Monday, July 31, 2006

Thinking Back

Thomas Anger, don’t know if that’s his real name or just his blogger’s moniker, wrote an article over at Liberty Corner which he called, Living in the Past. If you have a chance drop by and visit the 1940’s courtesy of the memories he recorded.

I wrote about my Quality time with JJ ( linked via title bar) this past week and couldn’t help thinking about visits to my grandparent’s apartment in New York when I was JJ’s age. I walked JJ up the stairs and got him into bed for the night, said a prayer with him and left him to his thoughts as I turned out the light.

Instead of seeing my own house as I returned to the Den, I was transported in time to my grandparent’s apartment in the mid to late 1950’s. I could see the pale blue gray colored painted walls in their guest room where I was to sleep on the sofa; a black boarder Afghan for a blanket. There was a quite courtyard below with a gazebo but very little grass as I recall. I would look out into the shadows cast by the apartment buildings and listen from the open window as the noises from the city trickled into the room. There was an elevated train station several blocks away, Bliss Street. I could hear the noise from the garbage shoot that banged and thumped objects near the wall where it transported them down to the trash collection room below.

I wondered what kind of thoughts and memories JJ would have of his time alone in the room, a room that at one time had been his mother’s bedroom. There’s an air conditioning air intake port in the hallway that rattles a bit when the unit clicks on; would that make a noise worthy of thoughts? We’re on one of the invisible paths that airplanes follow as they approach the airport; sometimes they come in rather low, would that be similar to my memories of the elevated trains? Life is an adventure worth taking note of, whether you're 4 years old or just a tad older; say 55 and looking forward to 56.

15 Vs 75

I’ve been reading my favorite blogs, finding out the hot buttons for the day. Some days I can jump right in with an opinion, a comment or zap out my own article if a nerve gets too raw. I was reading about the “word police” in the Middle East, wasteful spending at NASA (by the way that’s redundant), the cut and run policy of the Democrats and why they should never be permitted a chance to run this country and things like that; all well written articles by the way.

Roxie, my 75 pound mix American Boxer, Lab, Dalmatian, Pit Bull ( Not necessarily in any order or proof of ancestry ), Roxie was quietly resting on the floor when Bubba came out from her spot in the window. Bubba weighs all of 15 pounds but has made her dislike for dogs in general well documented, Roxie in particular.

Bubba’s exit from behind the curtain put her on a path that would lead directly in front of Roxie. She paused momentarily and tilted her head as Roxie stopped breathing. Roxie turned to stone as Bubba pranced past her nose and into the entry way where she sat down and did some last minute preening, about a foot and a half away from Roxie.

This was a power play, no different than a star slugger going into his victory trot around the base pads after watching a baseball’s majestic arch as it clears the right center field wall and lands in the upper deck. Bubba had proven her superiority, Roxie belongs to her.

Bubba eventually tired of the game and walked off into the Den. Roxie had remained motionless, all except her eyes which could not track any further to the side, being physically limited by the anatomy of such structures.

“It’s okay, Roxie, she’s gone now.” I called out and Roxie did one of those deep breathing tension relieving exercises where you can hear the air being drawn in and then expelled prior to coming over to thank me for protecting her interests.

Now, does anyone wish to discuss Israel Vs the rest of the Middle East?
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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Without a Doubt

While attending our meetings this morning we read some scriptures having to do with doubt; more specifically, when Jesus was tempted by Satan during his fast and then again while He was on the cross at Calvary.

“And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Matthew 27: 39,40

On the surface it would appear that Satan is looking to place doubt in the mind of our Lord, “Do you really believe that you are the Son of God, that you are the Savior?” Had Satan prevailed the entire Plan of Salvation, the atonement and the resurrection of all mankind would have been destroyed; fortunately, that wasn’t how it came out.

How much of that question applies to each of us as we travel along the path He has asked us to take as we follow in His footsteps? Are we not children of our Father in Heaven, heirs to all that He has? Do we doubt the truthfulness of the Gospel because Satan has attempted to dissuade us from achieving all that our Father in Heaven has promised us? How many times have you heard, “Religion is just a crutch for the weak minded.”? It’s no different than pointing an accusing finger at you, a way to make you feel uncomfortable for having expressed a faith in God, something that Satan would prefer you not do.

“For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Moses 1:39

It would be easy to say that we have already made too many mistakes, that we are imperfect beings, permanently estranged from such lofty goals. It is Satan’s intention to make us feel less than worthy, to quit making the effort and to forget that our Savior has paid for our sins. The atonement makes up for our short comings, if we will allow it; by continuing, by striving and by enduring to the end.

The scriptures are either true or they are not. If they are not true then we who go to such great lengths to live a life worthy of the atonement will have done so for naught; on the other hand, if the scriptures are indeed true, pity those who fail to recognize the awesome opportunities afforded them. This is one of those “No Fence Sitting Permitted” kind of answers.

There is a Primary song, I am a child of God. ( linked via title bar ) Its simple message strikes a chord, something that the Spirit witnesses to us as the truth. For some it is but a hope that it might be true while for others it reaffirms that which we know in our hearts is true. Once the truth has been made known unto you, that you are more important than you may realize at this time, Satan will work on you a little harder. Satan desires that you give up on yourself, no different than he attempted to do with our Lord during his life in mortality. Without a doubt you are a child of God; now, live up to that honor.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Quality Time With JJ

My daughter Jennifer called last night to see if I could spend some time with my grandson JJ. My son in law’s younger brothers have been staying over and playing a little too rough, enough to make JJ feel like the odd man out. What good’s a grandpa if he can’t figure out a way to help out?

JJ was told he might be going to spend the night with us and had packed his “carry on luggage”, the orange knapsack with a handle on one end and wheels just like the one Bonnie has, only for kids. Bonnie had given it to him, explaining that he needed to have it ready just in case she picked him up to get on an airplane. He had enough cloths to last a week; Bob the Builder underwear, Spiderman underwear, four pair of blue jean shorts, several T-shirts, extra socks and sandals. He was ready.

I had a late locksmith job and was able to pick JJ up just as the sun was going down. On the way out the door and putting him in my work truck I suggested that we drive over to What-a-burger and enjoy a chocolate shake and fries.

“Okay.” JJ didn’t need any arm twisting. I knew that I was to pick Lucy up at the church building where she was teaching a class on emergency preparedness. I’d packed her car full of interesting objects, butane stoves, fire starters, water jugs and a kitchen sink or two. My other daughter, Bonnie, would be getting back from her cruise ship vacation and we were going to leave Lucy’s car parked at the back of the church for her; it would work out perfect this way.

JJ and I were “scarfing” down one French fry after another, dipping them in ketchup and sipping our chocolate milk shakes when Lucy called to let us know it was time to pick her up. The What-a-burger place is just down the road making it easy; one freeway exit and a U-turn, how easy does it get?

This morning I took JJ with me to do a simple locksmith job; fit a key to an old “POS” 1988 Mazda 626 at a small hole in the wall car lot over by Bush IAH. JJ heard that it was over by the airport and grabbed his “carry on luggage”, just in case he needed it. I took an envelope full of blog articles that I planned to mail off to my folks in Florida; the post office at the airport would be convenient once the lock job was completed.

