Sunday, December 19, 2010

Good Grief! It's a Charlie Brown Christmas!

I'm putting politics aside for for a moment to post a Christmas essay I wrote long ago. Merry Christmas.


As I prepare for the holidays, I’m reminded of a Christmas many years past when I learned an important lesson: a great Christmas doesn’t necessarily come in a perfect package.

That year I had lofty plans. It would be a Martha Stewart Christmas.

My expertly decorated house would be fit to be photographed for a magazine. I would bake awe-inspiring cookies from scratch. My husband and I would stroll through the malls taking in the splendor of the season instead of rushing to get our shopping done in a few child-free hours. Every gift would be wrapped with beautiful ribbons. Our Christmas cards would be hand calligraphed (never mind that I don’t know how to do calligraphy). Everything would have a special touch.

I thought I would have time to do it all because I was newly self employed. I could set my own hours! Time would be abundant! (Those who are self employed can pause now to chuckle at my naiveté.)

Instead, I found myself working around the clock on a client’s project. The countdown to Christmas was moving fast, and I hadn’t done anything. So one Saturday, I took a break to put up the Christmas tree.

We had bought a beautiful artificial tree at an after-Christmas sale the previous year. We sold our old tree at our garage sale. Or so we thought.

As we began to put the contents of two boxes together to form a tree, it soon became clear that we were dealing with the makings of two different trees. My husband and I exchanged wide-eyed looks of horror as we realized we had sold some poor, unsuspecting soul the bottom of our new tree and the top of our old one.

Because “self employed” is not a euphemism for “rolling in dough,” there was no way we could afford a new tree and still have presents to put under it. Life was grim.

“Kids, we can’t put up the tree,” I said. “There’s only half a tree.”

“Half a tree!” my daughter said with delight (inexplicably), and she and her brother started sticking branches into the tree’s post. It looked like a malformed bush.

Then, a Christmas miracle happened. My husband, Ebenezer, whose laments of “Why did I marry someone who is allergic to Christmas trees,” and “Do we really have to put up the tree yet,” are more common during the holidays than poinsettias, said, “We can make this work,” and started fashioning a tree from the mismatched parts.

With his help, the discordant mess was transformed into a small Christmas tree. Granted it was only about three feet tall and winged out on the bottom like Farrah Fawcett’s hair, but it was a tree nonetheless.

My son, blankie in hand, gingerly touched a branch and said, “Look at our beautiful, beautiful tree.” It reminded me of the scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas, in which Charlie buys a stick with some pine needles on it from a tree lot, and Linus, armed with a similar blankie, says, “All it needs is a little love.” Then the children transform the pitiful stick into a beautiful Christmas tree.

So we put our tree on a box to make it taller, wrapped the base with my mother’s homemade tree skirt and decorated it. I’ll always remember the four of us standing together in the soft glow of the twinkle lights to admire our handiwork.

My father called that night after hearing the news about our tree. “I’ll lend you the money to buy a new one,” he offered.

“No thanks, Dad,” I said. “We have a tree.”

I’m sure somewhere there is a family with a similar Christmas memory:

Remember when we bought that stupid tree at a garage sale, and when we tried to put it together we had parts from two different trees?

I wonder if those people were able to squelch their inner Martha and accept imperfection like we did. Or did their warm, fuzzy feelings of holiday cheer turn to cold, hard, homicidal rage? We’ll never know.

The countdown to Christmas continued, and my husband and I completed our shopping in a four-hour marathon. The presents had stick-on bows on them. The cookies came courtesy of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I never sent my Christmas cards. Still, one of my most cherished holiday memories is of our Charlie Brown Christmas.

It’s a good thing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why did you vote for Mark Dayton?

It's a simple question. Those of us who didn't vote for him would like to know, now that we've been saddled with Dayton as our Governor for the next four years. We didn't want this. We didn't ask for this. But, this is our reality. We lost. You won.

Why did you do it?

Did you really think he was the most qualified person to run the state? Were you voting more against Emmer than you were voting for Dayton? Did you believe in Dayton's promises of raising taxes on the rich and how that will solve all our problems? Why?

I remember after Jesse Ventura was elected, so many people were shocked that he won. A lot of people admitted afterwards that they voted for Ventura because they thought it was funny. They thought he would never win, so why did it matter if they voted for him? They thought it was a joke. Except it wasn't funny. The choices those people made in the voting booth stuck us with Jesse the Governor Ventura and a reputation for being the laughing stock of a country that couldn't understand what we had just done. (We still hold that reputation today for electing a washed-up comedian as our senator, and Keith Ellison, a left-wing nut job who just a few days ago called for the government to wreck America's entire economy if the legislature didn't extend unemployment benefits. People think Minnesotans are nuts.)

