Monday, December 6, 2010

Together secretly

I saw this posting and found it moving so here I am sharing it.

Go to:

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Hello everyone, I'm a bit embarrassed I've been gone so long. Trust me, the past three or four months have been very trying.

In addition to that, writer's block is a real bitch.

Be here again real soon... as I've plenty to say.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day 2010

From sea to shining sea...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Today I honor my Mother on this day set aside for her and other Mommies! My mom raised six kids (four boys and two girls), sometimes alone, sometimes in less than ideal conditions. She worked two jobs for a number of years to keep us fed and clothed (and we all know being a Mother is a job in and of itself). She worked hard on the job and at home and she still found time to be a great Mother!

In more recent years, her health has declined (she's had two mini-strokes, she has diabetes and suffers from multiple sclerosis) a bit, and yet she remains upbeat, funny and loving. If I know her like I think I do, she is out planting her garden today.

We kids (and the grandkids) all love you, Mom!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Repeal DADT

I want to share with you the reason I believe it's time we ended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." While my reasons are personal, they do not affect me alone, but the thousands of servicemembers who have knowingly joined our Armed Forces with the knowledge they could face expulsion for no reason more than being who they are. I risk much by even posting this release, but I do so anyway with trepidation.

I am a Petty Officer First Class of the U.S. Navy Reserve, having served for the past fifteen and a half years. I look proudly upon my service to our nation's Armed Forces. I have served three tours of duty in the Middle East (two in Kuwait and most recently in Afghanistan in 2008-09).

I will tell you that my service to our nation has been one of the greatest joys of my life, but the fact that I must do so closeted wears heavily on me.

When I joined the Navy in 1994, I had not given much thought to serving long-term, but when I hit the ten year mark I realized how much I have riding on my commitment to this nation. When I joined it was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to serve in the world's finest Navy. I joined because Don't Ask Don't Tell gave me the opportunity to do so without lying.

But silence is a lie.

It pains me that to serve I must remain silent about who I really am; and to perpetuate an untruth. Our nation's Navy is based on the foundations of honor, courage and commitment.

Asking Sailors such as myself to remain silent, sometimes to lie, to hide, to divert attention is dishonorable. I look at my fellow Sailors who have the opportunity to share their lives, their family lives, their personal heritage and am joyfully glad to hear their stories, but when presented that same opportunity I find it painful to tell half the story, present tainted facts or just remain silent.

DADT offers half an opportunity for those gays and lesbians like myself to serve, but to remain as second class citizens, second class servicemembers; and second class recipients as protectors. DADT was implemented as compromise, but it also offered those of us to prove we could augment our nation's Armed Forces and do so honorably.

Most recently, we have served in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as serving daily around the world in countless settings, but we have a long storied history of serving our nation dating back even as far as the Revolutionary War.

We have proven the world did not end when we signed up to protect this nation. I think of Sailors such as Allen Schindler, who was murdered by his fellow shipmates because there were no protections for him as a closeted gay Sailor. I think of Sailor Keith Meinhold who served the Navy well for 15 years, but was forced to resign because he is gay. I think of Sailor Jason Knight who was discharged, somehow readmitted and recalled to duty to serve in Kuwait in 2006 and then discharged yet again, yes, because he is gay. I think of a personal friend who I shall let remain nameless who received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy when it was discovered he was gay in the 1970s.

DADT is a lie. DADT is a cruel joke. DADT is dishonorable and must be repealed.

Many of our fellow allies in NATO and other countries such as Israel have long led the way to treat ALL of its servicemembers with the honor and dignity deserving of those willing, and sometimes who have died, to protect their national interests. I am appalled and saddened that our country, who has always prided itself in leading the world in promoting and protecting human rights, has fallen behind our allies. Even worse, with our current policy we virtually stand in the same league as Iraq, Cuba and China.... countries I feel shame that we share this commonality. I am reminded of the old adage. 'Lead. Follow. Get out of the way.'

Some of our leaders such as Senator John McCain obviously do not get it. For our nation to move forward into the 21st century, we must practice our preachings by treating every single citizen with the dignity set aside to us in the Declaration of Independence, where the words 'we hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL Men are created equal.' We cannot have it both ways. We cannot believe these words yet treat a segment of our population as second class citizens. Doing so is a mockery of the words and intent of our founding fathers.

Our nation cannot fairly accept our (and my) service to our nation if we cannot fully enjoy and reap the honor and rewards of serving our country in honor. I look forward to the day that I can proudly retire in four years and do so as an openly gay Sailor.

President Obama has said we cannot waste the talents of a single person willing to serve. The time has come to do more than pay lip service.

Action is needed now.

I respectfully ask your support in repealing DADT immediately.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Tea Party Pledge (membership is free, leave your brain at the door)

For all the whiners out there who claim our government is out of control and turning into a socialist regime, then maybe you will agree to read and sign the Tea Party's Pledge.

