Thursday, July 30, 2009

Should Have Washed the Truck

We had a 20% chance of scattered showers in the Houston area today; but as Maxwell Smart would have said, “Missed me by this much.” I could have washed the truck when I passed one of my regular car dealerships; but I could see the thunderstorm off to the north moving our way; should have washed the truck, we never saw a drop of it.

I did get out the lawn mower for the front yard this afternoon. It was better than watching the Astros do a face plant at Wrigley Field for the second day in a row. It’s a good thing the wind was going the other way; they were stinking up the place.

I made keys for a woman this morning, a friend of one of my regular accounts so I went easy on the price and it was still expensive since it was a transponder key which had to be programmed to her Jeep Liberty. She already knew the price I quoted was better than she’d get elsewhere, all the same she felt compelled to cry on my shoulder about how she just got out of the hospital, her dog was sick, she’d been robbed at her house, somebody stole her purse and on and on. I guess if she was any worse off I’d feel bad and give her a better price; not gonna’ happen.

I asked her, tongue in cheek, “Would it make you feel any better if I punched you in the nose, let the blood run for a bit and then cut the key?” I don’t think she had a sense of humor as the words landed on her ear. I had to laugh for the both of us until she figured out that I was messing with her, trying to let her know that it could be worse.

By the time I arrived to do the job she’d mellowed enough to smile as I handed her my business card. Life is good when you stop to appreciate it. I hope her day went better than it started out; I know mine did.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tanning Beds Could be Your Final Destination

If you’ve seen the movie, Final Destination, think it was the second one, then you know to avoid tanning beds at all cost. The two pretty young women getting fried when the temperature gauge got messed up and no way out because the door got bolted; yuk! If you think about it, they never had a chance; after all, look at the name of the movie.

Then again, scientists have been warning everyone for years that tanning beds and the ultraviolet light used to create those tans are “probable carcinogens.” The
AP article on FoxNews website went on to say how young folks, those under 30, should avoid tanning beds since their chances of getting skin or eye cancer increase by 75%. I know a lot of young people enjoy gambling; but 75% odds isn’t gambling; that’s more like a death wish.

Was Charles Bronson in any of the Final Destination movies or did he stick to doing Death Wish? I can’t remember; been out in the sun too long.

Monday, July 27, 2009

DVD Removal, Scalpel Please…

Lucy and I took a quick trip out to visit my folks in Florida this past weekend. We flew out Saturday morning to West Palm Beach, picked up our rental car and drove up to Vero in time for lunch. Dad set us up at the Holiday Inn with a room facing the ocean, a couple of patio chairs and a small table where we could enjoy the view. We met for dinner and kept things simple. We stayed all day Sunday, having breakfast and dinner with my folks and were back in Houston at 8:00am Monday in time to pick up some business; provided the phone rings, so we only missed one day of work.

We had plenty of time to visit without wearing anyone out, tough to do when you’re away from them so long. I noticed my mom had the La Boheme DVD we’d sent sitting on a table in the entry way; not exactly looking the way it should as I inquired, “Did you get a chance to enjoy it?”

There was something not quite right as I picked it up, mom looked at her shoes and I knew she had not gotten that far. The protective plastic which is part of the DVD case was missing which meant the printed jacket cover no longer was being held to the case. Knowing my folks as I do, I started to laugh. The plastic had not been ripped off; no, it had been carefully, almost lovingly removed in such a way as to make you wonder how it had been removed without leaving the slightest evidence of trauma, rough edge or burr.

“I couldn’t figure out how to get the case open so I started trimming; but it still wouldn’t open.” This woman was a surgical nurse, worked in the operating room handling scalpels and other tools of destruction. She never said how she’d attacked the “challenge”; but that DVD was somewhere inside, under the jacket cover as she removed a layer at a time, just as a surgeon would have gone at it where it alive.

I took another DVD jacket and switched the printed covers so La Boheme is now “whole”, its jacket once again protected by a thin plastic film. Mom got to enjoy the opera as I set it up to play on my laptop; her DVD player is hooked up to dad’s television and it was time for the ball game. I’ll find one of our not so great DVD’s and do yet another swap.

Later that evening when we met at the Manatee, a nice seafood restaurant on the Point, they told me they had my laptop in the trunk of dad’s car. Mom couldn’t figure out how to get the DVD to eject when the opera ended. I let out a breath slowly, remembering how she’d taken on the challenge of the DVD jacket. I was lucky, the laptop was still intact; she’d turned it upside down, sideways and never figured out where the DVD was hidden so the scalpel was never used this time.

It’s probably a good thing they don’t have a computer; books they’re good at, you turn a page and read, turn a page and read. Note to self: Remind me not to buy them a Kindle .

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Gnome There Wasn’t

Lewis Padgett wrote a book many years ago, A Gnome There Was , a collection of wonderfully written short stories. I was fortunate to obtain a well used copy for my library and bring it out now and again to read to my grandchildren.

One of the short stories included tells about a fellow who, upon entering a mine uninvited, gets a first hand experience of free flight at precisely the same moment a blast of dynamite goes off, magically transforming him from human to gnome and all that goes with Nid’s Law. If you have the opportunity you might enjoy the short read in a library or perhaps on some internet site since the book has been out of print long enough to call it a collector’s item.

A couple of years ago I bought a replacement wrought iron bench for Lucy on Mother’s Day, the old bench having rotted away. I included a pair of red capped gnomes, yard ornaments to dress up an otherwise drab green area around the bench.

The other day while mowing the grass it dawned on me, the gnomes were no longer there. Someone had stolen a pair of yard gnome ornaments and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen them. It might have been a year ago or last week; but each time I’d mowed the yard you’d have thought they would have been missed, not so.

Having read the story and the warnings about messing with gnomes, hope who ever stole them is prepared for the payback. Gnomes can get pretty ugly, especially to humans.

What Have I Done?

Over the years I’ve grown to respect many folks who don’t share my political or religious leanings; the expressions, exchange of thoughts and emotions are what make life interesting. I’d rather engage in conversation with someone who strongly disagrees with my point of view than with some milk toast fence sitter too afraid to have an opinion; what a waste of time.

That having been said, the last scene from The Bridge on the River Kwai comes to mind as I hear some of my friends defend or even jump on the band wagon, the progressive band wagon which is destroying America. Alec Guinness, more accurately his character, is standing below the bridge, that magnificent structure which could not have been accomplished without his help. He senses something is wrong, something which might interfere with the “grand opening” of “his bridge”. Over night the level of the river had gone down and, after having followed the exposed detonation wire, he takes his hat off as the reality of the situation hits him, “What have I done?”, a realization that all his efforts, altruistic as they were, have been aiding the enemy.

Unfortunately for us here in reality, falling on the detonator to blow up the bridge will not make the huge debt which has already been accrued go away. The admission that we might have made a slight error in calculating unemployment figures, a slight error in the overall effect of multi-trillion dollar deficit spending, a slight error in calculating the effects of Cap and Trade and the negative effect that will kill off incentive to grow the economy, the quality of health care once nationalized health care destroys private sector insurance along with government managed and rationed medical treatment go into effect; all these progressive alterations from the Founder's concepts for freedoms and individual liberties will be of no avail.