At the post office JJ found an older kid playing some kind of electronic game while waiting in line. The two of them played as if they were next door neighbors until we got to the front of the line and handed the lady our envelope. The postal clerk placed it in the stack as JJ watched and I explained that it was being mailed to “GG” (his great grandmother). We had talked to GG only a few minutes earlier on my cell phone and he thought we might be getting on an airplane to go visit; slightly disappointed that we were only going to send her something in the mail.

I then drove to a location on the airport property where JJ could watch airplanes as they approached for landings. JJ was excited as he saw them far off with their head lamps sparkling amid the many and varied clouds; being thrilled to see so many clouds and trees was as much a treat as watching the airplanes land.

A mail truck with its recognizable logo emblazoned on the side drove past our view on the other side of the chain link fence. JJ immediately came to the conclusion that it was carrying the letter we’d just dropped off at the post office. An airplane on final approach was about to land as the mail truck went by.

“Just in time”, JJ concluded that the airplane was the very same plane that the mail truck was going to meet and that we had timed our trip to the post office perfectly. “That’s the plane that’s going to GG.” Life is so simple when your 4 years old.

My phone rang and I realized that my next locksmith call was going to be considerably more difficult, requiring my full attention. I told JJ that I would drop him off at his house.

“What about the ice cream, Peapaw?” I told JJ that after we dropped off the letter at the post office that we might stop off for ice cream; “might” means “you promised” to a 4 year old when ice cream is involved.

I got off the freeway and remembered that there was a Texaco station close by; hopefully they would have ice cream. JJ recognized the familiar horizontal freezer with the Blue Bell and Nestle advertising before we even got inside the door. He picked one of the orange “push up pops” with some kind of cartoon on the cardboard wrapper. He took the stick off, not knowing that he needed the stick to push the ice cream up a portion at a time. We got it back on and he was pleased at how easy it worked.

We both sat on the curb to permit dripping ice cream to land where it would do the least harm; the front seat of my truck was out of the question. Ice cream was dripping on his hands and as he licked it off it would then drip onto his legs and sandals. He was really into enjoying his orange ice cream, pushing the little plastic stick and licking the melting mess as it oozed over the edges and down the sides.

I had some napkins, left over from the night before in my truck, and a large plastic container of drinking water available. I placed one of the napkins on the curb and had JJ place his discarded pop up wrapper in the middle as I started to “hose” him down. It took a few minutes and well worth the effort as I placed him in the truck and strapped the seat belt on him. This is what being a grandparent is all about.
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Friday, July 28, 2006

Long Distance Calls for Locksmith Service

I got a call from a lady asking for service this morning. I have Caller ID and didn’t recognize the area prefix as I asked where she was calling from.

“Chicago”, she explained that I’d made a key to her Jeep about a year ago when she was here in Houston. “You must remember me, I was the one who lost the key to a Jeep and you came out right away, I was in the taxi waiting…” Oh, yea, like I’d remember.

She went on and on about how the Jeep dealership in Chicago was unable to make a key, something about the VIN having been changed or not being in the computer; she wasn’t quite sure what all that meant. “Can’t you just send me a key in the mail?”

I recommended that she call one of Chicago’s many fine locksmiths, much as she had done here in Houston. “This way you’ll get to meet somebody new”, I chided her into admitting that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to have to meet a different locksmith.

She knew that I kept a record of various key information by VIN as she read off the last eight of her vehicle. It wasn’t in my database; not that I’d have given that information to a stranger over the telephone, that’s something reserved for a face to face meeting where I can verify ownership. She called back once more thinking I was a different Jeep dealership and I again advised her to find a local locksmith; my service call to Chicago would be a little steep. I don’t think they’d let me take my tools on the plane anyway.

Several years ago one of my neighbors, a good friend from church, was in El Salvador visiting with his wife’s parents. While down there he lost the only set of keys to their car, a set of keys I’d made for him. He called and gave me the address in El Salvador and asked if I could send him a replacement set. I looked it up on the computer, clipped a new set and sent the keys off to him registered mail; the difference being that I knew my friend well enough to recognize his voice and trusted him whereas I had no such relationship with the lady from Chicago.

I got a call one afternoon from a “ship to shore” operator requesting my services once. I was laughing too hard to remember much about the call. I live in Houston; at least 50 miles from the Gulf, much less the fact that I had no intention of getting on a boat or a helicopter that would take me to a potential customer at sea.

The longest distance for a call for service I ever received was from Afghanistan. The call came in on a Houston area code so I thought it was a joke at first. The customer still had her Houston issued cell phone and was a member of the armed forces serving in the Army; they must have a special deal on “roaming charges”. I’d made keys for her once before and she had my business card in her wallet. She asked would I make keys for her truck and give them to her brother at the storage lot where she had it stored while serving in the military. His truck had broken down and this would let him have transportation while his was in the shop for repairs. Her brother had all the necessary identification and was listed on the storage lot lease so I felt comfortable doing business with them. How far is it to Afghanistan anyway?

Battle to Save Property Rights

There’s an interesting article in the Houston Chronicle by Lisa Gray, “Battle to Save River Oaks Center”. Actually, Lisa Gray sent her article to me via email; I suppose because I’d commented about another article she’d written applauding her efforts she has supposed that I would jump on the band wagon, any band wagon.

I can only guess, having read the article (linked via title bar), that Lisa Gray is of the opinion, as are many others in our community, that property owners have to get permission from all their neighbors prior to exercising ownership rights. In case you were wondering, ownership rights include renovations and use of property for whatever lawful purpose might be reasonably expected or even sale of property to whomever regardless of race, religion or sex and things like that.

Enter the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, a group of self absorbed and self appointed property police. These folks are all upset because an old building, the River Oaks Theater, a building that no longer generates a significant profit for its owner will be torn down in order to satisfy the owner’s desires, that being to better utilize that property as determined by the times and the owner’s decisions to improve the chances of making a profit. Golly darn, they forgot to say, “Mother May I” or check to see if “Simon Says”.

Maybe the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance should, instead, try to salvage what’s left of Property Rights. Maybe they should read the historic documents that made Property Rights here in the United States of America something worth preserving. Maybe they should start by reading the Magna Charta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and things intended to explain the importance of individual ownership rights as opposed to arbitrary governmental impositions on Property Rights.

Here’s a solution that would work; have the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance offer to purchase the property which they are so intent on salvaging for time and all eternity in its present state. This is, after all, America where if you have enough money you can buy what your heart desires. Once the deal is signed they can rest easy, knowing that the River Oaks Theater will operate in the red forever.

If the owner refuses to sell, the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance might attempt to have the property seized under Eminent Domain by the City of Houston and turned over to them since they know better than the current owner how important that old theater is to the community. The property battle could be drawn out for years in the courts, ensuring the status quo for quite some time.

While I’m on the subject, maybe we could get those who claim to be leaders in our government; you know, legislators, senators and justices on the Supreme Court; those folks should read about property rights too. We could start a “movement”, as Arlo Guthrie sang in his song, “Alice’s Restaurant”; “the anti eminent domain and property rights for the individual movement”. Just think, if two of you went into City Hall humming a few bars of it, in harmony, they might think you were a couple of faggots; but if three of you started singing, can you imagine, a whole group of you singing the entire version of the anti eminent domain and property rights for the individual movement?

