Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Happens In Vegas... Part 2

Arden and I had traveled to Las Vegas, by car, via Prescott Valley, Arizona, where we stayed for two nights with my good friends Chuck and Gayle Grammont.  We drove on to Las Vegas on Friday morning, October 11th.  After check-in we met our friends in the West Bar...

We stayed in the West Bar until everyone arrived.  The "West Bar" is somewhat deceiving.  It's not just a bar but a room full of slot machines that has a bar on one side.  But it was a convenient place to meet - especially in Circus Circus, which was packed with people and rather large.

By around 5pm we had Joe, Barb and Roy, Howie and Deb, Ron and Colleen, Ed and Ann, Arden and me. We decided to go to dinner in the hotel and make plans for the next day.  We went to a restaurant called Rock and Rita's - a sports bar type restaurant around the corner from the bar.  There were TV's everywhere with different sports events.  One of the screens was at least 10 feet across.  They pushed several tables together so we could all sit in a group and we had a nice, if noisy meal.  

After dinner everyone went their separate ways for a while.  Arden, Howie and I walked down to the local CVS a couple of blocks away to buy a few things we needed.  Joe entered a poker tournament in another casino and the rest of the gang went to various casinos and hotels.  

After returning from CVS Arden and I went to the room to relax a bit.  We'd been on the go for four days and just needed to rest.  Unfortunately, our room was across the hallway from a bank of elevators.  Every time one of the elevators stopped on our floor we could hear the bell ringing.  And people getting off the elevator were often loud and unconcerned about other guests in the hotel.  We began hearing all of this after we turned off the television to go to sleep.  Within about half an  hour Arden was wanting to change rooms. But it was late and we decided we'd rather wait until the next day.  She pulled out her trusty ear plugs that she carries with her and finally went to sleep.  It was a long night.

The next morning we made coffee in the room using our own pot and our own coffee.  Like most casino hotels, there was no in-room coffee maker because they want you downstairs in the shops and casinos so they can relieve you of your cash.  We are spoiled anyway when it comes to coffee.  We like our own so much we take it with us everywhere we go.  Once we were showered and dressed for the day we headed out to - you guessed it - the West Bar.  As we waited for everyone to arrive and we discussed what we were going to do for breakfast, I bought a cup of coffee from the snack counter.  As soon as I tasted it I was glad we had brought our own.  Their coffee was awful!  

Someone had bought a box of doughnuts.  Arden had one but I wasn't interested.  I wanted real food. When all had arrived we headed upstairs to a bagel shop that sold breakfast.  It wasn't Denny's, which was just down the street, but I had an egg and sausage sandwich on an exceptionally good cheese/spinach bagel. The egg was OK, the sausage was one small patty centered in the bagel but the bagel itself made up for it. Arden had the same bagel with butter and cream cheese and said "Can I have this every day?"  Apparently I have competition now.

After breakfast we split up again - some going to other hotels and casinos, some going exploring.  Arden and I went for a walk down Las Vegas Boulevard then had an appointment at 11:30am.  When we arrived at the hotel the day before, after we checked in, we were greeted by someone we thought was a hotel employee who asked us if we had received our free gifts yet.  I should have known what was going on but we replied "No, we haven't," thinking maybe the hotel was going to comp us something.  It turned out to be a time share presentation, of sorts, for which we would receive $100 in food coupons and a free three day, two night vacation if we only listened to their presentation.  Since the food in the hotel was expensive we decided to do it. It was supposed to take about two hours and they would provide transportation and food.

We got on a bus at 11:30 and went to a resort down the strip called "Polo Towers".  It was a high rise condominium building, fairly new, that sat right on Las Vegas Boulevard across from the Bellagio and New York, New York hotels.  We sat through a brief presentation in which we were told how we simply could not afford to pass up this deal, then got a tour and a pitch.  I suppose the deal they were offering wasn't terrible but having just bought a new home with our old one still on the market we were in no position to purchase anything.  We told them that up front but they tried several times anyway.  Funny how the sales people always seem disappointed when you don't make that purchase - even though they know going in it's not going to happen.

Three hours later we got our gifts and a ride back to Circus Circus.  The weekend trip will either be used for Lake Tahoe, Willliamsburg, Virginia or Branson, Missouri.  We haven't decided yet.  And our food coupons bought us a breakfast buffet Sunday and Monday and bought Ron and Colleen breakfast Monday morning. So we got our money's worth.  (We could have used the $25 coupons in the Steak House but the lowest priced steak on the menu was $47 - and that was for a New York Strip.  For that price they better be the best steaks I've ever eaten!)

We got back from the presentation in time to change rooms.  They initially tried to put us in another room across the hall from the elevators but I wouldn't let them. Instead they moved us down the hallway and the room seemed much better. 

We all met in the West Bar at 4pm Saturday afternoon to go to dinner at the Hofbrau Haus - a large German restaurant down the strip about a mile.  We were going to take a taxi but there was a limo in the valet parking area and the driver agreed to take us all there for $45 - which was about the same as we'd have paid for three taxis.  There were 10 of us needing transportation since Joe was playing in another poker tournament.

The Hofbrau House was a very traditional German place - large dining room with long tables that seated 8-10 people.  It had high ceilings painted with various German symbols and musicians playing traditional German songs.  They didn't play the chicken dance, at least while we were there, and we were a little disappointed.  But they did play one during which everyone stood on their chairs and raised their glasses, which is a tradition.

The food was authentic and very good. Arden and I had a sampler plate which had a pork chop, a wurst and a piece of sauerbraten, along with sauerkraut and potatoes.  I had talked to Joe, who was arriving a little late, and ordered him a jaeger schnitzel - a piece of fried veal with a mushroom gravy and spatzle - a very good German noodle dish. And of course they had authentic German beers in 1 liter mugs.

The food, beer and entertainment were excellent.  We all ate (Joe showed up in time for the food) and then went back to the hotel to await the next round of entertainment - a limo that took us to see all the sights.  We went to a couple of hotels, the water fountains near the Bellagio, Freemont Street and then to the famous Las Vegas sign at the edge of town.  We took pictures and partied in the limo and everyone had a great time. Except for Howie and Deb.  They had entered a 5K run on Sunday morning and they were disciplined enough to go to their room and go to sleep early so they could get up early the next morning and participate. I think the next morning some of us wished we had been with them instead...

Arden and I got back to the hotel and went to get something to eat.  We took it up to our room only to discover some things were missing.  But by then we were tired and didn't want to go back downstairs.  So we made due.  

We went to bed expecting a nice, quiet, restful night.  But it was Saturday night. The hotel was packed and there were many people moving about throughout the night.  People walking down the hallway at three in the morning had no consideration for anyone, talking and laughing and generally making a lot of noise. We thought about going to the door and yelling at them but that would only have contributed to the clamor.  So we waited them out and went back to sleep.

We slept late the next morning and had our coffee before heading downstairs. Everyone had already left the bar so we went to the buffet for something to eat.

The buffet was a disappointment.  The bacon and sausage were good but the eggs were microwave stuff, the biscuits were previously frozen, the corned beef hash was awful and the gravy had no taste.  Arden didn't want breakfast so she had a salad that wasn't very good and some potato salad she said tasted like it came from a grocery store.  I realize the restaurant serves a very large number of people every meal but they should really serve food that is worth $14 per person. Of course, buffets in other hotels cost far more so maybe they're simply trying to keep the cost down.