“But the sun is still shining…” as if the steadily eroding cliff we are standing upon will continue to support us forever. The solid ground of our foundation is cracking even as I write, “But the sun is still shining”. The sun was still shining while Noah built the ark, as the rains fell, Noah built the ark; even as the ark began to float there must have been some clinging to the idea that not too long ago the sun was shining. The damage will be so enormous as to place an entire nation into servitude, debtor’s prison if you will, to nations which are not our friends and in fact are our enemies.

Here’s the short clip from the movie which presents the idea I wish to generate, “What have we done to America, to freedom and God given individual rights. All we wanted to do was to help our fellow man and instead; we’ve shackled them with trillions of dollars in debt, have we made them permanent slaves? My God, what have we done?” (Apologies in advance for the required advertisement which precedes the movie clip.)

The concerns I have for America’s future have me more than a little unsettled as I watch what I consider ruinous if not traitorous leadership from both sides of the political spectrum figure out ways to spend taxpayer’s funds at break neck speed as if there were a bottomless pit from which to gather such funding. We don’t have the money! Stop spending money we don’t have under the delusion that it will miraculously manifest itself at some future date.

Many of my political beliefs are tied in directly with my religious beliefs; imagine that. The Plan of Salvation , the Plan of Happiness, call it what you will, “…is the fulness of the gospel. It includes the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and all the laws, ordinances, and doctrines of the gospel. Moral agency, the ability to choose and act for ourselves, is also essential in Heavenly Father's plan. Because of this plan, we can be perfected through the Atonement, receive a fulness of joy, and live forever in the presence of God. Our family relationships can last throughout the eternities.”

Included in the American foundations of life, a fundamental building block for all the rights granted unto men is the idea of Agency, the ability to choose and act for ourselves. Agency, individual choice is part of our founding documents, from the Declaration of Independence on through the Constitution and Bill of Rights. This is what America is, a defined principle of the individual human as the most important part of society, not the society which governs the individual; and yet, as we are finding out, government has found a way to grow to a point where the individual with all his God given agency would seem almost an insignificant obstacle in the way of progress.

If we do not put a stop to the entitlement mentality, the idea that we can have something for nothing or that we can provide everything to everyone without having to pay for it then our experiment in self government will come to a screeching halt. I keep hearing how we will get all this money from the rich, those evil rich. Is this the America you want to live in, a place where you have to steal from your neighbor, take that which your neighbor earned through the use of his intelligence and hard work? Is this the land of promise that God saved for the righteous or is this the coming around of the prosperity cycle, that part where we have drunk ourselves into a stupor and deserve the bitter bonds which must accompany such riotous living?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thirty Eight Years

We went to Bo-Lee for dinner to celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary a while ago. We got married a little after seven in the evening; guess that makes it official now. Lucy posted this same picture as a Facebook entry earlier, a snapshot in time as we’d only been married a few minutes earlier and were going to meet with all our friends at the wedding reception they’d prepared for us.

How do you explain thirty eight years of shared experiences? I don’t think you can. We started off with a laugh the very first day on our honeymoon. Lucy’s watch quit working and we thought it was about 9 or so in the morning. We went downstairs at the Hotel Galvez restaurant to have breakfast. The waiter explained how they only had a lunch menu since it was after one in the afternoon; then threw out, “are you here on your honeymoon?”, smiling at two people who had no cares, much less what time it was.

I could mention how I had to ask “what was that” the first time Lucy cooked steak; a real mistake. I could bring up the time Lucy accidentally spilled a tin containing sewing pins on the floor, how I was helping pick them up when she thought it would be fun to stick me with one of them; I let her pick the rest up by herself.

A great date might be flying off to Chicago to take in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field or going to locksmith convention and a ride on one of those paddle boats on the Mississippi River where we first enjoyed the thrill of pulling a handle on a slot machine.

We’ve slept out under the stars and listened to a bear explain how it was his lake and that we should get inside the camper for the rest of the night. We warmed our feet with large stones which we’d placed around the campfire, wrapped them in bath towels to place inside the camper only to have them catch fire. There was the coin operated shower at one of national parks, the one which had three settings; boiling hot, scorch and pure steam; that was fun.

I could talk about the time Lucy called to meet her at the hospital when Bonnie’s fever spiked so high it worried even the doctors. Maybe the time Jennifer came home from the mall with her ears pierced only to have one earring come out. It was too painful to replace, the tissue inflamed so as to close off any chance of restoring the sharp metal post and the tears falling because all her friends would call her a freak the next day at school. William has given us a few thrills, maybe the time he had all those ant bites that made him swell up so bad. Being a parent is so much a part of being married all these years.

I’m so grateful for the Elder’s Quorum lesson I got to hear so many years ago, not long after joining the Church. That half hour was spent explaining the importance of “date night” each week, making sure to court your sweetheart as if she might still be undecided in your favor; that’s a sobering thought that should keep us humble.

There’s an image permanently etched in my mind, Lucy standing next to me in one of the Sealing Rooms at the temple in Salt Lake City as we looked at the never ending reflections before us, the mirror in front followed by the mirror behind as it led us into the eternities together hand in hand. I wonder how I’m so fortunate to have my soul mate fill in my weakness with strength and happiness and then I realize; my Father in Heaven knew exactly who was meant for me and I simply acknowledge His great plan.

Officer Stern, did you really call him a dumb SOB?

I couldn’t think of another way of introducing today’s topic, the continuing saga regarding the arrest of black professor Henry Louis Gates Jr . If you have been locked away in a closet this past week you may not have heard how “Gates, head of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, had broken into his own home after being unable to find his keys upon his return from a trip to China.”

Oh, by the way, unless you are blind and dumb, the photograph supplied with the story shows a Black police officer leading the way after the arrest of Gates had been made; must be one of those Uncle Tom Black police officers.

Barrack Obama, president of the United States of America, in case you weren’t sure which Barrack Obama I was referring to, happens to be friends with professor Gates.

“Obama told reporters Wednesday that this incident shows that there is a long history of racial profiling in the United States.”

Excuse Me! What has one to do with the other, Mr. President? You have nearly no information upon which to make any statement and you plant both feet in your mouth to proclaim this particular incident as an example of racial profiling? In another day, one without politically correctness, that would fall under the category of the pot calling the kettle black.

This past year I read, One Party Classroom by David Horwowitz , a broad brush explanation of the kinds of classes being pushed off as higher education in our colleges and universities. One of the reoccurring courses of study, the names change but the content remains the same, had to do with indoctrination of Black domination through classes similar to those professor Gates has at Harvard. Who is the racist?

Many years ago I was assigned to work traffic at the scene of a major accident in downtown Houston, an accident where a pedestrian stepped off the curb and got hit by a Metro bus. I watched a fellow standing on the corner, oblivious to the investigation off to his right side as he waited impatiently for the pedestrian Walk light; I noticed he was about to step off the curb without noticing yet another Metro bus which would certainly do him damage.

“Stop, you dumb SOB”, only I used the extended full version and made sure he and everyone near him heard my emphatic warning. It worked; he stopped in his tracks and the bus went by without incident. This three piece business suit glared at me, walked over to my position in the middle of the intersection and proceeded to chew me out for yelling at him.

“You don’t know who I am, now do you?” He showed me his business card indicating he worked for the Attorney General’s Office.

“No, Sir; and I really don’t care either. I did keep you from getting run over by a bus you didn’t see because you were too busy to look.”

It really doesn’t matter who you are, black, white or yellow if you get hit by a bus. It wouldn’t matter, at least not to the person who is being prepared at the morgue, whether or not the Walk/Wait light system was in his favor; other factors make that first step a wise move, or, as I so eloquently stated, one of those “Stop, you dumb SOB” kind of moves.

