Friday, December 24, 2010

What was it like on the outskirts of Bethlehem?

Modern living provides numerous luxuries and activities. An endless parade of entertainment, distraction and diversion is at our beck and call. Shopping centers and malls abound, a cadre of restaurants surrounding each. There’s a club meeting one night, the kid’s practice the next and the church’s covered-dish supper the night after that.

Satellite television beams hundreds of crystal clear channels into our living rooms. A few are even worth watching. Movies, music, and information stream from high-speed Internet. A universe of information and entertainment is a mouse click away. Ours is a different world. The changes in the last forty years alone are staggering.

During my childhood, dining out meant a trip to the local café or fish camp. There were few, if any, family steakhouses. And there certainly wasn’t a restaurant in every corner of the mall parking lot. In fact, there wasn’t even a mall.

In the late 1960s the Internet was a military secret. Television stations were few and color sets were uncommon. I watched Neill Armstrong take “one giant leap for mankind” . . . and I watched it in black and white. Our set could tune two VHF channels.

Just as today’s world has surpassed my childhood, so had that time advanced over the previous generations, when television itself was rare or nonexistent. People received their entertainment from the radio voices of Amos and Andy and the Jack Benny Show. Their information came from newspapers, books and magazines. The 20th Century was change, with less than 100 years separating the heyday of the buckboard from the reusable spacecraft.

Now, you may wonder what this walk down nostalgia lane has to do with Bethlehem. Very little, in a direct sense. But it does serve to compare the rapid advancement in our lifestyles with the primitive shepherds’ experience, recorded in Luke’s Gospel, that first Christmas night. The thought came to me as I read the story for the umpteenth time, not that you can read it too often.

Some Bible translations place the shepherds “in the same country”; others say they were “in the fields nearby.” Either way it is evident that they were on the outskirts of Bethlehem, which had nothing in common with modern suburbia. There was no reflection of Bethlehem’s lights against the night sky. There was only a darkness that today’s suburbanite can’t comprehend.

The shepherds may have kindled a small campfire and lit a torch or two. But they wouldn’t have stayed very close to that light. It would have compromised their night vision, making it difficult to spot thieves and predators, which was their purpose for being there. The only prevailing light came from the stars and the moon.

No distant train whistle pierced the silence. No car horns honked and no jets passed overhead. There were no blaring boom boxes, blinding televisions, or ringing cell phones. The only sound was the shepherds’ conversation and the soft bleats from the flocks. They are alone on a dark and silent night.

Without warning a celestial being illuminated the night sky. The angel Gabriel declared the long-awaited Messiah’s arrival to the accompaniment of an angelic chorus. How would those shepherds, unaccustomed to such brilliant displays, have reacted? Luke tells us they were “sore afraid.”

Considering the societal transformations and technological advancements we’ve experienced it is difficult, if not impossible, for us to relate to the lives of those shepherds. We think black and white television is archaic and cell phones are indispensable. It’s unlikely we can appreciate the scene that long ago night on Bethlehem’s hillside pastures.

Feast, my friends, this Christmas Day! Gather by the fire. Unwrap the gifts. Amidst the celebration save a minute to ponder the shepherd’s experience. Our lives are so accustomed to sound, light, and distraction, perhaps we can’t comprehend the powerful, majestic display that long ago night. But we can try.

A Merry Christmas to all . . . no offense intended.

‘Tis the season for common sense, culture, heritage and tradition to take its annual backseat to politically correct nonsense. Each Christmas the PC police are bolder than ever. Nativity scenes can’t be displayed here and angels can’t be heard on high over there. Phrases and icons that reference the central reason for the “holiday season” are squelched so not to offend the perpetually offended.