This is for the doubters who decry the passage of the new health care bill awaiting President Obama's signature (tomorrow). I cannot take credit for the following, but I applaud its absurdities and the points it raises.


To all Tea Party members, I urge you to take the following pledge before it's too late.

Please pass it on to fellow members:

I do solemnly swear to uphold the principles of a socialism-free society and heretofore pledge my word that I shall strictly adhere to the following:

I will complain about the destruction of 1st Amendment Rights in this country, while I am duly being allowed to exercise my 1st Amendment Rights.

I will complain about the destruction of my 2nd Amendment Rights in this country, while I am duly being allowed to exercise my 2nd Amendment rights by legally but brazenly brandishing unconcealed firearms in public.

I will foreswear the time-honored principles of fairness, decency, and respect by screaming unintelligible platitudes regarding tyranny, Nazi-ism, and socialism at public town halls.

Also, I pledge to eliminate all government intervention in my life. I will abstain from the use of and participation in any socialist goods and services including but not limited to the following:

•Social Security
•State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP)
•Police, fire, and emergency services
•US Postal Service
•Roads and highways
•Air Travel (regulated by the socialist FAA)
•The US Railway System
•Public Subways and Metro Systems
•Public Bus and Lightrail Systems
•Rest areas on highways
•All government-funded local/state projects
•Public water and sewer services (goodbye socialist toilet, shower, dishwasher, kitchen sink, outdoor hose!)
•Public and state universities and colleges
•Public primary and secondary schools
•Sesame Street
Publicly funded anti-drug use education for children
•Public museums
•Public parks and beaches
•State and national parks
•Public zoos
•Unemployment insurance
•Municipal garbage and recycling services
•Treatment at any hospital or clinic that ever received funding from local, state or federal government (pretty much all of them)
•Medical services and medications that were created or derived from any government grant or research funding (again, pretty much all of them)
•Socialist by-products of government investment such as duct tape and velcro (Nazi-NASA inventions)
•Use of the Internets, email, and networked computers, as the DoD's ARPANET was the basis for subsequent computer networking
•Foodstuffs, meats, produce and crops that were grown with, fed with, raised with or that contain inputs from crops grown with government subsidies
•Clothing made from crops (e.g. cotton) that were grown with or that contain inputs from government subsidies
•I will refuse summons for jury duty; he or she is guilty anyway, they were arrested after all, weren't they?
• I will not accept the thousands of dollars in federal benefits that are accorded by an act of government-sanctioned marriage

If a veteran of the government-run socialist U.S. military, I will forego my VA benefits and insist on paying for my own medical care

I will not tour socialist government buildings like the capitol in Washington, D.C.

I pledge to never take myself, my family, or my children on a tour of the following types of socialist locations, including but not limited to:

•Smithsonian Museums such as the Air and Space Museum or Museum of American History
•The socialist Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson Monuments
•The government-operated Statue of Liberty
•The Grand Canyon
•The socialist World War II and Vietnam Veterans Memorials
•The government-run socialist-propaganda location known as Arlington National Cemetery
•All other public-funded socialist sites, whether it be in my state or in Washington, D.C., I will urge my member of Congress and Senators to forego their government salary and government-provided health care.

I will oppose and condemn the government-funded and therefore socialist military of the United States of America.

I will boycott the products of socialist defense contractors such as GE, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Humana, FedEx, General Motors, Honeywell, and hundreds of others that are paid by our socialist government to produce goods for our socialist army.

I will protest socialist security departments such as the Pentagon, FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, TSA, Department of Justice and their socialist employees.

Upon reaching eligible retirement age, I will tear up my socialist Social Security checks.

Upon reaching age 65, I will forego Medicare and pay for my own private health insurance until I die.SWORN ON A BIBLE AND SIGNED THIS DAY OF __________ IN THE YEAR ___. _____________ _________________________Signed Printed Name/Town and State

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

RIP, U.S. Navy Senior Chief Dawn Hunter

One of my closest friends in the Navy died this past weekend at the age of 37, far too young for someone so vibrant; of ever-positive outlook; so energetic and she, sadly has left behind so many who loved, respected and cherished her friendship, leadership and mentorship.

Ask anyone who knew Dawn and they would tell you she wore a smile brighter than the sunniest day--her warm comfortable smile and infectious laugh made you feel good knowing it was meant just for you.

I met then IT1 Dawn Hunter, like the rest of us when we reported for duty for Navy Customs Battalion PAPA in Norfolk, Va., at NMPS and later I got to know her even better while we were berthed (housing) at that rundown Clarion Hotel as we trained at NAVELSG's training grounds in Williamsburg, Va.

Dawn and I were in the same training team and became instant friends. I remember our first formation with us standing side-by-side. And the rest is, shall we say history. Senior Chief Kat Hotmer and Chief Joe Villa, our senior enlisted leaders, whipped us all into shape preparing us for the unexpected when we would step aboard that plane leading us to those hot sands of Kuwait.

