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Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

Hello everyone.  My little hiatus is over and I am back at the keyboard.  We had a great time on our vacation.  Seeing our son for the first time in a few years was great.  I thought I might share a few things about Europe that I noticed while there.  We spent three days in Paris and three days in Rome.

Now, I apologize upfront to anyone who loves Paris, but three days in Paris was two days too many for me.  The city is dirty and grimy and very noisy.  It reminded me of New York City without all the neon lights.  Actually, the last time I was in New York it was cleaner than Paris was.  But, besides that, the food was good.  We did not go to any of the five-star restaurants.  We kept to local cafes and little restaurants.  My wife dragged me up to the top of the Eifel Tower.  That was feat since I am afraid of heights.  The view was exceptional though.  If you go to Paris and take a taxi anywhere, don’t watch in front of the driver.  You will probably have a heart attack.  I don’t think I will complain about drivers here for a while.  Driving in Paris is the worst I have seen anywhere.

We found Rome to be much nicer than Paris.  Plus, there was a whole lot more to see in Rome than in Paris.  If anyone is planning to go to Rome, I have one piece of advice.  Make sure you do some serious walking before you go.  You will walk miles in Rome.  That isn’t the bad part.  The bad part is that it seems that you walk uphill more than downhill.  And I am not talking about gradual slopes either!  By the end of the first day, I felt like I had done some mountain climbing.

We talked about going down to Pompeii, but the added cost was just a bit more than we wanted to pay.  That would have been awesome.  But, there is plenty of history and ruins to see in Rome to satisfy the ardent history nut.  Most of the sights are reasonably priced.  Again, we didn’t go to the fancy restaurants.  We wandered around until we say someplace that looked good.  We were not disappointed either.  We were fortunate that we didn’t go into any bad restaurants or cafes.

We did run into a lot of lines in Rome.  Especially at the Vatican and the Colosseum.  The Vatican lines were outrageous.  If you stand in line you need to wait for about three hours just to get into St. Peters Basilica.  Then you need to wait another two to three hours to get into the Sistine Chapel.  There are vendors offering guided tours that they claim will get you past the lines.  But, being old and wanting to take our time we decided to pass them up.  We never did get into the Vatican, but we were able to walk around St. Peter’s Square.  Just seeing everything from the outside was enough for us.

The Colosseum also had a line, but it went much quicker.  We were only in line for about 45 minutes before we got in.  It was really amazing to look at the ruins and just imaging how it must have looked when it was new.  There are more ruins next to the Colosseum and the ticket you get covers entrance to both.  That is where you really do some mountain climbing.  But, it is worth it.  There are a couple of emperor’s palaces and the Forum is there too.  History just seems to ooze around every corner.

There are also a lot of digs going on all around Rome.  Seems whenever they try to put up something new, they come across more ruins and everything stops for archeological work.  That makes it even more interesting.

All in all we had a great time.  I would recommend Rome to anyone thinking about a trip to Europe.  I would recommend more than three days though.  There is so much to see and do that three days is really cramming things in.  Oh, by the way, seeing American television shows in Italian or French is quite unique.  Not that I understood a word they were saying.

I hope everyone had a great Mothers Day.  I will get back to some more writing tomorrow.  I almost need a vacation to get over my vacation.

 

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Normally I don’t announce vacations.  But, since I try to write something everyday during the work week, I though it only fair to let my readers know that there will be a short break.

We will be on vacation until May 19.  I will start writing again then.  If you must know, we are meeting our youngest son who has been working as a contractor in Afghanistan, for a week in Europe.  He is taking us for his mother’s birthday/Mother’s Day present.  We haven’t seen him for a few years and are really looking forward to that.

I want to take a moment to wish every mother out there a very Happy Mother’s Day.  I hope you all have a tremendously happy day with family and friends.  Guys, you take care of your ladies not just Sunday but everyday.

 

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Today we simply want to wish everyone a very joyous and happy holiday season.  Regardless of which holiday you celebrate at this time of year, we hope you spend it in the warmth and comfort of family and friends.

Like everything else, traditions are honored during the holiday season, even though those traditions are fleeting at best.  Please add a tradition to your celebrations of saluting our military, police, EMTs, firefighters, and other public servants who will be working on Christmas.  They deserve our thanks and gratitude for everything they do to protect us.

Whatever your traditions are, whatever your beliefs are, may you find the day full of happiness and love!

