Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

It's difficult to believe that 2013 is over. It seems like it just got here. There have been numerous incidents and occurrences that have kept the government in the news - both here at home and abroad. What would my blog be if I didn't talk about them on this last day of the year?

The first and largest incident actually happened in 2011, but since it began with lies by the Obama administration, proceeded with cover-ups by the Obama administration, and culminated earlier this year with Hillary Clinton saying "What difference, at this point, does it make?", I am including the murders in Benghazi on this list. Four Americans died, the Obama administration lied and as yet, those witnesses who were on the ground at the time have not been made available in Congressional hearings. In fact, those witnesses who work for the CIA have been subjected to frequent polygraph exams to determine whether or not they have been talking to anyone about the incident. The Obama administration will not tell the truth about it nor will it allow the truth to be made known. They won't even say what Obama did that night while he was conspicuously absent from the situation room.

Over the past weekend the New York Times published an article which said based on their investigation the incident was not terror related and was, in fact, caused by "the video." Even the Obama administration gave up on that lie by the end of 2011. But Hillary Clinton will be running for President in 2016 and Benghazi will be one of her greatest failures - unless the biased mainstream media can turn that failure around before the campaign officially begins.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden released classified information that informed Americans they were being spied upon by the NSA. Whether or not Snowden is a traitor remains to be seen but the most interesting thing here is that the President denied any knowledge of the program, in which the NSA is maintaining data files of millions of telephone calls made in the United States under the premise that it is monitoring them for national security reasons. One federal court ruled the NSA was in violation of the 4th amendment but recently an appeals court judge reversed that decision and said it was perfectly legal. In the meantime the NSA has built a huge data collection center where they are storing all of those phone records.

It was discovered in 2013 that Eric Holder's Justice Department was investigating journalists at the Associated Press, monitoring phone information and even targeting FOX News reporter James Rosen and his parents - snooping through their e-mails. Of course, President Obama and Eric Holder denied any knowledge of these actions - even though Holder himself signed off on the paperwork.

It was also discovered earlier this year that the Internal Revenue Service was intentionally targeting conservative political action groups who were seeking tax exempt status and had been. They were delaying those requests to prevent the groups from becoming legally active before the 2012 election. The Obama administration once again denied knowledge of these actions even though he had numerous private meetings with the head of the IRS just before it began. Then they tried to say it was 'a few rogue agents in Cincinnati who were responsible and that they acted on their own. Then several top IRS officials resigned.

The Affordable Care Act registration began on October 1st and was a whopping failure. The website crashed within a day and still is not working at a 100% level. (The administration said "Too many people tried to access it at the same time," which was ridiculous since on Black Friday Amazon's website handled three and a half million items ordered on site, at a rate of around 41 items per second. A properly designed website could have easily handled the few hundred thousand hits.) President Obama, of course, said he didn't know the website wasn't going to work properly.

From the time the ACA bill was signed into law until October of this year, President Obama went around the country telling everyone "If you like your current plan you can keep it. Period." and "If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. Period." Then, when the Obamacare rollout began in October, insurance companies began cancelling policies that didn't comply with the ACA law. More than 6 million policies have been cancelled so far and it is estimated that by next year it could be as high as 100 million, when employer based policies are cancelled as well.

The Obama administration and Democrat politicians say these plans were inferior and no good - regardless of what the actual consumer felt about it. Most of those who had plans cancelled will be paying more for a new policy through Obamacare and will be forced to have certain coverage (birth control, mammogram, etc.) that they don't need. (A 67 year old man doesn't need birth control or mammogram coverage.)

When the President's numbers began dropping and Democrats up for re-election began feeling public opinion turning against them because of Obamacare, President Obama did something he seems to be getting good at. He unilaterally changed the law - something he has no authority to do. He authorized insurance companies to reinstate those so-called "inferior plans" if they wished and encouraged companies to offer more of them.

The insurance companies, after scrambling for three years to comply with the law, were reluctant to reverse things so, of course, Obama, Democrats and the mainstream media demonized them. And they still do it occasionally.

The Obamacare website contract was awarded to a Canadian company (after only one bid - a violation of federal law) of which one of the top officials is the husband of Michelle Obama's old college chum. (The couple visited the White House last Christmas.) That company had been fired by the Canadian government for producing inferior products.

Enrollment in Obamacare has been far below the numbers expected (and needed) by the Obama administration. One million people have enrolled according to the White House however, they often include people who have filled out the paperwork without actually purchasing anything in their numbers. They need 7 million by March to make the program successful - something that seems doubtful at this time. We shall see.

One Democrat Representative said the other day that the reason enrollment is so low is because Republicans have convinced the American people that they have repealed the law. Really? My question for her is "Do you really believe the American people are that stupid or are you proving your own stupidity with that statement?" I'll let you decide the answer.

Just a month or so ago the President's Kenyan-born uncle Omar, living illegally in Framingham, Massachusetts for over 10 years, was granted amnesty by an immigration court - much like his aunt in New York was several years ago. The White House was asked about Obama's uncle following Omar's 2011 DUI arrest and they said Obama didn't know him and hadn't ever had contact with him. This year, when Omar was once again in the news, the White House was asked again about Obama's contact with his uncle Omar. Apparently they had information that Obama did indeed know the man. White House Fabrication Secretary, Jay Carney, admitted that President Obama had actually lived with Omar when he first attended Harvard. When asked why they lied about it in 2011, Carney replied "We didn't lie. No one ever actually asked the President about it."

The President has been really busy this year denying knowledge of pretty much everything. It makes one wonder what it is he actually does. He certainly isn't running the country if he doesn't know anything that's going on. Maybe "running it into the ground" is a better phrase to describe the Obama Presidency. Either way, if he has no knowledge of what's going on in his own administration why do we need him? That's like having two Joe Bidens in the White House.

On a personal note - Arden and I celebrated our first anniversary in August. I'm not only a very happy man but a very lucky one. She is everything I want and need and I thank God for her every day.

My book was finally published and many of you have read it. I have received wonderful reviews and comments about it and I thank each and every one of you who took the time to read it. In 2014 I hope to add a little bit to it.

After the death of his mother in 2010, Christopher's grandparents in Oklahoma gave me some of his things that his mother had saved. Included in those were two packets of letters that had been written to her (and in some cases to both of us) by students and teachers at Christopher's high school. They were heartfelt personal notes about Christopher, what they liked about him and what they missed about him. The book was already completed at that time but earlier this year I began looking at them and decided they should have been, and need to be included in the book. I talked to my publisher about it and they like the idea. When I finish my current project I will write another chapter or two for the original book and include at least some of the letters so people can read them. The book will be re-released when that is done. I can't promise your money back for the first one but can promise the letters will be something you'll enjoy.

This is my 288th post this year. I have had just over 23,000 page views on my blog this year. Thank you. It's always gratifying to know people actually read what I write. 2014 already promises to be a great year for political posts. We have an election coming up. The campaign lies will be starting soon after the first of the year and the media bias will become even more blatant.  I can't wait!

