pray before a meal he can do it without difficulty and without error and everyone can understand him. It’s a part of who he is and what has governed his life.

My greatest memory of my father is ongoing because he continues to go on. He is an inspiration to me and to many others. I can only hope if I ever find myself in a position even half of what he is in today, I can face life with the same positive attitude, the same faith and the same sense of humor that my dad demonstrates every day of his life. I’m hoping, because of my genetic makeup, that I inherited those qualities from him. I am very lucky to have this man as my father. My greatest memory of him is who he is today and what he demonstrates to us all. I couldn’t be more proud of him. I love you, Pop.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Once A Parent, Always A Parent

As most of you who have read my blog with any regularity know by now, my son and only child was killed in a car accident in 2002. For any who don’t, he was 17 and a senior in high school and he died because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. He was thrown out of the vehicle in the accident. His death, however, is not the topic of my post today but it is a reason for it.

I was in CVS pharmacy yesterday morning when I was reminded that regardless of the fact my son is no longer here, I am still, and always will be a parent. The clerk and I were commenting on a child’s photo on a magazine cover, remarking about the look on the child’s face. The clerk mentioned that her daughter made the same kind of face when she was angry or wanted something and was disappointed. With knowledge only a parent would have I asked “Ah, but does the look work on mom?” She laughed and said “Well, when she does this” and made a really funny, stubborn, pouty face. I knew exactly what she meant.

I know several people currently in my life, and several others whom I have known or with whom I have associated in the past, who have lost children over the years. In fact, I know far too many these days. One in particular, a very dear family member, lost her son in December last year. You may have read about him in a couple of my December blogs. Tami, his mother, says she doesn’t feel like a parent anymore because Chad was her only son as well. How well I know that feeling. I try to reassure her that in time, not only will the pain lessen (it will never, ever go away) but her feelings of being a parent will return little by little. She doesn’t believe me now but as time goes by, when she realizes that she’ll not only survive this terrible loss but learn to live with it in a halfway normal manner, those feelings of being a mom, a parent to a child will return regardless of the fact that Chad is no longer with us here on Earth.

It happens gradually and at first you don’t really notice it. You see a child somewhere, in a store, a park, or even someone else’s child in your home and it sparks a memory of your own child. You catch yourself smiling at the memory, noticing that you’re actually having a happy thought about your beloved child that isn’t creating tears. Before long you notice it’s happening more often and then the guilt sets in. How could you be smiling and having happy memories when your child, your baby, is dead? It’s all very normal and this too shall pass, for the most part. Happy feelings turn to feelings of guilt then return to happy feelings once you realize your child would never want you to feel guilty.

After Christopher died it took me a full year before I could actually experience happiness when thinking of him. The guilt was really strong at first. But I know what my son would want, as I know what Chad would want for Tami and that would be: “Please don’t mourn and cry over me forever. I love that you miss me and I love that you were my parent but I want you to be happy and live the rest of your life without constant sadness. I’m OK where I am and I need you to be OK too.” That thought did the trick for me.

Oh, there are still bad days and bad moments but for the most part I’m doing well. Even nine years later there are certain things that make me cry or bring back that pain. But it passes far more quickly these days.

To that clerk in the CVS store – thank you for reminding me that I will always be a parent, a father. You did it unknowingly but you brought a happy memory to my heart and a smile to my face. Tami – take heart. You are still Chad’s mother and you always will be. No one and nothing can ever take that away from you. Remember my motto: “You never know how strong you can be until being strong is the only choice you have.”

I am a father. I am Christopher Clark’s father. And that will never change. I love you, buddy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Tea Party Movement - Racist, Violent Haters?

I’ve watched the various news coverage of the development of the Tea Party movement and the rallies, demonstrations and obvious racism displayed by these people. It seems they are simply a right wing hate group who want to seize control of the government, enslave blacks again (along with Hispanics and any other people of color, and demonstrate violently, destroying and defacing property when they don’t get their way.

The Tea Party first came to light in February 2009 when they protested the TARP bill signed by President George W. Bush. They made themselves heard asking for ridiculous things like smaller government, lower taxes, less spending by the government, lowering the debt and deficit, and living by the Constitution.

They went to town hall meetings to protest the health care bill before it was passed. They were angry, ugly, destroyed things, threatened the representatives and even became violent, beating a man for passing out flags…. Oh, wait - that was the SEIU beating a Tea Party member for passing out “Don’t Tread On Me” flags.

Tea Party rallies have turned into loud, ugly gatherings which, when over, leave the area trashed, littered with garbage and graffiti… Oh wait - that never happened. In fact, city officials have been amazed by the lack of any signs of the gathering after they are over because everything has been picked up and put in containers or taken away by the members.

