Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Miracle

My grandfather passed away two months ago.  

I have wanted to write a post about him ever since, and there are a thousand things I want to say in that post, yet it remains unwritten for one very unmovable reason:  I have no idea where or how to start saying those thousand things.  When a man lives 81 years, has 39 direct descendants, and impacts not only his family but countless other people as well, how can you sum up his life in a handful of paragraphs?  You can’t. 

But I do not have that problem when it comes to writing about Granddaddy and Christmas, after the way they converged three years ago. 

Granddaddy’s love of God, family, and country; his zeal when talking about those things to anybody with whom he came into contact; his faith in the perfectibility of man; his irrepressible Scotch-Irish mischief; his unsurpassed diligence in everything to which he set his mind or his hands – those qualities will all be written about in time, but for the purposes of this post, suffice it to say that in the last few years of his life they were cruelly stolen by Alzheimer’s disease. 

His mental sharpness started to dull about five years ago.  In 2005 his memory faded as well, and the fading was fast.  He carried on conversations with Nana without realizing it was her.  Remembering how she looked in their youth but not in the here and now, he said things like “I wonder when Peggy’s going to come home” while looking into her very eyes. 

When he and Nana arrived at our family’s 2005 Christmas Eve party, nobody expected to be recognized by him.  Because I did not want to confuse him by addressing him in a way that would suggest he was speaking to his grandson, and because I knew his recollections of battling the Nazis remained vivid, that night I simply called him “Corporal.” 

He asked if I was in the Army like he had been, and I told him I was not because of my diabetes.  I told him that we nonetheless had some similarities, because just like him, my last name was Stanton and my blood carried Scotch-Irish genes.  He nodded and said it was good to meet me.  He said I should come around again sometime. 

Everyone at the party walked a tightrope, balancing holiday cheer on one hand with the sadness of loss on the other.  The man we loved, who had known each of us by name just a year earlier, had for all intents and purposes ceased to exist. 

But as the night started to grow long, something sparked inside Granddaddy’s mind.  When most of us were assembled in and around the kitchen, he “addressed the room” and said it was great that we were there.  He did not specifically acknowledge that we were all family; however, when he looked at my Aunt Sharon, the third of his five children, a glint appeared in his eyes and he spoke the word “daughter.” 

He and Nana stood on the driveway as the party wound down.  I stood there too, as did several others, hoping to give Nana some sense of normalcy.  But it turned out that our presence was not needed, for while Venus shone brightly like the Star of Bethlehem, Granddaddy came back as if by magic.  Looking up at the Milky Way, he spoke to Nana by name and said:  “Peggy, I’m trying to remember the night we got married.”  Some minutes later, when he said goodbye to each of us, his face bore a look of recognition and for that moment it no longer seemed that there was a stranger trapped in his body. 

As his wife of 59 years drove him back to the house they had called home for 53 years, they talked about their life and their family and it was as if the dementia had never been.  After finishing that 45-mile excursion from rural Hernando County to urban Tampa, they sat up late into the night conversing and reminiscing and sharing life’s small but inimitable joys.  They lay down in bed like they had done so many times through the years, and for that one holy night Granddaddy was Granddaddy again:  John Stanton, Jr., child of the Great Depression, survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, pastor, proud but humble, flawed but good.

When the sun rose, the dementia was back and my grandmother's husband, as she knew him, never returned.  But they had gotten that one last night together on Christmas Eve, and had gotten it after everyone assumed it was not possible.  As Nana said:  “That was my Christmas miracle.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Here are some thoughts about the year’s coldest season on this, its first day:

I love how it begins with evergreen boughs on mantles, lighted trees in village squares, carols on the radio, and people knowing that life’s greatest joys come from giving rather than receiving.

I love its chilly mornings when fog clings to the surfaces of ponds.

I love sitting outside on those mornings drinking hot black coffee.

I love watching Sarah try to catch snowflakes on her tongue during our winter vacation.

I love driving across California’s High Sierra between snow drifts so deep they soar above cars and turn roadways into tunnels of white.

I love walking through Appalachian forests that are barren of leaves but laden with snow, and therefore have the appearance of black-and-white photos come to life.

And finally, I love that I can spend a whole day outside in Florida without feeling the need to shower every hour.

So for those who curse the cold:  Remember that every season brings beauty, so long as we stop to notice it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Couldn't Resist

I know that when it comes to my skepticism about global warming, I recently said “I’ll try to set this topic aside.”

Well, I couldn’t pull it off because one week after it snowed in New Orleans, it snowed in Las Vegas. In case you missed it, 3½ inches fell on the city between Wednesday night and Thursday morning, piling up on the strip itself.

Although snowflakes are not unheard of in Vegas, accumulations average just ½ inch per year and this week’s snowfall brought the heaviest single accumulation since 1979.

To quote myself from my November 18th post, all I ask is that global warming’s believers stop acting as though its skeptics are a bunch of closed-minded n’er-do-wells whose opinions have no basis in evidence.

Now, I will try again to set this topic aside.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Carol Born

When it comes to carols, I have always found “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” to be especially poignant (if you're not familiar with it, you can listen to it here.)

It did not begin as a song, but as a poem written on Christmas morning 1863 by America’s greatest poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. At that moment in time America was torn apart and battling itself in the Civil War – a war that still stands as the one in which more Americans died than in any other.

When dawn broke that morning, Longfellow was despondent. During the war his son Charles had been horrifically wounded when a bullet passed through part of his spine, leading to a long and excruciating recovery. And as if that wasn’t dark enough, his wife Frances had died as a result of burns sustained when her clothes were set on fire by dripping sealing wax, which she was melting with the intention of using it to preserve some of their daughter’s trimmed curls.

But despite that sorrowful backdrop, as Longfellow sat in his Massachusetts home on Christmas and heard the ringing of local church bells, his faith in divine promise started to stir and he was moved to put pen to paper. The resulting poem was transformed into a hymn nine years later, when John Baptiste Calkin composed the music to which it was set.

The poem’s words absolutely speak for themselves. Since some of them are excluded from the carol we normally hear this time of year, here they are in their entirety:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Had to Mention It

Here and here I gave reasons why I am not on on the global warming bandwagon. Then, it snowed in New Orleans last Thursday and broke the city’s record for earliest snowfall by 11 days. That is especially notable when you consider that New Orleans has a subtropical climate and sits below sea level in a place where the white stuff is extremely rare: In the 158 years prior to Thursday, it had snowed just once every nine years on average.

While I’m at it, I might as well add that I have now scraped ice off my Florida windshield six times in less than two months, and since the beginning of November I don’t remember a single week when my car’s on-board temperature gauge did not record outside temps in the 30’s at least once on my way to work.

And did I mention that winter still hasn’t started?

Now, I’ll try to set this topic aside.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nothin' Could Be Finer Than To Be In Carolina

Two months ago I said I had taken “5 days of much needed R&R in the mountains” and would “soon (be) writing about those mountains and how they’re good for the soul.” So I guess it’s about time to follow through.

To make a long prologue short: Back in April me and some friends went backpacking on Georgia’s Pine Mountain Trail, as a precursor to greater things to come, and in July we decided to take another precursor trip in October. We decided we’d go to North Carolina and stay at my family’s cabin the night before hiking, which would save us the expense of renting a place the night before (hey, it’s a long drive from Florida so you have to spend a whole day commuting and start hiking the next).

Not long after that decision was made, we called an audible and decided that because there was no cost for the cabin, we would skip the backpacking part of the trip. Instead, we would go on long hikes every day but always return to the cabin to grill out and have a real roof over our heads.