For my liberal/Democrat friends and acquaintances...  

I wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2014 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere.  Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To my conservative/Republican friends and acquaintances...  

Happy New Year and may God bless you all.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Political Ramblings On A Sunday Afternoon...

With apologies to 'Jay and the Americans'....

Taxes are going up...
Something the President denied
He lied....  He lied.

"The debt won't increase..."
Something the CBO decried....
He lied.....   He lied.

About the only thing the President promised about Obamacare is that insurance companies have been forced to cover those with pre-existing conditions. Not that I'm against that particular thing. I think people who are ill should be able to get either insurance or assistance from the government if insurance is not an option. Forcing the insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions only forces consumer prices to increase. So I personally believe the government should assist those with pre-existing conditions. Some may disagree.

Speaking of Obamacare - I went to pick up a prescription for my wife yesterday at the pharmacy. She's been on this particular medication for just over two years. It has always been $40 each time, after insurance. Yesterday I was told her insurance was no longer paying the same amount for this medication and her cost has gone up 200%. Her cost is now $120.

I heard a report yesterday that said 41% of Americans who receive Obamaphones aren't properly vetted as to income or other requirements before receiving them.  The stores that issue Obamaphones are supposed to verify that the person receiving the phone meets the qualifications set up by the government. But those stores receive monetary compensation for every phone they issue so they often skip the qualifications verification and issue the phones to anyone to get their compensation.

Basically this means we, the taxpayers, are shelling out big bucks to give free phones to people who aren't supposed to receive them. Like many other things going on in the Obama administration there seems to be little oversight for the Obamaphone program.  

Finally, it occurred to me that the new budget bill is rather like Obamacare in at least one way. The bill is going to cut billions from military retirees, much like the billions cut from medicare, but those cuts won't take effect until 2016. You have to love our politicians that screw us over but they make sure it doesn't happen for a while - so we have time to forget about it until it actually happens.

I'm really tired of politicians that make promises then don't deliver. I guess that's the reason I like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Lee so much. They are doing exactly what they said they would do in Washington regardless of what the Republican establishment says to or about them. I would include Marco Rubio in that group but his flip-flopping on immigration reform has me a little concerned. He may be added at a later date depending on what he does from here on.

2014 promises to be interesting if nothing else. Predictions now are that Republicans could take the Senate in November. I think if they play their cards right and don't pull any punches during their campaigns that's a very real possibility. The Obama administration and Harry Reid have given Republicans all the ammunition they need to win in 2014 and 2016 - as long as they don't run cowardly campaigns like McCain and Romney did. Tell the truth about Obamacare and the Democrats and 2014 should be in the bag. Tell the truth about the Obama administration's failures and Hillary Clinton and 2016 shouldn't be a problem either.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

GLAAD Resorts To Lying In Response To A&E's Decision

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) took a direct hit yesterday when A&E announced they were reinstating Phil Robertson on their "Duck Dynasty" show. Mr. Robertson had been suspended from the show over some comments he made about homosexuality in his now famous GQ interview. Mr. Robertson also said he never personally saw black people mistreated in the South during the pre-civil rights era.

In their anger toward A&E's decision, GLAAD resorted to fabricating statements made by Phil Robertson and posting them.

"Phil Robertson should look African American and gay people in the eyes and hear about the hurtful impact of praising Jim Crow laws and comparing gay people to terrorists. If dialogue with Phil is not part of next steps then A+E has chosen profits over African American and gay people – especially its employees and viewers."

Phil Robertson did neither of those things. He shared his personal beliefs about homosexuality and made statements about what he saw growing up. Not once did he praise Jim Crow laws or compare gay people to terrorists. And for GLAAD to post ridiculous falsehoods because they're angry is shameful. When an activist organization begins lying to further their cause they lose any credibility they may have had.

I applaud A&E for reinstating Phil Robertson. Fans of the show will be very happy. (By the way - I don't watch it and never have.) I would have also been impressed if A&E tossed profits to the wind and caved in to GLAAD and other minority groups and stood on the principles they stated at the beginning of this controversy. That would have been a courageous thing to do.

They didn't reinstate Robertson for the fans. In the end they made a sound business decision and reinstated Robertson so the show could go on and the advertising profits could continue. After all - a TV network is a for-profit business. And "Duck Dynasty" is extremely profitable.

To GLAAD I would say - keep fighting the fight but fight it honestly. And stop trying to stifle free speech with which you disagree. The American people who disagree with you don't try to stop you from expressing your ideas and beliefs. You should have the same tolerance for them.

Friday, December 27, 2013

It's A Dog's Life....

Our two dogs normally have a routine first thing in the morning. Gizmo, my little Rat Terrier, gets out of his bed at first light, jumps up on our bed and lays down beside me until I get up. Allie, Arden's Rottweiler, sleeps in her spot on the bed. It often seems her spot is wherever she wants to be, but mostly she lies on the left corner of the bed near Arden's feet. (This has been her spot for a number of years - long before Arden and I got together.) It works out OK.

Both dogs wait for us to get up and they follow us out to the kitchen where we have our coffee and they go outside for the first time of the day. They come back in ready for breakfast, often inquiring (in their own doggie way) why their breakfast isn't ready for them. They eat and go back outside for a while, then get their chew toys/treats and settle down for their naps. Gizmo has a second bed in the living area of the house and Allie has her favorite rug. (We bought Allie a nice, big dog bed but she refuses to use it.)

Lately, since the weather has changed and it's cold outside, their routine has changed a bit. Allie still sleeps on the bed and Gizmo still sleeps in his own bed - most of the time, anyway. Sometimes he joins me earlier - probably because he's cold. (Gizmo has color dilution alopecia - an inherited condition normally found in blue or fawn colored dogs - that causes hair loss. He's mostly naked.) He gets cold easily.

The big change is that these days when Arden and I get up and go to the kitchen, the dogs both stay on the bed until they're ready to join us. Sometimes it's half an hour before they decide it's time to get up. Once they do the routine settles back into its normal pattern - outside, breakfast, outside, chew toys, naps. Gizmo occasionally goes to the door, feels the cold air coming in and looks at me with eyes that say "I ain't going out there." So I put his little hoodie on him and make him go anyway. He hates the hoodie but it keeps him warm and he's able to stay out longer.

Yeah - our dogs have tough lives. They sleep when and where they want, tell us when they're hungry or want to go outside, get treats several times a day and bark at our neighbors and their dogs when they walk by on the street. Life is hard for a dog. Just look at Gizmo's face...

The Knockout Game, The DOJ And Hate Crimes

This will be a sensitive topic. But it's one that needs to be discussed openly and rationally, free of the emotion that can easily accompany it. And that's not always easy to do.