My most sincere apologies to Arlo Guthrie for taking liberties with his lyrics; “You can get anything you want…”, just waiting for it to come around again. . . Who’d of thought an old retired cop would enjoy a song written to make fun of cops?

Edited July 29, 2006

TMH Bacon Bits has something similar to Rush's "Open Line Friday", an invitation to link articles.
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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Take a Shot at the Lawsuit Lottery

Remember the woman who sued McDonalds a few years ago because she got hot scalding coffee on her out of a cup of hot coffee that she had purchased? This next story from the Fox website must be about one of her relatives. (linked via title bar)

“MIAMI — A woman who was allegedly severely burned by flaming rum during a Bacardi promotion sued the wine and spirits producer, claiming the product was defective and dangerous.”

{. . . }

“A bartender, who was not identified in the lawsuit, was pouring shots when a customer lit a menu on fire and placed it in the stream of alcohol. A bottle of Bacardi 151 that was being used to pour the shots turned into a flame thrower and sent flaming rum all over Alleyne, the lawsuit said.”

Imagine that, alcohol is flammable. I’m not making light of the injuries or the fact that the woman has a legitimate complaint against somebody; however, while there may be cause for a lawsuit, wouldn’t the natural target be the irresponsible customer who set the menu on fire and caused the problem? My guess is that person isn’t rich enough to sue so they’re going after a target with deep pockets.

That same lawyer is waiting for a chance to file suit on Shell Oil Refineries, hoping some bozo throws lighted piece of paper past a gas pump nozzle while one of his future clients is filling the tank. After the explosion he plans to explain how Shell gasoline is defective and dangerous. I got news, the only thing defective is the lawyer filing frivolous lawsuits in the hope of hitting a jury awarded lottery jack pot.
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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Art and History

I read a very moving article by Lisa Gray in the Houston Chronicle this morning that reminded me of moment in time. Please read the story linked via the title bar.

“"People being nice," Bridges said at the museum, "that means a lot." The Rockwell painting reminds her how bad her world once was — and how much better it is now.”

After reading the story I got out my Rockwell book and scanned a portion of the mural mentioned; it being larger than the platen only a third of the picture would fit. I think Norman Rockwell was better at reporting the issues of the day with his brush and canvass than most of today’s journalists with their keyboards and computers. What’s the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. . .
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Monday, July 24, 2006

Tornado at Night

This picture of a tornado (water spout) and lightning strike over Lake Okeechobee was taken at about 10 PM on June 15, 1991. ( or 1993, depending on source ) The photograph was taken by Mr. Fred Smith. Photo and links courtesy of and Todd over at Dangerous Liberty ( link in title bar ).

The photograph’s authenticity was in question; however, it has been validated by a visit to Snopes/Urban Legends. This was worth sharing, a one in a million shot.

In August 1983 Hurricane Alicia passed through our old neighborhood; the same house that my daughter Jennifer now lives in, and spawned a tornado that passed directly over us. We were very fortunate in that it jumped our house, enough so that it only took a couple of shingles from our roof. I heard the ferocious roar of the winds, sometime referred to as the sound of a locomotive; although I would say that was too easy an assessment, more like the air trying to tear itself apart at full volume.

The tornado did strike the neighborhood behind us; partially tearing the roof off a friend’s house only to set it back down; well, almost intact. I went over with a group of fellows from church to do an emergency roof repair. Unfortunately the damage to the inside of the house was already done, water had poured down inside the walls and ruined most everything.
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Being of Service

My oldest daughter is off on an adventure, a cruise ship vacation with a bunch of single adults from church. They planned this for months and as the time approached have worked out ways to visit the ruins down in Mexico and other side trips. Several of my daughter’s friends are going to meet at the church parking lot and drive down together to save on gas and parking expenses. Bonnie asked if she could borrow Lucy’s Solara rather than go in her Jetta because it would be more comfortable and hold more stuff in the trunk.

Lucy got up early this morning, took the car over to one of those car wash places where you plunk in quarters and power washed to make it look nice for these young people. She even threw in an extra dollar to hot wax it and protect the finish from the salt air down n Galveston. Right now she’s got the vacuum cleaner and is giving the car a few last minute details; Windexing the windows and putting some Fabreeze on the carpet to make it smell great.

Bonnie came down a few minutes ago all excited about the trip. I explained that her mother had been up for hours doing nice things for her and that it would be wise to acknowledge all that with a Thank You. Bonnie was up half the night washing and folding cloths, ironing a few things and in general; trying to keep all those electrified nerves in check. One of her friends called around 2 in the morning, couldn’t sleep either, and wanted to go to the local I-HOP.

I’ll stay out of the way and think “pleasant thoughts” for them as they head into the Gulf waters and the Bay of Campeche where the weather is prime for creating a tropical storm. The weather service is contemplating sending one of their hurricane investigation airplanes to find out if there is any circulation involved with the tropical wave that is drifting to the north.

Bonnie just called on her cell phone; turns out they decided to go in Harrison’s car instead, a little bigger than Lucy’s Solara so we can go pick it up at church should we decided to. Well, at least it’s all cleaned, polished and smells nice. I looked at the weather map again; hope those kids took some Dramamine along; could be some “interesting” weather where they’re headed.

May these young people have a wonderful time, regardless of the challenges that the weather might bring. May they have a safe trip, free from calamity or harm as they enjoy each other’s company in a manner that meets the standards we expect of them. Lastly, may they have a mindset of gratitude for the opportunity that has been presented; that they be cognizant of the blessings that have been poured out in abundance for them. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Trinkets and National Security

One of the fun parts about going to the locksmith convention is getting trinkets; a little like going to Mardi Gras except the women don’t have to bare their breasts and get drunk, or is that get drunk and bare their breasts. I enjoy getting the freebies with advertising stamped on them; the ball point pens, the screw drivers with the magnet on the end, the miniature candy bars, fancy colored lock picks, playing cards and even collector’s edition padlocks ( bet you didn’t even know such a thing existed ).

The problem with all that paraphernalia; it has to pass through the screener’s X-ray machine before boarding an airplane to get home. I went through all the stuff before heading off to the airport and pulled two very nice promotional give away items, retractable box cutters with segmented break away blades. I could imagine spending time in an interrogation room had I left those in the carry on luggage. In a different time, before 9/11, those would have been nice to give away at the locksmith convention; a handy tool for opening boxes of keys, locks and a constant reminder of who gave you that neat toy, the company logo imprinted on the side of the practical little box cutter with a safety cap on the end. What were they thinking?

I plopped it all in the bottom of the canvas sack, again the fancy KABA logo imprinted so I wouldn’t forget who supplied the shopping basket. When we got to the front of the security check point line I placed it all in one of those collection bins along with my iPod, pocket watch, belt buckle and shoes. I enjoy walking in my socks in large crowded places and so I sneak off to the airport every chance I get, a smirk on my face as the cool terrazzo sucks the perspiration from between my toes. There is something seriously wrong with our society when you have to take your shoes off to get on an airplane; my thanks to all the terrorists lurking in the shadows who’ve made this a part of daily life.