During this period it was then I learned Dawn and I shared a love of running. One day we both decided we should starting a running club. It started with just the two of us, but soon blossomed to seven or eight of us running down the dark streets of Williamsburgh at 0500 .

During our six-mile runs we talked, shared philosophies, talked about our friends, families, pets (Dawn talked of her dogs and I of my cats) and other things that helped strengthen our friendship. Later as we neared the end of our training in Virginia, Dawn and few others arranged a small party in my honor on August 5, 2005. It was my 48th birthday and for me, a milestone as both my Dad and Granddad died at the young age of 47. Dawn knew I was nervous about this birthday and I'll never forget that night of fun and bad Mexican food (and me under a huge sombrero). Master Chief Powers, Chief Hatch, Chief Villa and Senior Chief Shindledecker even sang an acappella 'Happy Birthday to me'... and I owed it all to Dawn!

Dawn was always upbeat, always there for a friend, always caring and someone who could always be counted on for a word of advice. I know this will sound cliche, but she cared for everybody and would do anything to help them out.

When we arrived at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, we didn't see as much of each other. Dawn in HQ Company and me in Alpha, our schedules rarely meshed, still we found time to run on occasion, but more often than not, just to sit around and shoot the bull or share an occasional meal.

As our tour came to end in the spring of 2006, I had made my mind to stay behind with Customs Battalion QUEBEC, so I had to let my friends go back to the United States while I, and 30 others stayed behind to help the next group perform our customs mission. Dawn, again was the voice of encouragement.

Even with my friends from PAPA gone, I remained in touch with Dawn and was pleased to learn when she advanced to Chief Petty Officer. Was I surprised? Absolutely not! Dawn never did anything halfway and when she was pinned I wished I could have been there.

In the intervening five years since we deployed I often received an email from Dawn and with the advent of Facebook we kept even more closely in touch. She sent me emails while I served in Afghanistan in 2008 and I, in turn, kept in touch with her when she once again went Active Duty. I often thought about those lucky Sailors who would benefit from her leadership.

Just two weeks ago Dawn and I chatted online for about an hour. We talked about our new directions, she asked me about my cats and I asked her about training for a marathon whe want to run (naturally) and as we closed our chat, she told me she looked forward to seeing my name on the new Chiefs list this year. Those were our last words, but not my last thoughts of her.

Even with 900 miles between us, Dawn still offered encouragement and advice, offering support and best of all... her friendship. I will treasure that friendship and my memories of her. I know when I do make Chief I will see Dawn in my mind and know that she is looking down on me and the rest of us, her friends and comrades of U.S. Navy Customs Battalion PAPA.

And every time I go out to enjoy a warm sunny day, I will reminisce about Dawn's smile and how it was meant for me and for every other soul she met and helped become a better person. Dawn, you and the rest of the members of Customs Battalion PAPA became a family that year. You were an important part of that 'Navy machine' and most importantly, a part of our lives--we made a difference. What more could someone want out of life?

Now, when I am out running, I will imagine you running there to my left as we did so many times in Virginia, and will think of the friendship we had and I will remember you fondly.

Dawn, I know I speak for all of us PAPAs when saying I respect you, love you and will miss you forever!

Senior Chief Kimberly Dawn Hunter, U.S. Navy Reserve, February 23, 1973 - March 13, 2010, RIP

U.S. Navy photos by MC1 Greg Devereaux
Civilian photos courtesy of Dawn Hunter's family and friends

Monday, March 15, 2010

Asshat of the Week: Texas Follies, Part I

Former Congressman Tom Delay (R-TX) commented this weekend on CNN that millions of Americans are unemployed because they want to be.

When asked about Republican Congressman Jim Bunning's (R-KY) recent attempt at blocking an extension on unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, Delay commented that if the situation were different Bunning would have been applauded as a fiscal hero.

"You know," Delay said, "there is an argument to be made that these extensions, the unemployment benefits keeps people from going and finding jobs. In fact there are some studies that have been done that show people stay on unemployment compensation and they don't look for a job until two or three weeks before they know the benefits are going to run out."

CNN's State of the Union host Candy Crowley pushed for clarification:

"People are unemployed because they want to be?" Crowley asked.

"Well, it is the truth. and people in the real world know it. And they have friends and they know it," Delay said. "Sure, we ought to be helping people that are unemployed find a job, but we also have budget considerations that are incredibly important, especially now that Obama is spending monies that we don't have."

Mr. Delay, after being unemployed for nearly a year I can tell you I am ready and willing to work. I certainly don't have the luxury of working with all the lobbyist contacts you maintained while you ill-served our nation.