Twenty-seven year old Conrad Alvin Barrett, a white man, was recently arrested and charged with a hate crime in Houston, Texas, after assaulting a 79 year old black man in the town of Fulshear, videotaping it with his phone, then bragging about it to the wrong person. Barrett apparently showed the video to an unknown couple in a restaurant, telling them what happened. The male in the couple was an off-duty arson investigator and peace officer. He left the restaurant, contacted a police officer and identified Barrett. The officer initiated an investigation, confiscating the phone and reviewing the video, which led to the arrest.

Barrett apparently said on the video that he
 "wanted to see if I were to hit a black person, would this be nationally televised?” The video allegedly shows him getting out of his car, approaching the old man and asking, “How’s it going, man?” — before you hear a loud smack and the victim falls to the ground.

"Barrett laughs, says ‘knockout,’ and then flees,” the FBI affidavit says.

In other videos, the FBI said, Mr. Barrett makes racial remarks and says blacks “haven’t fully experienced the blessing of evolution.”

Justice Department officials said they charged Barrett to make a point about hate crimes. 
“Suspected crimes of this nature will simply not be tolerated,” said Kenneth Magidson, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas. “Evidence of hate crimes will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted with the assistance of all our partners to the fullest extent of the law.”

And you know what? I have no problem with it whatsoever. From everything I've read this was certainly a hate crime directed at a black man because he was black.  (The fact that he's 79 simply proves Barrett is a coward as well.)

No, the problem here is that of the hundreds of reported knockout game incidents around the country over the last couple of years most of the attackers have been black and most of the victims have been Caucasian or Asian. Only one black assailant has been charged with a hate crime out of those hundreds of cases. So what gives?

Eric Holder has often been accused of executing the duties of Attorney General with racial bias. From his refusal to prosecute members of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation to his unprecedented nationwide plea for anything and everything he could use against George Zimmerman after Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, Holder appears to have animosity toward prosecuting black people in federal court - particularly in high profile cases. He also seems to pick and choose cases according to his own will rather than federal statutes.

I don't know Eric Holder's heart. All I know is what I see. If there have been three hundred cases of the knockout game being prosecuted, 95% of them black on white (not actual statistics), and only two have become hate crime cases - one white and one black assailant - wouldn't that be a bit disproportionate?

These hate crimes are being ignored and even covered up by the main stream media. Major affiliates such as ABC, CBS and NBC, report the incidents without mentioning the skin colors or ethnicities of the attackers and/or the victims - even though they are clearly discernible from the videos and the police reports. Those who do report those important facts are labeled racists and profilers. Apparently in today's (overly) politically correct society reporting the whole truth is racist.

It's only going to get worse in my humble opinion. I believe very soon we will see an increase in violent responses to these crimes. People in areas where the knockout game is popular will begin arming themselves and we will see either retaliation or vigilantism...  or both. And you can bet those who respond with violence will be the ones charged because that's how Eric Holder rolls.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

GLAAD, Tolerance And Free Speech...

If you've been following the story of the Duck Dynasty gang and Phil Robertson being suspended from the show for comments he made in a GQ interview concerning homosexuality. Phil made his beliefs and his reason for those beliefs pretty clear. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and many in the LGBT community took offense to what he said and in fact, GLAAD made a public statement concerning Robertson and those who support the show.

Today's post isn't about Phil Robertson and/or A&E but about freedom of speech and those who would take it away from you.

GLAAD is an organization that does not believe in free speech unless your speech echoes their beliefs. They have proved it in their response to Robertson's remarks.

“We believe the next step is to use this as an opportunity for Phil to sit down with gay families in Louisiana and learn about their lives and the values they share,” the spokesman said.

In other words - "We must change your thinking to match ours because we will not tolerate your disagreement with us.

GLAAD is also currently researching companies who use Robertson as a spokesperson to launch campaigns against them in an effort to further stifle free speech.

“I don’t think this is about the first amendment,” said a GLAAD spokesman. “I feel it’s more about the America we live in today. That is one where Americans, gay and straight, are able to speak out when people in the public eye make anti-gay and racist remarks.”

Of course, whether or not Phil Robertson's remarks were anti-gay is a matter of opinion - unless you're GLAAD. Robertson bases his beliefs on the Bible and stated so. (GLAAD said he was interpreting the Bible wrong...) He wasn't name calling; he wasn't putting any particular person or group of people down. He was expressing his lack of understanding and personal distaste for the gay lifestyle. And guess what? People in this country currently have the right to their own ideas and opinions and have the right to express them publicly - even those in "the public eye".

More than 70,000 people so far have signed the online petition asking A&E to drop the suspension of Phil Robertson. Cracker Barrel restaurant removed all Duck Dynasty merchandise from their store shelves to make a stand with GLAAD - until the backlash from customers got so bad they reversed the decision and put all the merchandise back out.

“It just means we still have a lot of work to do,” the GLAAD spokesman said.

“Silence is agreement in this case,” he said. “With such egregious anti-gay and racist comments, those companies that choose to be affiliated with this family need to speak out.”

And if, like Cracker Barrel, those other companies refuse to be controlled by GLAAD and other activist organizations - what then?

It doesn't matter how you feel about people who are different from you if you treat them with respect. Phil Robertson could have kept quiet during the interview when asked what he thought was sinful in today's world. But gee - GLAAD says silence is agreement. GLAAD believes they have a right to voice their own beliefs whether or not they might offend others. So if Phil Robertson keeps quiet it indicates his agreement with GLAAD and goes against his own personal and religious beliefs.

How can one person or group (GLAAD/LGBT) express their personal ideas and beliefs with which others disagree but refuse to allow another person or group (Robertson, etc.) to voice an opposing view? Wait - I know... it's intolerance. The same intolerance of which the first group accuses the second.

Like it or not, real tolerance goes both ways (no pun intended.) If you demand tolerance of your ideas, beliefs and even lifestyles then you must tolerate those of others - even if you disagree with them. If not - you're the one with the problem.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Shame On You A&E!

Nope. It's not what some of you are thinking. I'm not talking about the suspension of Phil Robertson - at least not directly. I believe they were wrong for doing it (and I'll get into that further down) but if they have a clause in the contract about employees not doing anything that detracts from the company image then it is perfectly within their right to suspend or fire him. As was pointed out in an article yesterday - there is a difference in legal freedom of speech and doing something that violates your contract. (Of course - we don't know what the contract says or if he will be fired. That's still up in the air.)

The reason I say "Shame on you A&E" is because of what they're doing since the suspension of Phil Robertson. Just days after they did it the network is showing back to back episodes of Duck Dynasty on Sunday, beginning at 7pm and running consecutively until 4am Monday. Are they serious about their dissolution with Phil? He's in every show they're going to run. They're going to make advertising dollars from each show. So I guess their displeasure with what Phil said doesn't take precedence over making the big bucks from the most popular show on TV. (It is my understanding they ran back to back shows last night as well but I can't verify that.) Can you say "hypocrite?"