The Tea Party movement is obviously racist. Their motto to “take back our country” is code for removing the black man from the White House. It is called the “White” House, after all. Tea Party members hate people of color – any color. They hate blacks. They hate the poor Mexican people who are coming to America, just as our own ancestors did, looking for a better life. They hate Muslims who are merely asking to be left alone and getting violent only because the United States interferes in their business and their way of life. Yep – the racist, white Tea Party hates everyone who isn’t white. They may as well wear white sheets and hoods to their meetings…. Oh wait – there are many people of color in their ranks. In fact, Kenneth Gladney, the black man who was beaten by the SEIU members in St. Louis, was chastised afterward by the Missouri chapter of the NAACP for not being black enough. Gladney was called an Uncle Tom and one NAACP official said he wouldn’t call him a “brother” because he associates with Europeans (white folk) and they (the NAACP) called for charges against the SEIU members to be dropped.

The main stream media refuses to focus their cameras on people of color in the Tea Party movement. I wonder why that is? Certainly there have been instances where racists have shown up at Tea Party rallies. The main stream media likes to focus on these people and depict the entire movement as such. Yet if they would take the time to interview the people of color who are in the group they would be proved wrong in their racism theories. They just can’t seem to find any. I wonder why that is when other networks have no trouble find them?

Of course the Tea Party hates Mexicans. They want to seal the borders and keep those dirty, brown-skinned people from coming into the United States. These people are only trying to better themselves by taking advantage of the vast opportunities in the U.S. and the only possible reason the Tea Party wants to stop them is because of their skin color. I have liberal friends who have told that very fact. Except… the only thing the Tea Party ever objects to as far as immigration is concerned is that people need to be prevented from coming into the country illegally and the violence associated with this illegal entry needs to be stopped. It has nothing to do with skin color and everything to do with right and wrong, legal and illegal and peaceful assimilation into our society instead of getting here any way they can. People living near our Southern border are being warned by our Federal government not to venture near the border for their own safety. I’m having trouble understanding how that’s even acceptable.

The Tea Party hates Muslims. Muslims are not only mostly brown-skinned people but they have a different religion that doesn’t agree with Christianity and they simply want the Christian world to leave them alone. If we leave them alone they will leave us alone. Oh wait – radical Islam has declared war on the Western world. They blow up innocent people. They hijacked planes on 9/11 and killed over 3000 people. There are many Muslim people in this country who give financial support to these terrorists and there were some who cheered when the twin towers fell.

Tea Party members don’t hate Muslims. Tea Party members are wary and defensive when it comes to radical Islam. They understand the threat is real and that it will not go away by trying to make nice with the terrorists. Tea Party members live in the real world and don’t try to sugar coat things like some others do. Tea Party members don’t view the world through rose colored glasses and they’re not afraid to let you know that.

Tea Party members want a smaller, less intrusive government. They want the government to spend less, reduce the national debt and the deficit and pay less in taxes. They love to give tax cuts to the rich and make the poor and middle class pay for everything. They hate social programs and would rather see granny and the poor starve than to let them collect any money from the government. They would do away with all social programs and only the rich would survive. They would cut unemployment for those out of work and let them starve as well. And the great infrastructure improvement programs created by the President that have employed thousands would be cancelled if Tea Party members have their way. They hate progress. That’s obvious by the fact that they want to live by that 200 year old Constitution – a document that was never intended to be relevant in 2011. Oh, wait…

The Tea Party does indeed want a smaller, less intrusive government. They believe in freedom and believe the government should stay out of your home, your personal life and your wallet as much as possible. They understand that one way to lower the debt and deficit is to stop paying so many government employees. (The new health care bill created thousands of new positions at the IRS.) They believe there is a place and purpose for social programs but that they are getting far too big and too numerous and that the government is creating a society of dependency instead of encouraging independence and self rule.

The Tea Party believes the government should stop spending money they do not have and stop printing money to cover it. It seems the government has never heard of inflation – one of the things that happens when they print more money than they can cover. Our dollar is falling in value around the world and there is now talk of replacing it as the world’s reserve currency.

As for that silly thing called the Constitution – Tea Party members live in a dream world where that old, wrinkled document still has relevance in today’s society. As if Thomas Jefferson ever believed it would last this long, they revere it as still holding the rules for our government to live by. How ridiculous is that?