I’ve no excuse for letting such language escape my lips other than to blame a life time of developing just the right words for particular situations; call them technical police terms. It should be noted that some of those terms are actually automotive locksmith terms which serve both professions.

One emergency I was assigned had to do with protecting the efforts of the fire department while they tried to rescue some window washers after their rig broke leaving them dangling off the side of a building downtown. The ladder truck with lights flashing had to park on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to a parking lot.

Wouldn’t you know, a very important individual with a pre-paid monthly parking place in that building wanted to take full use of that space at the same time the firemen were busy saving two lives just above that particular entrance. I stood there without flinching as he continued his attempt to drive past me.

“Ya’ dumb SOB; get on down the road and come back later!” I must have raised my eyebrow just right because he believed I actually would have arrested him on the spot, his gold BMW getting back into traffic as he shook his finger at me and wrote my badge number down.

An hour later, after the window washers had been rescued, I got a call to the office to explain my actions. The good citizen had voiced his displeasure, not so much at being called a dumb SOB; no, he missed an important meeting by not having his VIP parking place available for use. He didn’t give a hoot about the guys dangling by a rope on the side of the building or the firemen risking their lives to rescue them; no, it was all about his business appointment having turned sour by a fire truck parked on the sidewalk and a cop who wouldn’t listen to his perfectly valid reason.

My supervisor smiled, having already figured out the circumstances and probable justification for sending this jerk down the road, “Stern, did you really call him a dumb SOB?” I nodded, sheepishly, for having let inflammatory words annoy yet another fine citizen. Nothing official was entered in my official folder; but this was a couple of years before the advent of Internal Affairs Division. We still had a Sgt. who’d reach into a desk drawer, pull out a roll of toilet paper and hand it to folks wishing to complain about this, that or the other, “Fill this out and leave it on the desk.”

I got a call to the office one other time, supposedly for giving a hard time to a citizen and calling them some racially charged combination of words that included reference to somebody’s dark skinned mother performing a sexually active union. I was at a total loss, trying to remember how such a situation might have come about since I wasn’t used to including racial slurs; simple non-racial insults were generic and worked for any and all dumb SOB’s.

The supervisor knew right away which officer had actually said what may or may not have been said. The complainant kept referring to me as, “that black SOB”. He’d taken the time to write down a badge number; except he’d gotten one number wrong. My badge number was 908 while the presumed correct number was 903 which would have made sense; sounded like something my friend R. D. Anderson, a black police officer, might have said to a dumb SOB who’d gotten in his face.

It’s probably a good thing my retirement came along; don’t think I could have survived in this totally PC environment. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, when talking to the nice police officer, try to remain civil and you won’t get hauled off to jail, or worse, once all the dust settles. Professor Gates still comes off looking like a racist SOB, as does Obama; but if you hadn’t figured that out by now, what kind of dumb SOB are you?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dogs and Babies Understand Each Other

Scientists have determined that babies are able to communicate with dogs .

“The study involved 128 infants, with 32 from each of four age groups (6, 12, 18 and 24 months), who had little or no exposure to dogs.”

I don’t want to spoil it by giving away too much of what the article included; however, the folks at Bush's Beans, the same folks who have that beautiful Irish Red Setter in their commercials became concerned when they saw their dog being interviewed by a six month old child.

Unrelated Stories Bring a Smile

I read where the Shuttle Astronauts were replacing the Solar Batteries on the International Space Station . There was a photograph showing them floating in space performing with the heavenly display as a back drop, the earth below with the darkness of the cosmos in stark contrast.

The adjacent article had to do with the Solar Eclipse which shrouded Asia in darkness, the moon blotting out the sun. Many had predicted insane behavior, riots and other forms of chaos as the natural phenomenon often troubles ignorant and insecure folks, “It’s the end of the world; by golly, it’s the end of the world!”.

If you’re going to change out Solar Batteries, what better time than when the moon has the sun all covered up…and don’t tell me that looking directly at the sun doesn’t cause damage; after the eclipse I noticed how many of the folks in China had their eye lids pulled sideways…bada bing!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Intentionally Walking Davis to Get to Bass

Years and years ago the Astros had a power hitter, Glenn Davis . During the course of one particular game, I couldn’t tell you which game now, the opposing team had a meeting on the mound and came to the decision to intentionally walk Davis and take their chances with the next batter, Kevin Bass .

The way I remember it, the next pitch left the yard scoring who ever was on at the time they walked Davis, along with Davis and Bass. From that day on there’s always that glimmer of a smile anytime an opposing team walks an Astro’s power hitter in favor of the next batter. Regardless of their names; it will always be, “they walked Davis to get to Bass” if the next batter knocks one over the fence.

Tonight was such a night. The Astros had a slight lead against the first place St. Louis Cardinals. We had runners on 2nd and third with Tejada, a hot bat, coming to the plate. They signaled the intentional pass and I called out to Lucy, in the other room working on the computer, “They’re walking Davis to get to Bass”.

A short porch Grand Slam into the Crawford Boxes, maybe the second row, was very rewarding as the Astros padded their lead. Blum followed on the very next pitch with a solo shot over the right field wall. The Astros needed all those runs as they brought in a Triple A batting practice pitcher to relieve Wandy Rodriguez, giving up four quick runs before being yanked.

Tomorrow the Astros go for a sweep, Oswalt against Carpenter making the National League Central look like Wal-Marts parking lot on the 4th of July; should be a lot of fun.

Positive Identification Required

The Greater Houston Locksmith Association (GHLA) sent out their monthly newsletter containing a change in the manner in which locksmiths document having properly identified customers. The State mandated locksmiths obtain proper photographic identification such as a driver’s license or passport when carrying out our particular profession. The state went so far as to mandate a legal form, to be printed either on the front or back of each Sale Receipt or Work Order, providing a statement from the customer to the effect that he/she had a legal right to the property being worked on, a signature line and one to document the form of identification.

The State has so many laws on the books; is it any wonder that there is yet another law which specifically prohibits writing down the driver’s license number of any customer on a sales slip? Well, as it turns out, locksmiths have now been told not to write down the license number; only list that such an instrument of identification was shown; go figure.

When I was working as a police officer I often times used the information from a driver’s license as a means of documenting who I’d spoken with; either for an incident report or for the issuance of a traffic ticket. Every now and then someone would take offense at my asking for some form of valid identification; believe it or not, most often it was a “race card” being played. I’d get to hear how white police had been using traffic laws to hold down Blacks; nothing to do with why they’d run a red light or a stop sign. (This is the same argument being used to stall any legislation requiring a valid photo ID to cast a ballot at the voting booth.)

One time when stopping a young Black woman for a traffic violation downtown I was privileged to witness an extreme form of the “race card”. The young woman sat with her arms folded and refused to talk with me, refused to hand me a driver’s license and at one point climbed from her seat onto the open top t-bar where the sun roof sections fit on her neat little sports car.

I looked around, kind of like pinching yourself to see if everything was real, and luck was on my side. Across the street at one of the large banks working a police extra job was one of my immediate supervisors; he’s been watching the whole time. He gestured that I should put the cuffs on her as he smiled approvingly. I pointed this out to the young woman who then lost some of her confidence and yet remained sitting on top of the t-bar.