Seriously Mr. Delay, people are unemployed because our economy has tanked to levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930 and 40s. In case the former congressman has not noticed, business expenditures are down, hirings are down, unemployment numbers are high (though nowhere near as bad as when President Obama took office) sales are down and business failures are up. Recent figures state that 1 in 6 Americans are currently looking for work.

There really must be something in the Texas water supply that reduces their politicians to babbling idiots.

Hey Mr. Delay, I hear Faux News is looking for commentators to stand alongside Bill O' Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity, maybe you should join them.

Texas Textbook Chainsaw Massacre: Texas Follies, Part II

Texas has done it again! Over the weekend the Texas Board of Education unveiled its new U.S. History curriculum. Amazingly, this new curriculum virtually ignores the contributions of ... are you ready for this... Thomas Jefferson!

Yes, the third President of the United States! And yes, the same Thomas Jefferson, the principal architect of the Declaration of Independence and one of the framers of our Constitution, one of the greatest documents ever crafted!

The board has replaced Jefferson with religious right darling John Calvin, who had absolutely nothing to do with American independence, but with theological reformation in the 16th century.

The new curriculum also downplays the Constitution's amendments detailing the separation of church and state by not requiring students to learn the Constitution bars the government from favoring one religion over another... or that religion is barred from interacting with our government.

Gone are scientists Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, both who made great strides in science. Gone (or diminished) are civil rights leaders' place in American history. In their place, emphasis has been afforded to right wing organizations such as the National Rifle Association and Phyllis Schlafly. Even Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who has long been demonized (and rightfully so) for his draconian actions in the 1950s, has now been written in a more favorable light.

Clearly the culture war has heated up with conservative leaders working feverishly to present a purely conservative point of view to our children. In other words, the good ole white boys club is back in town.

It has been a rough year on Texas citizens. Last year, their governor suggested the state should secede from the Union in disagreement with some of President Obama's policies. Last weekend former congressman Tom Delay suggested that this nation's unemployed are out of work by choice. Now, add to to this debacle the radical change in education curriculum and some Texans fear they will become this nation's laughing stock, but I find nothing humorous about any of this.

If this news was not bad enough, it is made even worse with the fact that Texas is the second largest buyer of high school textbooks in the country. For decades, Texas has held school textbook publishers hostage to what is and is not to be included in our children's textbooks.

What Texas demands of publishers, will eventually end up in textbooks slated for purchase in the other 49 states of the union. For conservative right-wing leaders to impose their backward small-minded values on an entire nation smacks of arrogance and deception.

Here, in my opinion, are the real reasons why members of the Texas Board of Education have worked tirelessly to remove Thomas Jefferson from the curriculum:

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity." -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814...

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio G. Spafford, March 17, 1814

"Priests dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions of the duperies on which they live. -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820

"Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind." -Thomas Jefferson to James Smith, 1822.

"Law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819.

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government." --Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, 1789.

"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." - Thomas Jefferson

"Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies." - Thomas Jefferson

"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law, and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man." --Thomas Jefferson to Jeremiah Moor, 1800.

"Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker, in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle." --Thomas Jefferson to Richard Rush, 1813.

Clearly, uber-conservative religious leaders, in their minds, have reason to deny Jefferson his seat in this nation's history. Jefferson was a free-thinker who questioned everything, INCLUDING religion. Religious zealots cannot stand the fact that he and many other of our forefathers were deeply suspicious of religion's role in our society-- and especially our government. And clearly it is no coincidence the conservative leaders of the TBOE have removed Jefferson when considering his writings about religion.

Mind you, if right wing conservative leaders have their way, these are surely the first steps of implementing more wholesale changes in our nation's textbooks. Is it so hard to believe that creationism is not the next element they wish to foist on our public schools? Will evolution be the next target for removal?

I have no problem with people having faith in their religion and God, but I do when religious kooks are not content until they force every single person to believe as they do. Anyone who knows me knows I believe in God, just not his (or her) followers-- nor most of organized religion.

The culture war is not going away any time soon. For those who yearn for more enlightened, more intellectual education, one firmly entrenched in science, research and constant review, this is not the time for complacency. For historians, the old adage of 'history textbooks are written by the victors' surely must be alarmed and suspicious of the turn of events of this past weekend.

Again, complacency is the educators worst enemy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Keepin' the faith... separate!

If you spend any time on any of the social networks such as Facebook, you've surely seen sites where friends try to enlist you in one cause or another... try this one on for size.

"Allow God in School..." The site proclaims to spout 1,633,659 members. Impressive, huh?

Not by a long shot. Not unless you want to equate numbers with might--might makes right--which smacks of bullying to me. So I ask this question: If faced with the question, do I (or do you?) want your public schools teaching your children religion? My answer is quick, easy, simple and direct!


Go to church instead; pray in your own homes where your faith is a private matter between you and your creator, but do not inflict it on myself or students who may not share your beliefs.