When we finished we walked up to the midway area of the hotel where they have carnival games and a different circus act every half hour.  We didn't play any games - just wandered around and watched a couple perform on a long rope. Then we went back up to the room to relax for a while.

The previous evening had taken its toll on several of us.  Joe was in another tournament and the rest of the gang was out sightseeing at some of the other hotels.  Arden and I took a short nap then went down and met everyone at Rock N Rita's for the Cowboys/Redskins game.  Joe is a big Dallas fan and Ed and Ann are from the DC area so they had to watch it.  I didn't care one way or the other. Arden and I split a lettuce wedge with blue cheese and bacon.  It was nearly an entire head of lettuce.  It was good.

That evening some were going out again, others were taking it easy.  We had to drive back to Arizona the next day so we wandered around for a bit then went back upstairs.  Neither of us are big gamblers and the casinos are loud and full of smoke.  So we decided to simply relax, get on our computers for a bit, and get some rest.  Neither of us had slept well since our arrival.

Everyone had decided to meet for breakfast the next morning.  We had an extra coupon for the buffet for 2 and some of the others had their own.  Joe was comped so he didn't have to worry.  Even though the buffet wasn't the best food in town - it was free.  So we all thought that was a good idea.

Many of the hotel guests had departed that day so it was really quiet in the hotel. We finally got some much needed sleep.

The next morning saw us meeting in the West Bar again.  This time it made sense - it was right next to the buffet.  Some people were leaving that day and others were departing on Tuesday.  So this was our last full group meeting.  We divided up the coupons so everyone could eat free and headed for the buffet.  It was rather popular - we had to wait in line for about 15 minutes.

Finally we all got in and got several tables pushed together.  The buffet has pretty much anything you want - even first thing in the morning.  They had a full breakfast bar, omelettes to order, lunch and dinner bars, burgers and fries, desserts, breads, fruits...  and I think they even had pizza.  Pretty much anything you could want.  Not gourmet but free.  I think we all decided on breakfast.  (The day before I had seen a guy eating scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy and washing it down with a beer.)

We ate and talked, made plans for the next get-together in 2015, and eventually has to say our good-byes.  Howie and Deb were headed for the airport.  Barb and Roy were supposed to head in the same direction as us but had changed their minds and were going back to California.  Ron and Colleen were flying out a little later and the rest were staying.  Joe was meeting his father-in-law at another hotel for yet another big poker tournament.

We gave hugs all around and headed back to the room to get our things and check out.  The bellman came to get our things and I filled our ice chest for the road.  Yes - I filled it from the hotel ice machine!  We got down to the valet parking area about the same time as Howie and Deb so were able to tell them good-bye one last time.  They live in San Antonio so we get to see them a couple of times a year anyway.

As we drove away from the hotel Arden said she needed to stop at a store for something.  There was a 7-11 just around the corner so we stopped there.  I realized I probably should check out the men's room while I was there so I went over to it first.  There was a sign on the door that said "Please ask clerk for key" but the door was open and the room was empty.  So I went in and closed the door.  When I emerged a few minutes later the female clerk, who was standing nearby, said to me (with a foreign accent) "Next time you ask me first."

I was a bit surprised but replied "You don't have to worry. The door was unlocked and I will never be back here again."

"OK," she said, and that was the end of it.  I bought a bottle of water and Arden went into the bathroom behind me.  I waited for her to come out and as soon as she did - the clerk hurried over to lock the door.  I realize Las Vegas is a large city and they probably have a huge problem with homeless people coming into the store to use the facilities but I thought it was pretty funny.

We got on the freeway and headed to US 93, the road out of town that went by Hoover Dam.  We had decided to stop and see the dam and the bridge so we got off the highway on the old road that goes right over the dam itself.  There is a Department of Agriculture security checkpoint about a mile before the dam. Mostly they look in your car to see if you look like terrorists and wave you on.  I felt much safer after that.

We drove out onto the dam and it was quite a sight.  The road is narrow and there were a lot of people walking around.  Parking was $7 so we decided just to drive across and back, taking in what we could.  The architecture was pretty impressive for a dam and I noticed one thing in particular.  In 1997 a movie was made starring Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek called "Fools Rush In."  It was filmed mostly in Las Vegas but there was a scene at the end where Salma Hayek was returning from Mexico on 93, across the dam.  As I drove across the dam myself I realized that in the movie they had filmed her driving South, from Nevada to Arizona rather than the other way around.  Funny the things you think of.

The new bridge is built with a high wall so you can't see the dam at all from the roadway.  I'm sure they did that to keep traffic from stopping for photo ops and it makes sense.  You can walk across it if you're adventuresome and don't mind a climb.  We opted to skip the new bridge and cross the old one.

The water is fairly clear and deep near the dam.  All in all it's an impressive sight.

After looking around for a few minutes we got back in the care and headed South toward Kingman, Arizona and Interstate 40 again.  It was about a five hour drive back to Chuck and Gayle's home in Prescott Valley - and we had dinner waiting. After a very unremarkable drive we arrived back at their home around 5.  Gayle wasn't going to be home until 8 so we talked to Chuck and had a late dinner of those wonderful leftover enchiladas.  Let it be here noted that Greasy normally does not serve leftovers to guests. But this was different.  The enchiladas were excellent and we were family.  So we happily had leftovers and loved every bite!

We watched some news and chatted after Gayle arrived, then went to bed ready to continue our trip the next morning.  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer had funded the opening of the Grand Canyon (since it had been closed due to the government shut down) and the President had finally approved it.  So we were going to get to see it after all.  I like to think she opened it just for us but I could be wrong.  Either way - we were headed there the next morning.  So it was off to sleep.

To be continued...

How Many Things Does The President Not Know...?

After three years of the President telling us all "If you like your current health care plan you'll be able to keep it.  If you like your doctor you'll be able to keep him," we're finding out it just ain't true.  Insurance companies are cancelling individual policies - now up to 2 million - because of the restrictions of Obamacare.  Now the big question is - did President Obama know about this and, if so - did he lie or intentionally mislead the country?  And if he truly didn't know - why didn't he know?

While Valerie Jarrett, Jay Carney and other liberals are blaming the insurance companies (for complying with the law), releases from the White House today say that President Obama was unaware that individual policies would be cancelled due to changes in the insurance coverage regulations.  Really? Another major event involving the United States and the man who is in the top position in the government didn't know about it?  What does he know?

Documents show that in July of 2010 the Department of Health and Human Services quietly added language to the Affordable Care Act that basically said a person could keep their current coverage and have it grandfathered in if there were no changes to that policy between the time the law was signed and its implementation.  I personally do not believe that in the three years after that language was inserted, when President Obama spouted over and over that "you'll be able to keep your coverage" and even guaranteed it on occasion, no one informed him that he was misleading the American public by putting out false information.  If so then our country is far worse off then I thought.