“Sir, I’m returning from the Locksmith Convention; just wanted to let you know that some odd looking items might show up on your screen.” I figured it couldn’t hurt, being helpful and pleasant as the odd mix of reflective metals set off the alarms. I was busy putting my belt buckle back on as the screener picked up my small carry on luggage and took it around for a second pass. Three highly trained security experts were studying the screen and pointing to suspicious red flagged items.

“That long one is a Kwikset removal tool”, a neat piece of stamped metal that takes up almost no space in a locksmith’s tool box. It looks a little like a tongue depressor, except on one end the edges are flared so they catch the retainer springs that hold the Kwikset lock cylinder inside the knob housing. They were reviewing the known weapons list furnished by the Homeland Security administrator’s alert department for a match. I don’t think they were listening as they turned my luggage on its side to get a different angle.

“You can open it up and look; really, there’s nothing sinister in there.” I’m sure the rest of the folks waiting to pass through were thrilled at my having so many interesting novelty items. I bet they all read about Rush Limbaugh’s luggage search.

I’m sure they had a good laugh at my collection of lapel pins, some shaped like tiny keys. I have a lamp shade those go on, like bumper stickers on a car or refrigerator magnets; same thing. My lampshade is covered with memorabilia; places I’ve gone, things I’ve been a part of and even my old “PD’s” from when I was a police officer.

The X-ray screener never asked about my brand new 7/11 ice chest full of Bing Cherries and Clark Bars ( Clark Wholesale Locksmith Supply ). That has to be the most efficient Styrofoam chest I’ve ever had. We filled it with the Dr. Pepper, a large sack of cherries, the “give away” candy bars from the “show” and ice early Sunday morning as we checked out of our accommodations.

The temperature in Las Vegas was around 110 all day as we parked the rental car and visited the casinos. The chest was still full of ice when we got to the airport for our “red eye” flight home. The flight attendant lady might have been looking to see if I had any chickens or a loose piglet as she stored the ice chest in the galley; but she smiled and went about the business of boarding the rest of the passengers. Another locksmith convention experience in the books, I can hardly wait for the next one.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

“It Happens”, as Forrest Gump would say

Remember when Forrest was running along and stepped in a huge pile of fresh dog shit while being interviewed and all he said was, “It happens”. The fellow interviewing Forrest came up with a bumper sticker, “Shit Happens” and made millions from that one idea; the movie breaks off to show a pickup truck with that very same bumper sticker being slammed, the focus of the camera aimed at the bumper sticker.

It happens to the President of the United States too; reading where Bush’s microphone was accidentally left on while he talked with Prime Minister Blair. Apparently nothing too sensitive went out over the air.

“Tony, by the way we’re invading Iran and Syria Wednesday morning, right after we nuke that blow hard in North Korea. To hell with Kofi and that whole bunch of third world pimps over at the UN, they’re all a bunch of idiots anyway,”, no; nothing like that was accidentally aired.

I did read a story about a fellow over in Georgia who came home to find somebody had broken into his home, stolen his bedroom carpet and replaced the stolen carpet with brand new “ugly” carpet. In actuality, the folks from the carpet store got the address wrong; the job was supposed to be done at his next door neighbor’s house. (story linked via title bar)

I had a realtor send me to the wrong address once; this happened twenty or more years ago ( statute of limitations ) when I still did residential and commercial locksmith work. It was at a converted apartment complex that became individually owned condominiums. The “unit” was supposed to be vacant; however, many had poachers squatting for free. I was told that they were using long extension cords to steal electricity from one unit to the next in order to bypass the electric meters.

I made sure to knock several times before beginning the job, no answer. I picked the lock and sure enough, orange extension cords ran all over the place. They even had a fish tank hooked up to the “borrowed” electricity lines. I changed the combination and left a note on my business card advising the previous “tenant” to call my office.

Later in the afternoon I did get a call, an irate fellow came home for lunch only to find that his key no longer fit the lock. He was hollering and cussing up a storm about how somebody broke into his condo and changed the locks. He calmed down considerably when I asked about the use of extension cords to power his refrigerator, air conditioner and fish tank; maybe being a thief had something to do with his attitude change. I explained that nothing had been taken; in fact he had gotten a free lock lubrication and all he needed to do was to pick up his new set of keys from the realtor; no charge for the extra key that went with the job.

I did call the realtor and let her know that I wasn’t pleased with her sending me to the wrong address; dyslexic challenged numbers, that and other issues proved to make for a short business relationship as I asked her not to call for our services, not ever. She was a little too cavalier in her response, “It happens”, as if it’s okay for locksmiths to accidentally show up at the wrong house, pick the lock open and be confronted by the owner. Getting shot happens too; no, call somebody else, please!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Off to Vegas and Locksmith Convention

We’re off to the airport in just a bit; already turned down one locksmith call, oh well. Locksmith convention is a mini vacation for us so we'll cram as much into three days as we can.

Lucy and I plan to enjoy the great places to eat, the casinos and; oh yea, visit the convention and look at some of the neat new locksmith stuff that’s out there. I thought about changing the automatic answer on my telephone; but, for only a weekend I figure anyone with half a brain will figure out that I’m not coming. I already let my regular customers know about attending convention. Most of them said the same thing, “Pull a handle for me.” Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Abortion VS Save Our Children

It must be confusing to aliens watching our planet as they scratch their heads, assuming that’s where their brains are, attempting to understand our value system. On the one hand we have the Save Our Children crowd; loudly proclaiming that our entire society is geared to promoting a safer environment, one that promises that our children will survive so that they can become couch potatoes of the first order. The other side, the darker side of society holds the abortion on demand crowd; curiously, they seem to be the same crowd, how is that?

Janet Elliott wrote an article which appeared in the Houston Chronicle today (linked via title bar) which asks “if physicians can be criminally charged for performing banned procedures” as pertain to late term abortions or abortions carried out on minors without a parent’s permission.

“State Affairs Chairman David Swinford, R-Amarillo, asked for the opinion, citing an analysis by a state prosecutors group that said murder prosecutions of doctors could be an "unintended consequence" of the law changes.”

“Unintended consequence”, now that’s an interesting combination of words. Maybe the doctor performing the abortion meant to stunt the child’s growth when he pierced it’s head with those forceps and the unintended consequence was that the baby died. Maybe the unintended consequence of the law changes means that all those abortions that were performed in the past and those which continue to be performed really are an abomination that cannot be justified in a civilized society.

Maybe unintended consequences should be treated as crimes in general and then go after the individual physicians who perform those abortions as assuredly as we would hunt down a monster who murdered one of our children by abducting that child on the way to school, mutilating that child, stuffing the remains in a plastic sack and tossing it in a dumpster.

If a robber enters a store with a pistol and it “accidentally goes off”, killing the clerk it’s called murder. “But I didn’t mean to kill him” is not an acceptable defense; the crime of murder was committed the moment the robbery began, regardless of the unintended consequences.

“Peggy Romberg, director of the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, said the issue needs to be resolved. "This could have a chilling effect on providers and could result in women not having the access they need at a crisis time in their life," she said.”