On the Facebook site, two of my former high school students agreed in the affirmative, thinking our schools need God. For people arguing that school prayer is desirable, my initial response would be, there is prayer everyday in school as is. Just ask students if they pray before taking a test.

All kidding aside, if I were still teaching and my school administrators had instructed me to involve religion in my classroom, honestly I would find myself with a very easy choice. I quit. You see, I object to the notion that a meticulous pursuit of faith equates morality; we've all seen plenty of examples that illustrate just the opposite.

Our founding fathers wrote Separation of Church and State clauses into this nation's Constitution for a reason.

After telling one of the students this, she said that 'your [sic] allowed to have your for my children they will grow up with God.'

Of course they would--and for many that would be a good thing, but children would have the right to pursue this whether it happens in school or not--after all, it is my contention that in all matters of religious faith are best left to parents--and the child.

As is, parents already complain they don't want schools teaching their children about sex; about starting and raising their own families; about sexuality; so why add another element that has not one little thing to do with learning how to read, write, add / subtract / multiply, learn business, etc?

To further my argument, if you go into any Catholic Church, an Episcopalian church, a Baptist church, a Methodist church, a Lutheran church, a Jewish temple or a Islamic mosque and you are going to find a different explanation of their faith in each of these churches. I would venture even further that no two ministers of even the same faith are going to preach the word of God in the same fashion, conviction or belief.

Teachers today already are counselors, coaches, babysitters (sadly all too often this is true), sometimes a friend, sometimes grief counselor, sometimes mediator, sometimes administrator, and to add more on to their job title is just not practical, desired or possible. Are you asking a school take the time to explain the faith of each church to every child?

Furthermore, churches themselves don't even agree on what story of God is correct, so why expect schools to insert their own stamp? Next, for those who have worked tirelessly to secure a moment for daily school-led prayer, are the rest of us to seriously believe that you would stop there? Next, creationism will be taught; next, biology and physical science classes will be compromised; next, health classes will be compromised; and next, English classes will include the Bible as a textbook.

I offer this warning: If this door is opened, every single faith will be wanting their say. Do you want a school teaching things in matters of religion you do not agree with? I know those same people who feel school prayer is a good thing would be horrified if their child would be forced to sit through a Muslim prayer... and there are some really kooky churches out there that who will also be standing in line for their turn at your child's young mind.

Teachers are not preachers, they are not theologians, nor are they Bible thumpers... or least they'd best not be. Personally, faith is not something you can teach anyway; it is something you feel.

I do not mean to sound antagonistic towards those people of faith. As I read of more and more religious folks lashing out in anger saying their rights are being trampled on, I wonder where we have gone so wrong to feel that we have the right to demand 'my' time, 'my' faith,' my beliefs are more important, more correct and they trump yours or mine.

The cynic in me would respond by saying, 'oh boo hoo hoo hoo, you poor dears.' When did we become such a nation of cry babies?

Simply, these folks fail to see the irony of their cries... that if given their way, if they examined their desires so intently they would find themselves guilty of the same actions as those decried as sinners and heathens. The best, and most measured response is 'grow up, suck it up, and permit each of us to lead our lives the way we choose. I would have to say to those of religious faith, no one is denying you your right to practice faith, but do so in a manner that does not inflict, insult and demean all involved.

My student continued by saying, "I believe that children should be able to be who they are in school and that includes religion."

I have seen no evidence schools are denying children their right to self-actualization. No school is telling a child they cannot follow their faith. What the arguer really wants is to hand over all control to God instead of thinking for one's self (whether they want to admit it or not). I could paraphrase a recent speaker's chant of 'how's that hopey, changey thing working out for you?' No. Give me some tangible proof, give me something concrete that shows how schools are harming children by not bringing church to the educational table (or desk); or how schools will be improved by this intrusion.

Point is, as is, there is not enough time in the school day to teach what we need to teach.. and with the world's expanding base of new science, new literature, new history, new math concepts, new computer technology, all the things one needs to succeed in life... And if this still does not satisfy the most ardent of religious faith, my best answer would be, please, send your child to a private religious school where your child can pray to his or her heart's content.

Perhaps one answer to this 'dilemma' can easily be solved thusly. When churches are no longer tax-exempt; when churches are required to pay property taxes that contribute to public school funding; and when churches pay for teachers to study theology, then perhaps I (but not likely) would agree it is time for church involvement in our children's every waking moment.

Until then, I can honestly say there is not time enough or reason enough to teach religion, which is why I said that teaching faith is a job best left to parents and their churches.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is this what President Obama was saying?

Is this what President Obama was referring to in his State of the Union address last week (click on the photo)?

All kidding aside, the Supreme Court's recent ruling to overturn campaign finance legislation was certainly disturbing. I don't know about you, but I find it extremely troubling that this ruling could, and most likely will, open the floodgates for corporate sponsorship of our elected leaders. Can you say, 'let's make a deal (minus TV game show host Monty Hall)?'