In the last couple of years many things that have happened that have brought criticism and skepticism upon the Obama administration - at least from people who don't believe he does no wrong.  Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the Justice Department's monitoring of the AP and James Rosen, the IRS wreaking havoc on Republicans and conservatives....  President Obama supposedly didn't know about any of these until the news broke.  (He was in a meeting on security for Benghazi just the day before the attack but the minutes of that meeting haven't been disclosed.)

If President Obama truly didn't know about any of these things until they were made public - what does he know?  He is the President of the United States and supposedly (it's somewhat doubtful these days) the leader of the free world.  And he doesn't know what's going on in his own administration?  That's a scary thought.  If he does know and lies to the American people to avoid responsibility for the things his administration does - that's a problem as well.

I don't know if he knows or not but I can tell you that I find it amazing he still has support when he claims to have not known when something bad happens.  If he is so clueless about the goings on in his administration and the country in general - why can't we just replace him with Alicia Silverstone?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Let The Spin Begin...!

Yesterday, in a moment that must have been extremely difficult for the White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney was forced to admit that indeed, people are going to have their insurance policies cancelled because of Obamacare.  He didn't admit that President Obama knew about it and, in fact, avoided that subject completely.  But information obtained by various news agencies, including "the all Obama all the time channel" NBC, shows that the administration knew back in 2010 that many people were subject to losing their coverage when insurance companies were forced to comply with Obamacare regulations.  Kathleen Sebelius added language to the law that said people could keep their coverage and be grandfathered in unless there were any changes to their policy after March of 2010.  That included a premium change, any change to coverage or basically any change at all, no matter how minute.  The administration knew at that time there would be many people whose coverage would be dropped because of those changes.  And they purposely hid the truth from the American people.

Time and time again over the last three years President Obama told Americans "If you like your current coverage you can keep it."  And he also told us "If you like your doctor you can keep him."  But they knew full well that as insurance companies came in line with the regulations of Obamacare not only would they be forced to drop many individual policies they would also be forced to drop approved physicians because they did not conform to the rules of Obamacare.

So did President Obama lie?  I'll leave that up to you to decide.  He didn't tell the entire truth and in my book that's pretty much the same thing.  He deliberately misled the American people, knowing full well what was going to happen.  And now it's estimated that up to 14 million people will be losing their coverage and/or their doctors and they will be forced to go to the exchanges for their coverage. I've never said Obama was stupid.

So now the spin by the Obama administration begins.  Yesterday, Obama's Senior Advisor and friend, Valerie Jarrett, made the following statement: "Obamacare doesn't force you off your plan; your insurance company does by complying with Obamacare."  Does this come as a surprise to anyone?  The Obama administration never takes responsibility for anything negative that happens.  Kathleen Sebelius blamed the problems with the Obamacare website on the Republicans.  Now Valerie Jarrett is blaming the insurance companies for cancelling policies - like the companies are simply choosing to comply with Obamacare and therefore cancelling policies without regard to the welfare of their customers.  Either way they spin it - Obamacare is responsible for this fiasco and I believe it is intentional.

The President has never been shy about letting people know his desire for a single payer system in this country.  What better way to force us into that than to demonize insurance companies and force them to lose business and revenue, make his own plan faulty so it intentionally fails, then declare that because the health care system is now a disaster and a threat to national security that his government is going to take it over completely - controlling everyone's health care. Don't be too skeptical - I don't think I'm that far off.  It may happen after Obama is no longer in office but his desire, in his own words, is to make single payer health care a reality.  And this is a good way to start.

It will be interesting to see how the administration spins this entire thing in the next few weeks.  And just when Americans are getting the idea that the President lied or misled them - what are the chances some crisis will arise that will take all of the media's attention away from health care for a while?  I'd bet on it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lies Or Deliberate Deceipt?

For the last 3-1/2 years Barack Obama has been telling us "If you like your current health care plan you can keep it."  Because of the millions of people who have had their insurance cancelled in the last week or so, some people (other than Obamabots) think the President flat out lied about it.  But in all reality - he didn't lie.

In 2010, an IRS Memo actually informed IRS employees (and the President) that up to 14,000,000 (that's 14 million) private policies may be cancelled because of Obamacare IF their policies changed in any way, no matter how miniscule the change may be. President Obama was aware of this and instead of lying overtly, he merely mislead the American people by leaving out some details.  He knew that insurance policies change on a regular basis - even though those changes may not be major and the client may not even be aware of them. But those changes, regardless of how small and insignificant they may be, may cause over 14,000 000 people to lose their insurance, making it necessary for them to apply for Obamacare.

Obama said "If you like your current health care plan you can keep it."  He just left out the part about any minor changes making your policy null and void.  As my ex-wife used to say - "Not telling the whole truth is the same as lying."  But the Obama administration would never agree with that.

Obama also said that "If you like your doctor you can keep him."  But now that insurance companies are dropping doctors because they somehow don't comply with the new law - that's not true either.  Very little of what Obama promised about Obamacare has turned out to be true.  The cost for consumers is going up dramatically.  People are losing their coverage in record numbers.  The cost to the taxpayers, which was supposed to be zero, is now upward of a trillion dollars. Yet some people continue to support Obama and his health care law.  How is that even possible in the United States of America?

Megyn Kelly interviewed some liberal dweeb tonight that said "40 million Americans will  get health care coverage because of Obamacare so what's 14 million losing theirs...?)  What an idiot.  If his head was any further up Obama's butt he'd have to duck every time Obama swallowed.

Eventually, even the die hard Obamabots will realize that Obamacare is a failure and bad for the country. But by then it might be too late.  We, the conservatives, have been telling them for three years that Obamacare is a problem, a mistake, and bad for the country.  They chose not to listen until it began effecting them personally.  Those who have not been effected yet are still praising it but it won't be too long before that changes.  Obamacare will implode before the 2014 elections.  And Democrats (and RINOs) should be very, very scared about that.  Maybe that's why they're now pushing to delay the individual mandate...   ??

Why Do They Think It's A Good Thing?

I was listening to the radio a little while ago and heard something I had to talk about.

President Obama has denied knowledge of some of the biggest and worst political scandals in many years. He denied knowledge of Fast and Furious.  He denied knowledge that the Benghazi attacks were committed by terrorists.  He denied knowledge of the IRS targeting his rivals.  He denied knowledge of the NSA spying on people and denied knowledge that the Justice Department was monitoring the phones at the Associated Press.  I think he even denied knowledge of the Justice Department monitoring the phones and e-mails of FOX News reporter James Rosen.

Democrats, the main stream media and Obama followers in general say that since he didn't know about these things before hand he's not responsible for them.  How could he be responsible if he didn't know?

If he lied; if he did in fact know about all of these things but denied it then he's treacherous.  If he truly didn't know about any of them until they were made public then he is a perfect example of completely failed leadership.  And either way he's failing the country.

Competent leaders don't allow their subordinate administrators and agencies to run wild without supervision and without knowing what they're doing.  And competent leaders don't allow numerous examples of illegal and/or immoral actions to take place and simply lie to the people about them, pretending they knew nothing about them.  Either way, whether he knew or didn't know, he's failing the country.

What I don't understand is why the media and Obamabots think his leadership failure is a good thing.  They pounced on Bush for every little mistake he made - whether real or fabricated.  But Obama gets a pass no matter what he does and no one on the left holds him accountable for anything.  How is that a good thing?