In case you don’t speak the same language, the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association translates into, “You Really Didn’t Do Anything Wrong, Pregnancies Happen and We Have a Doctor Who Will Take All Those Bad Feelings Away As If You Never Had Them Clinic”. The only reason they went with the shorter name was to save on the cost of printing stationary. They would have called it “Dr. Josef Mengele’s Abortion Barn”, but that has already been used and they wanted to avoid litigation.

Isn’t that one heck of a line, I mean, “chilling effect on providers”? That’s like saying that your new assisted living center will have Dr. Kevorkian on the board of directors. I suppose that might have a chilling effect on retirees checking in for an extended stay. How about that word, “providers”?; isn’t that like calling cousin Vinny and handing him an envelope stuffed with cash, “Hey, Vinny, can you handle this for me?” “Next week on the Sopranos Vinny puts Vito’s feet in cement and drops him in the bay.”

All this time the medical community has been calling abortion a “procedure”; no different than removing a wart or blemish. I’d like a tummy tuck please, just toss whatever you take off in the trash”, and “is that covered by my HMO?” Peggy has a commanding use of the language as she worried about the poor woman, the accomplice in murder; not the aborted child, , “…and could result in women not having access” means that their provider was convicted of murder and is now sitting in a cell on death row; yup, that might put a monkey wrench in the procedure. “. . .they need at a crisis time in their life” means that our society has accepted no responsibility for murder, calling it a procedure.

I have a better idea, remove an unwanted pimple from our midst; have a “provider” with a large pair of forceps pierce Peggy Romberg through the temples and drag her away screaming, after all, she’s just a mistake and we might all feel a little better afterwards. We promise not to hold the provider accountable for murder; same argument isn’t it?

Maybe then the aliens watching our civilization could figure it out; we sure haven’t got a clue. At least the aliens will figure out where Peggy Romberg’s brain is located; she was scratching her rear end each time she tried to come up with something to say.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Are you laughing?

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary. A tip of the hat to my friend Richard Sutton for passing this along to my email.

Herewith a few confessions from my beating heart: I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I am buying my dog biscuits and kitty litter. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores. They never know who Nick and Jessica are either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they have broken up? Why are they so important?

I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I do not care at all about Tom Cruise's wife.

Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I am a subversive? Maybe, but I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are.

If this is what it means to be no longer young. It's not so bad.

Next confession:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution, and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.

But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this Happen?" (regarding Katrina)

Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.

And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about. And we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.

Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.

Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.

Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards .. honestly and respectfully,
Ben Stein

The Blue Collection Box

Years ago I had a friend, Mike, who was a mechanic for Al’s Mobil at the corner of Westheimer and Commonwealth here in Houston. Mike also repaired radios and tape players and things on the side. Mike had an interesting sense of humor; charging me for “insults” rather than for a tune up on my old pick up truck; said he didn’t want word to get around that he was responsible for keeping it on the road.

I used to sit under the awning of the Mobil station in the heat of the day and wait for someone to run the red light. I could visit with Al or Mike while passing the time in the shade and then; after observing a “good one”, exit the station safely on either street depending on which way I needed to pursue the violator.

One day Mike had his head up under the hood of a car when I pulled in for a visit and to set up on the light. I flipped the switch for the siren and laughed as he clunked his head on the hood. I know, that wasn’t very professional; but it was fun all the same. Mike swore that he’d get even and so each time I visited I was on the look out for the other end of “what goes around”.

Several months went by and I forgot all about having gotten the better of Mike. One afternoon I felt myself glazing over while I waited for somebody to run the light. Mike snuck up behind me with one of those air ratchet tools, the kind used to tighten lug nuts on a tire. He placed it under my elbow that was leaning out the open window of my police car and turned it on. VVvzzzzzziiiiitttttt! ( Sound effects from I nearly came out of my uniform as he let go a huge belly laugh; backing away and standing inside the corner of the garage just in case I was crazy enough to pull my pistol and finish him off on the spot.

“Now we’re even!” I had a moment to gather myself and had to admit he’d won; the patience he had shown, waiting all those months and seizing the opportunity once it was presented.

I over heard him talking to a potential customer who had a car radio he wanted repaired. Mike pointed down the street and explained that he didn’t work on that particular brand; however, there was a local company who might be able to do something with it.

“You just take it to one of their collection boxes, you can’t miss them, big blue metal units with the letters “BFI” emblazoned on the side”.

I started to laugh, realizing that Mike had recognized a piece of garbage, a car radio that wasn’t worth fixing, and had instructed the fellow to toss it in the dumpster. The fellow must not have had a sense of humor, once he figured out what was going on.

Many years ago I made keys for a real POS at one of my regular lots. It was the kind of car that would’ve look better on a wrecker headed for the scrap metal yard than headed for the auction; but they needed a key to see if it would start so I got to make some money off of it. When filling in the tag, that fancy doodad with the year, make and model blanks and has a piece of gummy plastic that wraps around it; under color I wrote, “BFI Blue”. It needed no further explanation as the manager signed off on my work order and shook his head, not sure why the money had been wasted on such a POS.

Today I was working on the back lot of a collision center, programming, of all things, keys for a police car that had been wrecked. I’d have finished the job yesterday except there wasn’t any power from the battery and the hood was crunched so badly as to make opening it difficult. I told them to give me a call once they got it pried open and that it would only take ten minutes to finish the job.

The young mechanic who followed me to the back of the lot had a long pry bar and grinned when I explained that this might be his only chance to take a whack at a police car without getting into trouble; that might have put the smile on his face as he shoved the bar home and ripped the edge loose from the mangled front end.

I was about three minutes into the ten minute program when a BFI truck made a dumpster pick up a few spaces down from where I was working. The smell oozing from the back of the garbage truck was somewhere between three week old spoiled cat fish or a wino who’d soiled himself two days earlier and was sleeping it off near by. I had seven minutes to endure, watching a steady stream of putrid liquid spill from the back of the BFI truck as it slowly left, headed to brighten up someone else’s day.

I wonder if the EPA has a classification for that stuff. Knowing the way most bureaucracies work, they’d send out an investigator with a clip board. He’d put his finger in it, bring it to his nose for a few whiffs, stick his tongue out and take a sample taste and exclaim, “Glad I didn’t step in it!”

When I drove off I made sure that my tires avoided the trail of liquid death left on the pavement. My guess is that the foreman at the body shop will have somebody, maybe the same guy who ripped open the hood of that police car, yup; he’ll be out there with the hose washing down the driveway for an hour or so. Where’s a thunder shower when you really need one?

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Art of Eric Grohe

A tip of the hat to my sister for reminding me that I appreciate the work that Eric Grohe has done, turning bare walls into monuments worth viewing; thank you Laura.

Hopefully the mural I’ve selected, Liberty Remembered, will be enough to cause anyone with an eye for beauty to visit his website (linked via title bar) and view some of the other projects on display.
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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Airport Security Red Flags Going Up

Are You Gellin’?

I included the picture of Dr. Scholl’s Gel inserts because they are easily recognizable; not because they contain plastic explosives, C-4 or gelignite which a terrorist could easily use to detonate and bring down an airplane.