I know the Justices said that campaign legislation limits free speech, but I don't buy it (pardon the pun). I do not equate money with free speech, although it seems apparent to me that the Justices have bought into the old maxim 'money talks.'

I've not spent a lot of time pondering over this issue. There has to be a common sense answer, but sadly I am reminded of Cyndi Lauper's song 'money changes everything.'

Personally, I favor some kind of state funded elections (with restrictions). In effect--and theoretically, this would enable anyone who wishes to run for office instead of just those who have access to big bucks. Seriously, who would you entrust more with your concerns, an "average Joe" with every day roots or some big fat cat who is beholding to corporations and big spending billionaires who donate money to protect their interests over those of we, the people?

Yeah, that's what I thought too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Men of the Week

"I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.

For me personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I have served with homosexuals since 1968. Putting individuals in a position that every single day they wonder whether today’s going to be the day, and devaluing them in that regard, just is inconsistent with us as an institution.

--Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, USN

"I fully support the president's decision. The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it. We have received our orders from the commander in chief and we are moving out accordingly."

--Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense

Both men sat before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday explaining a proposed change of military code that would put an end to the notorious policy commonly known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Both explained the rationale of abolishing a policy that President Obama has deemed irrational and prejudicial--and one not befitting of our Armed Forces.

Each explained as a matter of conscience the cost this policy has inflicted upon the military, both morally and politically--as well as the implications of undermining the military's longstanding commitment to integrity. Their testimony before the senate committee signals an end of the nearly 17-year old ban on gays and lesbians from openly serving their country in the world's finest military force.

In contrast to the two leading U.S. military leaders, the following comments clearly illustrate the hypocrisy put forth by some senate leaders. Yesterday, U.S. Senator John McCain voiced his opposition to changing the policy.

"I want to make one thing perfectly clear upfront: I am enormously proud of, and thankful for, every American who chooses to put on the uniform of our nation and serve at this time of war. I want to encourage more of our fellow citizens to serve, and to open up opportunities to do so. Many gay and lesbian Americans are serving admirably in our armed forces – even giving their lives so that we and others can know the blessings of peace. I honor their sacrifice, and I honor them."

You honor them??? Forgive me, Senator, if I don't believe a word of your careully crafted speech. You say in one breath you honor gay and lesbian servicemembers, and in the next you say they can stay with the condition that they behave and keep their dirty little secret to themselves. In effect, you want them to become liars. Where are the sensibilities in this?

Sir, you are a former Navy officer. The Navy's core values of "honor, courage, commitment" are instilled to every Sailor from the day they step foot at Naval Station Great Lakes for boot camp. Expecting a man or woman to lie is anything BUT honorable!

The statement you read at yesterday's senate committee meeting smacks of hypocrisy of the highest degree. In my opinion, your very words bring shame on yourself, your state and your service to this nation--and to the Navy we both love.

One cannot serve in honor when encouraged--nay--demanded to perpetuate a lie about an integral part of one's very being. It is dishonorable to set Sailors (and servicemembers of the other branches of service) up for failure over a private matter that has nothing to do with defending one's homeland and fellow citizens.

Senator, you said, "Has this policy been ideal? No, it has not. But it has been effective."

Sir, respectfully, effective at what? Has it improved readiness? Prove it! Has it improved unit cohesion and morale? Again, give us Americans proof. Don't give us platitudes, don't give us speeches that veil your prejudice. Tell us why discharging 13,000 patriotic Americans was an honorable thing to do, and why it was the right thing to do for this man's Armed Forces?

Look at the stories of other nations who have abolished this ban. Are the armed forces of Britain, Canada or Israel any less effective because they they permit gays and lesbians to openly serve in their nations' armed forces?

Sir, what do you know that 20 nations of the 26 who participate in NATO do not? AND as a nation that prides itself on treating all of its citizens equally, do we want to be lumped in the same category as Iran, Russia, China, Venzueala and countless other countries well known for civil and human rights violations?

Senator, where were you the day 'honor, courage, commitment' was taught at the U.S. Navy Academy? Your words, especially in light of previous comments you have made regarding DADT (see below), merely add credence to President Obama's claim that the Republican Party has become the party of 'just say no!' You are an affront to everything I believe about serving in my beloved U.S. Navy.

Hypocrite of the week

"The day that the leadership of the military comes to me and says, 'Senator, we ought to change the policy,' then I think we ought to consider seriously changing it."

--Senator John McCain, to an audience of Iowa State University students in 2006.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Charity starts at home; so, apparently, does anger

If you are a Facebook user you probably saw this one floating about this past weekend:

"Shame on you America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment - yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations. 99% of people won't have the guts to copy and repost this."

Sadly, I saw at least five people pass this along for others to read. Needless to say, I am troubled not so much by the sentiments, but the venomous hintings that the Haitian are undeserving of our aid. Oddly, I agree with some of the points the posting raised.