Another part of the same article said that Phil Robertson's suspension for what he said was no different than Martin Bashir being forced to resign from MSNBC or Alec Baldwin being fired from the same network for what they said. And that would be wrong as well.

Phil Robertson made the controversial remarks in an interview with GQ magazine. The interview had nothing to so with the show except for the fact that if he wasn't on the show they would have no reason to interview him. The article itself seemed suspiciously like a hit piece to me - "let's get him to say something we can sensationalize." That's just my opinion. And he was suspended before the magazine issue even hit the newsstands.

Martin Bashir used his TV show to attack and say vulgar things about a specific person - Sarah Palin. That alone makes it completely different. And it still took MSNBC two weeks to do anything about it - probably for the same reason - it was Sarah Palin. That network's pundits have long been attacking her without repercussion.

Alec Baldwin was fired immediately for calling a reporter names which were seen as derogatory against gays. In this politically correct world it seems you must be careful what words you choose depending on who it is you want to insult or attack. If you're attacking a Christian or a conservative it's apparently not as big a deal as if you're attacking Muslims, gays and lesbians or a liberal politician.

Should Baldwin have been fired for something he said on the street that had nothing to do with the network that employed him? I don't know. It's not like MSNBC didn't know Alec Baldwin had a history of gay slurs. He's been in the news more than once for it.

In the same way - A&E knew who Phil Robertson was and I have no doubt they knew what his beliefs are about homosexuality. But in this politically correct world where no one is supposed to say anything that offends anyone, (unless you're attacking Christians or conservatives, that is) voicing a personal opinion to anyone can get you in trouble.

Apparently A&E isn't quite willing to put its money where its beliefs are. Suspending Phil Robertson and then continuing to air marathon episodes of the show he's on is hypocritical at best. Do they have the right to do it? Certainly. Should they be complaining about Phil Robertson and still making money from him? I guess that's a decision you have to make for yourself.

A&E's statement concerning Robertson was ""We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series 'Duck Dynasty'," the network said in a statement.

"His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

They should have added one more sentence...  "We will continue to make as much money as possible from Robertson and his family while he is suspended."

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bush Haters Are Slipping...

Yesterday I came across the following picture:

To my knowledge, President George W. Bush has done more to help our wounded warriors and to make them feel special than any other President in history. He gives them his time. He runs with them; he bikes 100 miles with them every year; 

he visits them in hospitals;

he even dances with them.

No matter what President Obama does during and after his Presidency - you will never see him do this. George W. Bush has a special love for our troops and for what they do and have done for our country. President Obama has never been in the military and doesn't like our military - regardless of how good they make him look.

Something that occurred to me when I saw the first picture was - the Bush haters haven't attacked Bush for his devotion to our wounded warriors. One can't help but wonder why. I can hear the comments now from those who simply can't stop hating Bush...

"Look at him - taking advantage of those poor guys by running with two legs. He should have his legs blown off...."

To them I would say "What have you done to help them?"

It truly hurts me to think some people in this country feel that way but I know I'm not wrong. The hatred that some on the left have for Bush goes beyond reason. Five years into President Obama's regime and Bush haters are still blaming Bush for the condition of the country and the problems we currently have. And that's a mental disorder.

I can't help but wonder if President Obama will ever be held accountable for any of the fiascoes that occurred on his watch. Benghazi, the AP phone records scandal, IRS targeting of conservatives, Fast and Furious, the Obamacare debacle, NSA spying, the law Obama signed giving him the authority to indefinitely detain American citizens on his say so...

Bush haters like to say Bush took away their rights with the Patriot Act. Obama has tripled the number of rights that were taken away from American citizens (just like he has increased the debt) and yet those same people praise him. It's truly unbelievable - even as I watch it happen.

Yup - the Bush haters are missing out on a great opportunity to malign him. I mean - where are the comments about him riding a bicycle 100 miles with the wounded warriors for a photo op? Geez - have you all laid down or something?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Practiced Art Of Blatant Intolerance

This one will be controversial. I hope it stirs open, honest discussion. There will be some, I'm sure, who believe that because I support Phil Robertson's right to voice an opinion that I must hate the gay and lesbian community. Nothing could be further from the truth. And that's the point of this post.

Phil Robertson, the outspoken head of the family on "Duck Dynasty", a very successful reality show on A&E, has been suspended from the show for comments he made to GQ Magazine concerning homosexuality and his own personal and religious beliefs.

Robertson, who is a self-described Bible thumper, believes homosexuality is wrong and is in direct contradiction to the Bible and God's teachings. But because he expressed those views in a public forum he has basically been kicked off the show.

"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series 'Duck Dynasty'," the A&E network said in a statement.

"His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

The gay and lesbian rights group GLAAD was quick to criticize Robertson for his comments and called on A&E to take action.

"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe," said GLAAD rep Wilson Cruz. "He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans – and Americans - who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."

My post today isn't about whether or not homosexuality is wrong. It's a very complex subject of discussion and can be emotional on all sides. And my personal thoughts on it won't change anyone's mind one way or another. No, my post is about tolerance and intolerance. The definition of intolerance is: "unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one's own." There is a huge difference between accepting someone's views, beliefs and behavior and agreeing with or embracing them.

Wickipedia defines acceptance as: "a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it." Most people in the world, including Phil Robertson, accept the views, beliefs and behavior of others. What choice is there? It's real life and it's not going away. But there is nothing in the definition of acceptance that says "agree with or embrace that reality, process or condition." It's not intolerant to disagree with someone or something based on your own personal or religious beliefs.

I didn't see anything in Phil Robertson's interview that said he was trying to change anyone. I saw a man who expressed his love for God, his love for all people and his belief in the Bible. In today's liberal society Phil Robertson's beliefs are labeled "intolerant" even though they in no way meet the definition of the word.

In Robertson's own words: “I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior,” he said in a statement sent to a local Louisiana TV station.

“My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together.

"However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

His last sentence no doubt will be used by GLAAD and others to justify their beliefs and contradict him. And regardless of what some might want you to believe - voicing an opinion, such as Robertson did in an interview, is not disrespectful. He didn't name any names or single anyone out. He voiced his ideas and beliefs. And in this country, at least for now, that's freedom of speech.

And let me get this straight in my head...  GLAAD is making a blanket statement about what true Christians believe? I can't help but wonder where their spokesperson got that authority. It seems in their eyes you're only a "true Christian" if you accept and embrace whatever they believe and if you don't you're either not a Christian or you're intolerant. Or both. (I wonder when they got the authority to decide who and who isn't a Christian? And does God know about it?)

I see intolerance here. I see intolerance for anyone who voices disagreement with liberal beliefs. I see intolerance of a man who disagrees with certain aspects of society that he believes go against the teachings of the Bible. I see intolerance by a television network of a man who has helped to make them millions of dollars. They knew who they were hiring. They knew about the family's strong religious beliefs. And even though they tried to stop the family from praying at the end of the show, (because some groups may be intolerant of it) they recognized the financial loss if the family refused to be a part of the show anymore.