Unfortunately, as October neared, overextended vacation time prevented several people from coming. Our party of five shrunk to a party of two, but my friend Mike and I were not to be deterred. We set off at 4:00 on a Wednesday morning and were on the other side of Atlanta by lunchtime.

In a stroke of genius, we stopped in Sylva, North Carolina, to down a few beers. A little less than an hour from the cabin, Sylva has a picturesque downtown situated below this courthouse:

Relaxed by the beers, we left town, stocked up on groceries, and arrived at the cabin before dark. Among the most important groceries were these:

The next three days brought absolutely perfect weather, with daytime highs in the upper sixties, nighttime lows in the fifties, and barely a cloud in the sky. On Thursday we conquered a rewarding stretch of the Appalachian Trail by climbing from the shore of Fontana Lake to the top of Shuckstack Mountain, where a fire tower allows those who brave its rickety steps to view a panorama that really is breathtaking. In this south-looking photo, everything on the far side of the lake is in Nantahala National Forest and everything on the near side is in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

A rocky bluff about 10 or 15 minutes below the summit offers a fantastic view looking west. This picture of it should give you a sense of how small and insignificant we are in the world’s grand scheme:

I have to point out that the local animal life must be respected on this section of trail. For one thing, we both got stung by bees. For another, here is the sign that was at the trailhead:

Following that leg-scorcher of an undertaking, we decided to take it easy Friday and drove to the Nantahala Outdoor Center for a lunch of chili and beer. Afterwards, we sat on the deck of the cabin, surrounded by leaves that were starting to turn, facing a gorgeous mountain view, and spent the entire afternoon drinking beer and reading books. For dinner, we gobbled down leviathan-sized steaks. Mike aptly described the day as having been “glorious.”

We quickly realized that as much as we like the adventure of hiking, the trip’s main purpose was to relax. Work had been especially chaotic and burdensome for each of us, and unplugging from it was a relief, so instead of spending Saturday tackling the 12-mile hike we had planned, we opted to duplicate the glories of Friday.

Which is not to say we sat on our asses all day. We located a spot where the Appalachian Trail crosses narrow Upper Tuskegee Road, and walked it to Cable Gap Shelter and back for a round-tripper of just under 2 miles. Along the way, we got stung by bees again – the bastards! Here is a picture of the shelter, along with an old-timer and his dog who were resting there after having made the walk themselves:

Once that walk was over, we were back on the cabin's deck drinking beer and reading books and soaking up the postcard quality of early fall. For dinner, we ate steak yet again.

On Sunday we loaded the car, left the mountains, and returned to the uninspiring flatness of Florida. Though we didn’t like going back to Florida per se, we were happy to see our families again and very happy to be in a rested and rejuvenated state of mind when we did. It’s important to decompress, and if you haven’t made time to do it in a while, I encourage you to.

Last – but far, far from least – here is that cabin my father bought in 1984 and which I have always considered my home away from home:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Never Forget

Pearl Harbor Day is upon us, so let us recall what happened 67 years ago. The day after the bombing, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed Congress on December 8, 1941, to request a formal declaration of war. His speech was simulcast to the country at large via the radio. In it, he said:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack…

Yesterday the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island…

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves…

Always will be remembered the character of this onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory…

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

Pearl Harbor was attacked because it was where the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet was headquartered. The bombing, which killed more than 2,400 people, began shortly before 8:00 on a Sunday morning.

Five of our eight battleships were sunk, the other three were badly damaged, and multiple other naval vessels were destroyed.

The majority of the American war planes based in Hawaii were destroyed as they sat on the ground.

In addition, most of the American air forces based in the Philippines were destroyed during the nighttime attack on that nation, which FDR also mentioned in his speech.

By crippling our Pacific defenses, the December 7th attack left us extremely vulnerable in the face of an aggressive enemy to our West – an enemy that had signaled its intent to rule the entire Pacific basin by subjugating other nations to its will.

This came at a time when we had not responded to the fact that Nazi Germany to our East had already declared war against us, had already brought most of Europe under its thumb, and had signaled its own intention to rule the world by way of an Aryan resurrection of the old Roman Empire.

Such circumstances would have spelled doom for the vast majority of countries throughout the course of history. With their foundations based on the accidents of ethnicity and geography, most countries would have simply surrendered; or, in a distinction without a difference, entered into “peace” negotiations under which they would have to accept the aggressor’s terms and after which the lives of their citizens would most certainly change for the worst.

But the United States is a nation based on ideals. Our foundation springs from the knowledge that there are things greater than us, things which are greater than the transient circumstances which exist on any given day. We have always found strength in the conviction that our nation exists to support and advance those greater things, to the benefit of people all over the world, and this sets the United States apart from all other nations in all other times.

Taking heed from FDR’s appeal to “righteous might,” reflecting what Abraham Lincoln earlier referred to as the “faith that right makes might,” the American people of 1941 summoned the invincible courage to rebuild and fight at the same time they were under fearsome siege. They did this despite the fact they were still suffering through an unprecedented economic depression that had started more than a decade before.

Let us pray that those qualities – that will to power and that unwavering belief in the sanctity of human freedom – have not been lost as new generations of Americans take the baton from the great ones which came before. For as has been said, those who forget the past will be forced to repeat it.

It would be shameful if history were to record that we failed to transfer freedom’s blessings to our descendants.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Updates, Predicitions, and a Clarification

In my very first post I wrote about brutality in Zimbabwe leading up to a sham run-off between dictator Robert Mugabe and would-be reformer Morgan Tsvangirai. Though the two later agreed to a power-sharing deal, Mugabe, from what I can tell, is not living up to it. Meanwhile, inflation has reached 231 million percent, a loaf of bread costs two million Zimbabwean dollars, and lack of sanitized water has triggered an outbreak of cholera that is now spreading to other countries while we fiddle. And about those two million Zimbabwean dollars: That amount is equivalent to just one dollar in America.

In August I wrote that Russia’s imperialist impulses are reawakening, Soviet-style. Since then, Russia’s navy has conducted joint maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea with Venezuela’s navy, marking the first time the Russian Navy as been present in that part of the world since the Cold War ended. And just today, Russia announced that one of its destroyers will sail through the Panama Canal for the first time in more than 60 years and dock at a former U.S. naval base in a symbolic show of power. Can anybody say "thirteen days?"

Last month I wrote about a few of the reasons I am, to say the least, skeptical about the notion of global warming. In that post, I mentioned that twice recently I had scraped ice off my windshield, despite living in Florida with Thanksgiving yet to arrive. Well, it has happened two more times since that post, including this morning, when the ice was so thick that my sunroof and one of my rear windows would not open – and the beginning of winter is still more than two weeks away!

Who will win the SEC Championship Game? Alabama. They play strong, straight-ahead, power football, whereas Florida seems to place too much focus on schemes and formations. The old smashmouth style has always tended to prevail against newfangled ones, and I think this year will be no different.

Who will win the Big 12 Championship Game? Oklahoma. It’s tempting to predict that Missouri will upset them when you consider that the success of their season depends on it, and when you consider Bob Stoops’s tendency during the last half-decade to fall flat once the regular season is over. However, this year’s Oklahoma squad looks to be for real, and I think Stoops will prove that his old nickname – “Big Game Bob” – still applies.