“You have the choice of sitting on top of your car and acting like a baboon or getting down and handing me your license. My supervisor has already seen enough to justify putting you in jail.” The incident ended with my writing a traffic ticket; she never came to court or pursued her complaint regarding racism.

Reading another racially charged article , this one on CNN, brought the past to mind. A Black professor played the “race card” when an officer investigating a possible break in asked to see some identification.

“Why, because I'm a black man in America?”

A neighbor had seen what looked like two men trying to bash in the front door and called police. Turns out the professor lived there and his front door was stuck; no burglary was happening; but the officer would still have needed to see some ID.

The police officer could have walked away being reasonably certain the fellow he’d talked with actually did live there; but what about verifying the name of the person he’d spoken to for his official report?

I wouldn’t want to be in the officer’s shoes if, later on, the actual owner came home to a burglarized house and the officer could only say, “I talked to some guy who claimed he lived there; but I didn’t bother to have him prove it.”

“So, officer, did you help the bad guys load my HD television into the truck too?”, followed by, “What the hell are we paying you for?”

Wouldn’t it have been even worse had the police officer neglected to see some form of identification, a double standard? What’s the deal; police only protect white people’s houses? They don’t care who’s in a house if some Black person lives there?

Sorry, professor; you should have said, “Thank You”, to the nice police officer for doing exactly what he was supposed to do instead of giving him a worn out lesson on racism in America. The race card is an ugly part of life here in America; a permanent chip on the shoulder for many folks.

Here’s something to ponder; the most significant minority in America isn’t the Black, the Vietnamese, the Jews or any of those groups; no, the most significant minority has been and always will be the Individual. Maybe someday that will make sense to those who play the race card; I doubt it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Emergency Operators Forget Their Purpose

I found an article at Never Yet Melted, “In an Emergency, Call 911” , about an incident where a frustrated caller alienated the emergency operator who then hung up on her in spite of the real need for emergency services. You’d have to read the entire story to understand how this could happen.

It reminded me of a very specific burglary call that happened on night shift many years ago. We’d found entry on a large warehouse and two of us went in to investigate while two other officers stood at the other end watching the exit doors. Once inside I noticed my hand held radio quit working when one of the outside officers tried to contact me; not a good thing if you’re trying to coordinate your efforts.

I picked up a telephone inside the warehouse and called the police dispatcher to act as a go between only to get a smart-alecky young woman, “Well, if you really are a police officer why don’t you use your radio?” My fuse runs short to begin with and she'd lighted a match.

“Put your supervisor on the phone or you won’t have a job after the dust settles!” The supervisor took the phone and asked a few questions and decided to relay my information to the other officers. I held my tongue and never once swore; really.

If you ever watched the movie Die Hard, where our hero is on the radio talking to the police dispatcher trying to get help, “Sir, this line is reserved for emergency communication only.” I think that dispatcher must have relatives, similar to the crew in the movie Space Balls.

“I’m Major…”, you’d have to have seen the movie…this is a family oriented blog; but all the same, “I’m surrounded by…”

Friday, July 17, 2009

Career Criminal Gets Life… for Shoplifting?

If all you read were headlines, never got into details; that’s what you’d come away thinking. The Houston Chronicle needed a hook to pull attention to an article about a paroled murderer who was convicted of robbery at a Wal-Mart store; started out as shoplifting until he fought with and injured the store’s security officer.

My first reaction was to laugh at the thought of this schnook having to explain to fellow inmates his latest crime spree, “I was shoplifting some music”. They’ll probably laugh at him until he tosses in how he’d been convicted of murder and spent time. He and his brother set up an ambush, pretending to be broke down on the side of the road. A young couple on their honeymoon stopped to help; the newly wed husband was murdered and they tried to rape the new bride; but she escaped with a couple of bullet wounds. They wanted to help someone stopped in traffic, a simple act which ended in murder.

I heard something on the radio the other day regarding the percentage of police officers killed while conducting a “simple traffic stop”. The problem with such a statement becomes clear when you put the two thoughts together; officer killed during traffic stop. I couldn’t find the article in print; however, I searched the internet “officer killed during traffic stop” and came up with a never ending list to back up such a statement.

I’ve had two friends, fellow police officers who lost their lives on the job. John Salvagio was killed while writing a traffic ticket for no insurance when he got hit from behind, thrown 30 or so feet in the air by a hit and run driver and splattered all over the freeway.

Jimmy Irby got shot in the face during a traffic stop. The fellow who murdered my friend was convicted and sent to prison. Fifteen years and several appeals later a federal judge agreed this POS may not have gotten a fair trial, the POS claimed he shot in self defense , on a traffic stop?

No, there’s nothing simple about a traffic stop; wish folks understood how using such a phrase trivializes one of the most dangerous activities a police officer does. I have several long time friends still wearing the uniform, may God protect them from the dangers of becoming complacent during the mundane task of writing a traffic ticket.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sometimes you have to laugh…

I was going through some of the “weird stories” listed on my local news website and came across this one, The Greatest Hoax of All Time .

“…for conspiracy theorists, the whole thing smelled of an elaborate hoax from the beginning. Hoax-theory advocates say the Apollo program was a mountain of lies that amounts to the greatest conspiracy of all time.”

I’m not one of those conspiracy theorists mentioned in the story. I painted the picture many years ago as a follow up to a sketch I did one day when suffering from the flu. Imagination is a wonderful distraction, astronauts taking fishing gear to the moon would likely use cheese for bait.

Go read the article; however, my idea of the greatest hoax of all time would have to be the Religion of Global Warming, Climate Change; call it what you will. The wool has been pulled over so many, believing the trumped up phony science data and turning over power to a band of thieves promising to keep Chicken Little safe. Cap and Trade will save the planet, Nationalized Health Care Reform is the only answer and the Check is in the Mail; yea, right?

Being Put In Your Place

The State, that all powerful entity which once was a servant to the citizenry, has decided to put everyone in their place as a reminder that whatever the State wants, the State gets .

“Unless Congress drops a requirement by year's end for new super-secure state-issued driver's licenses to be presented at airport checkpoints, travelers will encounter massive delays and extra diligent security screenings, national security officials warned Wednesday.”

“Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano raised the specter of unpopular checkpoint backups to bolster the Obama administration's appeal for “urgent” congressional revision of parts of the 4-year-old Real ID Act adopted during the Bush administration.”

Back in April Napolitano came out against the Real ID Act , the one enacted during the Bush administration, wanting to alter it without giving any specifics as to what would be better. Is it just me or does this sound like, “I didn’t like the wrapping paper Bush’s administration put on Real ID; but if you insist… I’ll do what I can to make everyone regret Real ID by pushing it so hard it totally pisses everyone off.”

Going through airport security was an inconvenience before; longer lines, delayed flights and random full body searches without probable cause will be used as the tool to push through Big Brother’s Updated Real ID Act. You thought this was just a bad dream; it will only get worse.

“Passengers without enhanced security driver's licenses will face “additional screening by TSA — and one can only contemplate the inconvenience in airline travel that could occur if everyone has to undergo additional screening because they don't have a Real ID-compliant drivers license,” Napolitano testified.”

Folks will be lined up like sheep, how appropriate, a punched tag through one ear just so they can get on an airplane that no longer has beverage service, arrives an hour or so late and may or may not be air worthy because of budget cuts. Maybe this is what Napolitano wants; are we having fun yet?