The Constitution was written with the future in mind. Thomas Jefferson and the other founders understood that government power corrupts and that larger, more intrusive government needed to be prevented if possible. Some people say the Constitution is no longer relevant in today’s society but they can’t point out which parts of it we need to dismiss, except maybe the portion that says representation and direct taxation will be apportioned with non-free persons counting for 3/5ths. This language originally meant slaves but was changed by the 14th amendment. Since there are no "non-free" persons anymore this clause is irrelevant but you cannot remove the language from the original document. Should it then be re-written? The Tea Party believes it doesn’t need to be re-written nor should the courts be writing legislation from the bench. The Constitution can be amended to meet the needs of today’s society but the original document was ingenious and has worked for well over 200 years.

All in all the Tea Party is an American Rights group who wants to preserve freedom for all and get the government to control itself, even to the point of reducing its size and power over the individual. They don’t hate anyone and invite all to join their cause. Those who say otherwise are simply wrong.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Is Obama's Real Stance On Current Issues?

What are the duties of the President of the United States when events at home and abroad are potentially disastrous? Apparently they include golf, basketball and a trip to South America to “rebalance our national security posture”, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

I’m sure I’ll be accused of racism, bias, or some other negative personal trait because of how I feel however, since this is my blog, I’m going to say it anyway. In the wake of the ongoing tragedy in Japan, the battles in Libya and the requests for help from the Libyan people, and the ongoing budget crisis here in the U.S., the President has much to focus on. Yet he continues to play golf and basketball, has time to appear on ESPN to pick his top four college teams for March Madness, and is still planning to take a 5 day trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador “because he is committed to growing the economy and rebalancing our national security posture.” Really? Brazil, Chile and El Salvador are going to fix our economy and help our national security posture? Someone please explain that one to me?

Of course you’ll have the Bush haters saying that George Bush used to play golf and “go to his ranch all the time.” They tend to ignore the fact that Bush quit playing golf after the Iraq war started and didn’t play again while in office. His trips to the ranch were minimally costly to the taxpayers since Bush stayed at his own home and only transportation and security details were necessary. And George Bush would have been in the White House working on how to solve or assist with all of these problems if he was still in office, rather than carrying on with his re-election campaign.

Even if the President is worried about the various crises around the world and at home, he fails to show it. Some supporters call that being “Presidential”. I call it being detached and seemingly out of touch. Andrew Gordon, director of Harvard’s Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, said Obama’s handling of the Japan crisis so far was appropriate, but it would be wise now for him to make a greater overture to one of his country’s most important allies and trading partners.

“Even compared to what people were thinking Friday or Saturday, by Tuesday this is a considerably graver event, so for Obama to do something - in public and visibly - probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, whether that’s Obama going to visit the Japanese Embassy or inviting the ambassador to the White House …to sort of lay out some ongoing commitment,” he said.

The people of Libya have asked President Obama for help yet he seems to be doing very little. He may be working in Washington to determine the best course of action but publicly it appears he’s doing nothing, which sends the wrong message to the people of Libya and, more importantly, to Mohamar Ghadaffi, who is slowly and deliberately crushing the rebel resistance. Where is the compassion from the White House for the Libyan people?

The budget issue here at home continues to drag out. The President says the 60 billion dollar cuts proposed by Republicans are too much and the 7 billion dollar cuts proposed by the Democrats are “equally painful.” The budget for 2011 was supposed to be completed by September of 2010 and implemented on October 1st. It’s almost 6 months overdue. At this rate 2011 will be over before Congress gets a budget put together. Then they’ll have to start on the one for 2012. What is the President doing to fix this problem?

Once again I’d be more impressed by President Obama if he’d stay home and take care of business rather than travel around the world (to places completely unrelated to the problems) or polishing his golf skills. The United States and the world need a leader right now. That leader used to be the President of the United States. I’m not sure who it is now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Charlie Sheen vs Our Military

In the news headlines last week the main story on most networks was the erratic and bizarre behavior of Charlie Sheen. Good ol’ Charlie seems to be going off the deep end and he’s getting huge press coverage, publicity that celebrities crave. While his rantings on television are disturbingly entertaining, one has to wonder why the American population as a whole are interested in the bizarre antics of a mediocre actor.

In the meantime, last week, Army PFC Kalin Johnson and Army Specialist Andrew Wade died in combat in the war in Afghanistan. Aside from their local, hometown newspapers there was no news coverage about either of these two young men. Their deaths went virtually unnoticed while Charlie Sheen appeared on television time and time again, sometimes with his two live-in bimbos, and America watched every episode.

Why is it Americans love celebrities, almost to the point of worship? They want to look like celebrities, dress like them, and read/watch every possible bit of news coverage they can find about celebrities in general and especially their favorites. Some people also form their opinions and even vote according to what celebrities say in public. I find it fascinating that a celebrity can tell people who they should vote for or how they should feel about certain topics and people actually listen to them. Most celebrities are, after all, ordinary people who happen to be famous because of their jobs. Why does that make them politically savvy enough to advise people how to vote? For that matter, why do people believe a given celebrity is knowledgeable enough to advise them how to vote, simply because they’re famous?