 

 

 

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Okay, I wasn’t going to get into this stupid argument about Santa Claus.  As you are aware, Megyn Kelly over at the Foreign Owned Xenophobic news network had a debate on what color Santa Claus really is.  It all started because of an article that says Santa Claus can be any race the beholder wishes.  But, no, Ms. “I know it is just another attack on Christmas” had to rebut that argument.  She even went so far as to say “Santa is just white”.  She even went on to say that “Jesus was white”.  Her guests all gushed their approval.

Then yesterday, the self-anointed prophet and false historian Bill O’Reilly told the world that Megyn is correct.  Santa is just white!  He further went on to say that anyone who disagrees with the Foreign Owned Xenophobic news network are just haters who do not understand what they are all about.  Problem is that we do understand what you are all about!  You are about division, hate, and self-gratification!

As you know, I do research and try to be somewhat factual here.  I really had no intention to get embroiled in this nonsense, but after the self-anointed prophet weighed in with his false history, I had to say something.

The first question is “where does Santa Claus come from?”  That is a good question.  Many cultures around the world have some form of Santa Claus.  But, most historians agree that Santa Claus comes from Saint Nicholas.  Saint Nicholas was the bishop of Myra and was credited with performing many miracles for sailors and children in the 4th century.  After his death he became the patron saint of both groups.  Pope Pious 1 dedicated January 6 as his feast day.  Around the same time, Pope Pious 1 also declared that Christmas would be celebrated on December 25.  The day to celebrate Christmas was open because no one really knew when Jesus was born.  Plus, there had been a long honored Pagan midwinter festival at this time of year and the Pope had hoped to “Christianize” these celebrations.

Eventually, Saint Nicholas feast day became associated with December 25.  It is said that children would place nuts, apples and sweets in stockings being dried by the fireplace to welcome him after the tradition of his visiting children became established.  After the reformation, Saint Nicholas became more unpopular in Protestant homes.  That is except in Holland where he was called Sinter Klaus.

As things go, Sinter Klaus was introduced into the U.S. by the Dutch in New Amsterdam, present day New York.  Over the years, Sinter Klaus migrated into what we now call Santa Claus.  There have been many renderings of him.  There was even a time when Santa Claus wore not only red and white costumes, but blue, green, and brown.  It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that the now traditional red and white costume became permanent.

So, there you have a very, very brief history of Santa Claus.  As I said, Saint Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra.  Myra is in Turkey!  I know a lot of people from Turkey.  I met a lot of sailors from Turkey during my time in the Coast Guard.  Turkey is not a Caucasian nation.  It is middle eastern.  Their skin is darker than a Caucasians.  So, if Saint Nicholas is the origin of Santa Claus, and all the evidence points in that direction, then Megyn Kelly and the self-proclaimed prophet Bill O’Reilly, are wrong in pronouncing him as “just white”.  Prophet O’Reilly even stated on his show that Saint Nicholas was Turkish.  So, now middle-eastern people have suddenly become Caucasian according to the self-anointed prophet.

But the real question is why do these two imbeciles have to dredge up this racial stupidity at Christmas?  As the history of Santa Claus shows, each nationality or race has absorbed Saint Nicholas into their own cultures as they desired.  Heck, the part about the reindeer comes from Pagan culture!  That is what Christmas is about.  It is not about race or nationality, it is about the brotherhood of man!  It is about good will!  It is about loving thy neighbor!  That is something that these two morons fail to grasp!  But, are they really that biased and stupid? Or are they just trying to increase ratings with their “race baiting” rants?  In either case, As Father O’Malley would say, the baby Jesus is weeping because of their hate!

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Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the Newtown school mass shooting.  Immediately after this happened, there was the usual outrage about gun control.  The NRA naturally, railed against any form of gun control.  About 10 years ago, the NRA was all in favor of universal background checks for anyone who wanted to purchase a gun.  But, suddenly last year that position changed to condemning universal background checks.

As a result of their bullying, blackmail, and outright lying, Congress failed to pass any legislation.  The Senate did pass a universal background check law, but the House, as usual, failed to even bring it to a vote.  I find it outrageous that Republican lawmakers want to force “drug tests” for anyone getting food stamps, but not universal background checks anyone who wants to get a gun!  Could you please explain the logic for that conflict?