If you thought the 4th Amendment to the Constitution might keep TSA from conducting unreasonable searches without first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause; think again. The Interstate Commerce Act, the all encompassing fall back argument used by the federal government, has been rubber stamped by the Supreme Court as justification to get around warrantless searches involving transportation issues.

Wasn’t it Ben Franklin who said, “Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”? I’ve heard many variations on the exact wording; regardless, the issue remains the same.

If you miss an important flight, having been delayed by rubber gloved security officials going through your personal items simply because you only had a valid driver’s license instead of the more invasive national security ID module which would contain your complete medical history, political party affiliation (you think I’m joking; maybe so, maybe not), terrorist profile based on Twitter, Facebook comments or blog entries, yearly declared taxable income or anything else the digital library of congress may wish to have encoded; that my friends, is what lies ahead.

Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, acting as a tool for the government’s endless agenda to do away with individual rights, will frustrate an already weary public through intimidation and/or inconvenience each time you go to an airport; and why not, the strategy has worked time and time again. When the lines get longer some folks will demand “change”; just what this administration wants to hear.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Snack for Later On

I just finished slicing up a few tomatoes and one huge cucumber, sprinkled them with salt and poured Italian dressing over the whole mess. Everything I’ve read about my psoriasis tells me to avoid tomatoes; guess I’ll have to buy some more anti itch cream.

No, I’m not sharing; get your own!

Antique Laptop Computer

The Wine Commonsewer put a short blurb on his Facebook page the other day about how his new cell phone has three times more memory than his first computer. I brought up how our first business computer didn't have a hard drive at all; two floppy ports, one for the program disk and the other for data. If the program required more information you had to switch disks in and out, say for spell check on a word processing program. I still have my first laptop, a Compaq and it still works, a little.

That got me to wondering if the old laptop would still crank up after all these years of collecting dust. I found the “brick” as it was called, plugged it into the back of the computer and switched it on. Amazing, the screen came to life, the hard drive sputtered a couple of times and let me know there was a systems error; basically it was working just as it did when I retired it for one that was reliable.

As for the new fangled cell phones; haven’t got much use for all the fancy “extras”, just want to use it as a phone believe it or not. The only “extra”, if you could call it that, is the hands free plug I use when driving; wish everyone else would do the same.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not in favor of the Nanny State legislating common sense laws that require things like that, just mentioning how much safer it would make things if those with a cell phone stuck in the crick of their neck could see the other half of the driving environment. I keep an eye on folks putting make up on, the whole time their sun visor is down, not that they’re watching the road, so they can use the mirror. I see folks with their favorite novel propped up on the steering wheel, that can get you a little closer to “the end”. Others have a laptop in the front seat which they're constantly checking; half a second to check traffic while throttling down the street. No, if common sense has to be legislated it wouldn’t do any good; folks are going to be stupid humans regardless.

Lucy just got a new cell phone called, a Gravity, that has a miniature keyboard for texting, a camera and some other features. My daughter has one even fancier that has internet just like you were at your desk at home. I like mine because it can be used to get me out of this insanity; flipping the cover, “Scotty, beam me up.”


Monday, July 13, 2009

CIA Had Plan to Destroy Terrorists

…but Democrats in congress weren’t told.

Okay, some English teacher is pulling on the last gray hair I left her for starting off like that; apologies in advance. The Democrats, the party of national disaster and doom have their panties in a bind because battle plans and strategies made in our nations interest never made it to the front page of the New York Times, at least that’s how I perceive this latest uproar.

Ideas on how to capture and/or kill Al Qaeda operatives have come under heavy scrutiny because members of congress were not given sufficient details regarding secret operations.

Is this where Gomer Pyle is supposed to enter stage left and say, “Well, Gooooollllllyy!”?

Imagine that, secret plans which our government didn’t want the enemy to know about being considered or implemented without blabbing each and every detail to the terrorist sympathizers in congress, the same folks who leaked all about how our intelligence community was tracking terrorists through the use of cell phones to the New York Times.

“According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn't become fully operational at the time Panetta ended it.”

I fell off the turnip truck the other day and had no idea that going after terrorists intent on killing Americans, either as they sat behind a desk in the World Trade Center buildings or soldiers in the field; I had no idea that trying to stop our enemies might involve capturing and or killing them. I thought we’d put them in the “time out chair” with a warning for behaving poorly with the other children. Give me a break!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

CIA Deceived Congress According to Democrats – a Rant!

The New York Times had an article posted on the web, Democrats Say C.I.A. Deceived Congress . The brouhaha centers around whether or not the C.I.A. concealed “significant actions” from congress.

‘In a June 26 letter to Mr. Panetta discussing his testimony, Democrats said that the agency had “misled members” of Congress for eight years about the classified matters, which the letter did not disclose. This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods,” said the letter, made public late Wednesday by Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, one of the signers.’

‘In an interview, Mr. Holt declined to reveal the nature of the C.I.A.’s alleged deceptions,. But he said, “We wouldn’t be doing this over a trivial matter.”’

EXCUSE ME! What does the congress of the United States of America call a “deception” and what qualifies as a “trivial matter”? I ask, gathering my breath, having to pick myself up from the floor after falling out of my chair, the hypocrisy of such a statement landing on what’s left of the one raw nerve congress has seen fit to leave me.

Maybe congress considers trillions of taxpayer dollars spent on a Stimulus Package that didn’t stimulate the economy, the economy which congress helped to destroy; rather it only served to enlarge government beyond the uncontrollable monster which has been feeding off my generation into an uncontrollable monster that now has devoured my children’s generation along with my grandchildren’s generation. I understand the Democrat controlled congress is contemplating yet another Stimulus Package; spending even more money we don’t have in order to produce results which will not stimulate anything.

Maybe that falls under the category of deception since most of what was called “emergency measures” to stimulate the economy won’t kick in for years; not exactly a judicious use of so called emergency funding. Do you think the responsible folks, those footing the bill and “sacrificing for the good of all Americans” might be a bit angry with such irresponsible actions by a deceptive congress, a congress which withheld information from the public which would have shown this piece of legislation for what it was; PURE PORK?

Maybe the public should be angry at congress for calling Cap and Trade a means of curbing global warming when in fact it is nothing more than a way to destroy capitalism by penalizing businesses and industries which produce goods and services necessary for a healthy economy through legislation aimed at increasing the cost of energy required to sustain production within a competitive global market. Even the EPA has estimated the cost of doing business will rise approximately 40%.

I want you to think about what it will be like having that 40% increase in the cost of doing business passed along to each individual consumer; not a pretty picture to go along with Obama’s promise not to increase taxes on folks making less than $250,000, now is it. Looks more like the middle and lower income folks are going to take a major hit, one which will impoverish a serious portion of our country at a time when they are barely able to stay afloat. You think it was tough after your neighbor lost his job; wait until you lose yours because the only way for American industries to survive will be to relocate outside our boundaries in third world nations where Cap and Trade isn’t an issue. Is that the kind of “trivial matter” which annoys the honorable Democrat representatives in congress or is that still listed under “deceptive”?

I know, the Hate Crimes legislation; that must be what we should be lamenting. I read where some of those right wing extremist GOP legislators tried to add an amendment which would remove pedophiles as one of the protected sexually oriented individuals/groups. The Democrats refused to include the amendment since they consider pedophiles as part of the downtrodden recipients of much hatred and in need of protection from right wing extremists. This must be one of the “trivial matters” the Democrats are outraged about.