Three days ago, I wrote that the SEC is a better conference than the Big 12 for one reason: They play better defense. I want to clarify that the difference between the two conferences is so razor-thin that, were it not for the sole issue of reliable defense, I would place the Big 12 well ahead of the SEC this year. Frankly, there are more teams in the Big 12 that deserve national rankings than there are in the SEC; however, I just can’t get past those high-flying scores that remind me of WAC games from the 1980’s.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

College Football: Almost in the Rearview

Except for a handful of games next weekend – and the absurdly long list of bowls that will begin kicking off later on – the 2008 college football season is pretty much over. So here are some of my thoughts, and I’ll begin by acknowledging that two opinions I offered in my last college football piece turned out to be wrong.

As soon as I called them nation’s most underrated team and implied that they should make a surge into the polls, the Huskies got clobbered by North Carolina and lost four of their next six. If they beat Pitt next week, they will finish 8-4 and still deserve to be called underrated, but they are not the most underrated team and they are nowhere near as good as I thought back in September.

Texas Tech
After I called them the nation’s most overrated team, and said they are the kind that will “usually wilt as soon as they face a powerful opponent and find themselves in a dog fight,” they went on to win back-to-back games against teams ranked in the top ten – and in the first of those wins, they scored a touchdown with one second left to knock off the number one team in the land. They didn’t look good against Oklahoma, but they are quite a bit better than I thought in September.

Now, as for how the season has played out…

Who’s Best?
We’ll know for sure when it’s all over, but based on what I’ve seen, Alabama and Florida are clearly the two best teams. Of course, they will play each other in next week’s SEC Championship Game and the winner will go on to the BCS Championship Game. Though there are some other impressive squads who are good enough to pull off an upset, I predict that whoever wins between Alabama and Florida will prevail easily in the BCS Championship Game.

Conference Bragging Rights
The SEC and Big 12 (in that order) are obviously the strongest conferences, and the rest of the conferences are petty far behind. And what keeps the SEC in front of the Big 12 this year? Defense: They play it well in the SEC but not in the Big 12, which is a big part of the reason I don’t think the SEC champion will lose to the Big 12 champion if that is who they play for the title.

Speaking of Big 12 Defenses
I have no idea why they are so unimpressive. The Big 12’s schools have a reputation for red-blooded American tenacity, and in past years were known for playing strong defense. Through the years they have given us defensive legends that include the Selmon brothers, Peters brothers, Mike Singletary, Zach Thomas, Dexter Manley, Brian Bosworth, Grant Wistrom, and on and on and on. Yet now we routinely see Big 12 games end with scores like 45-35 and 58-36. I just don’t get it.

But how ’bout those Big 12 QB’s
On the flip side, the Big 12 has such an impressive stable of quarterbacks that it almost defies comprehension. I’ve watched them play, they are as good as advertised, and their productivity can not be explained by doubters saying they go up against defenses that aren’t as good as the ones fielded in the days of yore of the old Big Eight and Southwestern Conferences. The age when option and triple-option offenses ruled the lower Midwest ended some time ago, but now it is buried a mile deep and unlikely to ever return.

Nittany Lions
It was good to see Penn State return to national prominence. Honestly, how can you not like Joe Paterno and the program he has been running for so long up in Happy Valley? It may have been a down year for the Big Ten, but I believe that if Penn State had made it to the BCS Championship Game by avoiding that lone, one-point loss to Iowa, they would have stood a better chance of knocking off the SEC champion than Oklahoma would have.

Why do I think that?
It’s not that I think Penn State is better than Alabama or Florida, and it’s not even that I think they are necessarily better than Oklahoma. It’s that I remember the last two times Penn State won the national title: After the 1982 season everyone thought they had no chance against Herschel Walker’s Georgia Bulldogs, and after the 1986 season everyone thought they would get annihilated by Jimmy Johnson’s swaggering and supersonically fast Miami Hurricanes. Karma-wise, 2008 seemed like the perfect set-up for Paterno’s program to score a hat-trick, by upending a presumed juggernaut right after everyone got done patting them on the head and treating them like some kind of Cinderella who should just be happy to be there.

And finally…
After saying that Alabama and Florida are the best teams in the country, and that I expect one of them to be the national champion, what am I going to do with myself? Of all the bazillions of teams playing college football, those are the two I despise the most. They have the most arrogant fans in the universe. I know most people think it’s a given that Auburn people dislike Alabama more than they dislike Florida – hell, it’s assumed that the word “dislike” is a far too benevolent description of what Auburn people feel about Alabama – but the fact of the matter is I live in Florida and have to deal with chortling, rooster-strutting Gator fans every day of my life, whereas I have to deal with Crimson Tide fans maybe a half-dozen times a year, and even then, only on a one-on-one basis instead of one-on-hundreds. I just don’t know what to do. All I do know is that I will be a major, major Oklahoma fan for the next six weeks, so long as they win the Big 12 as expected.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Okay, Here It Is

17 days ago I said I would post my observations about the election “next week,” so obviously I fell short. It’s not that I don’t have observations and opinions – it’s just that I’ve already written so much about Barack Obama that I feel like I should wait until he is actually doing things from the Oval Office before I pick up that sword again.

But of course, observations about the election and criticism of the president-elect are not the same thing, so now I’m keeping my word and offering some thoughts.

I’ll begin by harkening back to Part Three of my Obama’s Lies series, in which I wrote about a deceitful ad that accused John McCain of being an anti-Hispanic bigot. Obama ran the ad only in Spanish, and only in four states – each of which has a large population of Spanish-speakers and each of which voted for Bush in 2004. In my post, I said, “If this ad causes just one of those states to go for Obama this time, it will very likely decide the election for all of us.” As it turns out, all of those states voted for Obama. This is one of many instances of Democrats seeking to divide the country along ethnic lines in order to increase their power.

Next, I’ll mention a moment during Obama’s acceptance speech that seemed to validate the most unflattering thing conservatives have always felt about liberals: That they don’t think American ideals are worth defending. The moment occurred when Obama, to his credit, tried to give a respectful nod to people who favor a strong national defense by saying, “To those who would tear this world down, we will defeat you.” But the crowd’s reaction was complete silence – you could hear crickets chirping because not a single note of applause rose from the otherwise boisterous mass. And people wonder why conservatives suspect that liberals aren’t committed to the U.S.A.?

However, the most disturbing thing about Obama’s ascendancy is the way it always brings Simon & Garfunkel to my mind. Specifically, I keep hearing that great lyric where Paul sings, “All lies and jests, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” For whatever reason, people look at Obama and view him however they want to – and because in almost every instance they view him through a prism fueled entirely by emotions, no appeal to facts or intellect is able to penetrate it.

By intuition, conservatives have long known that a huge percentage of Obama’s supporters have no idea why they support him. And that intuition has been backed by lots of anecdotal evidence, such as the responses I get every time I ask one of his younger-than-me fans to name just one thing about his policies or philosophies that they think is good. They never answer the actual question, yet they are always quick to enthusiastically say “Just you wait!” or “You’re going to be happy even if you won’t admit it!”

But now we have more than just intuition and personal anecdotes to confirm that Obama’s voters are, in general, an alarmingly ignorant bunch: We have a Zogby poll of people who voted for Obama, taken after the election. It shows that 56% of them do not know about his connection to William Ayers, 57% of them do not know the Democrats control Congress, 71% of them do not know that Joe Biden had to drop his presidential campaign because he was found to be a plagiarist, and 82% of them do not know that Obama won his first political campaign by having his opponents kicked off the ballot. And the poll was multiple choice!