We haven’t learned anything from that tragic episode, just like we never learned anything from various similar tragic episodes.  In case you are wondering, since that very sad day one year ago, 173 children under the age of 12 have been shot to death in this country!  That is right, 173 innocent children under the age of 12 have been shot to death since the Newtown Tragedy!  Overall, approximately 30,000 people are shot to death each year in this country!

Let me be very clear!  As a retired veteran, I am against the government telling the American People that they cannot own firearms!  However, I must also be clear that with the right to bear arms comes personal responsibility to protect those firearms as well.  I do not see any problem, or any conflict between the right to bear arms and universal background checks.

For those non-gun owners who may not know what is really being talked about here, let me explain.   Federal law requires that people “engaged in the business” of firearms sales must have federal licenses – but doesn’t define what that phrase means.  Any business with a federal license must complete a background check on anyone purchasing a gun.  So, if for example you go to someplace like Bass Pro Shop, WalMart, etc., you would need to complete a background check to be able to purchase a gun.

However, there are loopholes in the law that allow the sale of guns, even mass purchases at one time, without any background checks.  These loopholes are so big, you can drive an M1 Tank through them!  Private citizens who wish to sell a weapon can do so without needing to have a background check done on the buyer.  If the buyer goes to a gun show, background checks are not required.  Several sales off of the internet do not require background checks.

The NRA is very quick to point out that many states, especially in the northeast, have very strict gun laws.  They are also quick to point out that gun violence still occurs in those states, which is true.  They fail to say that many of the guns that are used in these crimes come from out-of-state sources like the Internet and gun shows in other states.  When I was growing up on the south side of Chicago, I knew many gang members.  They were not afraid to tell me that they got their weapons mostly from another gang member going “down south to gun shows” to get their guns.

A short two months after Newtown, an American Terrorist came out in a video explaining just how easy it was for any terrorist to go to a gun show and purchase an AR15 assault riffle without any background checks.  Then in his own words finished with “what are you waiting for”?  Yet the NRA still refused to allow a vote on universal background checks.

But, they got what they wanted.  A recent Poll shows that fewer people favor stricter gun control now than they did shortly after Newtown.  That is because, we have very short memories.  Once a tragedy like this is over and time passes, we forget what happened.  That is a real shame on us.

Besides their usual rant about how everyone should be armed to the teeth, the NRA does admit that criminals, people with a history of violence, and the mentally ill should not own a gun.  But, without universal background checks, how is anyone to know who they are selling a gun to?  Do gun owners and dealers have a built-in “loony detector”?  Their own argument shows the need for universal background checks.

I know a lot of gun owners.  Some have their guns for hunting.  Some have their guns for self-defense.  Some have guns because they like target shooting.  Some just like to collect guns as part of history.  I don’t have a problem with any of my friends owning guns.  Nor, do I ever argue against their right to own them.  That said, almost every person I know who owns a gun has no problem with universal background checks.  Oh, you will get a vicious argument about gun registration or gun control legislation, but they understand that universal background checks are necessary to help ensure guns don’t fall into the wrong hands.

In my opinion, the NRA, which stands for the National Rifleman’s Association, has deviated so far from its intended purpose, they have really become irrelevant in this argument.  Yes, they were founded to help defend our right to bear arms.  But, they used to be an organization that taught “gun safety” and were reasonable enough to know that those whom they call “bad guys” should not be able to purchase a gun.  Yet, they are the major reason these “bad guys” can buy guns!

I am not naïve!  I know that universal backgrounds are not the panacea that will stop all of these killings.  But, any reduction in the number of these gun violence murders are stopped because universal background checks kept the wrong people from easily obtaining a gun, than it is worth it.  We have to stop using arguments looking for absolutes and start thinking rationally on this.  Universal background checks are necessary to close the loopholes in the law.  How about it Congress, can you give us sensible universal background checks law as a Christmas present?

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I would be remiss if I didn’t say this article was difficult for me to write.  I am one who rarely criticizes anyone’s religious beliefs.  We all have the right to believe what we wish.  But, this article is not about whether Christmas or Christianity is good or bad, but rather whether or not certain actions have actually harmed both.  I was brought up in the Catholic Church and I fully understand the teachings of the New Testament.  Since that time, I have lived my life and work in fields that looked to assist others.  Not out of any religious belief, because I have a different perspective, but rather because I believed that was the right thing to do.  I am sure this belief was born out of my upbringing.