It's the liberal left that's intolerant. It's a practiced art. They scream at anyone who disagrees with them, calling them names and trying to make them back down, all the while pretending they are the ones who accept and embrace anything. They accept and embrace pretty much anything - except those who disagree with them.

Personally, I hope the Robertson family rallies around Phil and tells A&E they quit and to go suck eggs. Duck eggs to be exact....

The President Did Not Lie... That Time

In November of 08, then President-elect Barack Obama spoke about spending and budgeting and said he would control excess government spending.

The President said to make the necessary investments to create jobs "we also have to shed the spending we don't need." 

"In these challenging times, when we are facing both rising deficits and a sinking economy, budget reform is not an option. It is an imperative," Obama said. "We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politicians, lobbyists, or interest groups. We simply cannot afford it. This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my new team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges.... We will go through our federal budget – page by page, line by line – eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way."

Since then many Americans, at least those who aren't enamored with Obama, believe he lied about that particular issue because he hasn't done it. Spending and borrowing have only increased. Pork spending has increased and our debt has nearly doubled under Obama's "leadership."

So people think he lied. As much as I hate to do it - I must defend him on that. He didn't lie. You can't exactly go over a budget page by page, line by line, looking for excess spending when YOU HAVEN'T HAD A BUDGET IN YOUR ENTIRE FIVE YEARS IN OFFICE!

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 requires the President to submit his budget request for the upcoming fiscal year no later than the first Monday of February and it is supposed to pass and be approved each fiscal year by October 1st. I can't fault President Obama for not having a budget on time. Many Presidents before him failed to have a budget by the required time limit - mostly because the House couldn't agree on the various spending items. But to my knowledge, never in the history of the United States has an administration failed to approve and pass a budget for an four year term in office and the first year into his second term.

President Obama promised over and over that he would create jobs. President Obama spent nearly $1 trillion on "shovel ready jobs" only to later joke that "shovel ready weren't as shovel ready as we expected." In other words - "I lied to you so I could spend your money." That's where the lie was told. There were no jobs.

The President did, however, create some jobs. He increased the number of IRS jobs by about 13,000 to monitor and enforce his health care mandate. In all other areas, particularly green energy, he has failed miserably. Perhaps Obama should go back to what he does best - community organizing. That way his incompetence will only effect a neighborhood rather than the entire country.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Too Rich To Go To Jail....?

Last week I wrote about Ethan Crouch - a 16 year old kid here in Fort Worth, Texas, who killed four people and critically injured two more while driving drunk. Crouch plead guilty to the charges and, in exchange, got a sentence of 10 years probation. He killed four people and got 10 years probation.

In my original post I said I thought he should have at least gone to a juvenile detention facility until he was 21 so that he understands that all actions have consequences. Instead, the judge ordered him into rehab and his parents sent him off to a posh, expensive facility somewhere in California. Not such a terrible punishment for multiple murder.

Last week I didn't think Crouch should go to prison for 20 years - the penalty he was facing during trial. But now I'm not so sure. I have learned since then that just a few months before the fatal accident, Crouch was arrested for a DUI and at that time he had a 14 year old girl, passed out drunk and undressed, on the seat next to him. Apparently his parents did nothing about it.

Crouch's defense attorney claimed Crouch was a victim of "afluenza" - a rich kid with no boundaries and therefore he wasn't at fault for the deaths of the four victims and his friend being paralyzed from the neck down. It seems the judge must have bought the defense (or the defense bought the judge) because she decided Crouch wouldn't get appropriate therapy in prison. That may very well be true but what 16 year old kid of average income would get that kind of break?

Maybe judge Jean Boyd was thinking more as a mom than a judge. I have no idea. And one can only guess that the DUI charge was probably inadmissible in the case. Again - who knows? But after researching the case a little it is my opinion that this kid literally got away with murder.

Only the judge herself knows why she handed out the slap on the wrist to Ethan Crouch. Maybe she feels like prison will destroy his life. Maybe the kid's parents got to her. Maybe she's just a liberal judge who doesn't believe in prison.

Maybe she should consider the family members of the victims instead.

As I said - any other kid of average means most likely would have gone straight to a juvenile facility. Ethan Crouch gets the second chance at life that his victims didn't get.

If his attorney said it was his parents' fault and the judge seemingly agreed - what charges do the parents face? Want to bet the answer is "none"? One can't help but wonder if they contributed to the judge's campaign...

The one good thing about all of this is that Judge Boyd has said she will not seek re-election. Her term expires on December 31st and she won't be running again. I think that's a good thing. Except maybe for the next "Ethan Crouch."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Christmas Inspiration From An Interesting Source

The other day a friend of mine in Florida posted the following statement as his Facebook status:

"For my birthday this year I want to do something for someone else. I want donate my time, money or both to feeding or clothing the less fortunate."

My friend Justin is a man I don't know that well. We worked together in Crystal River, Florida, a couple of years ago. In fact, when he received a promotion I was fortunate enough to move into his position. But I never spent any time with him away from work. He's really more of an acquaintance than a true friend.

Justin is an interesting character to say the least. He's big - about 6'3" or 6'4", heavy set, and somewhat quiet if you don't know him well. He's a very serious man at work - all about business. Oh, he has his fun moments but as I said - if you don't know him well you'd think he never laughed and barely smiled when he's working. That was my impression, anyway.

Don't get me wrong - I've always known Justin was a good guy - even if he is difficult to get acquainted with. I don't want anyone to think I'm necessarily surprised by what he did. I'm not surprised but I am impressed. I'm learning there is a side to Justin that I don't know at all. His statement above showed me that. And the fact that he followed up on it and is making good on what he said just verifies it. Yesterday, Justin went out and bought canned goods, kitchen items, laundry items, etc., in bulk, and is taking them to a local shelter for domestic abuse this morning.  Today is his birthday and instead of making it about him he's doing exactly what he said - sharing what he has with those who are less fortunate.

Unless something has changed Justin is not a rich man - at least financially. But I'm guessing as of this morning Justin is far more wealthy in spirit and definitely in kindness through his act of selflessness. What an inspirational thing it is to give to others without expecting anything in return. I got to experience that same feeling a few years ago when I went to a homeless shelter on New Year's Day and helped serve meals to hundreds of homeless and downtrodden citizens of Miami.

Thank you, Justin, for reminding me that doing things for others is important not just at Christmas but every day.

This Christmas I would challenge any of you who are able to do something for someone you don't know. Christmas is about receiving life through the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ but it's also about giving - giving of gifts, of love, of money, of your time. Often the most heartfelt gift can be that of simply giving your time to a charity or organization that can use the help. 

After all, it was Jesus Himself who said "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Ongoing Saga That Is George Zimmerman...

George Zimmerman, the "white Hispanic" who was acquitted last year of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that drew worldwide attention, is in the news again.

