Monday, July 25, 2011

There is nothing like a DAME

Stealing a line from the hit show, South Pacific, seemed like an appropriate way to start today’s article. Far from home in the middle of the war thousands of men reminded of the fact…

“…There are no books like a dame,
And nothin’ looks like a dame.
There are no drinks like a dame,
And nothin’ thinks like a dame,
Nothin’ acts like a dame,
Or attracts like a dame.
There ain’t a thing that's wrong with any man here
That can’t be cured by pullin’ him near
A girly, womanly, female, feminine dame!

But that’s not what the article is about; sorry to have led you down the garden path. This past weekend the Greater Houston Locksmith Association (GHLA) had Harry Sher down to teach an eight hour DAME class. DAME is the acronym for Defense Against Methods of Entry. The class covered areas of the industry which I seldom if ever venture into, my being an automotive specialist. I needed eight more hours before the end of August to keep my locksmith license up to date; don’t get me started on mandated continuing education .

Harry Sher’s been a locksmith since the 50’s and has forgotten more about locks than I’ll ever know; not that he’s forgotten much. His presentation was fast moving as he showed us how to defeat one lock system after another using sophisticated audio visual tools which were all linked to his laptop computer. Some of the tools looked like they’d fit in a James Bond movie, real “Holy Crap! You mean someone actually makes a tool that can do that?”, kind of stuff.

At the half way mark, when it was time to go for lunch, Harry wanted to make sure the building would be locked up; all that fancy equipment being left with nobody to watch over it. I turned to the locksmith sitting next to me and laughed out loud, “Yea, like that’s gonna’ stop anyone”; having observed Harry defeat every lock on display.

Here’s the message, don’t bother locking your door, file cabinet, safe deposit box or safe. If Harry wants in they won’t do any good. I watched him defeat a UL listed lock in 20 seconds; UL listing means it’s supposed to resist picking or manipulation for at least 15 minutes. As for the rest of us, regular everyday locksmiths it might take “a while” longer; but there isn’t a lock made that can’t be defeated.

Rest easy, the average thief hasn’t got the smarts to use the techniques Harry Sher referenced in his DAME class; for that matter, very few locksmiths could claim to be as proficient.

“There is nothin’ like a dame,
Nothin’ in the world,
There is nothin’ you can name
That is anythin’ like a dame!”

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

This will also appear as a feature article on Fiercely Independent Locksmiths of America’s website.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Entering Police State (for your own good)

There’s a story out of New York by Taylor Hatmaker, Secret Service raids Apple store artist for snapping 1000 spy photos , that caught my attention the other day. The secondary title was a bit more accurate, “A young digital artist secretly recorded shoppers peering into computers at New York Apple stores”; too late, I was already looking for James Bond behind every iPad.

The article indicated Kyle McDonald asked for permission to install a computer program of his own design which would secretly take photographs of potential customers as they contemplated purchasing items at the store. McDonald collected the photographs to make a short artistic video which he posted on the internet; a video which is no longer available for viewing.

Who hit the alarm button, the one to alert Homeland Security, Secret Service, the CIA and MI-6 to save us from having our pictures taken in a public setting? “All units, unauthorized picture taking on 14th Street; seek and destroy. Call out the black ops helicopter and get Maxwell Smart out of retirement; the security of our civilized society is now at Defcom 3”. Somebody took photographs in New York City; oh my heavens, call out the guard!

“The stealthy undertaking resulted in the confiscation of McDonald’s two computers, his iPod, and some other storage devices, but it isn’t yet clear if the McDonald was actually in violation of any laws. While the Secret Service warrant cited 'computer fraud' as the cause for the raid…”

Did you catch that, “it isn’t yet clear if the McDonald was actually in violation of any laws”? The “state” always knows best so it must be for our own good.

I’m sure the Patriot Act extension signed by Obama covers a wide range of terrorist activity via its ambiguous wording, enough for an unnamed federal judge to sign a warrant giving the Secret Service authorization to seize “McDonald’s two computers, his iPod, and some other storage devices”.

So, exactly what laws were violated; please be specific. We the People want to know the definition of “for our own good”. Not too long ago Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she stands by the report, which lists returning veterans among terrorist risks to the U.S. .

Without the rule of law our foundation cracks and falls apart. If our individual liberties are at the whim of whomever is in power then our nation is doomed; for what is liberty without a clear understanding of private property rights?