Now I'm hearing that contrary to his promises about keeping your own health care policies after Obamacare goes into effect, the White House is now saying that isn't quite true.  We already know it's not true because millions of people have already lost their coverage because of the law.  But the President promised over and over that "if you like your current policy you'll be able to keep it."  He also said that premiums will not go up and he "will sign no bill that will raise taxes."  None of those things turned out to be true. So do people still believe?

One day people are going to realize that a President who knows nothing, lies constantly to the American people and accepts no responsibility for anything isn't doing them any good.  I just hope it's not too late by the time they realize it.

Who Does Kathleen Sebelius Work For....?

On Tuesday, October 1st, the sign-up portion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was implemented. Those who wanted to register for Obamacare and purchase health insurance through a government run exchange were given until December 1st to do so.  Sounds OK...  right?  That is - if you want to buy health care insurance through a government run exchange.  If you're opposed to Obamacare and government run exchanges then it's a bad thing.  But that's another topic.

Within the first week problems arose.  Those who were able to get into the web site began discovering that their "affordable" care would cost them more than they could afford and/or their annual deductibles would be in the thousands of dollars. (I have read about deductibles being as high as $12,000 a year.)  Most Americans couldn't even get into the web site to register.

The Obama administration, through White House spin master Jay Carney, began telling people it was because so vast was the amount of people trying to register that the web site was overloaded.  Within days the real numbers came out that proved Carney's explanation not to be true and that the number of people signing up for Obamacare was far less than anyone expected.  Only a few hundred thousand had signed up before the web site crashed.

Eventually the Obama administration realized they could no longer lie about numbers and overloading and admitted there were some "computer glitches" in the system.  Those "glitches" were actually failures due to an outdated program and a very poor software product produced by a Canadian firm of which the CEO was an old Princeton classmate of Michelle Obama.  And that firm was the only one considered for the contract. Go figure.

The President went on TV and said "No one is more angry than I am about this," which is probably the only true statement he has made about Obamacare.  Of course he was angry.  No one could sign up for his signature program.  He advised people to use the telephone registration number to continue signing up. Of course, people began calling that number only to find out they could not get health insurance that way either and they were referred by operators back to the useless web site.

By week three the web site was still mostly inoperable and the entire registration process ground to a halt. It was discovered that the system had not been thoroughly tested by the administration and what tests were done by IT professionals had been reported as problematic.  Sebelius basically said that they implemented the registration because of Republicans.  What she meant by that is anyone's guess.  Jay Carney said they implemented the system without testing it because "People with pre-existing conditions need health care," and "Single mothers with breast cancer need health care."  Two great reasons for the administration to implement a program that doesn't work.  Spot on, Jay!

Republicans in the House and Senate, as well as millions of citizens, began demanding that HHS Secretary Sebilius resign or be fired for not ensuring the system was operational and ready.  The response from Sebelius was interesting.

During an interview Secretary Sebelius was asked about the calls for her resignation.  Her arrogant response was: "The majority of those people calling for me to resign I would say are people I don't work for."  Really? She is appointed by the President to the position she is in and, as such, she works for the American people. So the majority of those calling for her resignation are Americans.  In fact - I'd bet they all are.  And as much as she might want to deny it - she does work for everyone who's calling for her resignation - even the Senators and Representatives since they are American citizens as well.

During the democrat imposed government shut down the Republicans continuously attempted to get the administration to delay the individual mandate, particularly after it was discovered that the registration system software was defective and people could not effectively sign up.  The December 1st deadline was initially maintained but eventually was extended.  But the President and Harry Reid flat out refused to change the individual mandate or even to negotiate it.  In fact, the President refused to negotiate anything to do with Obamacare, which was the main reason the shut down happened in the first place.

Now, with the Obamacare registration failing big time and an election coming up in a year, those same Democrats who refused to negotiate a delay of the individual mandate are now discussing....  a delay of the individual mandate.  It makes sense to do it but then - it made sense when the Republicans suggested it as well.  Maybe for once the Obama administration will do the right thing - even if it is only done so they won't lose as many votes.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Great American Cooter Festival - Revisited

It's that time again. Every year in October, in the small town of Inverness, Florida, they hold an annual event known as "The Great American Cooter Festival."  It's a festival that simply celebrates the Cooter. People come from miles around to attend.
Everything there is geared toward the Cooter.  You have Cooter hats, Cooter t-shirts, Cooter art work, etc. They have food and really big glasses of lemonade. Nothing like a big glass of cold lemonade when you're surrounded by Cooters, that's for sure!  Across the street there is a red caboose sitting in a little space that has benches and picnic tables around it.  On the side of the caboose it says "Withlacoochie".  So you have Cooters Withlacoochie...
I got to go to the Cooter Festival in 2010.  I had a really good time and I got a great T-shirt that says “I got my Cooter in Inverness, Florida.”  How many people have one of those?
I visited Cooter Park on a regular basis and even took Arden there when she came to see me in Florida. Imagine - a park named after Cooters! You can observe and take pictures of Cooters in Cooter Park and it is perfectly legal. And there are many to choose from.  Surprisingly - Arden liked it a lot and took a lot of pictures.
Yeah...  the Cooter Festival is a good time.  But you can only take it for so long in one day before you get tired of cooters and have to find something else to do.  I wear my t-shirt proudly though and look forward to going back sometime.  Too bad they don't have Cooter Festivals in Texas!
Oh, by the way – a Cooter is a fresh water turtle that is native to Eastern North America and the festival is in celebration of that turtle.  I’m not sure what you were thinking….

Thanks For Reading!

A few days ago I published blog post number 501.  I started this blog on October 10th of 2010. Since then I have posted 501 articles on various topics and have two or three in draft form that I'm working on.  Honestly, I never knew I had so much to say.  OK, maybe I did since I've never really been shy about speaking my mind.

In fact - telling the truth to a couple of my supervisors got me in trouble. I've never been a "Yes" man.  If you don't want my opinion don't ask me for it. And if you do ask me for it be sure you're ready for the answer.  At least two of my supervisors discovered that the hard way.  But guess who got the heat for it?  It's kind of interesting that all our lives we're taught honesty is the best policy only to get a job working for someone who wants you to lie to make them feel better about themselves!

As you know - most of my blog posts are political but I do venture off into other topics now and then.  The most widely read posts seem to be those that are not political.  But the political ones get more feedback and stir things up - which is the best reason to keep doing them!

Anyway - the point of this post is to thank all of my readers for continuing to read what I write.  Three years later I have had over 28,000 page views since I posted my first article.  At least one of those articles was read by over 1200 people.  Not too shabby for an unknown writer.

So thank you to all who wander through my rants.  And a big thank you to all of you who have purchased my book!  I'm truly grateful that you took the time to read it.  I heard from a friend the other day that she had read it and the very next day one of her friends who lost a child recently came by to see her.  She shared my book with her friend in hope that it might help her in some way.  That is the best thing I could ask for!  Thank you, Cathy, for sharing the book with your friend.  May God touch her heart as she reads it and help her find peace.