This “ignorance problem” is compounded by the horrific erosion of our educational system over the past few decades, which has resulted in vast numbers of people having no grasp of America’s history or its place in the world. These people exist without any understanding of the principles that led to America’s founding, or how those principles make America more just than other nations, or how those principles make America more successful than other nations. They exist without any understanding of the reasons so many people have given their lives to hand America’s blessings down to their children and grandchildren. Such ignorance is fertile soil in which demagogues can plant the seeds of ever-expanding federal power – seeds which, by sprouting into vines that grow slowly but oh so steadily, can snuff out the electorate’s freedom without the electorate even being aware of it.

So we conservatives clearly have our work cut out for us. However, you will not find me sliding into the abyss of despair toward which so many other conservatives seem willing to march.

This is not the first time we have been faced with daunting challenges. Look at our history, and you will see the entire half-century leading up to Ronald Reagan’s landslides consisted of one massive obstacle after another: FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s defeat of Goldwater, The Great Society’s seemingly unstoppable tsunami, the leftward lurch of the GOP under Nixon and Ford.

Since authentic conservatism overcame that onslaught, there is no doubt that authentic conservatism can overcome today’s challenges – which we should look at as a golden opportunity to resurrect conservatism from an age in which Republicans abandoned it by expanding government and spending like drunken sailors and adopting the Democrats’ template rather than asserting their own.

Yes, making the resurrection happen will require us to work diligently, if we are to communicate our message to those who have little knowledge of history and little experience analyzing facts. But even in the recent election results, there is evidence that we hold a strong hand and that Americans in general favor conservatism over liberalism. It’s worth noting that most of the Democrats who were elected to Congress for the first time in 2006 succeeded by portraying themselves as more conservative than the Republicans they were up against, and it’s worth noting that many of them (North Carolina’s Heath Shuler comes to mind) won re-election this month because they governed more conservatively than their Republican predecessors. It’s definitely worth noting that when conservative initiatives (as opposed to Republican humans who have lost our trust) were on ballots this month, they almost always won, even in California. It is the GOP’s abandonment of its conservative roots that has led to its present weakness.

The truth is on our side, and genuine love of country is on our side. And those things, if combined with dedication and diligence and good cheer, will prevail.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This is Warming?

It is widely accepted (though not with much publicity) that there has been a cooling trend from the 1990’s to this decade.

In many areas, the last two springs have been noteworthy for their tardiness.

Throughout North America, last winter's record snowfalls made it an instant legend among skiers and snowboarders, who spoke of its “epic snowpack” and were able to take to Colorado slopes as late as June.

A few weeks ago, ski season opened on October 28th…in North Carolina, some 10 hours south of the Mason-Dixon Line at Cataloochee Ski Area. This is the third consecutive year Cataloochee has broken the state’s record for earliest start to a ski season.

As of the end of October, Arctic ice covered an area 30 percent larger than it covered at the same time a year ago.

In my part of Florida, halfway down the peninsula and 20 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, scraping ice off the windshield is something that gets done about once per winter…but yesterday I found myself doing it for the second time in the past month, and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

And finally, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies was just caught lying about last month’s temperatures. Goddard had released a statement claiming it was the warmest October on record, despite the fact that many observers noticed it was colder than usual. Now, we learn that Goddard took data from September and claimed it was from October.

Is it coincidental that Goddard is headed by James Hansen, a close ally of Al Gore? And is it coincidental that some years back Hansen spent a great deal of time publicly asserting that the twentieth century’s warmest decade was the 1990’s, only to eventually concede, with little publicity, that the warmest decade was actually the 1930’s?

These are just a few of the many, many reasons I do not believe the global warming hype, and why I am adamantly against submitting to the drastic measures that the alarmists demand we adopt to “address climate change” – measures that would clearly do harm to our already turbulent economy.

There are logical arguments to be made on both sides of the global warming issue. I don’t ask that everyone agree with me when I say that global warming does not exist, nor would I ask everyone to agree with me if I merely said that man-made global warming does not exist. What I do ask, however, is that global warming’s believers stop acting as though its skeptics are a bunch of closed-minded n’er-do-wells whose opinions have no basis in evidence.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Simple Joys

Back in September, Florida’s weather changed right when the calendar said fall would arrive. Our days became warm and dry instead of hot and humid, and our nights became cool instead of “blah.”

And the weather has remained consistent ever since, which means it is finally that time of year when Floridians can go outside without feeling like they're constantly on the verge of heat stroke. So I took a little time off work last week, and we headed back into this state’s great outdoors by going camping at Hillsborough River State Park.

We arrived Thursday afternoon and set up camp. That night, when Sarah was in bed in the tent and Erika and I were sitting around the campfire, we heard what sounded like large animals moving through the woods. Displaying the instincts of a true adventurer (or fool) I picked up my LED flashlight and headed into the darkness, where I found 3 wiry strands of a barbed wire fence some 30 yards away. I heard more movement, shifted my light in its direction, and found myself staring at a wild boar no more 10 feet away – but, thankfully, on the other side of those wiry strands. He took off running in the other direction, apparently startled by my bright light hitting his eyes, and I swear I could hear a second boar running away as well.

Early the next morning Sarah and I walked through the campground while Erika slept. Sarah said she wanted to “pick a bouquet for Mommy,” and she did just that.

Later in the morning, all three of us walked down to the river where I snapped this cute picture of my girls.

Then I paddled ’em down the river in a canoe, and at one point Sarah gave us a giggle by singing “Row Row Row Your Boat.”

Along the way, we saw wildlife on its banks that was worth mentioning.

Many of our friends arrived that afternoon, pitched their tents near ours, and for the rest of the weekend we were five families relaxing in the woods. Sarah had lots of friends to play with and they lived it up.

While the kids were playing on Saturday, the adults spent a good chunk of the day simply basking in the warmth. As you can see, the wives have perfected this essential task.

The other chunk of Saturday’s daylight was spent walking to the river, crossing it on a suspension bridge, and hiking a 1.1-mile trail through the woods on the other side. That tired the kids out…until they noticed the main playground while we were making our way back. They got their second wind, and we stopped so they could work it off. Sarah engaged in one of her favorite playground antics by pretending to be a sloth with her older friend Allana.

That night we sat around the campfire some more, consumed some beverages, and for the second night in a row watched raccoons rummage around on their search for unguarded food.

For a moment I was reminded of Thursday night, because we again heard something big in the brush. We saw a tangle of vines move violently at the edge of the site where we were sitting, and several of us shined our flashlights at it. Suddenly, out popped somebody in a Sasquatch costume. He roared and ran away while we laughed ourselves silly. We are assuming he was a teenager from the church group whose members occupied most of the other sites.

It was great to be able to get back to the outdoors without having to flee the state. We’ll be doing more of it in the coming months.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

With Gratitude on Veterans Day

When he was 82 years old, General Douglas MacArthur was presented with the Sylvanus Thayer Award at West Point. Upon accepting it, he addressed the cadets without a prepared text and without notes. Speaking reverently about the American soldier, he said:

"My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now – as one of the world’s noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty he gave – all that mortality can give…when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism; he belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom; he belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements…From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage…The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training – sacrifice."

Those words are just as true now, with our men and women returning from the war zones of the Middle East, as they were when MacArthur spoke them 46 years ago. But there has been a troubling shift in the way the American soldier is viewed by his countrymen.

When MacArthur spoke, the heroism exhibited at Guadalcanal and Pork Chop Hill was fresh in the minds of America, and students throughout the land were taught about their forefathers’ valor at Bunker Hill and Antietam. The vast majority of Americans looked upon soldiers with immense respect, as courageous defenders of liberty who, in MacArthur’s words, held the nation’s destiny in their hands.

Less than a decade later, many of the soldiers returning from Vietnam were spat upon and falsely depicted as “baby killers.”