“If the declaration of independence is not obligatory, our intire political fabrick has lost its magna charta, and is without any solid foundation. But if it is the basis of our form of government, it is the true expositor of the principles and terms we have adopted.” (John Taylor 1823)

Where is the line drawn in the sand, the one which identifies tourist activity from terrorist activity? Shouldn’t reason and common sense be used to determine criminal intent or has common sense been thrown out and Zero Tolerance taken its place?

If someone takes pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge while on a trip to New York could they be arrested for planning its demise based merely on the image stored on the camera’s memory card? What if they took pictures of some of the characters seen at Wal-Mart ; not that anyone could be embarrassed with a few “candid camera” shots there.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds wrote an article which explained, “Taking Photos In Public Places Is Not a Crime” , giving generally accepted rules which apply regardless of the fact that too many officials think otherwise.

“Legally, it’s pretty much always okay to take photos in a public place as long as you’re not physically interfering with traffic or police operations. As Bert Krages, an attorney who specializes in photography-related legal problems and wrote Legal Handbook for Photographers, says, “The general rule is that if something is in a public place, you’re entitled to photograph it.” What’s more, though national-security laws are often invoked when quashing photographers, Krages explains that “the Patriot Act does not restrict photography; neither does the Homeland Security Act.” But this doesn’t stop people from interfering with photographers, even in settings that don’t seem much like national-security zones.”

I ask once more, getting back to the original article that got my blood pressure up a notch, where in our laws is it written that the Secret Service can confiscate McDonald’s personal property simply for taking pictures of folks shopping for a computer? Exactly what laws were violated; please be specific? I know; it must be for our own good.

“Of all tyrannies a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” -C.S. Lewis

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"X" Marks the Spot

When I was growing up, not that the process was ever completed, we had a Hobo’s “X” marked on our front door. You couldn’t see it; but all the same it was there. Stray animals wandering the neighborhood would recognize the mark and know they were welcome to stop in for a meal and safe lodgings for as long as needed. Some of them became members of our extended family.

One time there was a lonely “hound mix” waiting for us to open the front door. He looked like he was on his last leg so my parents invited him in for a meal and a bowl of water. He didn’t venture very far into the house; content to be in out of the elements, he stayed in the entry way.

At the time we already had two pets, a large rust colored dog named Gritz and a feisty old grey cat, Topsey. Gritz was easy going and saw no problem letting the stranger in; Topsey, on the other paw, drew an imaginary line on the floor letting the interloper know he was on thin ice.

This was the Sixties and a popular television show in our house was Bonanza. One of the episodes had a hound sleeping on the porch of a back woods friend. Now and then the hound would move in its sleep. The dog shook its head when a fly landed on its ear and the owner remarked, “Walter’s getting excited”, as the dog went back to his slumbers.

We observed the “energy challenged” dog in our entry way the rest of the evening. The hound was so tired he fell asleep while leaning against the wall; his loose fitting frame sliding slowly down the wall and into a heap on the floor. We knew right away; his name must be Walter.

When it was time for bed it was decided the dog was to stay inside, something which everyone except Topsey thought was a good idea. Later in the night we awoke to the hound’s plea for help. Topsey had taken it upon herself to corner Walter and chastise him for trespassing.

Walter was indeed cornered; Topsey had a low growling threat escaping her mouth as her ears fixated on the cowering dog in the corner. Every now and then Walter would look to the heavens and let go with a mournful howl as if it were his last breath on this earth. Topsey would have been satisfied with that; but Walter was saved from eminent destruction that day and eventually become part of the family.

Walter wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box and never figured out Topsey hadn’t signed the family contract adopting him. Topsey would set traps for Walter from time to time and enjoyed taking a piece of Walter’s nose when the poor dolt would fall into those traps.

Topsey would lie upside down on the floor pretending to be asleep. Walter would study the situation for a while and cautiously approach to see if she was in deed asleep. He would inch closer and observe no discernable movement until he was directly over her. At precisely the right moment Topsey’s front paws would surround Walter’s nose, claws extended, as she’d bite him. There would be a yelp as Walter retreated and a quite moment of satisfaction from Topsey as she marked her score card. Walter never learned from experience and fell for the ploy numerous times.

That was then and this is now, isn’t that how the line goes. The Hobo’s X that was on my parent’s home somehow managed to find my own home regardless of where we’ve lived. In reality, that Hobo’s X isn’t on the house, at least not the structure; it’s on our hearts. These wandering creatures are able to see into our hearts and recognize a gentle spirit, one who will graciously offer a meal or safe haven without expecting much, if anything in return.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Looking for an Old Photograph

(This story was posted previously; however, when I tried to link with it "the powers that be" had placed a blocker on it; claimed it had offensive material and/or spam, it does not contain anything offensive.  I've removed any and all links to it; hopefully that clears off the block.) 