A few years ago, the Seattle, WA airport authority displayed the gutlessness of Decembers present. Twenty-five years of displaying Christmas trees at the airport’s entrances came to a halt with one complaint. According to airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt the trees were removed “because we didn’t want to be exclusive.” Next were the big retailers, whose zeal for a “non-threatening” shopping experience prompted employees to wish shoppers “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings” in lieu of “Merry Christmas.” Christmas trees became “holiday” trees.

The idea of these faith-neutral terms and phrases is to avoid the seeming preference of Christianity over other religions. But Christmas trees? How does calling a Christmas tree what it is sanctify one belief over another? Thoughts on the origin of Christmas trees are as diverse as the kinds of trees used. In fact, the religious meaning of Christmas trees is debated even within Christianity.

The Christmas tree’s root, if you’ll pardon the pun, could rise from the Ancient Romans, who decorated trees with strips of metal during a festival honoring Saturnus, their god of agriculture. Perhaps modern Christmas trees date to 16th Century Germany, where small fir trees were decorated with apples and nuts. On December 25th the ornamental treats were given to the children. The Feast of Adam and Eve, where the “original sin” was reenacted on December 24th, may be the source for our tree. An evergreen, hung with apples, was used as a prop for the play.

Christmas trees are but one example of how the ever-offended are attempting to transform a season of joy and happiness into one of anxiety and misery. Flaps over “holiday trees,” corporate policies governing the greetings retail cashiers can offer and idiocy like that at Seattle’s airport prove that political correctness and “sensitivity” have run amok.

Do Christmas greetings and traditions truly offend people? Or, are offended people simply seeking reasons for offense? Our world is filled with verified misery: war, famine, pestilence and violent crime. Why would expressions of hope and happiness offend any rational person? Frankly, it's because the offended aren’t rational at all. They’re so consumed with their manic despair that they cannot suffer cheerfulness. The joyous message of Merry Christmas reminds them of their empty, bitter souls.

Let's put this in perspective. If a Jewish man were to greet me with “Happy Hanukkah,” I would accept his wishes in the spirit they were offered. I would not become mortally offended, allowing the good wishes to be overshadowed because the greeting reflected a holiday not of my own faith. The proper response is to thank the Jewish gentleman for his gesture and respond with a cheerful “Merry Christmas.” If his expression to me is sincere he will accept my greeting without reservation.

Ironically, our society condones crass vulgarities in the name of diversity, yet is vulnerable to traditional courtesy, and that vulnerability is magnified at Christmas. The very reason there is a season to greet is sacrificed so as not to offend the most intolerant of people. It’s shameful that the phrase “Merry Christmas” is yielding to a tide of politically correct multiculturalism.

Christmas commemorates Christ’s birth, make no mistake about it. So what? America has a Christian heritage whether the PC police believe it or not. As such we are entirely within the realm of good taste and etiquette to wish “Merry Christmas” to anyone, even if that person is of another faith or of no faith at all.

The nonsense must stop sometime. Let it end today, now, this minute. I sincerely wish peace, safety and a Merry Christmas to you. This greeting is extended without apology to the Christian, the Jew, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Sikh, the Buddhist, the Wiccan, the Scientologist, the Taoist, the agnostic, the atheist, the environmentalist, the Jehovah’s Witness, the Mormon, the Branch Davidian and whoever else happens to be out there. If you are a rational person you will accept these good wishes in the spirit they are offered.

However, if you are offended, please feel free to have a Miserable Christmas. I’m confident your New Year will be just as dismal as your outlook on life.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The two faces of Julian Assange

Julian Assange, Wikileaker extraordinaire, is somewhat the enigma. His appearance is, at best, unimpressive. In fact, his visage screams “metrosexual” with the subtlety of a train horn on a still summer’s eve. His sexual preference is in question even while he’s accused of raping two women. Assange is both a heroic freedom-fighter and a treasonous lout, depending on who you ask and when. Perhaps he is equally both and yet neither, all the while turning American politics on its ear.

cheered when Assange’s Wikileaks exposed information that endangered key allies and operations in Afghanistan. Kudos for open government, they crowed. To hear Regressives tell it, protecting domestic constitutional liberties meant knowing everything our military was planning on the other side of the world. Of course, contemporary Regressives would’ve considered leaking the U.S. military’s big secret on June 5, 1944 as an act of patriotism, too. Conservatives (and some Regressives) liken Assange to the second coming of the Rosenbergs, even encouraging the CIA to punch his ticket.