Within a generation, military service went from being a duty that was performed by most American men to being one that was performed by a small minority. In turn, the country has become one where a shrinking percentage of the population puts their lives on the line to defend the rights of an increasingly unappreciative majority. Many of us take our freedom for granted, blind to the fact that were it not for those soldiers who are willing to risk their lives in the line of duty, we would not be free to speak our minds without fear of prosecution, or to pursue our life's goals as we see fit, or to make a choice about whether or how to worship God.

Today is Veterans Day. Modern media and schools have greatly de-emphasized this once prominent holiday, but the rest of us don’t have to follow their lead. To those of you who have answered the nation's call and served in our armed forces, I say: Thank You.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Post-Election Pause

Barack Obama's election on Tuesday night was no surprise, and I have many thoughts about many aspects of the election, about why it happened, about what it means and does not mean, etc. But if anybody was expecting me to respond to the election by launching into a tirade on this blog, they were wrong.

My opinion about whether Obama is qualified to lead the United States of America, and my reasons for having that opinion, have already been made quite clear and there is no need to rehash. Now that he is going to be our president, he will have a chance to prove me wrong and I hope he does. If and when he errs, I will write about it, and if and when he does well, I will write about that too.

I will wait until next week to post about the observations I made Tuesday. Despite my grave concerns about Obama and how he has risen to power, there is no denying that millions of people are genuinely inspired by him and feel that his election is a seminal, positive moment in history. I think they are wrong, but they have earned the right to bask in the moment and I will not rain on them today.

We as conservatives should take our cue from Ronald Reagan, who never failed to stand firm on principles but was always a happy warrior. It's a tough lead to follow, but I do believe that it's the only way for any movement to achieve lasting success -- and it should be noted that the Republicans who followed Reagan frequently failed to follow that lead. (Okay, I'm starting to write about one of the reasons Tuesday night happened, and I said I was going to wait, so now I'll stop.)

Most of my posts over the last couple months have been about politics. Many of my future posts will continue to be, and they will represent a full-throated advancement of the conservative ideals on which this nation was founded -- the very same ideals that make it the greatest nation in all of human history. But now that the election is finally over, I can also get back to posting about other topics that are dear to me, including that trip to the mountains I mentioned back in mid-October.

I'll be camping with family and friends the next four days. As always, God bless until I return.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Carrying the Soviet Torch

In the second post of my “Decision 2008” series, I wrote that Barack Obama seeks to establish Marxism though he will never say the word. Well, he still hasn’t said the word, but a video has now surfaced that shows him talking in ways that remove any doubt about whether he is a Marxist.

Taken from a local public radio call-in show in 2001, the video shows The Exalted One saying that “the Supreme Court never enter(ing) into the issues of redistribution of wealth” ranks as one of the “failures of the Civil Rights Movement.”

A moment later, he says that one of the movement’s “tragedies” was that it lost track of the “activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change. And in some ways we still suffer from that.”

And while discussing the Supreme Court of the movement's era, Obama expresses disappointment that “it didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.”

It is noteworthy that although he was responding to callers on this video, Obama spoke without the stammering, the awkward pauses, the “ums” and “uhs” that mark many of his responses when asked questions on the campaign trail. That is because he was speaking to a local and reliably leftist audience, at a time when he didn’t need to worry about appealing to the general population, and therefore he felt free and comfortable to speak his mind. Those words represent Barack Obama’s true thoughts, pure and clean and unfiltered…and they reveal a man who wants government’s power to be unfettered, who disregards personal liberty, and who disdains the notion that people should keep the fruits of their labor and use them as they see fit.

This is a man who rose to power by eliminating his opponents rather than facing them in an election. When he first ran for the Illinois Senate, he employed teams of lawyers to have all of his opponents removed from the ballot by combing through their nominating petitions and getting the magic number of signatures to be disqualified…based on things as absurd as having been written in manuscript rather than cursive.

Later, when Obama made his first run for the U.S. Senate, he trailed in the primaries until the person ahead of him was suddenly accused of domestic abuse. Then, his general election opponent watched a judge open what was supposedly a sealed divorce document containing unproven personal allegations by his wife, leading him to withdraw from the race as the ensuing media tempest ignored the campaign and focused solely on the divorce documents. FDR once said that “in politics, nothing is a coincidence” – an adage that should be impossible to ignore when one man keeps benefiting from such timely occurrences.

Nobody should forget that Obama chose to spend two decades (up until this election year!) regularly attending and financially supporting a church whose pastor often spoke in racially inflammatory language, and who said, immediately after 9/11 during a sermon with children present: “No, no, no, not God bless America! God damn America!”

Obama is a man who has chosen to spend years allied with a home grown terrorist who admits to being a Marxist and to bombing the Pentagon, and who says his only regret about his violent past is that it wasn’t violent enough. Their alliance is so close that Obama began his political career at a meeting in this man’s home.

In his autobiography, Obama wrote that “to avoid being mistaken for a sellout” he made sure to choose “Marxist professors” as his friends. (emphasis mine)

There is nothing new or different about Barack Obama. His ideas have been around for generations, they have been tried in many places around the globe, and they have failed every time they have been tried. His economic philosophy is straight from The Communist Manifesto and his governing impulses are the same ones that autocrats everywhere have always had. Unfortunately, the young people who love him are too poorly educated to understand any of this, and the aging radicals who love him are too scornful of this country to care.

Obama's ability to make people stop thinking and start swooning is the stuff of which every autocrat dreams. He is the politician for which every Bolshevik since 1917 has been waiting.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Decision 2008: National Defense

National defense is far and away the most important responsibility of the federal government. A case can even be made that it is the only reason we have a federal government, since other public responsibilities are best understood and handled at the state and local levels. And when it comes to national defense, John McCain is so much stronger than Barack Obama that there's almost no point writing about it.

McCain has always been a proponent of a strong military used intelligently to protect America and defend freedom against violent despotism. Just as important, when it comes to identifying violent despotism, McCain does so.

On the other hand, Barack Obama dwells in the mush-minded world of moral equivalence. When international acts of violence occur, such as Russia's recent invasion of Georgia, he instinctively responds by saying that both sides are to blame and by refusing to name the aggressor.

But most chillingly, Obama wants to weaken our national defenses against the rest of the world. Think I'm a paranoid fear-monger? Well, Obama himself is on video saying the following: “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems. [snip] I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons. To seek that goal, I will not develop new nuclear weapons. I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material. And I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBM’s off hair-trigger alert.”

Like the double-talking politician that he is, he uses Clintonian adjectives in the hope that he can use them to deflect criticism — like employing the phrase "unproven missile defense systems" because he knows many voters won't bother to realize that every missile defense system is unproven until it receives the "investment" of expensive and lengthy research and development.

And consider everything else Obama says in the above quote:

He depicts the simple fact that we may use our ICBM's to respond to aggression by depicting those ICBM's as being on "hair-trigger alert."

He says he will not "weaponize space," but declines to point out that other nations, especially China, are already doing that and will most certainly continue.

He says he will "slow our development of future combat systems" and "will not develop new nuclear weapons systems" — ignoring the fact that our enemies are constantly speeding up their development of new weaponry, including new nuclear weaponry.

He says he will "set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons" and "seek a global ban on the production of fissile material," but he declines to acknowledge that there is no way in hell despotic regimes will ever go along. His comment about negotiating with Russia is similar in that he seems oblivious to the fact that Russia never lives up to its end of any deal it negotiates.

Obama's proposed course of action is inherently dangerous, predictably disastrous, and completely irresponsible. And if that weren't enough, his stated goals will never be attainable so long as human beings are human beings.