Could it be the pending Health Care legislation which will eventually destroy private sector insurance carriers? Realistically posing the circumstances proposed, can a privately run “for profit” company compete with a nationalized system which has an unlimited amount of taxpayer funding to make up for loses incurred? The answer is, No; no business in a competitive market could compete. That doesn’t even consider the fact that those attempting to compete must follow rules and guidelines which will be set by its newest competitor, government health care. I recognize how important the cost of medical treatment has become and at the same time I wonder how proper it is to push through a bill which has all the earmarks of pure socialism under the guise of helping Americans. Why does that bother me; maybe I’m simple too sensitive, this must be a “trivial matter”.

I sure don’t like being lied to. I’d have used the word hate being lied to; but under the current politically correct terminology such trigger words might get me charged with a crime.

Why is it the Democrat held congress doesn’t want the Fed to be accountable to the public, killing off a bill which would force an open audit? Is this the transparency promised; change that, is this the transparency of government required by the constitutional form of government which the governed are supposed to have? I know, this is just another “trivial matter”…

Tell you what; you slimy buggers (those wishing for my former “salty” choice of terms; I’m a work in progress, attempting to improve ) had better get your act together and in one quick hurry. The American public is up to here with being trivialized, deceived and lied to. We are more than a little concerned in the manner you have marginalized individual rights and lumped them in with the concept of entitlements, privileges and favors. No, I’m not angry; I’m just getting started!

Have we all been played for suckers? I’d discounted the wild claims made by some during the election process of Obama being born outside the United States; perhaps being born in Kenya. I bristled when the governor of Hawaii sealed the supposed records which may or may not have contained Obama’s alleged birth certificate. I recently was sent an email dated June 15, 2009 containing an AP story which cast further doubt on Obama’s eligibility to hold the presidency. I haven’t seen this information anywhere, not on the internet and certainly not in the government controlled mass media. At one time I’d have looked it up in Snoops; but that’s like asking a liar if he told a lie, (it shows up without comment).

“In a move certain to fuel the debate over Obama’s qualifications for the presidency, the group Americans for Freedom of Information has Released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College. Released today, the transcript indicates that Obama, under the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate at the school. The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California. The transcript shows that Obama (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship Program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship. This document would seem to provide the smoking gun that many Obama’s detractors have been seeking.”

The letter went on to explain how Obama has already spent an estimated $950,000 (that’s almost a million dollars for those in Rio Linda) from his campaign fund to eleven law firms in twelve states to block disclosure of any of his personal information. Does this sound like transparency or does it sound more like deception, the kind of deception which the Democrats are all worked up about when they claim the C.I.A. misled them over something which certainly isn’t a “trivial matter”?

I’d like to see the notes taken at the meeting where Nancy Pelosi and the C.I.A. exchanged information regarding extreme measures used on terrorists to obtain information; surely someone took notes. If everyone is on the up and up; yea and I have some ocean front property in West Texas up for sale, let’s see the notes or shut up and get on with the business of fixing all the messes congress has created. Who gives a rat’s pattootie if some ragheads, those who tried to kill American troops and got hauled off to a detention center, who really cares if they had to hold their breath under water; you jerks are going to pressure the close Gitmo and let them all get back to the business of killing American troops eventually. Trivial matters, deception; you, how did I put it earlier,
slimy buggers are a bunch of hypocrites, that’s what you are, hypocrites!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Lord, let me live up to this opportunity

It’s been a long while since hearing the Zig Ziglar motivational tape, Biscuits, Fleas and Pump Handles, so I may have botched the line I’m trying to remember. There was a young boy who’d dip his finger in a barrel of molasses each time he visited the local general store. The manager warned him against such behavior saying, “The next time I catch you stealing a finger’s worth of molasses I’m going to dump you head first into that barrel.”

Sure enough, the next time the boy swiped a finger through the sweet confection the manager grabbed him by the ankles and lowered him toward his fate. Just before his head met the surface he was heard to say, “Lord, let me live up to this opportunity.”

Sadly, there’s a story out Camden, New Jersey where a young man working near a boiling vat of chocolate fell in . I doubt he was overjoyed at the prospect of becoming covered in boiling hot chocolate.

“The unidentified man, who worked at the Camden facility, had been in the melting pot for about 10 minutes by the time rescue crews arrived, reported."

"By the time he was pulled out of the tank just after 11 a.m., he was already dead.”

Industrial accidents happen; sometimes they end up becoming folklore. I remember listening to Hal Holbrook’s, Mark Twain Tonight program. He had a story about the fellow who fell into the carpet making machine and became part of an area rug.

Back when I was working for the police department a worker at a plastics wrapping facility carelessly became part of a huge roll of the stuff; snatching the victim so quickly as to make her co-workers wonder if she’d taken an unannounced coffee break. She took a break alright, a permanent break.

I don’t mean to sound cold natured about the loss of life; just that some folks leave this planet in the most unusual ways. These are different from the Darwin Award folks who place themselves in harms way by doing extremely dumb things; no, the folks mentioned here just had incredibly bad luck doing something that normally is accomplished without incident. Sure makes for interesting stories; hope they poured out the rest of that chocolate.

The Children of Abraham

I was thumbing through channels looking for anything other than a recap of Michael Jackson’s spectacular exit from the land of the living when I stopped on the History Channel to see what they had. The offered program, The Children of Abraham, an interpretation of history through the show’s host, Mark Dowd, a Catholic trained to become a Dominican Friar. Wow, I’m impressed; maybe I could find a rerun of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

I lost interest rather quickly as an explanation of the sacrifice of Isaac was offered, a means of reconciling the Koran’s version with the Bible’s . According to the Islamic version, Abraham was to sacrifice Ishmael whereas the Judeo-Christian version has Isaac; no big deal, Abraham didn’t kill his son anyway.

I found it note worthy that neither the Islamic commentator nor Dowd, the Christian appeaser mending fences with our good friends separated only by religion, Dowd never mentioned how Isaac was a similitude of the ultimate sacrifice intended to replace blood sacrifice for all mankind, our Savior, Jesus Christ, which was being foretold through this wonderful story. They did mention that God doesn’t like killing, an agreed upon lesson of this scripture in which the son of Abraham was spared; that’s important. Interesting how the most fundamental foundation of the Christian faith wasn’t mentioned, side stepped if you will; maybe it was all in the name of getting along with our Islamic brothers.

There was a decent explanation of how Abraham came to be the father of three major faiths, having one child through his concubine Hagar and another through his lawful wife Sarah. The world has been at war ever since attempting to define a legitimate heir.

What has this got to do with present day conflicts? How about the speech by Obama this past June to the Muslims given in Cairo ?

“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

What a moron; I mean; use the Arlo Guthrie “I mean…” drawing all the sarcasm you can muster, I mean, how much more ignorant and irrelevant could Obama be perceived as he glossed over thousands of years of never ending conflict, mutual contempt and bloodshed? Maybe Obama watched the History Channel’s milk toast version of “minor” issues between Islam and the Judeo-Christian faiths and took it as fact.

Obama finished binding the major religions of the world in peaceful coexistence as he floated several inches off the ground, his feet supported by angelic throngs all the while his eyes focused on his teleprompter:

'The Holy Koran tells us: “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”

'The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”

‘The Holy Bible tells us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”’

I read a clever “take” applied to the closing lines of Obama’s oration by Thomas Cramer, AKA, Archbishop Cramer on his blog where he came to the same conclusion I did; Obama actually sees himself as the anointed one.