Assange next dumped information that embarrassed the State Department. The leaked communications revealed how U.S. emissaries spied upon both friend and foe and exercised strong-arm diplomacy with our allies. However, to spill the beans on champagne-sipping envoys doesn’t seem as evil as unveiling military secrets. Besides, anyone who doesn’t realize that we spy on our allies, and they on us, and that international negotiations aren’t invariably conducted according to Robert’s Rules is rather naïve.

Assange’s leak of Afghanistan War records harmed the military. This infuriated conservatives and caused Regressives to squeal like school girls on prom night. He then exposed the State Department’s diplomatic affairs--and diplomacy is the true love of the Left--that embarrassed the Obama administration. In a pure political sense he has offended and satisfied both the Right and the Left. Thus Julian Assange is 100-percent evil and 100-percent good, depending on what was compromised, who was embarrassed, and when. Regressives and Conservatives have political common ground; they can both love and hate the dual faces of Julian Assange.

But, not all matters should be seen through red or blue colored glasses. Sometimes there is no right, left or middle. Sometimes moral and ethical aspects transcend political advantage. That time is now, when Julian Assange’s two faces have become one. His publication of military documents potentially compromised the safety and mission of American troops fighting on foreign soil. That’s a Julian Assange that no American should excuse, regardless how thoroughly Wikileaks may have tweaked their political opponents.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nancy Pelosi: A ruler of fools

Nancy Pelosi isn’t long as Speaker of the House. But if there’s one constant in our ever-changing world it’s that Pelosi will prove unconscionable until the gavel is wrested from her hand. During a recent speech on the House floor she expressed opinions about unemployment insurance and tax policy that seem irrational even for her.

Pelosi supports extending unemployment insurance beyond the current 99 week limit. To substantiate her position she touted unemployment benefits as a burgeoning economic catalyst. All we need do is and tap into their power. Pelosi
informed Congress, “Unemployment insurance . . . returns $2 for every $1 that is put out there.”

A two dollar return for every one invested is a lofty promise. No financial advisor would make such a guarantee, especially in these days of stagnant stocks, miniscule interest rates and sunken real estate values. Not even a gold-plated, platinum diamond could augur a 100-percent return on investment.

Is Pelosi a pecuniary Nostradamus? If so, it’s imprudent to squander her financial perception. To realize the full economic impact unemployment insurance portends, every American from restaurant bus boys to Fortune 500 CEOs should cease work immediately. According to Pelosi’s two-for-one estimations, living on unemployment alone would boost our gross domestic product from
2009’s $14.1 trillion to $28.2 trillion. In an instant the U.S. economy would exceed that of the European Union, China and Japan combined. And this can be accomplished while we sit home watching reruns of Hogan’s Heroes.

Does Pelosi sound crazy? As the old saying goes, “Brother, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” If Pelosi’s take on unemployment benefits has your blood boiling, you’ll erupt over her thoughts on taxation.

“Giving $700 billion to the wealthiest people in America does add $700 billion to the deficit,” Pelosi
claims. Of course, extending the current tax rates gives nothing to anyone. Furthermore, Congress doesn’t have to “pay” for tax cuts even when reductions are on the table. But remember, in Pelosi’s world a static tax rate equals a cut because all wealth is first and foremost government property.

Even the casual observer knows that when tax rates are static, or reduced, Congress doesn’t send the taxpayer a check. Tax rates simply determine the percentage of wealth that remains with its rightful producer instead of going to Washington. Money that never arrives in Washington cannot add to the deficit. The $700 billion budget hole that Pelosi laments--superficially, I might add--didn’t result from insufficient taxation but from Washington’s lust to
spend like drunken sailors in foreign ports.