If you've read my blog posts about the Zimmerman/Martin case you'll know that I initially believed the media reports that Zimmerman stalked Martin that cold, rainy night and shot him for no valid reason. Then, as real facts were revealed, such as the unaltered 911 recording, Martin's history and true size, Zimmerman's very real injuries, etc., I realized that he was most likely telling the truth about what happened. Working as a neighborhood watch captain, he followed Martin through the neighborhood because of some recent burglaries in his gated community. Martin was a stranger and Zimmerman wanted to see what he was up to. He called 911 and reported Martin as a suspicious character.

NBC employees altered the recording of that call to make it sound like Zimmerman was stalking a black teenager - which was revealed not to be true when the actual audiotape was released. NBC apologized and fired an employee over the incident but the damage had been done. The case became a racial issue immediately and it still is.

Because of his name, Zimmerman was immediately labeled as white, which fueled the racial issue. When it was discovered he was actually Hispanic, some media outlets, intent on continuing the racial aspect to increase racial division and keep the story at the top of the news, labeled him as a "white Hispanic".

Eventually, after months of racial outrage led by the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and an investigation by a special prosecutor (who's ethics were questioned after the trial) the case went to court. The prosecutors couldn't prove their case. It was rumored that they didn't even want to take it to trial.

George Zimmerman was found not guilty by a jury. Though his life would never be normal again, he was a free man.

Flash forward to September of this year.  George Zimmerman's now ex-wife called police and said he was breaking things and had pointed a gun at her and her father and threatened them. The police responded but could find no sufficient evidence of illegal activity and his wife refused to press charges.

Then, just one week ago, Zimmerman's current girlfriend called police and said he was breaking things and had pointed a gun toward her face and threatened her. This time he was arrested and charged but the girlfriend refused to follow up and the case was dropped.

To me it appears that George Zimmerman has a problem. I still don't believe he killed Trayvon Martin out of malice or for racial reasons but I am beginning to believe, as others have said in the past, that the gun Zimmerman carries makes him more brave than he really is and that it makes him do stupid things. I now can't help but wonder if he'd have followed Martin into the night had he not been armed. Threatening domestic partners with it makes him seem unstable - which could have been a part of what happened the night he killed Martin.

Of course, this is mere speculation on my part. But Zimmerman's repeated contact with police over gun issues gives cause to think about it. Some have predicted that sooner or later George Zimmerman will end up in jail for something. I'm starting to agree with them.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Attack On Christianity In The USA Is Real

I get my ideas for my blog posts mostly from the news.  Occasionally, as with my post about the wonderful Christmas displays yesterday, I write about a personal experience or thought. But with so many things in the news that are pertinent and controversial - it's really easy most days to find a topic or two.  Today's blog will be about a couple of things I saw on TV Thursday night.

In the heart of Times Square is a large electronic billboard that at the current time is being used by "Atheists.org" to tell people they don't need Christ to have Christmas. The billboard reads "Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody." The word Christ is marked out with an X. 

At first I thought it was quite rude.  How dare an atheist group decide what I need? But the more I thought about it the more I realized that what they are saying is no different, freedom of speech wise that is, than Christians telling atheists that they need God and putting up billboards across the country that say that. 

I believe with all my heart they are wrong - the atheists that is - and that they do need God and Jesus. According to the Bible and the teachings of Christianity everyone needs Jesus to have salvation and eternal life. What atheists don't realize is that Christians are telling them they need Jesus not to irritate them but to save them. The difference is that atheists are telling Christians no one needs Jesus just because they don't believe He exists.  They have no other reason.  It's certainly not to save our souls. They may believe, because they don't believe He exists, that what they're saying is in our best interest but again, they'd be wrong.

I don't have the right, in this great country, to deny atheists their freedom of speech. So I won't condemn their billboard. I will say, however, that I think it's simply a bold move to draw attention to themselves.  They have no "cause" unless ridding the world of Christianity is their cause. But all but a few hardcore atheists that I've ever known or read say they don't care if I believe - that's my right. They just don't want my beliefs pushed on them.  And that's not an unreasonable request.

In other news that night - ESPN last week refused to air a commercial by the Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in Saint Louis, Missouri, because it found the words in the ad, "we celebrate the birth of Jesus" and "help us reveal God's healing presence this Christmas" to be "problematic." Bill O'Reilly, a Catholic himself, took on ESPN, a network he used to work for, saying he just didn't understand why ESPN would find the mention of God and Jesus by a Catholic hospital to be problematic. He called for one of them to appear on his show and explain their position but they refused. 

ESPN originally rejected the ad and made the hospital change it, to remove the references to Jesus and God. Sadly the hospital caved to ESPN's demands and changed the ad.  However, once O'Reilly made it public ESPN reconsidered and, Thursday night, sent O'Reilly a message that they had reviewed the original ad and they were going to run it as it was, including the references to Jesus and God. I commend ESPN for changing their minds but can't help but wonder why they refused in the first place. (A marketing strategist, a guest on O'Reilly's show, said it's because ESPN doesn't cater to Christians but to sports fans.  Does he really believe only atheists and agnostics watch sports?)

Another case that has been in the news lately is the one from Denver, Colorado, about a gay couple that sued a bakery because the owner refused to bake them a wedding cake saying it was against his religious beliefs. The judge sided with the gay couple and ordered the bakery to make the cake. Part of me understands the judge trying to prevent discrimination but does a business not have the right to decide who they will and will not serve?  Many businesses have signs that specifically say that. So does a judge have a right to order a business to serve someone? Or should he have simply found the bakery discriminated against someone based on sexual preference and fined them. Or should he have said "Sorry, but the business has that right"?

Personally, I believe the business has that right but no one asked me. It seems religious beliefs are becoming less and less legal in this country, unless you are Muslim.  No judge in the land would have ordered a Muslim business to serve a gay couple. (It's against Muslim beliefs as well.) So it's just another attack on Christians.

My main question is - why would a couple want a baker who obviously disagrees with their lifestyle to make their cake? I suppose he could be the best baker in the world but I doubt that's the reason. It seems to me they want him to make it now to show their victory over him. If that's the case then the suit and the verdict weren't about justice but revenge. If I was part of that couple I would be leery about eating the cake.  Just sayin'...

Finally - a large cross dedicated to deceased war veterans has been ordered removed from the top of Mount Soledad near San Diego, California. The cross was erected in 1954 in honor of Korean War veterans and has been the subject of near constant judicial back and forth since 1989 when two Vietnam veterans sued to have it removed saying it violated the "No Preference" clause in California's Constitution. 

The property where the cross stands is owned by the City of San Diego. The city has twice tried to sell the property  to the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, only to be stopped by the courts. In 2004 an agreement was made to move the cross to a church but a U.S. Congressman intervened and inserted language to have the land turned over to the federal government as a national veterans' memorial.  This simply lead to more lawsuits.