The men and women who fight and die for our country deserve to be in the news, in the headlines and even deserve some celebrity coverage. How about, instead of bashing the war and the United States for fighting it, more celebrities get on the bandwagon and praise the troops? Whether they agree with the war(s) or not, those fighting it deserve our attention, our praise, our thanks and our respect. These brave soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen do whatever is asked of them by their government and some die while doing it. And they do it voluntarily. Rather than Charlie Sheen on our televisions every night, how about a tribute to those who sacrificed and gave their all for their country? They’ve certainly earned it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Little Update

I haven’t posted anything on my blog for a little while. I started working a new “part time” job a week and a half ago and since then I’ve worked 8 out of 12 days. 40 hours last week and 38 this week. If this is part time I’d hate to see what full time entails…

So here’s an update. I started working in the store warehouse of a very large, well known retail chain. Eventually it will be part time but for now we’re short-handed and I’m technically still in training so they’re giving me a lot of hours. It’s not a bad gig. I told them I could work any shift, any day of the week and now they’re taking me up on it. What’s up with that??

Barrie got a new position at work. She will now be the secretary for the Camp Administrator. It’s not a promotion but it’s a day job, weekends and holidays off, her own office, and out of the penitentiary. I’m very happy about that and very proud of her for being selected. I know she’ll be great at it. And no more of those crazy hours she’s been keeping. The biggest problem now is that she’ll be home on weekends and holidays and I’ll be working most of those.

Gizmo and Nik have adjusted well to each other. Nik is so cool and laid back, nothing upsets him – not even when Giz gets into Nik’s bed. Nik just goes over and gets in Giz’s bed. Mostly though, Giz will crawl into bed with Nik and they just lay there side by side. At first Nik would look up at me with eyes that said “Please help me. Can’t you do anything about this?” But now he simply lays there and lets Giz hang out with him.

Giz has gained a few pounds since we got him. He was terribly skinny when he first came to live with us. His ribs and spine were showing. Now he’s healthy and even getting a little over weight. And Nik has become a little butterball in the last few months, even though he runs around the back yard like a crazy dog chasing squirrels. Last week a squirrel he was chasing ran through the fence and Nik tried to follow him. Big mistake. Nik got caught by the fence and cut the top of his head. I think (I hope) he learned a lesson. Both dogs will be on a diet soon.

The weather is trying to get warmer and stay warmer but it’s having a difficult time right now. Yesterday morning when we got up it was 37 degrees. By 3pm it was 80. 40+ degree temperature change in just a few hours. Well, unlike up North, at least it’s changing upward rather than downward!

We went down to St. Petersburg yesterday. We went to Treasure Island Beach, where I used to go with my family as a child. I’ve been there only twice since the early 70s but it’s always interesting to go and see this place that holds so many great childhood memories for me. We went every summer for about 10 years or so and even had friends in the neighborhood where we stayed. So many things have changed in the area but so many things are the same. I really enjoyed it. (Barrie thought I was nuts because I kept talking about different memories that she found less than exciting…)

Anyway, I apologize for not writing more but I just haven’t had as much time as before. Sucks when you go back to work. Some mornings I find myself wondering “Why was it, again, that I thought I needed a job?” But it’s all good. Life is good. I’m married to a wonderful woman. I have a job in this poor economy and I live in Florida. What could be better? OK, winning a Powerball jackpot of a couple hundred million would be good too, but I’m not complaining.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Do As We Say, Not As We Do...

Once again our elected officials in Washington have said to the American people “Do was we say but not as we do.”

A few days ago the House passed a bill that would fund the government for two more weeks. Yesterday the Senate passed it as well and it is now on its way to the President for signature. While it’s all well and good that the government won’t be “shutting down” from lack of funding, there’s a much larger problem here that needs to be addressed by the American people.

The fiscal year for the Federal government runs from October 1st through September 30th. Our elected officials are supposed to have a budget designed, approved and signed before October 1st of every year. It’s been that way for years, although I couldn’t find anything that told me exactly when it went into effect. Our elected officials are supposed to begin work on the fiscal year budget for the next year in January and have it ready by September so it can be passed and signed before October 1st. It rarely happens.

Granted, there’s a lot involved with the Federal budget, particularly in a time when there is so much division and disagreement between the Democrats and Republicans. Both sides will blame the other but the truth is the budget is rarely completed on time, no matter who is in charge or which side holds the majority. Some years it is worse than others, this being one of them.