At this point it’s natural to conclude that Nancy Pelosi is the stupidest woman on earth. If not stupid, she must certainly be ignorant. Would that either case were true, for both stupidity and ignorance are correctable.

If Pelosi is stupid, teaching her will be yeoman’s work, for she knows very little and resists learning. Yet she can learn if her teacher is patient and persistent. It will be difficult, but not impossible. Correcting an ignorant Pelosi is much easier. Ignorance is the absence of knowledge or understanding, nothing more. Expose an ignorant Pelosi to facts and the ignorance dissipates like vapor.

Nancy Pelosi will benefit from neither approach because she isn’t stupid or ignorant. She is a spin master, an epic fraud, an insufferable boor and a pathological liar. But she isn’t dumb. No one could attain her position while drinking the sociopolitical Kool-Aid she serves up. No, Pelosi isn’t stupid or ignorant. She does, however, credit those characteristics to her constituents. Sadly enough, she’s correct. Otherwise, her seat in Congress wouldn’t be so secure.

A people’s representative respects the intelligence of the people he or she represents. That may sound outdated, but it’s nonetheless true. A ruler expresses utter contempt for their subject’s intellect. Therefore rulers, unlike representatives, treat people like stooges and serfs. Rulers quickly become proficient in the artistry of condescension and falsehood, confident that the masses are too dense to discern the truth.

Is Nancy Pelosi a representative or a ruler? Anyone who can’t answer that simple question needn’t worry about representation. They should prepare to be ruled.

This column first appeared at
American Thinker.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Elena Kagan’s first vote was both baffling and predictable

Once Elena Kagan was confirmed to the Supreme Court it was certain that she would, at some point, cast a vote or render an opinion. It sort of goes with the territory. Of near equal certainty was that her initial ruling would embody everything objectionable and inexplicable about the Supreme Court, judges, lawyers and the legal system in general. Well, Justice Kagan has cast that first vote, to little fanfare I might add. In so doing she proved that my confidence in her ability to baffle was justified.

Granted, Kagan’s first decision wasn’t a thorough legal dissertation. It was simply a recorded vote in support of a losing opinion. However, she did confirm what conservatives expected from Elena Kagan. She voted to stay the execution of a convicted murderer, uphold a Ninth Circuit Court decision and support a lower judge’s ruling that questioned the safety of a lethal injection drug.

For a known Regressive jurist to coddle convicted murderers and side with the Ninth “Circus” is completely predictable. Understandable no, but completely predictable. But to question the safety of a lethal drug? Maybe I’m unclear on the concept. It just seems logical that a drug administered to fulfill a condemned prisoner’s death sentence would be, by necessity, unsafe. If the drug were safe, it would have difficulty achieving its stated purpose, now wouldn’t it? God help us, what has happened to our brains! Educated jurists speculating on whether or not lethal drugs are safe for their intended use is a sure sign our system has abandoned all sanity and common sense.

What’s next? Warning labels on sodium thiopental? We have labels on other drugs, most of which cause remedies to sound worse that the diseases they treat. I can almost hear the disclaimer now.

Are you suffering from violent anti-social outbursts that culminate in shooting, stabbing, strangling, or dismembering? One drug, Executus, has been proven to alleviate recurrences of these behavioral abnormalities. Executus is suitable only for patients professionally diagnosed with Chronic Criminalitis, especially Premeditated Murderosis. Diminished breathing and pulse rate accompanied by low or non-existent blood pressure are common among users of Executus. Some users may experience undesirable side affects, including partial paralysis, anxiety, depression and signs of panic. These symptoms are always temporary. If signs of life persist, stop taking Executus at once and contact your nearest ACLU chapter.