Finally, in 2006, the federal government seized the land through eminent domain and declared the site a "historically significant war memorial." They took possession of the land in August of that year.  Another lawsuit challenging that land transfer was filed almost immediately and, after more than six years, that lawsuit led to the ruling.

The cross hasn't been removed as of yet. Supporters of keeping the cross in place have vowed to fight on and hope to appeal the decision. They also hope to keep the cross in place during the appeal. It remains to be seen how the court will rule on that.

My question would be this. Why is a cross so offensive if you're not simply outright opposed to Christianity? I find the billboard in Times Square somewhat offensive but not to the point where I'd want to file a lawsuit to have it removed. (Not that I'd win - it was just an example.) Crosses have been used as memorials throughout the world for centuries. They have never hurt anyone and they aren't hurting anyone now - except people who seem to be so full of hatred that they must try to remove any and all crosses from their sight.

Yes, I realize the separation of church and state (which is NOT in the Constitution, by the way) and I realize the government is not allowed to promote any certain religion. But a cross as a war memorial, that has been in place for 59 years, isn't promoting religion. It's reminding people of the Korean War veterans - and maybe other veterans as well. It's only a religious symbol if you make it one.

There is definitely a war on Christianity in this country. Even the Obama administration, which is doing everything it can do to rid the federal government and the military of Christianity while promoting everything Islam, is involved in the fight. Except Obama is on the wrong side. He claims to be a Christian yet fights against it at every turn. Wonder how God is going to like that on judgement day...?

Friday, December 13, 2013

What Is It About Celebrities Lately....

...who think they're jobs in the entertainment business are similar to soldiers in a war or being a police officer on the streets?

A few weeks ago, mega-ego actor Tom Cruise compared filming his physical scenes in a movie to a soldier fighting in Afghanistan. Cruise's obviously stupid statement was laughed at by some and attacked by others, such as Mark Walberg.  Walberg, who had just finished a very physical movie in which he played Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor of a vicious and deadly ambush in Afghanistan, told a reporter "I love Tom Cruise but he needs to shut the #!%* up!"

Recently, mega-ego rap star Kanye West said that when he's on stage he puts his life on the line just like a soldier or a police officer.  Really, Kanye? A police chief in Brimfield, Ohio, took offense to West's remarks and posted an open response to him on the department's Facebook page. I have posted it below. Chief David Oliver was as polite as I'm sure he could be (and he probably had to hold back his emotions.) But I love what he said.

Dear Kanye West,

I am honored to be writing such an important star. I am a mere Internet sensation. I’m not sure I am worthy to address you, although the Huffington Post did say I was “Humorous and Insanely Popular.” I don't pay much attention to those things. Anyway, please excuse my interference in your life for a quick second.

I read your interview and also watched it on video. You said: “I’m just giving of my body on the stage and putting my life at risk, literally.….and I think about it. I think about my family and I’m like, wow, this is like being a police officer or something, in war or something.”

I want to thank you for putting your life on the line for all of us every day. I know that being a rapper is tough work. I have tried to rap, and it is very difficult to keep up with the pulse of the rhyme flow…although when Ice Ice Baby comes on the radio, I can usually keep up with ol’ Vanilla. Anywho, your job is just some very dangerous work. Most people don't consider... if you rap really fast, without a chance to inhale, you could pass out and hit your head.

That last paragraph was covered in sarcasm. I’m letting you know, just so you do not think I agree with your very ignorant assessment of your career (or any other performer) as it relates to a person in the military or a police officer’s service. You sir, are as misguided as they come. I do have a suggestion for you. Since you are accustomed to danger from your life as an international rapper, I am strongly encouraging you immediately abandon you career as a super star and join the military. After joining, I would like you to volunteer to be deployed in Afghanistan or one of the numerous other forward locations where our men an women are currently serving. When the Taliban starts shooting at you, perhaps you could stand up and let the words flow. It could be something like “I’m Kanye West, wearing a flak vest.” I’m sure they would just drop weapons and surrender. You could quite possibly end all wars, just from the enemy being star-struck.

Your line of thinking is part of the problem in the world today….which includes entertainers thinking they are something more than just entertainers. I know it is supply and demand and the demand for your services is high. I get economics. What I do not get is you EVER comparing what you do for a living to our heroic military members, who are always in harm’s way… and my brother and sister police officers who have to go to work carrying weapons and wearing a bullet-proof vest to protect themselves.

Check yourself, before you wreck yourself….Chief Oliver

Bravo, Chief! I am now going to "Friend" your department on Facebook. Since I grew up in Struthers and my dad used to live in Tallmadge I actually know where Brimfield is and have been through your pleasant little town many times. I am sure you are an inspiration to your officers and I salute you.  Thanks to you and your department for what you do each day. And thanks to Kanye West for roundaboutly making me laugh!

An Amazing Christmas Display

Yesterday around 4pm, Arden called me (she was out and about) and asked if I could be ready to leave the house in 45 minutes.  There was something downtown she wanted to show me but we were limited on time. I said OK and got ready to go.

She got home about 4:30 and we left soon after.  We headed to an old, historic church in town where a woman named Faye Landham had a Christmas display for people to come and see, free of charge. The display was a huge collection of nativity scenes she had collected from all around the world.  She has over 800 individual pieces in her display and she sets them up every year in the old church. She has been collecting nativity scenes since 1958, when she received her first one as a gift from her parents. (That would make her currently 72.) This is her 18th year displaying them to the public. And she does it out of the goodness of her heart.

This is Faye beside just one table of her collection:

Faye has nativity scenes from 82 different countries in the world. She says she has "over 800 pieces" but says she doesn't know the actual number because she says "It's difficult to keep up." She gets new pieces all the time; some she buys and others are given to her by people who have seen her display.  She even got one from an elderly woman who was dying and saw her display on a local television station. It's a simple cast iron creche, about 3x2x5, painted with bright colors.  She says it probably cost about 10 cents when it was made back in 1933.

The woman had an adult son.  Faye told her that the piece should obviously go to her son. The woman's response was "He won't love it like you do." She says of all the different pieces she has, regardless of price or where it is from - that one is her favorite. She keeps it next to a couple of Lladros that cost several thousand dollars each.

Just one of the interesting things about this incredible woman and her collection is that with the exception of one small table, containing the Lladros, her special piece from the dying woman, and a couple of other pieces that are either very valuable or mean something very special to her, every piece in the collection is open to be handled, touched and enjoyed - even by children. And understand that most of them are breakable, made of ceramic, wood, straw, corn husks, coconut shells, etc. She could lose one to breakage at any time but allows people to handle them at will. I'm not sure I could do that.

Faye has one scene that consists of pieces her late grandmother, Dora Lee Basham, made for her. It's made of white ceramic that her grandmother poured and baked herself. And those she also lets people handle. It's the set in the center of this picture:

Faye has a collection of music boxes that are all Christmas themed. She says the children like them most of all.  She has any and every kind of nativity scene you can imagine.  Some are made of recycled bottles, others are painted button covers, cookie cutters, jewelry, pillows, books, candles, throws, puzzles and even a dust pan.