Like Charles Krauthammer wrote: "Today’s economic crisis, like every other in our history, will in time pass. But the barbarians will still be at the gates. Whom do you want on the parapet? I’m for the guy who can tell the lion from the lamb." When it comes to the most important duty any president will ever face, Barack Obama is either stupid or naive, or perhaps he really doesn't think that American ideals are worth the cost and energy required to defend them. Any one of those automatically disqualifies him from the presidency, even if he were the stronger candidate on every other issue.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Decision 2008: The Economy

John McCain “won” my first post in this series. Today’s post takes a look at where he and Barack Obama stand when it comes to the economy.

McCain has never seemed to grasp basic economics, which would seem to make him weak on the topic. Yet Obama is such a complete dunce when it comes to the economy that McCain looks brilliant by comparison.

Obama wants to raise taxes during hard times, even though history shows that lowering taxes is the way to turn things around.

As previously discussed in my “Obama’s Lies” series, he plans to raise taxes on small businesses. This is a recipe for layoffs and for putting companies out of business. Because innovation has always been the cornerstone of America’s economy and most innovation comes from small business rather than big business, Obama’s plan could have devastating long-term consequences for our economy, over and above the near-term harm it is sure to inflict on workers.

Though neither he nor his media allies will ever say the word, Marxism is exactly what Obama wants to establish. He has openly said he wants to use taxes to redistribute private resources, though of course he uses the populist phrase “spread the wealth around.”

When one interviewer pointed out that tax cuts have always led to greater increases in government revenue than have resulted from tax hikes – and suggested that because of this, tax cuts rather than tax hikes are the best way for government to obtain revenue for Obama to “spread around” – Obama responded by saying that didn’t matter because “the real issue is fairness.” Clearly, he is more interested in punishing high-earners than he is in helping low-earners improve their lot.

Obama’s lust for raising taxes does not stop at the income tax. He also wants to raise the capital gains tax, which would lower the return on people’s investments and thus create a disincentive for people to invest. How come nobody in the MSM has bothered to suggest that the recent plummets in the stock market might result from investors trying to get out of the market before Obama raises the rate, but finding that nobody wants to buy for that same reason, which inevitably leads to falling stock prices because of the imbalance between supply and demand?

And to top it all off, despite the fact that just about everybody believes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, for the current turmoil in our real estate markets, Obama uses Fannie Mae’s long-time CEO Franklin Raines as an economic adviser.

So McCain wins on the economy, and after two posts in this series he leads Obama by a score of 2-0.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Decision 2008: The Bill of Rights

For a while, let's set Barack Obama’s breathtaking level of dishonesty aside and take a look at this election on an “issue by issue” basis, tallying the score like a sporting event to see how he and John McCain stack up…because, let’s face it, McCain leaves a lot to be desired as a prospective president.

There are too many issues to do this in a single post, so I’m going to do it in a series. This first post looks at where the candidates stand on the Bill of Rights.

First Amendment
This is the one that provides freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Frankly, they both suck on the first part. The silver lining is that they seem to be okay on the second part. Advantage: Neither.

Second Amendment
This is the one that provides the right to keep and bear arms. Obama is its enemy and McCain is its ally. Advantage: McCain.

Third Amendment
In plain English, this is the one that says you can’t be forced to use your home to house soldiers, unless “prescribed by law.” Not surprisingly, it seems that no presidential candidate in many years has spoken about this amendment. Advantage: Neither.

Fourth Amendment
This is the amendment that provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. McCain is strong on this one, and although Obama’s entire philosophy leads me to believe he is weak on it, I do not know of anything specific that confirms my fear. So without doing any extensive research other than mentally reviewing what I already know, I say: Advantage: Neither.

Fifth Amendment
This is the one that protects the individual against being forced to testify, against double jeopardy, and against having his or her property taken. The big hang-up is on the last part, since liberalism’s philosophy does not favor private ownership of property. Whether rank-and-file Democrats want to admit it or not, liberal politicians have a long history of acting against Americans’ property rights, and despite Obama’s carefully orchestrated demeanor of speaking softly to the general public, the politics he practices are the most radically liberal of any presidential candidate in American history. If elected, he will have the power to nominate federal judges to lifetime appointments – a power that will be unchecked if the Senate and House remain under Democrat control. This should frighten you when you consider that the Supreme Court has already rendered at least one ruling in violation of this amendment. Advantage: McCain.

Sixth Amendment
In plain English, this is the one that guarantees your right to due process and to a speedy trial by a jury of your peers. McCain is strong on it, and though I have my doubts about Obama, those doubts are not backed up by any evidence of which I know. So I say: Advantage: Neither.

Seventh Amendment
This one takes certain parts of the previous two amendments (namely the guarantee of trial by jury and the protection against double jeopardy) and applies them to common law in cases where the “value in question” exceeds $20. No wonder this amendment never gets talked about. But the bottom line is that I see no evidence that either of the candidates is weak on it. Advantage: Neither.

Eighth Amendment
This one protects against excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishment. I see no difference between the candidates on this one. Advantage: Neither.

Ninth Amendment
In plain English, this one says that the naming of certain rights in the Constitution does not mean that people don’t have other rights not named in it. I have reservations about both candidates when it comes to this amendment. More of my reservations concern Obama, mind you, but I have enough reservations about McCain that I don't want to award any points over this amendment. Advantage: Neither.

Tenth Amendment
This is arguably the most important of the ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. It is the one which declares that all powers not specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution do not belong to the federal government. It also declares that all powers belong to the states “or to the people” unless the Constitution specifically bars the states from those powers. We may need divine intervention because, unfortunately, both candidates love federal power and seem to think it should be used in most, if not all, circumstances. Advantage: Neither.

Bottom line: Because McCain has the adavantage on two amendments and Obama does not have it on any of them, McCain "wins" this post.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Thing Called Life

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God... (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

There was joy in our lives on September 9th, when Erika and I learned that she was pregnant with our second child. This news came after what felt like an eternity of first doing everything by the book, then moving on to fertility meds, then to four intrauterine inseminations, and ultimately to in vitro fertilization. (With Sarah, our first child, Erika became pregnant almost immediately, so having to take all these steps this time around felt even more frustrating than it already would have. Erika recently began her own blog to comment on it.)

Two mornings ago, we were visited by pain when we learned that our baby passed away. The writing was on the wall at a doctor's apppointment one day earlier, and our fears were confirmed Friday when we saw the baby on ultrasound -- without blood flow, without a heartbeat, and measuring just over six weeks in size when he or she should have measured about ten weeks.

The fact that our second child never advanced beyond the very early stages of development does not make him or her any less special or less human. It feels very strange using phrases like "he or she" and "him or her" when referring to our child, but no human being should ever be referred to as "it." In layman's language, there are male sperm and female sperm which determine a child's sex at the moment of conception, but after conception occurs some time must pass before science can discern the baby's sex -- and considering how young our baby was at the time life ended, it is unlikely that chromosomal testing will be able to answer that question.

Facts forced the emotional pendulum to swing yet again yesterday, when we held Sarah's fourth birthday party and saw her having fun with her friends and taking huge leaps in her swimming progress. Today is her actual birthday and we will enjoy it with her.

Words are not capable of conveying the swirl of emotions involved in these recent events, so I will not attempt to describe them. But in spite of them, I am at peace and will move forward. Millions before us have faced such trials, and many of them have faced trials that are even harder to confront.