Anyway, this is a serious question I'm asking. I'd really like feedback from those of you who voted for Dayton. I'd like serious answers, please. I think it would be good for those of us who think having Dayton for a governor is one of the worst things that could happen to our state. We have to live with the consequences of your actions, so please enlighten us. Maybe you'll say something that will make it not seem so bad. At least we might begin to understand each other a little better.

So please, comment on this article and tell me why you voted for Dayton. You don't have to identify yourself if you don't want to, though if you're not ashamed of your vote I don't know why you'd need to remain anonymous. I may just post them as comments, or if there is enough feedback, I'll compile it into an article.

I promise to treat your comments with respect.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for the Gift of Unemployment

The Gift of Unemployment

When it first came, we hardly noticed it. It was hidden among the jumble of personal effects in the cardboard box my husband carried the day he was laid off.  I remember it in an out-of-body sort of way, like a flashback in a movie: the two of us, on a hot July day, sitting together on our front steps while he quietly told me the worst had happened.

The environment at his workplace had become so toxic even workers in their 20’s were quitting for health reasons. I remember thinking this could actually be a good thing, because if he had continued working there, it might have killed him. Still, the gift of his health lay buried in the cardboard box he wouldn’t unpack for more than two interminable years.

Several months into his unemployment, the small severance had run out, and our savings were gone. This time the gift came not in a box, but in a paper grocery bag. It was left in front of our garage door. There was a card signed in stamped letters that said simply, “You are loved.” The bag was full of food. I wept.

Food had begun to be a problem.  We are a family of six.  It was time to go to our local food shelf. I’d been there to donate.  I never thought I’d be in need of their services. We were greeted by smiling volunteers and counseled for intake by a true gentlewoman.  Though it was so hard to take this huge step no one who donates to food shelves thinks they’ll take, we left with the gift of our dignity, wrapped in brown paper bags full of food and sundries. Our grocery bills were just too big to keep up with.  Hell, all our bills were big.  Electricity, water, garbage…

COBRA.  For those of you who’ve never needed it, it is a law requiring all employers to extend health benefits to laid-off employees for 18 months, but at full cost to the former employee.  For us that meant our healthcare costs were almost equal to our house payment.  But we had to do it. We couldn’t let anyone in our family go uninsured.  We loathed and scoffed at it at the time because it was so expensive. But then it ran out. Our gift was wrapped in the 18 enormous checks we had written for our healthcare.  Inside was gratitude for those 18 months of healthcare and the wisdom to recognize our naiveté at our insistence that we would never be able to do without it.  Because we did.

My husband and I are still uninsured. All of the children are now covered.  We found ways to cut some of our medical expenses by switching to cheaper prescription drugs, which in some cases was no small sacrifice. We carefully thought through every doctor visit, every medical test. We used minute clinics for acute illnesses. We shopped around for the cheapest pharmacy. We were gifted with self sufficiency and control at a time when those things seemed to have vanished from our lives. We now have a different outlook on health care in our nation, and no, we do not believe in ObamaCare or any form of national socialized medicine programs for the general population. But we do see how each of us plays a role in the enormous cost of medical care in America.

Lest you think I’m some kind of freaky, bubble-minded saint, I will freely admit we weren’t discovering a gift around every corner. Sometimes the discovery came months later.  Someone told us after about 18 months of unemployment that the depression in our house was so great it was palpable when coming through our front door. That’s hard to hear. But it was true. All of us were affected in different ways, and all of us are changed.  We each went through our private hell, a hell that some of us are still clawing our way out of. Except for the baby.

She loved having my husband home full time for most of her life. If I needed a break from care giving, he would take over for a while.  If she wanted to see him, she would yell, “Papa, I need you!” in her sweet baby voice, dragging him from his never-ending computer search for work. Her gift was Papa’s always available lap, ready for her to snuggle in to learn about coins or watch country music videos. Our gift was, and is, simply her.

The next gift was enormous. We managed to hang onto our home. I would often have nightmares my family was living somewhere else, and we would drive by and watch from our car windows while another family moved in.  The nightmare reoccurred in many forms during those two years.

We didn’t hate the empty space made by the deck we tore off our house just prior to my husband’s lay off only to have to spend the savings for our new deck to survive. The back of our beloved home is ramshackle at best, and the front isn’t doing much better. When you have no money to spare, home ownership becomes a whole different animal. Our paint is peeling, our front deck is rotting, and our lawn is full of weeds because weed killers and fertilizers are not necessities. Our concrete steps are cracked and our driveway needs to be seal coated. And that’s just the outside. But we love our home more than ever. We don’t look at it and see its flaws anymore; instead we see the place where our family has grown for the past 11 years, our dream home we fought so hard to get in the first place and then to keep, though the things we had to do to keep it sometimes hurt our hearts and our dignity. But we learned sometimes a gift can come along with dents in your armor and scars you’ll bear forever.