Thanks again to all of you.  If none of you read my blog I would most likely still do it - but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mr. President - Make Obamacare Voluntary!

While contemplating a topic this morning I was given inspiration by my wonderful wife.  She shared something posted by one of her friends about Obamacare that interested me - for more than one reason.

The post was as follows:

"I have to share this. I KNOW that the Affordable Healthcare Act is controversial. But you know what it means for me? 

The very same day I had to pay $175 for ONE monthly prescription, I discovered that I will be able to sign up for an insurance plan that will cover 90% of my medical costs for $234/month. Previously I've been quoted $580/month for a 70% plan and oh, by the way, you don't qualify anyway because of your medical history. 

The amount of relief I feel right now is immeasurable. It has been a significant source of stress worrying about having no coverage the past 10 years."

I have no problem with her post as far as getting insurance goes.  If Obamacare helps people without insurance obtain health care coverage then hey - that's perfectly fine with me.  However, it goes too far when it becomes mandatory for everyone in the United States to purchase health care insurance and when those who really can't afford it will be forced to pay a fine if they don't get it.

If a person who makes several million dollars a year and can afford to pay cash for his/her health care, including hospitalization, surgeries, etc., why should they be forced to purchase health care insurance in lieu of paying a fine?  That makes no sense at all.  One might say "So they will have to help pay for those unfortunates who cannot afford insurance."  But if they purchase a policy, even though they don't need it, they won't be fined so there goes that argument.

So let's go the other way and talk about those who make enough money to purchase insurance through Obamacare but can't afford it because of premiums combined with an unmanageable deductible which can be upward of $8000.  (Frankly - if I had to pay $8000+ deductible every year I'd see no good reason to have insurance.)  If they decide they cannot afford the insurance and still be able to meet their monthly expenses the government says "We understand your decision.  And we're going to take more of your money just because of that decision."  Yeah - the government is your friend.

So here's what I think about it.  Make Obamacare voluntary so that it can help people like Arden's friend above, and others who may be able to purchase coverage under the government run system.  But leave the rest of us alone.  If we already have insurance or we are wealthy enough that we don't need it - butt out!  

Obamacare is destroying jobs in this country.  Don't believe it?  Check with the AFL/CIO and/or the Teamsters unions.  Richard Trumka and Jimmy Hoffa both have said that Obamacare will destroy the 40 hour work week for Americans.  It is already happening.

Despite the President's claims, Obamacare is causing people to lose their private health insurance.  Hundreds of thousands have already been dropped by their companies, including personal friends of mine, because of Obamacare.  Don't believe it?  Check the news from Florida just this week, where over 300,000 people lost their Florida Blue insurance because of Obamacare.

I already mentioned the enormous deductibles in some Obamacare plans.  In addition, many people who have lost their private plans are discovering that contrary to what the President promised - any new Obamacare plan will cost them two or three times as much - in addition to the deductible.  

Mr. President - want to do the right thing for America?  Back off of the ACA as written and modify it to help those who need help while removing the rest of us from your mandate.  Your idea of helping every American obtain health care insurance would be noble - if that's what your intention was.  But you have already expressed your desire for a single-payer, government run health care system in this country and you are demanding fines/taxes from people who can't or don't want to participate in your mandated plan.  That's not noble - that's control.  In fact - the entire thing is about government control.  If not, you would consider changing it to something good for all Americans.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Truths About Obamacare Becoming More Evident...

In the weeks since the implementation date of Obamacare sign-up problems with the law and its implementation are growing more and more evident.  From doctors refusing to see Medicare and Medicaide patients due to cuts in fees paid by the government, to cuts in work hours for many full time workers in the country, to the complete failure of the computer software for sign-up, to the failure of the telephone system for sign-up, to the exorbitantly high premiums and deductibles for the average consumer, to the fact that insurance companies are cancelling individual plans held by their customers as a result of the law (need I go on?) - Obamacare is failing miserably.  Yet the President and his spokespeople - everyone from Jay Carney to the main stream media - continue to tell us how great it is.

In Florida recently, insurance company Florida Blue (formerly known as Florida Blue Cross/Blue Shield) has announced they are cancelling about 300,000 policies because of the Obamacare law.  That's 80% of their privately held policies.  United Parcel Service recently announced they will be cancelling insurance coverage for 15,000 spouses who work somewhere else and are eligible for coverage through their own employer. Some may say "If they can get coverage through their own employer then this is not a problem," Obamacare supporters might say.  But there is a reason they were insured through UPS - either it was to their benefit financially or it was better coverage than they could get elsewhere.  Either way - these 315,000 were promised by the President they could keep their current plan.  And that's simply not the case.

A friend of mine in Pennsylvania posted the following paragraph on Facebook this morning:

"As most of you know, I don't get political mostly because I feel that I am not well enough informed to begin to discuss anything! Right now, I am totally at a loss as to which direction to turn. Highmark is cancelling our insurance effective January 1st. To retain a similar coverage with them, the cost will be $300 more per month. I can register at the government website however, I spent over an hour on there the other day and never was able to get registered. They tell me that I have to have a new plan in place as of December 1st. That is a little over a month away. The first Highmark rep refused to even sell a policy to me at any price! I have pondered lifting my citizenship. Is that possible? (Notice there is no "lol" at the end of that statement)."

So she and her husband are losing their insurance coverage and have just over a month to find new coverage or face a fine... uh, tax - and getting a new policy through the Obamacare system is nearly impossible.  And as yet the President won't waive the individual mandate even though the website and phone sign-up system don't work.  However...

Earlier this month Republicans in the House tried and tried to get the President to delay the individual mandate as part of the Continuing Resolution to fund the government.  President Obama flat out refused to negotiate it and Harry Reid wouldn't even bring the bill to the floor for a vote.  Now, a week after the government shutdown ends, and with the Obamacare website failing miserably, Democrats in the Senate are beginning to talk about delaying the individual mandate for a year because of the problems with the software.  And now they think it's a good idea.  Imagine that...?

It's amazing to me there are still people out there who see all of these things happening and still think Obamacare is a good thing.  Even MSNBC, Obama's greatest cheerleader, is beginning to question it.  And if he loses MSNBC he loses everything!

There is no doubt we need health care reform in this country - but Obamacare is not the solution. Obamacare is only going to make things worse.  It gets more obvious every day.  But Obama can't let go of his signature legislation.  He would look more like a failure than he did during the Syria fiasco.  And he's certainly not going to do that willingly.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Is Obama Not Addressing The Murders Of Christians In Islamic Countries?

In the last year or so, Christians in Muslim countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia have come under serious fire from Islamic extremists.  It has been quietly happening for years but has intensified recently.  In fact, from all appearances Christians are being exterminated from the Islamic world.  Sadly, President Obama is doing nothing about it but seems to be ignoring it - remaining silent while Christians are dying on a daily basis.  

People who oppose the actions and beliefs of Islam are often call "Islamophobic." In fact - it's very common.  "Islamophobia is the biggest threat to peace in the world today."  said U.S. "academic" Kevin Barrett in Iran's state-run Press TV recently.

However, Asia News Agencies put out the following statement recently:  "The text-books of Pakistani schools pose the killing of Christians as "goal to be sought" that would help the same members of the minority to seek martyrdom for the faith. This is shown by a report published in late September by the Middle East Media Research ( MEMRI )."