My whole point here is that the average American citizen is expected to live up to financial obligations, pay bills on time, make plans to budget their money as necessary and take care of business without falling behind. In fact, there are laws against not doing many of those things. Of course many do fall behind, particularly with the economy as it is, but we’re expected to do our part in keeping up with our obligations. Our Federal elected officials can’t seem to do that on a yearly basis when it comes to the budget. Federal agencies get their allocations (if and when the budget is finally passed) each year and they are expected to live by them. They can’t spend more money than they are allocated and if they don’t spend it all by September 30th they are expected to give back anything that is left over. In fact, many Federal CEOs are given bonuses each year because they cut corners, trim their own budgets and give money back at the end of the year. (I’ve worked for some who make that their priority and shortchange their employees so they get that coveted bonus at the end of the year.)

The bottom line is the budget is one of the most pressing things our elected officials have to do and every year it seems they put it off and let it slide until well past the deadline. If we as citizens did that we’d be getting collection notices and legal documents in the mail and phone calls demanding money. Eventually we’d end up in court. Our elected officials skate by and spend money like it’s going out of style and many of them get re-elected.

“Do as we say, not as we do” seems to be the motto of the government these days, even more so than in the past. Last year’s election was a wakeup call for those voted out of office but it seems the ones who are still there didn’t quite get the message. The 2012 elections are 20 months away. It’s time the people stand up and tell them once again “Do as we say or you won’t be doing.” Let’s continue to work on Washington until they begin doing their jobs in the manner required.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Westboro Decision

On March 2, 2011, after months of delay, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the free speech of the Westboro Baptist ”Church” (it’s truly difficult for me to use that word in connection with the Westboro group) is protected by the first amendment no matter how hateful or disruptive it is to their victims. Of the nine justices, only one dissented and sided with the families. Justice Samuel Alito, among other things, said “the majority's concern that the protest occurred in a public place should not be enough to "preclude" liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress. There is no reason why a public street in close proximity to the scene of a funeral should be regarded as a free-fire zone where language that is not protected by the First Amendment is "shielded from liability." Alito went on to argue that "our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case."

The other eight justices disagreed with Alito and, relying on prior case law, collectively said, "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable. Indeed, the point of all speech protection ... is to shield just those choices of content that in someone's eyes are misguided, or even hurtful.” The court also held that "insulting and even outrageous" speech must be tolerated "to provide adequate 'breathing space' to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment."

I suppose the logical, Constitution loving part of me understands this decision was probably the right one in legal terms. After all, freedom of speech is one of the greatest freedoms we have in this country. But does freedom of speech allow people to verbally attack grieving families and cause extreme emotional anguish on people who are already suffering, for the group’s own self gratification? Does it allow people to disrupt private family gatherings intended to say goodbye to a beloved son, daughter, father or mother who has made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, yes, even to protect that right for the likes of people like the Westboro Baptist Church? I guess the Supreme Court has decided the answer to those questions is a resounding “Yes!”

There are some who will say the Westboro group never really gets too close to the funeral itself however, in my opinion, they shouldn’t be able to get anywhere in the vicinity. There are other ways to voice their un-Godly beliefs (I don’t believe their doing the will of God but merely pushing their own agenda) without drawing attention by protesting a military funeral. Our military men and women are the ones who guarantee these hateful people have the right to voice their evil ideas in the first place. I guess they chose to overlook that part of it.

What happens now is only a guess but Albert Snyder, the father of Corporal Matthew Snyder, the Marine who’s funeral protest initiated the lawsuit, believes “people will start taking matters into their own hands and there will be bloodshed.” Mr. Snyder believes people will begin physically attacking the protesters who disrupt funerals with their vile hate speech. He says the blood will be on the hands of the Supreme Court Justices and while I’d love to agree with him on this one, violent response to Westboro will be the responsibility of those who take the actions, not the court. But I know what I would be feeling if those vile people showed up the funeral of my son and held up their disgusting, hateful signs.

I’d like to start an organization of concerned American citizens who would volunteer to attend any military funeral in their state, or area as each case permits, to shield the funeral and families from these evil, hateful people. I’ll have to research it and figure out how to go about it. Volunteers are needed. If you can help out, if you feel so compelled to protect our military families from the evils of the Westboro Baptist Hate Organization, please do. They normally advertise their planned protests to get as much attention as possible and military funerals are normally announced by the media. Let’s take the power away from Westboro and give it back to the families of our fallen heroes. These heroes deserve that much.

Is the Supreme Court decision "justice for all"? I'd say that's debatable.