Most troubling to me were some of the ensuing comments by various readers. I read some comments that were downright hateful and racist--and angry. It shames me to think so many fellow citizens can be so hardened to the plight of those unfortunate.

I was so upset by the original post that I fashioned my own retort:

"Shame on some Americans for decrying we help a people (the Haitians) befallen by a horrible tragedy! And yeah, shame on us that we don't set enough time, money and energy aside to help our own. AND shame on us that we have more than 18 million people out of work, looking for jobs while our politicians and people devote not enough time and energy worrying whether all Americans are treated equally with health care, equal marriage laws and that we complain when someone talks about spending money for research to better our world's environment. Yeah, shame on us self-centered Americans who can see no further than our own wallets."

I was heartened to read more positive letters coming in afterwards. I'd like to think that the current economic conditions are the root cause of some of the hateful words I read, but I still ponder the source of all this anger and resentment.

I also wonder if Americans realize that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that Haiti--yes Haiti, one of the poorest nations on this Earth, offered financial aid to our disaster survivors in 2005. In the end, our nation did not accept the Haitian government's kind offer, but it is the thought that counts. In kind, how can anyone begrudge our people's act of kindness and generosity in light of this horrendous disaster that has, so far, claimed more than 150,000 lives?

In recent years while reading various blogs and comments on online news stories, I have come to a disturbing conclusion about a great number of our citizens.

We are an angry people.

Angry at just about everything, and everyone and maybe at life itself. But I ask why?

It doesn't take a genius to see this, especially after watching some of the town hall meetings last summer. It strikes me ironic the people who criticized our people for providing aid to the victims of Haiti are also saying we need to do more for our own people. To me, these are the same people who think our government is destroying our nation by sticking its nose into every avenue of our day-to-day lives.

Many of these same people who shouted down voices of dissent at the town hall meetings, it seems to me, are the by-product of Reagan doctrines who shut down medical facilities for the mentally challenged; shut down countless programs providing shelter and aid to the indigent. Those same people said these are best issues left to local government, not federal concerns.

Where were these people's concern back then? People took heart when they assumed their federal tax burden would be alleviated.

The problem, in my opinion, was their logic was misguided.

Sure, the federal government can cut its costs by cutting programs left and right. It can pass off these concerns to state and local governments. And yes, perhaps local entities can better address these issues. BUT there is a trade off. The feds can cut their costs by curtailing its services, but in reality they are passing along those same expenses to local governments.

In essence, one hand dropped its load while the other has taken on the additional weight. The costs remain the same, only the provider has changed.

We have become a nation used to its government entitlements, at least in part: Social Security, Food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, Home Start, pre-and post school programs, public schools, the interstate and state highway networks, local and federal police forces, and a myriad of other state and federal programs, all designed as a convenience or as a security net in time of need. The list is endless and the costs are vast. AND none of them are free.

These programs are based on moral tenets that we provide aid to those in need.

For those who ask why so many of our people not tended to properly, ask yourself this: Where were you last week when Massachusetts held its special election to fill the late late Ted Kennedy's seat? Why weren't you attending the town hall meetings asking our leaders why aren't they doing more to guarantee health care for ALL of our citizens, no matter what? Do you write your congressmen and women asking they support programs to better serve our people?

Worse still, I have--and I am sure you have too--heard people blame the victims for their plight. Just this past summer after our local CBS affiliate ran a story about the attempted break-in to my home one early August evening; after the story had aired, I read a number of online comments blaming me for the incident.

Point is, we are so busy being angry at God-knows-what, that we spend a great deal of time and energy looking for reasons to lay blame rather than solving the root cause of our problems. I am reminded of the old maxim that is takes but seven muscles to smile, and more than 20 to frown.

Michael Moore, controversial filmmaker, once raised the question (in his documentary Bowling for Columbine) "why are we so afraid?"

I put to each of us to the question, "Why are we so angry?"

Friday, January 15, 2010

They said what???

What do Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson and the staff of the University of Notre Dame's newspaper The Observer all have in common? No, this isn't a joke as I do not like to mention 'Notre Dame' in the same breath as these two men. All three have found themselves in a bit of hot water this week when they acted without thinking first.

First off, let me make no bones about it. I despise political and religious intolerance, and I have a very deep disdain for both Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh. I find them both to be pompous, hypocritical windbags.

Both are guilty of regularly inserting their foot in their mouth(s). And for Notre Dame, I expected better than what happened there earlier in the week.

In ranking of particular importance, I task both Limbaugh and Robertson, as I think they all too often speak without considering the implication of their words.

In case you missed it, Pat Robertson earlier this week practically said that the disaster in Haiti was invited upon its people after they had made a pact with the devil when they threw the French government out (many, many decades ago).