I read an alarming article in the Houston Chronicle (linked via title bar ) which should send up some red flags among those who are concerned about security at airports. It would seem that the enemy; for those who have been hiding in a closet for the past few years, the enemy are, in specific terms, Muslim terrorists. I see no point in being politically correct when to do so weakens our focus.

It is not my intention to paint the entire Middle East as our enemy; however, it is quite clear that those Muslim terrorists who have openly declared war on the United States of America do seem to come from the Middle East. If the shoe fits wear it; if it has a fuse and speaks Arabic, it’s a terrorist.

According to the article, written by Harvey Rice, there appears to be a lack of policy regarding the handling of suspected terrorists, at least between the TSA, the Houston Police Department and the FBI. Maybe something was in the works, maybe not; however this entire incident eventually was listed as a “non-event”.

“The report states that a man with a Middle Eastern name and a ticket for a Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta shook his head when screeners asked if he had a laptop computer in his baggage, but an X-ray machine operator detected a laptop.

A search of the man's baggage revealed a clock with a 9-volt battery taped to it and a copy of the Quran, the report said. A screener examined the man's shoes and determined that the "entire soles of both shoes were gutted out."

No explosive material was detected, the report states. A police officer was summoned and questioned the man, examined his identification, shoes and the clock, then cleared him for travel, according to the report.”

A summation of the “non-event” should be part of the red flag issue:

“Although the FBI eventually cleared the man of wrongdoing, police officials have transferred the officer involved and are investigating the incident while insisting that the TSA, not police, has the authority to keep a suspicious person from boarding a flight.”

Maybe the Middle Eastern fellow, the one with no specific name, was looking for his Dr. Scholl’s inserts, maybe he bought those shoes at a garage sale and had to customize them to fit his feet, maybe the clock on his lap top wasn’t working and he needed to have the 9 volt battery to make the back up clock work, maybe he just found that copy of the Quran in the toilet of the men’s room.

It would appear that the enemy is testing our security and what they found is that it has more holes than a package of Kraft Swiss Cheese.

I suppose the suspected plot to blow up the Holland Tunnel that runs between New York and New Jersey could be listed as a “non-event” since it never developed into a full fledged total destruction of the tunnel. I suppose that the threat to attack the New York subway system with biological or chemical agents might also me listed as a “non-event” since it never was carried out and nobody got hurt. This time the suspect didn’t have explosives in his shoes; not that another passenger couldn’t have slipped past and the then later in flight gotten together to destroy an airplane full of folks. What about the next time?

Disclaimer/testimonial: To my knowledge, Dr. Scholl’s does not at this time produce or have any inserts made out of plastic explosives, C-4, gelignite or any other device which could be used by terrorists. Kraft Swiss Cheese, while resembling the consistency of plastic explosives, C-4 and gelignite has not been listed as a hazardous material and should not be used in place of Dr. Scholl’s inserts as a means of supporting sagging arches. In a testimonial given by leading terrorist organizations, Duracell beat Eveready batteries as a means for setting off explosive vests and shoes in public places.
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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Help Wanted - Retired HPD Officers

I got a kick out of reading about all the new part time jobs being offered to retired Houston Police Officers, something which came via my automatic email links with the HPROA. A few thoughts came to mind as I pondered the idea ( about half a second) of going back on the payroll of the City of Houston as a part time “helper”; for surely the positions being offered would be limited since were not talking about “commissioned officer” status.

The letter I read ( linked via title bar) emphasized that there was a limited amount of money to pay for this program and so there would be a limited amount of positions opened up for these “helpers” as I’ve labeled them. This looks like a dandy welfare program to assist retired officers, to keep them from having to work at Wal-Mart as greeters; but just how much job satisfaction would be involved, after all were talking about folks who served in positions requiring considerable skills when they wore the uniform?

The way I understand the offer, positions would be filled, such as uniform supply, clerical and such; much the same as positions that have been filled by commissioned officers who have been disabled physically or who have, how to put it delicately, who have questionable “judgment in the field” and should avoid public contact as a uniformed officer. Having the “good ole boy” system in place decides whether to have “damaged” officers removed from the payroll ( fired/indefinitely suspended ) or simply taken off the street and placed into a cubby hole where their influence and/or bad habits would be shielded from view.

“Chief Hurtt emphasized his intention to place part time officers in positions to best utilize their skills and experience. While noting that the department has positions on all shifts and days of the week for part time retired officers, he will do the best he can to place officers where they wish to work. A study is presently being undertaken to identify specific jobs, while the Chief has his staff determining how many positions the department has money to fund. A word of caution, I would suspect there will be a lot more positions through out the department that are needed than there is money to pay for them. As usual, the actual positions will be limited by the money that can be dedicated to these part time jobs.”

I suppose that Chief Hurtt intends to have many of these officers sitting around a card table, a Styrofoam cooler all iced down with an adult beverage off to one side, while they reminisce about the time So and So drove his police car into the bayou while chasing burglary suspects, “to best utilize their skills and experience”. The key to having a “cushy” part time retirement job, or for that matter, a real cushy job within the rank and file of the Department, is to make it appear that you are providing a real service to the citizens who are paying for that position while at the same time limiting the amount of heat generated by that position. After all, if there is no real need for any given position, then why pay anyone to do it? ( Define: Civil Servant )

Having funding to pay for positions is at the heart of this program, a reasonable and noteworthy step to take into account as the line forms in front of HPD Human Resource Division. If I understand this, the reason that part time slots have been made available is to permit those now serving in “support” positions to return to serving in the “front lines”, to bolster the sadly diminished ranks due to retirement of all things. So, we will be asking the physically impaired officers, those who limp or have damaged bodies (minds) to leave their support jobs and get back into the fight so it will look like there isn’t a manpower shortage of catastrophic proportions here in “River City”, as Professor Harold Hill would have said in the Music Man. I’d call that a flim-flam of the first order and call the Vice Division in to investigate were I in charge.

The City of Houston Police Department has a serious man power shortage, not just the line officer who patrols the street; but also the investigative and supervisory ranks as well. The short term fix, hiring qualified commissioned officers from outside the Department will put a small dent in that problem; however, the long term funding will remain at the heart of any hiring program. The need to hire police officers will require huge amounts of money that the City has yet to identify within the present budget or even the near future and so we might as well build some more castles in the air.

Maybe it’s time to take the gloves off and be honest about the revenue generating aspects of the Houston Police Department. Increase the “quota” ( shriek and squeal at the very mention of the word, ah!!!) of traffic tickets so that enough money begins flowing into the budget to pay for all those police officers which are needed, that and their health plan, the equipment to support them and lastly the funding for their retirement package which must also be added into the overall cost of hiring dedicated servants. It costs a lot of money to provide specialized service; why not use traffic tickets to pay for it all? Instead of using uniformed officers; however, limit that aspect of the Department to mechanized methods such as camera traffic ticket enforcement for violators of red lights at intersections, except in the case of accident investigations in progress or extreme instances observed by officers while they are patrolling the streets solely for the purposes of protecting the citizenry from bad guys.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am against the use of camera issued traffic tickets for running red lights, as has been authorized by the City and promoted by Chief Hurtt; however, once the decision has been made, and that has happened, I must stand behind that decision and uphold it. Think how much PR could be generated if/when the public viewed police officers primarily as “those good guys who protect us from bad guys” rather than “those jerks who had nothing better to do than write my wife a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt”.