Give me a break! How many times must capital punishment be dissected before people like Elena Kagan are no longer trusted with judicial authority?

The Eighth Amendment prohibits government from dispensing “cruel and unusual punishments.” Not only is that proper, it’s wholly compatible with our cultural values. No one wants to brutally torture convicted murderers to achieve vengeance, satisfy bloodlust, or simply for hoots, regardless of how heinous the condemned treated their victims. There’s no burgeoning movement--not even among the most ardent death penalty supporters--to reintroduce crucifixion, iron maidens, burning at the stake, or drawing and quartering as practicable forms of capital punishment. But death sentences aren’t the antithesis of our Eighth Amendment protections, as evidenced by the fact that capital punishment was routinely used when the Constitution was debated and ratified.

Speculating on the safety of sodium thiopental may sound nuanced, reasoned and deeply thoughtful in circles where common sense is considered an archaic relic of our ignorant heritage. Such reasoning may gain its advocate a favored seat among the intelligentsia, for whom dismissing traditionally proven solutions is a sign of superior knowledge. But it smacks of short-sighted foolishness to me, a thorough waste of time, effort and discourse.

Elena Kagan carried a warning label that foretold her voting tendency. However, like the warning labels on prescription drugs, we tend to ignore a prospective jurist’s precedents, positions and opinions. Thus we make perplexing and painful mistakes like Kagan, mistakes that last a lifetime.

This column first appeared on the American Thinker.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The five myths of Regressive politics #3: Conservatives are sexists.

Women should stay home, sweep floors, prepare meals and bear their master’s children. Changing diapers and baking brownies; that’s a women’s role. Women should be seen in public only when posing for the Victoria’s Secret catalog. Isn’t that how Regressives would have you believe Conservatives view women?

This theory sounds insane, but it has a solid foundation. Conservatives recognize and accept reality. Men and women are genetically, physically and emotionally dissimilar. Sorry! That’s just how it is, has been and—genetic engineering aside—will remain. When Conservatives mention these facts Regressives play the sex card. However, the sex card is flawed beyond repair.

Conservatives really aren’t concerned with gender. It’s a person’s ideas that garner support or criticism. And conservatives certainly don’t demand that women remain barefoot, pregnant and chained to the kitchen stove. That is, if you’ll pardon my sexism, an old wives’ tale. Fortunately, a growing number of women are recognizing the reality in conservatism and the respect it has for women. According to a 2009 Gallup
survey, women are more conservative than liberal even though their party affiliation remains more Democrat than Republican.

Sexism was once defined as mistreating women. Not today. Sexism is whatever the Regressive feminist declares it to be. Is it sexist to buy a woman’s lunch? Is it condescending to hold the door for a lady, or to escort her to the porch following a date? Is it harassment to ask a woman for a date to begin with? Women must consider such traditional courtesies as blatant condescension to be a good feminist. Furthermore, feminist dogma must be accepted to avoid sexism charges. Such acceptance by affinity—a Regressive standard—is the worst form of denigration.

Conservatives don’t consider women inferior beings at all. They are equals worthy of respect and protection. They aren’t tools for social engineering. It is the left that manipulates women for that purpose. Thus it is the left that practices sexism.

The left’s “defense” of women is about feminism and abortion on demand. It’s not about women and is, actually, insulting to them. Forget the rhetoric about choice; choice is the last thing on the Regressive agenda. The only legitimate “choice” a woman can make is the one the Regressives demand. Remember the reaction to Tim Tebow’s mother?

Mrs. Tebow made the “wrong” choice when doctors advised her to abort the future national champion quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner. Regressives
roasted her. Women are thinking independently only when walking lockstep with feminist dogma. Thus being pro-choice is the choice to abort and pro-freedom is the freedom to pursue the morals of an alley cat. It’s a tidy denunciation of personal responsibility. It is the Regressive in a nutshell.