Cramer added:

“Today, in your hearing, these scriptures could be fulfilled.” (*)

I’m touched, truly touched that I have witnessed the second coming. The anointed one is in fact, President Barrack Hussein Obama, of the United States of America, the “largest Muslim nation” on the face of the earth.

(*) “And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:20,21)

I’m not saying this material isn't offensive, taking offense is a waste of time; however, somewhere out there in the confines of a humble dwelling a man is shredding his clothing, his eyes lifted skyward and hoping to make it through the day.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Photographic Evidence

My daughter Bonnie took a couple of pictures the other night; probably to be used as evidence at the mental health hearing to prove I was out of my mind when doing the
Karaoke thing , my granddaughter Jocelyne at my side. The nice part was she also captured me at the pool table during my winning streak.

Ghost Town Teaser Review

I had a treat this afternoon, a movie that was written well and didn’t rely totally on fabulous special effects; instead the characters were well defined and touched the human spirit. Ghost Town , a movie I’d never heard of made for a rewarding afternoon.

In a nutshell, a man who doesn’t deal with people very well is pushed into dealing with lots of folks, awkward and clumsy and every bit vulnerable in his choice to be alone. I found myself pulling for him right up until he…

Not gonna’ give it away; you’re going to have to watch the movie.

Courage to Karaoke

This past Saturday we enjoyed a wonderful diner and social gathering at the Mixa’s home followed by a visit to our children’s where they were to set off fireworks. Justin, our son in law had a huge box of minor explosives; but he took a time out and challenged me to a game of 8 Ball on their new pool table.

Some folks never learn; game, set and match. It was almost as much fun as the first time I whooped him at pool years ago, only this time fighting variable focus glasses and some creaky joints that didn’t want to move. I haven’t lost the touch and went undefeated; Son in law Justin, daughter Bonnie, daughter Jennifer, some cousins of Justin until my nephew Nathan finally edged out a win on his third try.

Bonnie made up a rule that the winner had to sing Karaoke. Richie, one of Justin’s cousins had a fancy Karaoke set up, complete with spot lights for a mock stage. I was at a mild disadvantage for a couple of reasons; most of the music listed was unfamiliar to me, the ones I recognized required a wide range and lastly, courage to make a fool of myself in front of the whole family. My granddaughter Jocelyne gave me a big hug and smile as I grabbed the microphone.

My first attempt at Karaoke, Michael Buble’s version of Feeling Good surprised me as I belted out many parts of the tune with pure confidence in spite of being unable to come close to carrying a tune. David Foster will have to keep looking for his next big star. I finally figured out how the machine’s promptings might help to keep up; yea, that’s why the first attempt sounded a little out of sync.

My grand finale was Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night. I learned something from my years working in the Primary organization at church, let go and have fun. I have no idea how badly I pulled it off; none of the next door neighbors called the police, either for the music being too loud or for it being off key. When it came time to let loose, I let loose with reckless abandon. I had fun; of that there was no denying.

It was liberating and I look forward to some future Karaoke; except I’ll find something more in line with my talents, story telling. Perhaps a go at Harry Chapin’s, Mr. Tanner or his cult classic, Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas. I might even attempt some old Willie Nelson stuff; a raspy country sound might just work. Rest in peace Harry and thanks for some great tunes that anyone can have fun with.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sun Spots and Crop Circles?

Mike Landfair had an interesting link on Facebook worth sharing, having to do with recent sunspot activity sunspot activity which may or may not affect our quite little planet. According to the article our magnetosphere has a hole in it which might make for more damaging effects on July 7th.

There are those who tied the sunspot activity with crop circles; the claim being that these crop circles were a warning of what was to be, a message from extra terrestrial visitors. Believe what you want; but I have always enjoyed the beauty associated with crop circles. Check out the link for some more photographs, neat stuff!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Lighter Side…

It’s become too easy; turning my blog into nothing more than a soapbox of complaints, ranting about anything which made my blood pressure rise. Time to lighten up a bit and my friend Jahn has just the ticket. If you liked West Side Story, you’ll appreciate what has been done at it’s expense. College Humor’s version, Web Site Story deserves at least one curtain call; Bravo!

The Stars and Stripes Forever – A Piece of History

Lucy and I attended the Cynthia Mitchell Woods Pavilion for the annual 4th of July concert. We took our grandson with us so he could hear the music associated with our national holiday celebrating Independence.

Earlier in the day I played the 1812 Overture for him so he’d recognize it while at the concert; explaining how, in all probability, there would be canons fired to compliment the music. JJ thought that would be neat and put up with the other music as the night wore on. The Houston Symphony did a fine job and the canons were much louder than JJ had anticipated; covering his ears as they blasted away on cue. As an encore, the pavilion’s thankful crowd clapping away; the orchestra played Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever to end the evening’s concert.

A fireworks display followed and we headed home where I immediately put on my favorite version of the 1812 Overture, the one played at the Tchaikovsky 150th Birthday Gala performance. If you’ve never heard this version, and watching the performance is even better as the YouTube video below will convince anyone paying attention; near the end where the music builds, up in the second level alcoves, on both sides of the orchestra, a group of uniformed Russian military band members joins in with the brass section to make for an electrifying conclusion.

My next choice was a CD, Rostropovich Return to Russia , which has, of all things, one of the best versions of The Stars and Stripes forever I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to.

Does that sound a little odd; a Russian who’d been living in America going home to Russia after having been in exile for daring to stand up to a totalitarian communist regime? It doesn’t end there; Rostropovich was welcomed like a returning war hero. He had, traveling and performing with him, the National Symphony Orchestra from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington rather than some Russian orchestra as the Russian audience stood in excited loud applause to America’s Stars And Stripes Forever, clapping and shouting their enjoyment for several minutes at its conclusion. It’ll raise the hair on your back listening to it!

You might be asking, “Okay, what’s the catch?” Well, you’d need to do a little work with the calendar to appreciate how this all came about. Rostropovich’s performance was given on February 11, 1990; ring any bells for you history buffs?

Ronald Reagan gave his famous, “Berlin Wall” Speech on June 12, 1987, where he asked; no, he demanded:

“Mr. Gorbachev -- Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

The stage had been set for freedom and liberty to triumph over tyranny and totalitarianism all because President Ronald Reagan believed in America’s foundations as he proclaimed to those listening at the Brandenburg Gate:

“Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront.”

Jump ahead to November 9, 1989 and the Berlin Wall came down , much to the amazement of the entire world.

“Over the next few weeks the feeling in the air was electric, as if some great force had been let loose, perhaps the greatest example of positive [collective] human will ever seen, in my mind the opposite of what happened in the summer of 1914 - a real peaceful revolution.” Joseph, Portugal

This should have been the end of my thoughts ( it's almost 2 am now) as I prepare for tomorrow’s pancake breakfast at church followed by an open house at the Mixa’s where barbeque and all manner of festive foods will be served. Included in my jubilation on this our Independence Day, I must include the hidden warning which accompanies such a set of circumstances.

America is embracing a march toward a totalitarian state as our government ignores individual freedoms and liberties, these gifts from God vanishing from view. Each new “crisis” creates an opportunity for the totalitarian force to grab away yet another piece of our foundation.