Looking for an Old Photograph

I spent the morning looking for an old photograph. I wanted to find a group picture of my 1976 Point Control softball team to send off to an old friend. We would play in his backyard, tossing a worn out baseball for hours on end; pretending we were at Yankee Stadium. Forty years later we are comparing notes and catching up with each other.

I went through stacks of old pictures; finding all kinds of vacation shots in the mountains, our kids in various stages of growing up, cars we had owned (or had owned us); everything except the team picture. I found some photos from when my dad and I flew up to Chicago to take in a game, the Cubs at Wrigley Field, close but no cigar.

I rummaged through my desk, a study in creative disorder. I found my first rough draft for Chapter One of “Pecaw’s Gift”, a novel length work that I tried to get published. To save money I’d printed it on the back of my locksmith company letterhead; might as well since it had our old address. I wonder where I put the rest of that manuscript.

Maybe I could scan a copy of the plaque given to us for sponsoring my son, William’s, baseball team. They came in second place that year and each boy earned a trophy. Trophies are an important part of growing up. I still have the trophy from my Little League days. Thinking back, every kid who put on a team shirt got some kind of trophy just for being a member of the team, any team. It didn’t matter if they ever won a game, you got a trophy to put on the fireplace mantle. That trophy was a solid piece of evidence that you existed on this Earth. In time, at least in the back of your mind, that first trophy would be the start of many worldly awards; Rookie of the Year, National League MVP, two or three World Series rings, and the dreams roll on.

I played high school ball long enough to figure out that my chances of getting to the next level were slim to none. I did get my “letter sweater” and it hangs in the closet next to a light blue shirt with four hash marks on the left sleeve; the shirt I wore when I retired from the police department. Some trophies never make the fireplace; they hang in the closet.

I imagine that some time later in the day I may stumble over that team picture I was hunting for. It would be nice to have a look at some of the faces, young police officers taking a few moments in the middle of the night to play softball together. It was the “midnight league”, at least that’s what we called it. We all worked the evening shift and would get off duty around ten or eleven. The teams were made from various divisions within the police department. Ours was Point Control, the guys who directed traffic during rush hour, later to become Special Operations,. We came in third place that year; gave that trophy to our division commander to show off in the office. Point Control didn’t have too many trophies. There was the Safety Award Plaque that hung on the wall; the one that accidentally got nicked by a stray bullet, but that’s a whole other story.

I’ll keep looking for the picture; it’s become a challenge now. I did find a picture taken the day Lucy and I got married. We’d only been married a few minutes as we confidently marched back up the isle; my arm crooked around hers. I have to admit, that picture grabs my interest even more than the Point Control team photo. Trophies come in various shapes and sizes, this one still holds my hand on our Saturday night date.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Journal Entry July 1st 1776

This past week has been very difficult. As mentioned in previous journal entries, many of our neighbors have been forced to house British troops. We all have had to turn over much of our food stores to maintain the troops. If these insults were not sufficient to get my blood running hot, these Red Coats are going house to house in our small village confiscating anything which resembles a weapon, tools we use to gather fresh game as well as fend off those who would do us harm.

Just yesterday Lucy was forced to stand patiently at the front door to our humble quarters while Red Coats searched every nook and cranny for weapons. Fortunately they didn’t search under her overly long dress where they would have found four muskets; thank heavens for quick thinking. All our gun powder and shot has been carefully hidden away under the floor; but first thing tomorrow it will be taken to a more secure location in the thicket.

A small group met at the local pub last night after normal business hours. With the doors locked and lamps turned down low we heard rumors out of Philadelphia that armed conflict is inevitable. Cousin Richard Henry Lee has been attending those meetings, representing our interests and has assured us that every peaceable measure has been attempted up to date. According to Richard the only avenue left to the colonies is to declare our independence from British rule and the King. I fear our hardships have only begun.

Unfortunately, and perhaps to be expected, a few hot heads have taken to violence such as tossing stones at passing British troops. On Friday one soldier got bloodied and had his head bandaged after a volley of moderately sized rocks cascaded from behind a large stand of trees. As yet there have been no arrests; yet we all are considered suspect by the manner in which we are searched without cause upon entering the public square or simply walking among them.