However, my religious beliefs changed not because I rejected the concept of God or the teachings of Jesus, but rather the hypocrisy of those who claim to be “strong believers”.  And, because of those who preach that their wealth and good fortune is a “blessing from God”.  Meaning if you are not wealthy or full of blessings, you are being punished by God.  In wartime, I have always detested the old adage “God is on our side”.  How presumptive can anyone be to believe God is on the side of any war?

I served my country for 20 years because I believed in the concepts of our Constitution.  For me, the whole dream of our country is found in the simple Preamble of our Constitution:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

If you read it again, you may notice that there is absolutely nothing in these words that ordains our country as being from God!  Yet, the conservative movement in this country consistently says the Constitution proves our belief in God and Christianity.  In a perverse sense, they are somewhat correct.  It does offer some glimpse into a Christian Philosophy!  Unfortunately for them, they totally miss the point.  The part where it says “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty”.  How can they profess to be “establishing justice or promoting the general welfare” when they exclude the poor, elderly, sick, disabled, and less well-off?

We are now rehearing the term “compassionate conservative” being hurled around.  The Republicans seem to think that by calling themselves compassionate conservatives, their prejudices are justified.  I say that because there are a whole lot of truths that say otherwise.  Additionally, conservatives are very quick to wrap themselves in the Bible whenever it suits their political goals.  The only problem is they always quote the Old Testament not the New Testament!  I was taught that Christianity was based on the New Testament not the Old.

As usual, FOX and their self-anointed Prophet Bill O’Reilly have brought up their annual war on Christmas.  What most rational people really see is that they are the actual wagers of this war.  Christmas is supposed to be a time of charity, peace on earth, and the brotherhood of man!  Yet, they continually voice just the opposite beliefs.  Just listen to their words and you find this is the truth.  Oh, they are in favor of charity as long as they get big tax breaks for giving.  They are for peace on earth as long as we can invade Iran or any other Muslim Country anytime we want.  They are for the brotherhood of man as long as that is a white man.  No women included by the way.

All of these conservatives who are now claiming to be compassionate conservatives wrap themselves in the mantle of being Christian!  So, let’s take a look at their “compassion”.

First:  They are against extending unemployment insurance for millions of people out of work for over 26 weeks.  As Rand Paul said, this insurance is a “disservice to the unemployed because it makes them part of the perpetual unemployed class in this country.”  Even though there are three times as many unemployed as there are job openings!

Second:  These Republicans are especially compassionate when it comes to helping the poor.  They argue that helping the poor as Paul Ryan says “makes them dependent and complacent”.  Their compassionate conservative Christian belief is to work to cut the poor, hungry, elderly, disabled, ill and others off from any means of assistance.”  That is why they wish to reduce Food Stamps even more than they have already cut.  They even want to make drug testing part of the criteria for getting Food Stamps.  According to them, people are on food stamps because they are lazy out-of-work drug users!

Third:  These compassionate conservatives are fighting tooth and nail to stop any raise to the minimum wage.  They argue that if the minimum wage is raised jobs will be lost.  Even though our history shows that when the minimum wage was raised in the past job creation went up not down.  The economy got a bit healthier not worse.  That is because people who make minimum wage spend their money right away.  That causes demand to rise, employment to rise, and, gag, profits to rise!

Yet the Heritage Foundation last April said: “The typical minimum-wage employee is a high school or college student with a part-time job, a major reason so many have attended—but not completed—college.”  Meaning we are talking about teenagers.  Yet, as we discussed in an earlier article, the average age of people making minimum wage is 28.  Many with families to support.

To make matters worse, many of these compassionate conservative Christians want to eliminate the minimum wage completely.  They believe that you should take whatever job is available regardless of what it pays.  That would put even more people on SNAP not less!

Fourth:  They want to repeal the ACA.  Many Republican states are so incensed about the ACA they are refusing to expand Medicaid even though the Federal Government is paying for it!  Once again the Heritage Foundation (who actually wrote most of the ACA in 1989) says:  “We were told that Obamacare was supposed to be compassionate toward the needy in America. … It includes disincentives for individuals to marry and for Americans of low and modest incomes to work.”  I must admit, this is the first time I have ever heard someone actually say that getting healthcare is a “disincentive” to get married or to work!