Our latest version of America, the great “new deal”, as I’ve heard it called, or the “change”, brought about with the election of Obama has little if any regard for individual rights as contained in the Constitution and even less respect for the Declaration of Independence; more specifically, the part which defines the foundations of our society.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Many in positions of leadership put up with references to our “ancient documents”; but relegate them to an America of long ago so as to diminish the importance of God, Creator of this great nation, the Author of Liberty and individual rights. It would be so much easier installing a full fledged totalitarian regime if not for unalienable Rights which could only come from God; man being singularly inadequate when it comes to the ability to conjure up “natural rights”.

I’ll run that quote from Ronald Reagan by one more time; placing it before all Americans as a warning, something to ponder given our current path.

“Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront.”

Either our Creator really did bestow individuals with certain “unalienable Rights” or America was founded on lies; there really can be no middle ground. If God did grant individuals Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness then the State must be halted at each turn of the road where it attempts to hinder any individual’s lawful expression of those God given rights. I find it much easier to believe God granted unalienable rights because the competing line of thought is unthinkably dark, that another human being, another man has the strings which control everything for which an individual may or may not do.

The best celebration on the 4th of July will be those moments spent in quiet reflection attempting to understand the miracle which we call the United States of America, a gift from God which provides a beacon on the hill for all the world to see. Let us appreciate that gift as we pass it along to the next generation is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Independence Day – Getting into the Spirit

I’m one of those flag waving Americans with a silly grin on his face at the mere playing of the National Anthem. It’s been explained to me that I’m out of touch with reality and how my vision of America went out with the Hula-Hoop; let’s hope not.

July 4th is only a couple of days away; the annual church pancake breakfast, perhaps a fly over by some neat looking fighter jets since we’re so close to the Veteran’s Cemetery and, not to be too concerned, some of my crazy neighbors shooting rifles and shotguns into the air and listening as the little balls of metal fall through the leaves of surrounding trees; hardly anything more exciting than that. We’re in the middle of a very dry stretch of time and it should be fun watching the local fire department vehicles scurrying with their flashing red lights and sirens blasting as they speed onward to put out a fireworks related fire in some vacant field or one of my neighbor’s homes.

Yep, here in America we’re free to do any damn thing we want; isn’t that the misconception generated by those who interpret their individual rights as if they were the only ones who had them? Boy, this is sure turning out to be a fun holiday already…

I watched a short video which had been posted at Below the Beltway, The Left and Right Agree: The Bill of Rights is Inconvenient . That short distraction caused me to ponder the circumstances which played out a couple of hundred years ago when our Constitution was put together. Some of the most hard headed intellectuals from different schools of thought got together and worked out the wording so as to achieve a working document which could be agreed upon in spite of their many differences. It would be nice if one day our elected representatives took a few minutes to read the Constitution; but I wouldn’t count on it, these folks don’t even bother to read legislation prior casting their vote.

I caught a glimpse of something on Facebook; didn’t really stop to read it as I was looking for another particular entry; but it was worthy of including in my thoughts today. It had to do with celebrating the 4th of July; but another person jumped in and reminded us the celebration was for Independence Day, a slight variation in the thought process. That subtle paradigm shift reminded me of one of the speeches included in a book which my daughter gave me several years ago.

Frederick Douglass’ Independence Day Address at Rochester, New York, serves as a solemn reminder that not everyone has the same feelings regarding Independence Day celebrations. As a minor point of interest, the date shown in my book, Great American Speeches, Gregory R. Suriano , was July 4, 1852 whereas the date listed a copy of the speech on the internet is 1841; not that it changes the importance of what was shared.

“Fellow citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, Why am I called upon to speck here today? What have I, or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national alter and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?”


“Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! Whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorry this day, "may my right hand cleave to the roof of my mouth"! To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine. I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the Constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate, I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, shall not confess to be right and just....”

How’s that for a kick in the pants? That having been said over a hundred years ago, immediately following the Civil War such an out pouring of resentment was justified as it explained the feelings of an entire culture of people who’d been exempted from the start up of our nation. I’d have to say the process is never ending; however, at some point in time most, if not all of the “issues” which accompanied blatant racism toward Blacks have been dealt with.

Redirecting my focus to a speech given by Martin Luther King, I have a dream , that magic turning point in our history when a majority of Americans accepted racial differences as natural rather than one race being better or worse than the other; something of a modern day starting point for positive forward movement as opposed to constantly looking back at the woes of the past.

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

To those who persist in their pent up hostilities regarding the Founding Fathers of America, who in their hearts and minds echo some resentment for “those old white guys”, I feel sorry for you as your feelings of hate dominate what clearly has become a nation where any individual can rise and reach levels of success, and all this regardless of race, creed or color of skin. There are even those who have swung on the pendulum of resentment far past the, “Free at last” sentiment and have the attitude of, “Look out, now it’s our turn”. I guess some folks missed that part of Rev. King’s message which expound on the equality of all races; oh well.

If we’re to be honest about freedoms and liberties in today’s environment, a society where racial equality has come full circle; Frederick Douglas might well have to alter his observed disappointment, “Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! Folks so lazy as to become wards of the state, always claiming to be victims of an unfair economy when in fact all they need do is improve their status through education and hard work. I do not hesitate to declare with all my soul that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July! We’ve sold our God given birthright for a bowl of porridge and all we do is complain that our neighbor makes too much money and wonder how we can separate him from it through taxes and entitlements. Instead of looking inward for the strength to do what is necessary; we hold our hands out as beggars to an all powerful federal government agency and say, “More, please, Sir, More”. I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, shall not confess to be right and just...

The foundations our nation were built upon are no longer set or embedded to the Rock, separation of church and state has weakened the resolve to follow the commandments from Above. Instead we rely on polling data to set our moral compass and wonder why fourteen year old young women show up at abortion clinics, pedophilia is available for sale on the internet and our elected representatives don’t comprehend the difference between service to their community and the elitism they’ve carved out for themselves on the backs of taxpayers.

The smallest minority in our country has been and always will be, the individual. God granted rights to the individual to protect him from government agencies; local, state and federal. If we ever get to a point where the rights of the individual are blurred to the point where we start worrying more about the collective than the individual, then we should hang our heads down low, then we will have truly sold our birthright for an empty bowl of porridge. The promise of Utopia where all men are handed out equally without concern for the efforts required is an empty promise built on lies. Those who fall under the spell of such a promise are deluding themselves at the expense of their neighbors and don’t deserve the protections offered in the land of the free and home of the brave.

I finished a locksmith job a while ago, much farther out than I normally provide service because it was a friend of one of my regular customers. When I was done I explained how she needed to say thanks to the fellow since he’d saved her a tow truck fee along with the fact that my price is about a hundred dollars less than what the dealership would have charged. She paid my fee agreed upon and added a tip; not a monetary tip, a box of fireworks from the stand where she works (pictured). I’ll try not to burn down my neighbor’s house this weekend, set any of the dry parched fields afire and lastly, to make my folks happy; I’ll do my best to avoid knocking out an eye.

Wave at your neighbors and remember to treat their God given rights with the same respect you’d want from them. Where have I heard that before; oh yes, it comes from the Bible, right? Are we still permitted to quote from the Bible or has Hate Speech legislation banned that? I know we’re not supposed to wave the American Flag as it annoys the rest of the world; are we really an imperialistic nation, grabbing land from weak unfortunate third world nations or do we simply make it possible for other countries to live under the banner of freedom? It’s so confusing being an American citizen.

Saturday is Independence Day; try to live up to all that entails.