So suspecting that Islam might want all of us infidels dead isn't that far fetched. And the recent extermination of Christians proves it.  Yet President Obama, who claims to be a Christian, says nothing about it and does nothing about it.  Why is he ignoring the senseless destruction of Christians in the Muslim world?  Is he afraid?  Does he value Muslim lives more than he does those of Christians?  If Muslims were being exterminated in this nation Obama would be up in arms protecting them.  But Christians are being murdered every day in Islamic countries and he does nothing.

According to what I've read, as of October 17th, a total of 566 Christians have been murdered by Muslims worldwide.  Where is the outrage of our "Christian" President? Why has he not said anything about this?  Why has he not done anything about it?  Why is he still giving money to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is very deeply involved in the killing of Christians?  More Christians have been killed in Egypt since the Mohammed Morsi took office in Egypt (in less than one year) than in the entire time President Mubarek was in power.  And Obama supported Morsi.  ??

In New York recently the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) has introduced a request for the New York public school system to recognize Islamic holidays and close the schools for all of them.  The government is trying hard to remove religious holidays (Christmas, for one) from the public school agenda because they don't want to offend anyone.  So will they entertain the idea to recognize Muslim holidays?  My guess is they will.  After all - appeasing Islam is the new pastime in the United States - both in the Obama administration and the liberal left.

Islam does not recognize Christian religious holidays other than to use them as a special day of attack.  As far as I'm concerned - Islam holidays should be banned in the United States until Islam as a whole ceases their attacks on Christians and non-believers.  In fact - the United States should cease all funding in the Islamic world until that happens.  But President Obama won't do that.  He did, after all, make the following statement in his book, Audacity of Hope: “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”  

Well - the political winds are shifting in an ugly direction and Mr. Obama is the President of the United States.  It seems to me his decision has been made and he no longer represents the people and beliefs of the United States of America. Yet he is still President and he still has blind allegiance from nearly half the nation. Difficult to understand...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

If Obama's A Christian Why Is He So Against Christianity...?

In 2008, during his presidential campaign, and into his first few years in office there were several questions by many people in the country about Barack Obama's religious beliefs.  Although he was a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ, a follower of black liberation theology, Obama's ties to Islam and his stated love for Islam made people wonder what he really believed.  It seemed odd to people that a man who is a member of a Church of Christ could have such love for Islam.  He once stated that "The Muslim call to prayer is one of the prettiest sounds on Earth."  In my mind there's little wonder why people question his beliefs - even to this day.

In September of 2010, when specifically asked, President Obama said he is a "Christian by choice" and that his decision was influenced by gospel teachings about salvation and the importance of loving one another.
His mother and the grandparents who helped raised him weren't regular churchgoers, Obama told the crowd. He became a Christian later in life because of the religion's basic principles, he said.
"It was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead," Obama said. "Being my brother's and sister's keeper. Treating others as they would treat me."
Obama also spoke of the doctrine of salvation and of Jesus Christ "dying for my sins," a set of beliefs many Christians consider fundamental to the profession of faith.  He later made some controversial statements about "collective salvation," something that is not Biblical but of man.
This brings me to the recent secularization of the military.  It seems interesting to me that a President who claims to be a Christian would work so hard to remove Christianity from the military.  His Defense Department has issued regulations putting limits on what chaplains can do concerning sharing faith and that has made sharing one's faith an offense which could bring on a court martial.  Why would a Christian President do that?
George W. Bush is a Christian man who initiated several faith-based programs during his Presidency. President Obama says he's a Christian yet he's doing away with the practice of Christianity in the military. Something just doesn't seem right about it.
So serious is the movement by the military to limit or do away with Christianity that they consulted a devout atheist to assist in writing the new regulations. Michael (Mikey) Weinstein, atheist and anti-religion activist and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has been meeting with Pentagon officials, Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, and Joe Wilson, a former United States Ambassador.
That Mikey Weinstein is included in such discussions is vexing to many conservatives, as he recently penned an opinion piece on the subject in which he referred to "fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates" and was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that "This is a national security threat. What is happening is spiritual rape. And what the Pentagon needs to understand is that it is sedition and treason. It should be punished." 
Really?  Sedition and treason?  For sharing the word of God?  The same God mentioned in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution?  And Weinstein is who the Obama administration chooses to aid them in this quest? Is it any wonder that many people feel this is simply one more assault on Christianity by the Obama administration?  
It's not my place to judge the President.  Only he and God know his true beliefs. But since his initial campaign days I have said it's more important to watch what Obama does than to listen to his words.  The two are often completely opposite. And his adoring followers seem to live by the philosophy of "Let's just believe whatever he said last."  Even when he contradicts himself or lies about something he said earlier, they believe his last statements.  That type of blind allegiance is a scary thing.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Obamacare... Stimulating Canada's Economy!

Since President Obama was elected in 2008, he has talked non-stop about creating jobs in this country for the millions of Americans who are out of work.  He also promoted health care reform and in 2010, with the help of the Democrats in the House and Senate (and a couple of idiot RINOs) he signed the Affordable Care Act or, as it's un-affectionately known, Obamacare.

In the three years since it became law the government has been working to implement it.  It was purposely written to begin taking effect after the 2012 elections because President Obama and the Democrats didn't want people to know how much it was going to hurt until they won as many races as they could - including Obama's re-election.  So when implementation finally began in 2013 and people could see how their premiums were going to go up, some of their doctors began quitting, jobs began deteriorating and taxes on the middle class began going up, it was too late - Obama was already back in the White House.

The Obama administration has a poor history when it comes to creating American jobs and stimulating American businesses.  Let's look at the stimulus that occurred shortly after his election.  The North Carolina LED manufacturer Cree Inc. was awarded $39 million through a stimulus-funded tax credit program in January 2010. However, half of the company’s employees are in China and the company opened a manufacturing plant in Huizhou City, China in November 2009, according to an article in the industry publication LEDs Magazine.

Another example of stimulus outsourcing is Japanese wind energy firm Eurus Energy, whose U.S. subsidiary, Eurus Energy America, received $91 million in stimulus funds to build a wind farm in Texas, according to a 2010 report from American University. That wind farm reportedly was built with wind turbines manufactured by another Japanese company – Mitsubishi.
“Eurus Energy America, the U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese firm, received $91 million in stimulus money for its Bull Creek wind farm in Texas. The farm consists of 180 Mitsubishi turbines,” the American University report said.
Eurus told American University that the wind farm was actually built by British firm RES Americas and is now being run by EnXco, an American subsidiary of the French energy firm EDF Energies Nouvelles.

There are only two examples but you get my point.  The stimulus was passed to pour money into the American economy, boost American companies and create American jobs but untold millions of those dollars (purposely untold) went out to foreign owned companies and some of it even went to other countries.  What kind of sense does that make?

I bring it up because the Obama, in its wisdom and in the spirit of creating American jobs, contracted  the Canadian firm CGI to create its software for the Obamacare sign-up website.  CGI reportedly won a $93.7 million contract for the software - that doesn't work.  And despite the software failure, CGI market shares have done nothing but climb in the last few years.  So much for American jobs and American companies.