Fifth:  The House Republicans are against Immigration Reform.  Especially for anyone who is non-white European.  According to them, anyone who came here “illegally” must be deported. Even those who were brought here when they were children.  Again the Heritage Foundation weighed in with a “study” that says Immigration Reform would cost the country $6.3 Trillion because it would cause new spending on social programs.  They fail to mention that the person who wrote their “study” explained earlier that there is a “racial hierarchy” of intelligence.  He wrote:  “Decades of psychometric testing has indicated that at least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks.”  Sounds a bit racist to me.

Sixth:  The one thing that these compassionate conservative Christians are really compassionate about is tax relief for corporations and the very wealthy.  They don’t have enough wealth according to them.  While demanding cuts in food stamps, healthcare, unemployment benefits, etc., they are always, always insistent on cutting taxes for the fortunate few.  Of course they will raise the taxes of everyone else to make up the lost revenues.

Seventh:  The Dictator Legislative Branch of the State of Michigan has now decreed in law that it is illegal for “all public and private insurance plans in the state from covering abortion.”  You read that right, even PRIVATE INSURANCE PLANS.  This law forces women and employers to purchase separate policies to cover abortion care.  And, it must be in place before the woman gets pregnant.  EVEN IN CASES OF RAPE OR INCEST!  Similar laws in Michigan were vetoed twice before but because this iteration of the bill was introduced through a rarely used initiative process, it does not require Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature in order to become law.  The initiative process is supposed to be used for “citizen” initiatives.  Yet, this “initiative” was from a right wing special interest group!

“This tells women who were raped … that they should have thought ahead and planned for it,” sais state Sen.Leader Gretchen Whitmer. “Make no mistake, this is anything but a citizens’ initiative. It’s a special interest group’s perverted dream come true.”

The far right. led by Foreign Owned Xenophobic news network, has railed against their fantasy “War on Christmas” and the “War on Christianity” for years.  According to them, there is an obscure force trying to eliminate Christianity from our country.  Through their actions and proposed legislation, they have proven to be that “obscure force”.  Unfortunately, through their actions, it appears they have already killed Christianity in this country.  Maybe that is why they have so vehemently screamed about Pope Francis and his comments about “money becoming the new god”.

Compassionate Conservatism is an urban myth!  Compassionate Christian Conservatism has proven to be anything but Christian.  It is based more on the teaching of Ayn Rand!  Her philosophy says “it is not only bad for society, but morally wrong to help other people because it makes them dependent.”  She goes on to say ” that altruism is evil, and that democracy (which they call “collectivism”) is the ultimate expression of this evil because it brings about a society in which government works to make people’s lives better.”  Even Ted Cruz’s father, a self-proclaimed Christian Preacher says that “social justice is a cancer”.  It is probably a good thing they believe Jesus rose from the dead.  Otherwise, I am sure we would be hearing him spinning in his grave right now!

So the next time you hear your Republican friends talk about compassion or Christianity, remember their philosophies are based on greed, not Christian Teachings!  There is no such thing as a compassionate conservative.  They are simply greedy vulchers like these Republicans who are killing Christianity and our true moral fiber!  The Preamble means nothing to them!

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As we prepare for Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, let us take just a few minutes to remember that even though we have different political philosophies, we all share one thing that no other country can share. We are all Americans!

On the surface that may not sound like much, but we really do live in the greatest country in the world. America isn’t great because of our philosophies. American isn’t great because of our politics. America is great because of our spirit as people.

Yes, we have problems. We have differences. We have issues. But we also have each other. In the past, I have worked several disaster relief cases and I can say without doubt, that when the chips are down, no country on earth comes together to help each other like Americans!

It is that spirit of giving that made me proud to serve in the Coast Guard! Knowing the public was going to help as much as we tried, made the job a whole lot easier and less traumatic. As long as we keep that spirit alive, we will remain the greatest country on earth.

As you sit down to eat your meal, please remember those who cannot be home for the holidays. I am not just talking about our service members either. Yes, they deserve our thanks, but so do all of those Police Officers, Fire Fighters, EMTs, Doctors and Nurses in Hospitals, Nurse’s Aides, and a myriad of other dedicated public servants who will have to work tomorrow, just in case of emergencies. They also deserve our thanks for their dedication and hard work.

So, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving Holiday! I hope tomorrow finds everyone in the comfort and warmth of family and friends. Nothing makes the holidays better than that!

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