She has (obviously) several friends who help her set it up and take it down every year. She says she stores the collection after every display in her barn in a total of 53 large plastic storage bins. That's a lot of packing and unpacking, done with love every year by this remarkable woman.

Some of her more unique pieces are hand-painted cypress knees, a carved piece of ash from Mount Saint Helens, a carved piece of a thorn tree from Nigeria, and a scene from Norway in which the animals present are horses and elephants.  She has no idea why. She also has whimsical sets in which the Biblical characters are made up of animals such as dogs, cats and even one from Alaska consisting of penguins.

I wish I could post individual pictures of so many of the pieces but it would take all day.  And I have other things I have to accomplish today.  But I wanted to share this very special woman and her collection with you. I hope you enjoy it - even if you can't see it in person.

Faye has a handout she gives to people about her collection. In the first paragraph she relays why she does this every year: "God is so good and loves us so much. I pray that my collection will somehow convey that goodness and love as we are reminded of God's wonderful grace He has shown by sending His Son to Earth, dying on the cross for us."

All I can say is "Amen."

May God bless you all.  Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Justice Done... But For Who?

I just read an article about a court case in Fort Worth, Texas, that has me angry and torn at the same time.

Ethan Couch, a 16 year old from a very wealthy family, was the driver of a Ford F-350 that struck a stalled car and the people around it, killing all four of them. He pleaded guilty last week to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury. Two teens who were riding the back of the pickup suffered critical injuries.  One is paralyzed and right now can only communicate by blinking his eyes.

Couch's sentence for his guilty pleas?  10 years probation.  He had been facing 20 years in prison. His defense attorney, in a move that stunned many in the court room, was that Ethan Couch was spoiled by his wealthy parents, was never taught right from wrong and was never taught that actions have consequences. His idea of apologizing and making amends, according to the attorney and a psychologist hired by the defense, is to give someone money - a behavior allegedly learned from his parents.

“The teen never learned to say that you’re sorry if you hurt someone. If you hurt someone, you sent him money,” the psychologist, Gary Miller, said.
“He never learned that sometimes you don’t get your way,” Miller added. “He had the cars and he had the money. He had freedoms that no young man would be able to handle.”
Eric Boyles, who lost his wife and daughter in the wreck, told the Star-Telegram that money “always seems to keep [Couch] out of trouble.”
“Ultimately today, I felt that money did prevail. If he had been any other youth, I feel like the circumstances would have been different,” he added.
Another parent of one of the victims said even though Couche avoided jail time, “He’s not free.”
“None of us knows what God’s plan is. He has not escaped judgment. That is in the hands of a higher power,” she said.
In addition to the 10 years probation, the judge also ordered the teenager to receive therapy at a long-term, in-patient facility, the report states. Couch remains in a Tarrant County juvenile detention facility while officials decide on a treatment program.
So was justice served?  And if so - who won? Certainly the families of the victims didn't win much but would sending a 16 year old kid to prison for 20 years really give them peace?

Did family money influence the judge's decision at sentencing? Only he knows that. But it wouldn't be the first time someone from a family with wealth and status got away with a crime with a slap on the wrist.

Reading the comments after the article proved to be interesting.  One person wrote: "So…an irresponsible teen can kill 4 people, and a 54 year old teacher can rape a 14 year old student with NO consequence, yet a SIX year old boy will have a “sexual harassment” allegation on his school record for kissing a classmate on her hand…???"

"Another comment was: The kid was only 16 and driving that vicious & deadly truck! We need more in-depth background checks on those who buy trucks…..maybe even outlaw them entirely."

The second comment is just plain scary.  Blame the truck.  Yeah.  OK.  And by the way - as of yesterday the six year old's school record has been cleared of the sexual harassment allegation.

Did Ethan Couch get away with murder?  That remains to be seen.  This incident will either change him permanently or not.  If it doesn't, Couch will mess up again and he'll undoubtedly end up in prison.  But at the same time - does it really benefit society to send a 16 year old kid, who didn't intentionally murder anyone (unlike juvenile criminals in the streets who do it intentionally) to send him to prison for 20 years?

Obviously he was charged as an adult.  Otherwise he'd have only faced sentencing as a juvenile - until he was 21. Would it truly benefit society to put him away until he's 36 years old?  What would he be when he got out?

I don't have the right answer - only questions.  As someone who lost a son in a tragic car accident I very much grieve for these families.  But I can tell them and you that putting that kid in prison for 20 years won't take away their pain.  No by a long shot.

Personally, I think I would have sentenced him to a juvenile facility until he was 21, ordered the same intensive therapy while there, and tried to make him understand that actions do have serious consequences. I can't imagine a rich, privileged kid spending a few years in jail without it making him understand just how good he had it and just how easy it is to lose it all. Maybe then he'd understand responsibility.  Then again - maybe not.

That's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

A Case For Real Immigration Reform

The following story is a perfect example of why we need real immigration reform in this country and why the current policies of open borders and selective law enforcement are simply not working.  While it absolutely does not need to include amnesty for illegals already in the country, it should include a path to citizenship (not a direct route) for the Dreamers - those who were brought here as children. After all - it was not their choice to come here.

This is a rather sad story of one woman whose life has drastically changed because she was brought here as a child and told she was a citizen.  That is - if you believe her story.

Detective Carmen Figueroa, a 13 year veteran with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (the state police), was forced to resign from her position last week when it was discovered she was not a legal immigrant to this country.

Now before anyone cheer and demand she be deported, it was believed, both by Figueroa and her superiors at ADPS, that she was born in this country.  Figueroa says she was always told by her mother that she was born here.  She apparently presented a fake or forged birth certificate when she was hired.  The truth was discovered after her brother, a member of the U.S. military, filed paperwork to get a passport and the State department discovered he had a sister who was an Arizona state police officer.

The ADPS says they believed in Detective Figueroa when she applied and they believe her now, that she was told as a child she was born here in the U.S.A.

"We believe the affidavit and information she gave us at the time. And, she was under the impression that she herself was an American citizen," Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves told reporters.

"She did not really find out until this summer ... that she was an illegal alien through, I believe, a confrontation with her mother," Graves told the AP.

It certainly is possible. Why would a child doubt what her parents told her? She is said to have an exemplary record, becoming a detective after 10 years as a patrol officer.

Figueroa resigned last Monday in lieu of being fired.  Arizona state law requires all sworn officers to be U.S. citizens.

It is up to each individual to decide for themselves whether they believe Figueroa's story.  If her department believes her, that's good enough for me.  She is... was a police officer with an exemplary record.  And her brother serves our country in the military.  Isn't that the type of immigrants we want in this country?

According to the article it is unclear if she currently faces any legal action and she could not be reached for comment. I certainly can't blame her.