The Obama administration had three years to create and perfect a software system for the implementation of Obamacare yet, when it went into effect on October 1st it wasn't long before the website was overrun and rendered useless. And even though the administration continues to say it's a success - the American people really aren't that stupid. 

At least one thing built into the software seems to work well.  That's the part that kicks in if you choose not to participate in Obamacare after you log in.  If you decide you cannot afford a policy at this time and decline to purchase one you are sent an e-mail saying you are now going to be taxed for declining health care, effective immediately.  Everything I've read says if you log in to the website and don't want to purchase anything simply close the window rather than declining coverage.  Otherwise your fine... uh, tax kicks in automatically.  I'm sure that's why the President refuses to delay the mandatory tax for the average citizen. Unlike the mandatory tax on businesses, the President is going to make the average citizen pay the taxes that he so desires.  He is so for the middle class that we are the only ones lucky enough to give him their money through this wonderful health care law.  Lucky us.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Arrest The Tea Party Republicans?

Today I read an article about a petition being circulated calling for the arrest of Tea Party Republicans on charges of sedition.  According to the article, Tea Party Republicans like Ted Cruz are guilty of sedition per According to US Code (18 U.S.C. § 2384 ),  the alleged seditious conspiracy has taken place in the House and Senate because the law states in part that:  “If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to… prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States… they shall each be fined or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”

So let's take a close look at this petition and its possible merits.  

The definition of sedition is:  1. An illegal action inciting resistance to lawful authority and tending to cause the disruption or overthrow of the government.  
2. speech or behaviour directed against the peace of a state  
3. an offence that tends to undermine the authority of a state, 
4. an incitement to public disorder

By definition, no Tea Party Republican committed a seditious act while fighting in the houses against Obamacare.  They were acting within the official scope of their duties as elected representatives of their constituents.  It is not only their right but their duty to challenge a law they believe is bad for the country.  The ones who should be arrested for something are those who ran on a platform of fighting Obamacare who then sided with the President and the Democrats against the Tea Party Republicans. 

Tea Party Republicans were elected to go to Washington to fight for their constituents utilizing the merits of the Constitution.  And because they are doing that they are being criticized and ridiculed not only by Democrats but by establishment Republicans.  John McCain, whose party loyalty seems to have changed sides in recent months, has made derogatory statements about his young, aggressive colleagues with whom he disagrees.  He should resign and go home - if Arizona will have him.

The people circulating this petition need to take a look at the law then take a good long look at the one person who has hindered and delayed implementation of the law more than anyone.  That would be President Obama. Since it passed in 2010, President Obama has given thousands of waivers to various supporters throughout the country and has unilaterally delayed the implementation of several portions of the law.  He did this without consent of Congress, which is unconstitutional.  If that's not seditious I don't know what is.

In other news, today the president suggested to Republicans that the system of checks and balances invoked by tea party Republicans in an attempt to defund Obamacare is not what the founding fathers had in mind.

"Let's work together to make government work better, instead of treating it like an enemy or purposely making it work worse," Obama said.  "That's not what the founders of this nation envisioned when they gave us the gift of self-government."
These words about the founding fathers came from the same man who said in 2008 that he was going to "fundamentally change America" and that the Constitution is a flawed document and that it sometimes gets in his way.  So today he's pretending to speak for the founding fathers even though he criticizes them when he doesn't get to do what he wants?  The man has no shame -- only arrogance.
It scares me to see how many people are still in love with Obama and Obamacare.  Either they don't bother to research the truth or they simply choose to ignore it for the love of Obama.  One day they'll wake up and the free country they grew up in will be gone.  Then they'll be asking "What happened?"

What Happens In Vegas...

Some of you may have noticed I haven't posted too many new articles in the last couple of weeks.  That's because over Columbus Day weekend Arden and I traveled to Las Vegas for a reunion with some of my old Air Force friends from my days in Germany.  Since October, 2009, we get together every two years on the same weekend just to hang out together, relive some old times and have a good time.  Some years we have a large group and this year there were only eleven of us.  But it was fun.

On Monday, October 7th, we Packed up our bags and Arden's dog, Allie, we drove to Vegas, stopping on the road a couple of nights. On our second day we stopped at the Petrified National Forest outside of Holbrook, AZ, but it was "Closed Due To Lack Of Funds," another pleasant reminder of the current goings on in Washington.

We spent that night in Holbrook, Arizona, and got up the next morning for our journey into the Prescott area. We drove down highway 89A, a beautiful drive through Sedona and the little mining town of Jerome.  There is one part of the highway that circles back and forth, taking you down in altitude from over 7,000 feet to around 5,000 feet in just a few miles.  It's quite a drive but it yields photo opportunities like this:

That afternoon we stopped and spent two nights with my good friend Chuck Grammont and his wife Gayle in Arizona.  Chuck and I have known each other for 26 years, brothers in arms in the Bureau of Prisons and fellow gringos in Puerto Rico. He was the reason I went there and it was one of the best assignments of my career.

Like me, after retirement Chuck became an amateur chef in his kitchen - "Greasy's Diner" as he calls it.  And while I do gourmet stuff on a regular basis, Chuck does good ol' American, Southwest and Mexican food. The night we arrived he had five pans of enchiladas ready to eat.  They were phenomenal and there were enough leftovers (obviously) that we were promised a second enchilada meal on the return trip.  "Greasy never serves leftovers to guests," Chuck said more than once.  But they were so good that we insisted. Besides - we're family, not guests.

We talked and reminisced into the evening before I fell asleep.  I had been driving for three days and was tired.  I slept until around 6am when we heard Greasy himself up and moving around.  I got up and made a pot of my favorite coffee (we carry Bustelo and a coffee pot with us now because we're spoiled) and a couple hours later, after Gayle got up, I got to sample breakfast at Greasy's Diner.  We had eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy.  Since Arden isn't big on eggs she had French toast instead.  We ate until we were satiated, cleaned up and went on a sightseeing trip back up to Jerome and Sedona.  Since we hadn't stopped the day before we were now going to explore both towns.  We headed back up highway 89A through the mountain pass into Jerome.  I had asked Chuck a few days earlier if there would be snow in the mountains when we arrived.  He said he would see what he could do.  That morning it was snowing as we headed up the pass.  By the time we got to the top there was some accumulation.  

Once again my buddy came through.  The first snow of the season delivered upon request!  Now that's friendship for you!

For those who have never been, Jerome, AZ, is a great little mining town sitting at about 5000 feet on the North side of a mountain range.  If you look out toward the North horizon you can see the Sedona area, which is where we headed next. Sedona is a beautiful town nestled in the red rocks of North Central Arizona. Some of the rock formations and cliffs are breathtaking.  It's a tourist trap to be sure but it certainly is a beautiful place to visit.

I have more pictures that I will post at a later time.

We returned to Greasy's Diner for a barbecued Tri Tip dinner with all the fixings.  If you've never had Tri Tip - it's a cut of beef that originated in Santa Maria, California, (OK- it actually originated in the cow...) that is difficult to find anywhere else in the country.  At least it has been.  Obviously Chuck can get it in Arizona and I have a friend in Missouri who says she gets it there.  So I have to find me a local butcher who will cut it for me. 