Use the cameras enforcement money generating machines around the clock; they work every day of the year and never take lunch breaks, never get sick, never ask for vacation time and require absolutely no retirement incentives. That having been said, why be namby-pamby about installations at just a few intersections? Install them at intersections everywhere day and night until the money rolls in like an assembly line of Las Vegas slot machine. Once the public understands that all the money ( okay, a small percentage to be realistic) is being used to hire police officers, police officers who will protect them from the bad guys; move to the next logical step and get the City to authorize the use of cameras to issue traffic tickets for speeding violations too. Just think of revenue that could be generated by having an army of mechanized speed traps all over the city snapping pictures, mailing tickets and collecting fines; the thought boggles the mind.

I guess the bottom line to my article would be, “Don’t insult my dignity by offering me, a retired City of Houston Police Officer, welfare in the form of a meaningless handout and call it a job, a job that really doesn’t require vast sums of experience related to police work!” Any moron can hand out a pair of pants with a thin blue line, any moron can sit behind desk and push paper around, sharpen pencils and get coffee for the supervisor; you don’t need a retired police officer to get those jobs done. If there are jobs which require real police skills and knowledge, then hire these folks back as police officers with all the “fixin’s” that go with such a title of respect; if not then open those jobs up to the rest of the public and avoid the “good ole boy” style of doing business, that antiquated and yet ever prevalent system that has gone on for years at the Houston Police Department. Some folks have pride, others just show up for the paycheck.
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Journal Entry, July 4, 1776

I am prompted to issue my thoughts regarding a pamphlet I was encouraged to read by one of my customers. I am a locksmith in Massapequa, a small town on Long Island and make quite a good living with considerable trade between the colonies and England. Of late I’ve noticed a resentment, even going past resentment to brutal acts of treachery by those put in place by King George to oversee our fledgling governmental affairs. Only last week a new tax was imposed, supposedly to assist the minister of trade; while in fact the tax was a punishment for having done business with the French.

I mentioned that I’d read a pamphlet, nothing unusual about pamphlets as they seem to be printed and distributed easily, their cost having been reduced to such a ridiculously low level as to make anyone with half a thought the master of his own editorial whims; however, now and again I have come across ideas which strike a chord, a resonating tone that seems to condense our collective concerns, at least as we consider our union with England and the continued neglect our King and his quartermasters have imposed upon us.

Thomas Paine has written a new pamphlet, Common Sense, in the which he has defined quite clearly the need for us to act as a unified body, aware of the usurpations which have heretofore been imposed on a once loyal colony of Englishmen; but now have been estranged and are left with few options, nay, but one option if we are to hold our heads high before our families, our neighbors and before our God. We must abandon hope of ever being addressed as anything but unworthy subjects of the King, of ever achieving equal status as Englishmen with rights shared by anyone other than those living here in these back water townships.

It has been established that gatherings to discuss our plight are now outlawed, those attending face grave consequence; loss of property, confinement and even death for uttering seditious words against the Crown. Is it seditious to desire equality of rights from a government which treats some citizens better than others? I ask only for those rights granted to other common men, no more, no less. If this is treason then I am a traitor.

[This post was inspired by a great meme started by Jim of
bRight & Early: "It's July 1776, but there's one difference — blogs, including yours. What would your post be for July 4th, 1776 not from today's perspective, but if 'you were there'?" If you want to participate, just write one and trackback to Jim's post. ]

Thanks and a tip of the hat also for DL at TMH Bacon Bits.
(His article, All for naught, is linked via the title bar)

If They Will But Serve The God of the Land

I attended the 4th of July pancake breakfast and program at our church a while ago. Lucy made up some kind of crock pot casserole the night before, lots of hash browns and cheese.

Our local Boy Scout Troop was in charge of the flag raising ceremony and we all took part in the Pledge of Allegiance prior to breakfast. The thought occurred to me that we might well be involved in something peculiar to small town middle America, an old fashioned reverence for that which we have been blessed with from Above; not some commercial fireworks display at the shopping mall parking lot.

The program featured traditional American tunes and hymns along with some not so traditional tunes, at least I had never heard them. In between the musical numbers there was a slide show, very high tech as it originated from a laptop computer and was magically converted to a large viewing screen on the stage. ( I still look up when airplanes fly over, amazed at such marvelous inventions )

I obtained a copy of the notes used during the narration because I wanted to share some of what had been imparted, the hope and dream that is America. Today, as you contemplate the blessings we have been given, take the time to ponder, to permit the Spirit of the Lord to visit your mind and to place his testimony on these simple truths; skipping down a bit:

“Christopher Columbus, in a letter to the Spanish hierarchy wrote, “Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my emprise called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?” (Quoted in Mark E. Petersen, The Great Prologue, Deseret Book Co. 1975, pg 26)

{. . .}

“No constitution on earth has endured longer than this one. We seek, and usually find, the answers to today’s questions in this document of yesterday. It was and is a miracle. Both Washington and Madison referred to it as such. It is an inspired document written under the guidance of the Lord. James Madison, commonly called the father of the Constitution, recognized this inspiration and gave the credit to “the guardianship and guidance of the Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispersed to this rising republic” (The Great Prologue, pg 95)

“We believe that the Constitution was brought about by God to ensure a nation where liberty could abound and where His gospel could flourish. Joseph Smith said, “The Constitution of the United States is a glorious standard – it is founded in the wisdom of God – it is a heavenly banner.” (The Great Prologue, pg 75)

“Among other things, the Constitution guaranteed the religious freedom that allowed the Reformation to continue and flourish. Many of these great reformers stated that their effort was to reassert the basic Christian teachings of the Bible – but they acknowledged that they possessed no authority to administer the ordinances of the Church, or to reestablish the original church of Jesus Christ. Luther said, “Christianity has ceased to exist among those who should have preserved it.”

Roger Williams, founder of the Baptist Church in America said, “There is no regularly constituted church on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances.” (LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, Deseret Book Co. 1973, pg 29)

{. . . }

“Many years ago in a volume entitled Beacon Lights of History, Dr. John Lord, referring to the discovery of America, said, after speaking of her great potential, “The world has witnessed many powerful empires which have passed away and left ‘not a track behind’. What remains of the antediluvian world?. . .What remains of Nineveh, of Babylon, of Thebes, of Tyre, of Carthage---those great centers of wealth and power? What remains of Roman greatness even, except in law and literature and renovated statues?. . . What is the simple story of all the ages?---industry, wealth, corruption, decay, and ruin. What conservative power has been strong enough to arrest the ruin of the nations of antiquity?”

“Now if this is to be the destiny of America---an unbounded material growth, followed by corruption and ruin---then Columbus has simply extended the realm for men to try material experiments. Make New York a second Carthage, and Boston a second Athens, and Philadelphia a second Antioch, and Washington as second Rome and we simply repeat the old experiments.”