Pastor Williams has asked the entire congregation to fast this Sunday and asked us to pour out our hearts to our Lord’s that we might have His Holy Spirit help in finding His will in these matters. May our actions be compatible with the expectations of our Savior or may He grant us forgiveness in our errors.

(This is a fictional account created as a measure of respect for those who placed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor on the line in order to secure us our independence)

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

Friday, July 01, 2011

If you don’t know where you came from…

Have you ever heard the expression, “If you don’t know where you came from how can you know where you’re going?” This weekend many of us celebrate our Independence Day. I say many of us; but there’s a significant portion which doesn’t share the pride swelling inside as an American Flag is paraded down Main Street according to some Harvard professors. Why is that?

‘“The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century. Survey evidence also confirms that Republicans consider themselves more patriotic than Democrats. According to this interpretation, there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican party. Fourth of July celebrations in Republican dominated counties may thus be more politically biased events that socialize children into Republicans,” write Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam.”

Maybe folks would have a better understanding of America if they took the time to figure out where we came from. When you ask important questions interesting things happen.

Take for example the children’s song, I Am A Child of God , consider the message and compare it with what the Scriptures tell us; the answer is the same. We are children of our Heavenly Father, that same Being referred to in the Declaration of Independence as the Creator.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27

I keep forgetting, this requires a leap of faith, something quite alien to statists. There’s a line drawn in the sand, so to speak, dividing intellectuals from Creationist loonies. Many demean and ridicule people of faith as if religion was a crutch for the weak minded; a ploy used by the Father of Lies from the beginning of time.

Intellectuals don’t mind hiding behind God given inalienable right to express themselves at every turn. Of course they’d have us believe these are “natural rights”, something which government identified and handed out like pop sickles rather than acknowledge their true source. In fact they’ve embellished on the original right to freedom of speech considerably which now includes profanity, pornography and almost any conceivable abomination which springs from the mind, mouth or hand of man. Never mind the Commandments of God; we are free to act any damn way we please.

Progressive minded folks are comfortable with Einstein’s mathematics and theories regarding complex relationships on time, space, gravitational interaction and physics. If you looked up “Relativity” on the internet there are many listings, the easiest to understand is found here .

“Einstein stated that the theory of relativity belongs to the class of “principle-theories”. As such it employs an analytic method. This means that the elements which comprise this theory are not based on hypothesis but on empirical discovery. The empirical discovery leads to understanding the general characteristics of natural processes. Mathematical models are then developed which separate the natural processes into theoretical-mathematical descriptions. Therefore, by analytical means the necessary conditions that have to be satisfied are deduced. Separate events must satisfy these conditions. Experience should then match the conclusions.”

Before Einstein took his first breath the same all encompassing parameters had already been recorded; not in scientific terminology, plain ordinary English. God’s laws are comprehensive, binding and eternal; they include mathematics, physics, particle theory as well as how His children should behave while in mortality.

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated — And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” Doctrine and Covenants 130:20,21

John Adams, one of our finest minds wrote: (No doubt, Adams was a hard core right winger)

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Follow that train of thought and you’ll find George Washington’s famous quote: (What a crack pot, no doubt he had a few screws loose. He was a Free Mason; and we all know they were up to no good, a bunch of right wingers if ever there was…)

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Call me a right winger, one of those “tea partiers” who’ve sipped one too many. I snap to attention at the playing of our National Anthem and when I see the Stars and Stripes go by I stand, salute and revere what it stands for. Our Pledge of Allegiance includes the words, “one nation under God”. All that “extreme” right wing brain washing from the GOP must have found a weak spot.

Our athletes standing on the podium during Olympics give us a chance to appreciate a land so vast and full of accomplishments; my mind reflects on Francis Scott Keys historical tale which had our nation come out on top against incredible odds.

If successive generations fails to recognize the importance of these lessons then the shame be upon us for not doing our duty as citizens, parents and children of our Father in Heaven. My heart swells with pride and tears run down my cheeks when Katharine Lee Bates’ America the Beautiful is sung.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I refuse to take a step backwards and apologize for showing my patriotism, to shy away from feelings which are stirred within my chest this time of year. Those who fail to recognize the importance of knowing where we came from are empty shells living on borrowed, even stolen hope. Can those who lack the ability to understand and implement these foundational concepts expect to lead our nation toward a bright and shinning future?

Americans must recognize the Author of Liberty and gratefully acknowledge His hand as we celebrate our Independence Day. In case you haven’t figured it out, I know where I came from and I know where I’m going!

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.