Anyway - Tri Tip is a special cut that has just enough fat marbling to make it very tender when it's grilled. The flavor of the meat is what sets it apart.  It's extremely tasty and delicious.  If you can find it, leave the fat on it, season it generously with garlic powder, onion powder and course black pepper and grill it to just medium. You won't be sorry.

I made Santa Maria beans to go with it.  Another local dish from the Santa Maria valley in California, Santa Maria beans are made with pinquito beans, hamburger, chorizo, and a variety of seasonings.  I forgot to buy the pinquito beans so had to use canned but the seasonings and chorizo made them just as good.  Baked potato and sourdough bread (a must with this California meal) and dinner was on! I wanted to keep eating but my stomach finally told me enough was enough.

The next morning we got up and had coffee and Chuck presented us with our departing gifts - Tri Tip sandwiches and Greasy's famous breakfast burritos. There was enough food to keep us well fed for days. And it did!  And let me tell you - those burritos are famous for a reason and a Tri Tip sandwich is difficult to beat! 

We had to board Allie because she couldn't go with us to the hotel.  Rather than take her all the way to Las Vegas we chose a place just up the road from Chuck and Gayle's house.  We were a little apprehensive about it since Allie is 13 years old and very sensitive - but when we were in the lobby of the kennel I saw something that made me feel a little better.  As other customers brought their dogs in (it's a doggie day care center as well) the dogs were genuinely happy to be there!  They'd come in and see the staff and get all excited, wagging their tails and licking the staff members.  It was obvious they truly enjoyed being there.

Allie was naturally fearful but she went back with the staff member and we headed out.  Arden called a couple of times to make sure she was OK and they assured us she was.  Besides - she was only going to be there four days and she had her favorite rug, her own food and her chew toys.  

We made the 4-1/2 hour drive to Las Vegas, crossing the new bridge on highway 93 into Boulder City.  The new bridge is a bit of a disappointment.  To keep stupid people from slowing down (or stopping) to take pictures of the Hoover Dam they built the sidewalls of the bridge about four feet high so you can't see anything but bridge.  Don't get me wrong - I understand why they did it.  There would be constant traffic delays and accidents if people could see the dam from the bridge. But it's a shame you have to get off the highway and drive ten minutes to get to a place where you can actually see the dam. 

We didn't stop on the way in.  We decided we'd see the dam on our way out of town so we continued on into Las Vegas.  Now, I hadn't been to Vegas since 1989 and it has changed just a bit since then.  It's a huge, sprawling metropolis that stretches out in all directions.  The last time I was there McCarren Airport was on the very edge of the city.  Now it's surrounded by city.  Nellis Air Force Base was outside of town. Now the town has enveloped its Western edge and it won't be long before it is also surrounded.

It was crowded in Vegas.  I suppose it always is but there were a couple of conventions in town and the strip was packed with people.  We were staying at Circus Circus because their rooms were fairly inexpensive compared to some others.  They just finished remodeling and they're trying to rebuild their clientele so their rooms are about half the price of others in the immediate area.  

In 1989 I had taken my 4 year old son, Christopher, to Circus Circus on our way through town so he could see a couple of acts and play on the midway.  Arden thought being there might be a difficult memory for me but honestly, I couldn't remember much about it.  There was no familiarity in those hallways so it wasn't a problem.

We got checked in fairly quickly thanks to one of the couples in our group, Ed and Ann.  After waiting in line for a very long time to check in, they asked if there was a faster way for the rest of us to do it.  They arranged for "express check-in" for the rest of us so all we had to do was go to the check-out desk and mention it and we were checked in immediately - no line and no waiting.  We got up to our room, arranged some things then went down to the West Bar to meet everyone.  (We always meet in the bar.  Go figure.)  

Our group has about 20 original members plus others who have since been added because we were all in Germany together during our Air Force days.  Many of us lost touch after leaving Germany but due to the wonders of Facebook we were able to reconnect.  Our first two reunions drew most of the original 20 but this year there were only eleven of us - including spouses.  Many of the group had other obligations this year and couldn't join us.  But that didn't stop us from having a great time!

To be continued....

Conservative - Not Republican

Today's vote on the Senate bill is a good example of why I am not a Republican but a conservative.  The Republicans in the House were finally doing what their constituents elected them to do - standing up to Obama and the Democrats.  The few true conservatives in the Senate stood with their colleagues in the House and said "NO" to Obamacare.  They were immediately attacked - but not just by Democrats.  They were attacked by the establishment Republicans - the old guard who worked with the Democrats today to give President Obama what he wanted.  John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, John Cornyn... and a host of others.  Of the 46 Republicans in the Senate only 18 had the courage to vote for their constituents.  (To his credit, John Cornyn actually voted against the bill today.  I'm not sure why.)

For two weeks Harry Reid and the Democrats have been screaming for the House to send them a "clean bill" that funded the government but with no added language or expenditures.  Yet the bill passed today by both houses includes a $174,000 payment to the widow of former Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who died in June at the age of 89.  (In 2011 the Lautenbergs were multi-millionaires.)  It also includes $2 billion for Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky. Imagine - McConnell agrees to a deal with Harry Reid and gets $2 billion in earmarks.  Hard to believe, huh?

During the shut down Senator Reid and other Democrats, including the President and his mouthpiece, Jay Carney, have continuously used ugly and violent rhetoric when speaking of the Republicans.  They were called terrorists, suicide bombers, arsonists, hostage takers, etc., - all those things President Obama said shouldn't be said about each other after the Gabby Giffords' shooting.  But Jay Carney repeatedly said the Republicans are holding America hostage and said "the President will not negotiate when the Republicans are holding a gun to his head." I never once heard the President chastise any Democrat for their tone and language.  So much for toning down the rhetoric, huh Mr. President?

Today the Republicans without spines showed their true colors.  Each of them who ran for re-election in 2010 on the platform of repealing Obamacare today proved they care more for their own careers than they do for the people who elected them.  They proved it over and over last week when they attacked Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul - three Senators who are actually keeping their campaign promises.  I'm so disgusted with John McCain and Lindsay Graham that I hope their home states recall them and kick them out of office.  It would be very pleasant to watch.

We're now stuck with Obamacare.  You know - that wonderful bill that will "cost taxpayers nothing" but in reality will cost us trillions of dollars.  The bill that will let you keep your own doctor - unless your doctor is relieved of his duties by an Obamacare insurance exchange or quits seeing patients because he/she won't get paid appropriately.  The bill that insures that "your premiums won't go up" - unless you actually enroll.  The bill that allows exchanges to sell policies in which the annual deductible can be up to $12,000 a year.  The bill that will "allow all Americans to get health insurance" - except for those 30 million who won't be able to get it.  The bill that requires you pay a small "tax" if you don't have health insurance.  When in reality it's a fine that increases exponentially as the years go by.  And the bill for which President Obama has given countless waivers and has delayed many portions - except the part where you must begin paying a tax if you don't have it - even if you can't get into the computer program to enroll because it doesn't work!

Yeah - Obamacare is great.  With all the good things I listed above I can't imagine anything that could go wrong.  Can you?