“But has America no higher destiny than to repeat the old experiments and improve upon them and become rich and powerful? Has she no higher and nobler mission? If America has a great mission to declare and to fulfill, she must put forth altogether new forces, and these not material. And these alone will save her and save the world…The real glory of America is to be something entirely different from that of which the ancients boasted. And this is to be moral and spiritual---that which the ancients lacked.”

{. . .}

“Let me reiterate the message left with the Saints at the general conference in April 1917 when Elder Anthony W. Ivins, after discussing religious liberty and the Constitution, said, “I feel authorized to say, here this afternoon, that these liberties which have come to men, both religious and civil, have not been established by the Lord to be destroyed, but that they are here to remain until liberty shall prevail from the rivers to the ends of the earth, until God’s kingdom shall be established among men, and his will done upon earth as it is done in heaven. Until the universal Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man shall be recognized, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Christ, who shall reign as Prince of Peace.” (Conference Reports, April 1917, pg 54-55)

“Only as we accept and live the teachings of the gospel can the destiny which God planned for America be realized and the world united in peace and brotherhood. That this may speedily come to pass I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
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Monday, July 03, 2006

ACLU Files to Remove All Crosses at Arlington Cemetery

The ACLU may have filed a lawsuit in federal court demanding that any and all religious markers; Christian cross, Star of David or any other emblem suggesting subservience to deity be removed from gravesites at Arlington Cemetery; and this only hours before our celebration of the 4th of July.

Lawyers for the ACLU are representing an atheist who must drive past the famous cemetery were thousands of American soldiers are buried. Not having read the actual court filing, according to a well placed source, it was a clear violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

The document carefully hides the name of the individual bringing suit against Arlington Cemetery; however, here is a part of the opening statement contained within the complaint:

“I have to travel to my office on a public road which mandates that I drive past the rolling hills of Arlington Cemetery. I see no reason why I should be made to feel less a citizen for my reasoning powers, reasoning powers which direct me to understand that there is no such thing as god, that the kook fringe fundamentalist right has used religion to keep a strangle hold on the rest of us for too many years. These are the same malcontents who refused to let the theory of evolution be taught in public schools for years, claiming some miracle of god did it all in 7 days, and we all know how that court case ended. My tax dollars are used to maintain that cemetery and I’ll be damned if I want to look at a bunch burial markers covered with white crosses, row upon row for as far as the eye can see.”

A copy of the law suit will be available for viewing later in the week according to officials at Arlington Cemetery who had not had a chance to review the legal document.

“Do you have any idea what it will cost to remove every cross from every head stone; much less the damage to the sacred final resting place of our fighting soldiers who died defending the right to have those crosses placed there?” Someone who looked and sounded very much like Vice President Dick Cheney was heard as he shouted a familiar short retort containing a four letter word at the ACLU lawyer, similar to his encounter on the Senate floor not so long ago.

This latest suit comes on the heels of federal judge’s edict that the 29 foot Soledad Cross must be removed from federal property. In that ruling, the city of San Diego must either remove the cross or pay a five thousand dollar a day fine.

Glib Fortuna over at Stop the ACLU wrote in his article:

(linked via title bar)
“For those who deny that the ACLU is on a relentlessly rabid campaign to remove any trace of our nation’s religious heritage, please digest the details of this case.”

(file this article under F as in Fiction, False Report or Fantacy)Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 02, 2006

First Verse Only, Please

I may have figured out why some folks just don’t get it; this country we call the United States of America, I mean. The ACLU, the Michael Newdows and the Ward Churhills must have a raspberry seed lodged between their molars as they gnaw and belly ache themselves and everyone around them into a tizzy. They never got past the first verse of anything that was important; I’ll explain.

This weekend we celebrate the 4th of July, our Independence Day. I know the music director at church wanted us to enjoy a couple of special hymns, The Star Spangled Banner, to open our services and, My Country, Tis of Thee, to close. I’m not sure how many other churches would have the congregation stand to sing The Star Spangled Banner; after all, this isn’t a sporting event and nobody’s going to throw out the first pitch and say, “Play Ball!”.

Most everyone, at least I’d hope most everyone is familiar with our National Anthem; but how many Americans even know that there are two more verses that complete the thoughts intended? When presented with the closing verse, how can anyone not understand the purpose of America and our ties with Heaven and the blessings imparted by our Creator? “But those are just words.”, some might say.

“Oh thus be it ever when free men shall stand, Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation! Blest with victory and peace may the heave’n rescued land Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our Trust!” And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

How can we ignore our heritage, it’s our National Anthem. Michael Newdow has declared that he’s offended by the words, “In God We Trust” and wants the government, the government of the United States of America to stop everything, hold the presses and get rid of those ancient words. I’m waiting for the next step in the war on history; getting a replacement National Anthem, one that won’t offend the godless world. Maybe something with a Caribbean beat, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, by Bobby McFerrin has a chance. There’s no hint of aggression, no hint of anything for that matter

Our meeting ran overtime and the closing hymn had to be cut short; we sang only one verse of, My Country, Tis of Thee. I felt cheated, maybe that’s the wrong word, knowing the hymn has four verses that make it complete. I stayed after the services were over, after the closing prayer and read the complete hymn, especially the last part.

“Our fathers' God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing; long may our land be bright with freedom's holy light; protect us by thy might, great God, our King.”

The separation of church and state which has been spoken of so forcefully by those who would deny our history is a stone wall being erected by those ungrateful reprobates who would deny our Father in Heaven credit for having established this great land, the author of liberty; it’s the stone wall in their hearts and minds, not one that is in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Where’s the boiling blood in our veins, the undimmed spirit of thought from our hearts and minds which our ancestors had, that which caused them to utter profound statements of patriotic pride?

"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!" (Patrick Henry). I haven’t picked up one of the newer history books; rest assured there would only be part of that famous line printed. The PC police have carefully removed any reference to God; wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Are we a “first verse only” people now, content with having had our shot, able to sit back and watch as our great experiment in freedom slowly dies? Paul Simon wrote a song about such feelings, An American Tune.

“…And we come on the ship they call the Mayflower. We come on the ship that sailed the moon. We come in the age's most uncertain hours, and sing an American tune. Oh, and it's all right, it's all right, it's all right. You can't be forever blessed…”

No, it’s not alright to watch a beautiful dream disappear, to be swallowed by the ACLU hobgoblins, the Michael Newdows and the Ward Churchill hate mongers. It’s time to sing out, not just the first verse, the popular verse, the politically correct verse so not so many folks have to hear about God, our blessing from Heaven and all that rot.

“O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law.”

Or would you rather sit back on the sofa, catch the next guaranteed to startle episode of Desperate Housewives, Survivor or Treasure Hunters; your head tuned into anything other than what’s important as you wonder what happened.

“. . .Ah, but it's all right. It's all right. For we've lived so well so long. . .”

This will be my entry for the Carnival of Liberty hosted by Life, Liberty and Property.

Edited July 2, 2006 6:00pm

For a good read visit Principled Discovery’s article “
Something to be Proud of.” Here’s a small sample:

“Our strength is not in our history, nor in our symbols and certainly not in our military. Our strength is in our character. In our ability to reason. In our ability to take responsibility for our own actions and for the plight of our neighbors.”