For reasons I can't explain, I have always known that things happen for a reason and that everything will work out in the end, so long as we don't lose faith and so long as we do our duties as we understand them.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama's Lies: Part Six (And a Redux!)

Over the past week or two, Barack Obama has been saying that the "vast majority" of small businesses in America make less than $250,000 per year, and therefore will not be subject to his proposed tax increase. This statement is completely false -- by such a wide margin that anyone taking a moment to think about it knows intuitively that the first part can't even possibly be true -- yet the MSM has accepted it without question.

The big problem for us citizens is how part one plays into part two: In reality, most small businesses do make more than $250,000, and because of this their tax burden will be increased under Obama's tax plan. It does not take rocket science to see how this Molotov cocktail of an "idea" will inflict hardship on the American economy and especially on those very same working families Obama wants you to think he cares about. In already tough economic times, taking money away from these businesses would make it harder for them to stay afloat because they would have less capital to work with; this would force them to cut costs, which means layoffs; and with government making it ever harder to do business, there would be a disincentive to start new businesses.

Obama has to know that small businesses are targeted by his tax plan. That he is flatly saying otherwise, while knowing that his allies in the MSM won't call him on it, shows him to be a devious manipulator intent on exploiting people's ignorance to deceive them into voting for him.

And now for the redux. I previously commented on Obama's lies about John McCain's stance on stem cell research, lies made all the worse by the fact they are contradicted by McCain's actions in addition to his words. This morning on the way to work, I heard another Obama ad repeating the same false claims. Time and again he proves that he cares about nothing but his own grasp for power, and time and again the MSM proves that its goal is to help him succeed no matter what.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why The Silence?

I haven't posted in almost two weeks, so what gives?

It's not that I stopped having opinions, it's not that Barack Obama stopped lying, and it's certainly not that the MSM started doing it's job.

First, work had me so swamped there was no time left to write. Then, I took off for 5 days of much needed R&R in the mountains.

But I will be back "on the horse" soon, writing about those mountains and how they're good for the soul. And most assuredly, I will also be writing about how Obama keeps lying -- and how his allies in the so-called news media keep parroting his lies, doing everything in they can to prevent the American people from learning the facts necessary to cast informed votes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Obama's Lies: Part Five of ?

This morning on the way to work, I heard an Obama ad which stated (among other economic fallacies) that "banks are failing because of Washington's lax oversight."

The ad's obvious implication is that the government needs to get more involved in the banking system. However, the exact opposite is true because government involvement is exactly what led to today's financial mess. I already commented about that topic last month, and if you want to read a much better analysis of it, go here.

History shows that when something needs fixing, government's role should be reduced, not increased. But interestingly, if we use Obama's chosen word of "oversight," the two players whose corruption actually does warrant oversight are government entities, not private ones. They are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, of course, and their very existence is an example of government involvement in the banking system.

Because Obama is playing word games by using the term "oversight" as a euphemism, this ad falls into the category of slippery shades-of-gray dishonesty. But it is dishonest just the same, and its goal is to frighten the citizenry into making a decision that will benefit the powerful at the citizenry's expense.

Monday, September 29, 2008

College Football: Five Weeks In

At this point in the season, you can get a true sense of the teams and start forming opinions that are based on something other than guesswork and emotions. Here are some of my thoughts, including the poll I keep in my head: The Stanton’s Space Top 20. Hey, it's every bit as valid as the Top 25 Poll kept by all those AP journalism majors.

Most Underrated Team
Connecticut. Nobody is talking about them, but the Huskies are 5-0, they have the nation’s leading rusher, and they are coming off a 9-win season in which they shared the Big East title only to be relegated to the Meineke Car Care Bowl while their more-heralded co-champion (West Virginia) got the glory of a BCS bid. If they win at North Carolina this weekend, expect them to make a big jump in the polls and mount a serious challenge for the Big East crown.

Most Overrated Team
Texas Tech. They used to be underrated back when they had tough defense (remember Zach Thomas?) and a strong running game (remember Byron Hanspard?). But now they are a trendy pick showing up in everyone’s Top 10, and I’m not buying it. As the late Chris Thomas would have said, they have one of those "zipadee-doo-dah offenses" that throws 60 times a week and averages 50 points a game – and unfortunately for Red Raiders fans, those kinds of teams usually wilt as soon as they face a powerful opponent and find themselves in a dog fight. Before I can take this team seriously, I have to see them hold their own against the big boys.

My Auburn Indulgence
I can’t talk college football without focusing on my alma matter. We lost one of the best defensive linemen in school history, and a quarterback who was one of the best big-game QB’s we’ve ever had, and then we started the season with a new defensive coordinator, a new offensive coordinator, and an offensive system completely different than anything we’ve ever run. So we should have known coming in that this is a transitional year in which the team will need time to evolve.

Despite all that, we are 4-1 and the defense is playing like one of the best that Auburn has ever fielded (just tighten up your downfield coverage, DB's!). Yes, it is nerve-wracking watching our O-line struggle and waiting for the offense to gel, but I have to say this to my fellow alumni who are calling for heads to roll: Get a grip on reality for the reasons I just laid out, and get it through your skulls that judgment must be withheld until we know how the season turns out.

No matter what, we should not start ripping Tuberville: He is a hell of a coach and the fact he changed the offense so drastically shows he is not resting on his laurels. I remember quite a few of us (me included) wanting to run him out of town just one year before he delivered a 13-0 season. I, at least, won’t make that mistake again. Tommy Tuberville should not have to listen to boos raining down from those of us who have never coached.

Stanton's Space Top 20
  1. Oklahoma
  2. Alabama
  3. Penn State
  4. Missouri
  5. LSU
  6. Texas
  7. USC
  8. Florida
  9. South Florida
  10. BYU
  11. Kansas
  12. Georgia
  13. Utah
  14. Auburn
  15. Wisconsin
  16. Boise State
  17. Oregon
  18. Ohio State
  19. Fresno State
  20. Vanderbilt

Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama's Lies: Part Four of ?

Every morning on my way to work, I get to hear a brand new chock-full-of-lies advertisement from Barack Obama. They have been getting more and more disgraceful the last few weeks, but it’s going to be hard for him to top the one from two mornings ago.

It charges that John McCain wants to ban stem cell research, and it voices the logical extension that his opposition is standing in the way of medical progress that could cure diseases if only he would get out of science’s way. But then there’s that thing called the truth: In reality, McCain is a staunch supporter of stem cell research and even voted to increase federal funding of it.

In other words, the ad’s central contention is absolutely, unambiguously, and deliberately false.

What makes the ad especially cynical is its exploitation of an anguished mother, who does all the talking because Obama believes her pleading voice will cause millions of uninformed but sensitive voters to be moved. It begins with her stating that six times a day she tests the blood sugar of her diabetic daughter, and six times a day she prays for a cure. Then she goes on to read a litany of Obama’s lies, including one that says McCain is “running on a platform even more extreme than George Bush’s on this vital research.”

But then there’s that thing called the truth: In reality, McCain voted to lift restrictions on embryonic stem cell research that went into effect during Bush’s administration.

So what exactly is McCain opposed to? He is against creating new human embryos for the specific purpose of harvesting their stem cells and then destroying them. He is not against harvesting stem cells from already existing embryos that were created at in vitro fertilization clinics and are going to be disposed of anyway. This position is moral, practical, and probably in agreement with the vast majority of Americans.

This ad's dishonesty is not the slippery shades-of-gray variety, it is the arrogantly dismissive pants-on-fire variety. If Obama is a caring agent of change, why does he operate like a crass political thug?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama's Lies: Part Three of ?