Regressives rank ideology above a woman’s emotional and reproductive health. They rank their agenda above a woman’s ability to make individual choices. In truth, Regressives are women’s worst enemies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Pedophile’s Guide is another sign of our moral decline

A novice sailor will notice when a large vessel veers drastically from its charted course. But even experienced seamen may not realize the change when course deviations are slight. Societies react to cultural variations in similar fashion. People will balk when the moral code is abruptly altered. But when the transition is slow, over several generations, the original course is lost before the change is perceived.

Philip R. Greaves’ book, the Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-lover’s Code of Conduct, indicates another subtle change in America’s moral bearing. It should shout “Warning!” at the top of its lungs, for it illustrates how a society can adapt to moral degeneration. The first step is to rationalize the irrational and defend the indefensible until deviant behavior is mainstreamed. Greaves is willing to give it a whirl. He
claims his book doesn’t endorse pedophilia, but establishes guidelines for pedophile relationships. Injurious acts are off limits and certain principles must be adopted to ensure safety for the child. Greaves explained, “I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals.”

Apparently, since pedophilia undeniably occurs, it should be woven into our cultural fabric. Notice the change? Child molesters are no longer twisted pedophiles but “pedosexuals.” The word lends legitimacy to the act, similar to how homosexual, bisexual and transsexual have legitimized behaviors once considered immoral.

Even if Greaves’ were correct in assuming that physical injuries common to pedophilia can be eradicated, the psychological traumas linger for years. Furthermore, adults who seek sexual fulfillment from children are exhibiting not only a complete disregard for long-established cultural boundaries but also for plain good sense. If pedophiles were governed by the “better nature” Greaves’ references, they wouldn’t molest kids to begin with.

Granted, the Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure hasn’t exactly mainstreamed the pedophile. The book was removed from amid a flood of customer complaints and, shall we say, “slow” sales. Still, it should prompt a thorough cultural examination. How did we arrive at the point where a child molester’s guidebook is available via a respected retail outlet? Similar to how ships change course unbeknownst to their crews. The Pedophile’s Guide is but another moral degree that our culture has strayed from its original course.

For instance, marriage was once the sacred domain of a man and a woman, with sexual relations reserved for matrimony. That cultural norm has changed. Four in ten Americans now consider marriage
obsolete and “shacking up” is nearly as common as matrimony. The thought of reserving intercourse for marriage is summarily dismissed, as evidenced by the increase[1] in unwed[2] pregnancies over the last 40 years. Such pregnancies are now standard fare where once they were cause for shame.

Homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality--previously shunned as the domain of deviates--are alternative lifestyles. Homosexuality is even considered the superior attraction in some circles. In Hollywood, for example, it’s “in” to be “out.” The thought of same-sex marriage never crossed the mind a generation ago. But it’s rapidly gaining
popularity across the societal spectrum, reaching majority status among Americans under age thirty. Anyone who questions the purity in such activities is labeled homophobic, which is almost like being identified as a Klansman.

Moral bearings aren’t lost overnight. It’s the result of incremental course deviations. Bit by bit the unthinkable becomes commonplace. Considering the slight alterations in cultural morality that produced our present state, is it beyond belief that future generations will consider “pedosexuality” an “alternative lifestyle?” We’d be foolish to dismiss the possibility.

Few people believe that mankind has ever practiced perfect virtue, in public or in private. But it’s blatantly naïve to think the deviancies we tolerate today wouldn’t have caused our grandparents to wash our minds out with soap. Humanity’s moral ship is adrift. The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure is the latest deviation toward a wayward destination.

This column first appeared at American Thinker.

[1] National Center for Health Statistics, Health, United States, 2006, With Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans, Hyattsville, MD: 2006, p. 145, Table 10 (pdf file, p. 162)
[2] Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Ventura SJ. Births: Preliminary data for 2007. National vital statistics reports, Web release; vol 57 no 12. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Released March 18, 2009, p.6, Table 1.