Now mind you, it's hard to take Pat Robertson's (I hate to even call him a reverend) rants seriously. He has, for years, made cryptic Biblical threats when he has seen actions for which he doesn't agree. I mean, don't you know, Hurricane Katrina visited New Orleans because of the actions of homosexuals residing there; likewise when he said meteors would flatten Orlando, Florida, for similar reasons. He even indicated that the acts of 9/11 were the results of this nation's collective sins (funny, Osama Bin Laden would agree with the right reverend over this issue).

Robertson has been making these ridiculous rants for decades and it must make for great ratings for his '700 Club' when he goes into one of these religious stupors, otherwise why would he do it? You don't really suppose God visits upon Robertson's altar to whisper in his ear about what he (or she) is displeased about this week, do you? And no one else?

C'mon. Religious leaders like Robertson truly test my patience. Seriously, I believe in God... it's just some of God's messed up religious leaders (dare I say kooks?) and institutions in which I have little or no faith.

Radio commentator (and unofficial) rank-in-faith leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh is off his rocker yet again. This week, in the aftermath, of the Haitian disaster said on his program that President Obama is using the disaster to hone and bolster his political image.

I was not aware that offering humanitarian aid was a political tool--I always, and maybe stupidly, thought it was the Christian and moral thing to do. Would Mr. Limbaugh prefer we stand by as thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people suffer and die by our inactions?

If by Limbaugh's definition that our President is acting out of political gain, then President George W. Bush was guilty of this as well when offering humanitarian aid when the tsunamis struck Indian Ocean countries in 2004... or when President Bush offered humanitarian aid when Katrina struck New Orleans... oh wait, we all know how well the Bush administration reacted to that disaster.

Maybe President Bush believed Pat Robertson's claims and decided NOLA wasn't worth the effort?

Both of these two men have refused to apologize for their comments. Robertson said he was quoted out of context--and to be fair, Robertson did offer prayers to the Haitian citizens.

Mr. Limbaugh says he stands behind his words. Both... both so-called righteous men are morons as far as I am concerned.

Do Republicans really need a leader, even if they won't admit that is what role Limbaugh plays, like this loud-mouthed hypocritical radio show host? Limbaugh would be quick to say that he is not a politician, but a commentator and an entertainer.

I would also offer that he is none of the above.

AND then there is The Observer. Normally, I have the utmost respect for the University of Notre Dame's daily newspaper. After working at the university for eight years, I feel I have some insights about the school.

To read of the following incident hurts me; I love Notre Dame. I always have. My son is a 1999 ND graduate, and for those who feel the school is far too conservative, I would offer that that is not necessarily the case and that the student body and its faculty have done great things in its long storied history.

But with the January 13, 2010, issue I must take a sad exception. The staff must have taken a collective leave of absence on Wednesday when they published a cartoon strip that asked the following.

"How do you turn a fruit into a vegetable?" The answer, according to the strip, was "a baseball bat!"

What??? This thinly veiled and patently unfunny comic was, unfortunately, referring to gays. I am simply shocked beyond words--AND for many reasons beyond the obvious.

I worked at Notre Dame Law School Library in 1998 when University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was beaten and tortured and left to die by two local criminals. University of Notre Dame students, like many other universities stood united in fellowship and voiced their opposition together against hate and bigotry. I stood with hundreds of ND students and faculty members at a candlelit vigil that was moving beyond words. Prayers were offered for Shepard's recovery, and sadly in this case those prayers went unanswered.

Shepard's death shook our students and many of us adults too--and citizens around the world. Many activists have tirelessly worked since to ensure that his death would not be in vain (made all the more obvious by the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009).

But the publication of this strip has unquestionably done much to undo the goodwill fostered on this campus.

Worse still--and much more troubling, the comic strip original Q & A was as follows. "How do you turn a fruit into a vegetable?" This time, the far more offensive punchline, answered by saying, "AIDS." Real funny, huh?

Have we not gotten beyond this sort of stupidity, this kind of bigotry? Obviously not.

This incident begs many questions, what were these young people, these bright, young journalists thinking? How could they have permitted such a pointed cartoon to go to press? What of the artist's character of this strip? Where was the newspaper's faculty adviser who permitted this comic strip to be included? And what does this say about the university itself?

Sadly, to some degree the Golden Dome is a bit tarnished in my eyes today.

BUT on the positive side of this episode, and to the newspaper's credit, the editor and staff ran a detailed apology in today's edition. Unlike the elder Robertson and Limbaugh, the staff of the Observer realized its error and quickly took measures to rectify their mistake. They did the right thing, but this staff certainly took a hit on the stage of journalistic moral integrity.

Lastly, will Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh follow suit? Don't hold your breath. Stupidity is alive and well on America's television and radio airwaves!

photo of the University of Notre Dame administration building is by the author.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year -- 2010

2009, thank God, is over.. history... fini, kaput... bye bye!