Last week, Barack Obama began broadcasting a vicious advertisement in four red states, all of which have large Hispanic populations. Over and above the bald-faced lie it is attempting to propagate, the ad employs a foreign language to engage in race-baiting and character defamation.

For those who don’t know, Rush Limbaugh is one of John McCain’s harshest critics and was especially critical of McCain’s support for last year’s immigration bill – the one often described as an amnesty bill. But despite the fact that Limbaugh and McCain could not be farther apart on that issue, the ad seeks to convince non-English-speaking Hispanic voters that they agree on it. Even worse, the ad strongly suggests that Limbaugh and McCain are bigots. Its goal is to make the targeted voters suspect the GOP of being the party of racists.

So what specifically does the ad entail? For starters, it purports to quote Limbaugh by displaying two incomplete sentences wildly out of context. The first is taken from a program in 1993 during which he criticized one of NAFTA’s provisions. What he actually said at the time was: “If you are unskilled and uneducated, your job is going south…If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people, I’m serious, let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do – let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work.” However, Obama’s ad only displays the words “stupid and unskilled Mexicans.”

The second quote is lifted from something Limbaugh wrote two years ago, in which he pointed out that Mexico, unlike the U.S., requires immigrants to possess a certain amount of savings before entering the country; requires them to have certain work and language skills before entering; restricts their freedom of speech; restricts their freedom to purchase land; denies them social benefits, etc. At one point he mentioned that Mexico’s laws amount to that nation telling those who immigrate to it: “You’re a foreigner, shut your mouth or get out!” But of course, Obama’s ad only displays the words “shut your mouth or get out!” – and it does so right after displaying the “stupid and unskilled” snippet, so that viewers will think Limbaugh was telling Mexicans to shut up or get out of America.

So Obama’s slander troops went through two decades of Limbaugh’s comments looking for evidence of bigotry, and all they could come up with were two non-bigoted remarks that they needed to misrepresent in order to create the impression they wanted.

And although McCain has spent 26 years in the House and Senate, they apparently could not find a single remark of his that could even be misrepresented to suit their needs...for the next step the ad takes after suggesting that Limbaugh despises Hispanics, is to imply that McCain also despises them, but it does this without even bothering to quote any words that have ever left McCain’s mouth. Instead, it just states that he changed his mind about the immigration bill, leaving Spanish-speaking viewers to conclude that he is in league with Limbaugh – and to conclude that he must be a bigot since Limbaugh said Mexicans are “stupid and unskilled” and that they should shut up or get out.

The problem is, McCain did not change his mind. He remains in favor of the bill and Limbaugh remains against it. McCain’s only change of heart is that he now says he would make border security part of the deal because the American people have expressed that border security is their main concern. So after opening the ad by tossing a net of slander so wide it falls on each end of the Republican spectrum, Obama misstates the positions of two men by alleging they agree on a topic about which they are diametrically opposed.

The fact that this ad is broadcast only in Spanish makes its underhandedness all the more disgraceful. Its target audience is a segment of the population that is especially vulnerable to misinformation and very unlikely to hear any corrections that might be made after the fact. Remember, the states in which it’s running all went red last time: Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Florida. If this ad causes just one of those states to go for Obama this time, it will very likely decide the election for all of us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Obama's Lies: Part Two of ?

When it comes to protecting babies born alive after failed abortions, Barack Obama has been brazenly dishonest about his position.

First, some background: Following Roe v. Wade, such babies – right up to their due date and beyond, so long as they were in the womb when the abortion procedure began – were considered not to have the same rights as other babies. Thus, they were left to die instead of being fed and given medical care and allowed a chance to live. They finally received protection a few years ago when the federal government passed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA).

Prior to BAIPA, the Illinois state government considered a similar bill in 2001. Called the Induced Infant Liability Act, it would have specifically protected babies born alive after late-term abortions in which labor was induced with the goal of them not surviving through to delivery. Obama, an Illinois state senator at the time, voted against it.

In 2003, the bill (still waiting to become law) was referred to the Illinois Health and Human Services Committee. Obama was that committee’s chairman. Some references say he prevented the bill from coming to a vote; others say it came to a vote, but was defeated with Obama casting the decisive “no.”

Regardless of which 2003 account is technically accurate, Obama has affirmed his opposition to the Induced Infant Liability Act and has acknowledged that he acted to kill it. More than once since becoming a national figure, he has responded to questions about the situation by saying he opposed the bill because it lacked “neutrality language” that would have ensured it had no impact on Roe v. Wade; i.e., he has claimed he wanted to make sure the bill would not protect babies still in the womb.

The problem for Obama is that the bill did contain neutrality language that accomplished exactly what he claims needed to be accomplished. The language was added to the bill when it went to his committee in 2003, specifically to address that concern. As committee chairman, Obama had to know the language was added...or else he was derelict in his duties, especially when you consider how important he says such language was.

Last month, less than 24 hours after Obama said on NBC that his critics were “lying” about this matter, his campaign quietly issued a press release admitting that Obama’s critics were being truthful and Obama was not. But they did so on a Sunday night, when it’s known that nobody watches the news, and the MSM scarcely mentioned it.

It is worth noting that the neutrality language in the Induced Infant Liability Act protected Roe just the same as the neutrality language in the federal BAIPA, which was supported even by the National Abortion Rights Action League. It is also worth noting that the Senate passed BAIPA by a vote of 98-0 and Congress by a vote of 380-15. So it’s hard to imagine how Obama's stance could be called anything other than extreme. No wonder he lied about it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Obama's Lies: Part One of ?

As I mentioned yesterday, I am writing a series of posts about Barack Obama’s dizzying level of dishonesty. This one is about a new advertisement in which he claims that a John McCain presidency would be bad for women because McCain does not care about the wage gap between men and women. It begins by trumpeting that women make only 77 percent of what men make, plastering the number 77 on your TV screen in giant font.

But you always have to parse the words of politicians, so it is important to notice what they do not say – and in a technical sense, this ad never states that women make 77 percent for doing the same jobs as men. Because it would be so easy to disprove that claim, Obama avoids the “equal work” language at this point in the ad, though it is clear he intends for women to assume a 77-to-100 gap exists for equal work.

If you don’t think that is his intent, you should consider that later on the ad does explicitly (and falsely) state that McCain is against legislation requiring “equal pay for equal work” – it’s just that these words appear far enough away that, by diagramming sentences, Obama can truthfully claim he never said “women are paid 77 cents for every dollar of equal work performed by a man.”

Desperate for evidence that McCain is against equal pay legislation, the ad vaguely cites his opposition to the Fair Pay Restoration Act (FPRA) but makes sure not to inform viewers that the FPRA does not mean what it sounds like it means. Equal pay for equal work is already required by law, and has been for 45 years. All the FPRA would do is change the length of time employees have to sue their employers.

When it comes to figuring out what Obama and McCain personally think about women’s compensation, the best possible way of doing so is available to us: We can simply look up what they pay their own employees. When we do so, we learn that Obama pays women far less than he pays men, and perhaps more telling, we also learn that he pays women far less than McCain pays women.

Specifically, the numbers show the following: 1) on average, Obama pays women 17 percent less than men, while McCain pays women 4 percent more than men; 2) on average, Obama pays women 19 percent less than McCain pays women; 3) just one of Obama’s five highest-paid staffers is a woman, compared to three of McCain’s top five; and 4) just seven of Obama’s twenty highest-paid staffers are women, compared to thirteen of McCain’s top twenty.

If you learned these facts about two men, without knowing their names or hearing any rhetoric about them, which one would you think places more emphasis on women’s income and women’s opportunities?