Because behind the scars is the biggest gift of all.  It’s a gift we’ve always had, but sometimes it seemed invisible. We took it for granted many times when we did see it, because it was there all the time.  We are forever humbled by its enormity, its continuity, its loyalty.

The greatest gift is, of course, family. If not for them we would have lost our home. If not for them we would have gone hungry. If not for them we would have no electricity, heat, water, gas for our cars. If not for them, I believe our little family may have fallen apart.

They were there after friends got tired of our chronic miserable state and the invitations for dinner, drinks or just to socialize dried up just when a free meal or a break from the monotony would have been so welcome. We couldn’t afford to be “fun” anymore, I guess, so friends just stopped calling. But our family rallied around us and not only kept us financially afloat with their generous gifts—the ones that were so hard to accept, the ones that left the scars on our dignity—but they held me above water while I cried for my children, my husband, myself.

They held us up through the deaths of our two beloved dogs who died unexpectedly three months apart from each other after having been in our family for more than a decade. They held us up through the lost of my husband’s father, about whom I have written more than once on these pages. During that time we almost lost my father as well, and we lost our church home. There were times I cried out to God asking what we weren’t learning, what weren’t we getting, why was it taking so long and why was there so much loss along the way?

And there are so many answers. When I said we have changed forever, I meant it. We can divide our lives into Before Unemployment, and, mercifully, After.  Before unemployment we were wasteful. We saw the flaws in our lives, not the gifts. We dwelt more on what we didn’t have than on what we did. Though we said grace before dinner, we weren’t truly thankful for the food on our table. Things we would have complained about before don’t bother us (my husband came home after the first week of his new job and said that very thing because he’s so grateful to be working that none of the little annoyances—the ones those who feel their state of employment is untouchable see everywhere—faze him).

Unemployment and the gifts it brought taught us so much. So, this Thanksgiving, I am most grateful simply for the ability to be truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Oh, no, not again...

Congratulations to all of last night's winners. I am bowled over (in a good way) by the Republican take-over of the state legislature and the U.S. House. A special congrats to Erik Paulsen, David Hann, Jennifer Loon, and Kirk Stensrud. I know everybody worked so hard, and they have the results to show for it. Special kudos to Stensrud for unseating Maria Ruud, which was no small task for a new guy. All the best to all of our conservative winners, and a prayer for clarity for the other ones.

I believe we will ultimately wind up with Governor Dayton. I can't quite believe people voted for him, but I think he'll hold on to the win even after any recounts. I know there was voter fraud on many levels and in many ways, but I don't think it will matter.

A couple of questions, though. My Dad noticed last year when voting that the woman in front of him in line to put ballots in the counting machine had filled out the ballot with check marks instead of filling in the little bullets. The machine rejected her ballot, of course, so the volunteer directed her to the table to receive a new one and fill it out correctly. The volunteer then took her incorrectly-filled-out ballot and put it in a pile to the side of the counting machine. My Dad asked why the ballot wasn't being shredded or destroyed in some way, and he said that was what he was instructed to do with them.

Then we saw the recount in the Coleman/Franken debacle, and low and behold, our T.V. screens were filled with images of ballots with check marks, circles, smiley faces, you name it. Then the persons charged with the task of recounting the ballots would have to discern voter intent ("they put a smiley face next to Norm's name because they think he's laughable and wanted their vote to go to Franken," etc.) . Now, if those voters' ballots were rejected due to being improperly filled out, and they were given new ballots and instructed how to properly fill them out, and took the new ballots and put them in the counting machine, that should be their vote, right? So there would be no reason to ever count ballots improperly marked with circles, check marks and arrows, right? If someone knows why this isn't the case, fill me in.

Dad asked the same question of the volunteer last night. The volunteer said he was just following instructions, and that he didn't make the rules. Dad asked who he would have to talk to to get this looked into, and the volunteer told him he didn't know, maybe the legislature. Well, that's wrong, it's the Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, who allowed vote counting to stop as soon as state embarrassment, Al Franken, had enough votes to win, among other very questionable tactics. Well, Ritchie was re-elected last night (does anyone read anything in this state?), so I don't think anything will change with this recount. But I would like Dad's, and now my, question addressed. Feedback, please.

One more thing before I collapse. I have read reports and viewed video tape about bus loads of mentally challenged people being taken to the polls for early voting and being instructed whom to vote for, (democrats) or in some cases, had their ballots filled out for them. There are also some reports coming in about bus loads of impaired individuals from nursing homes in the same vein. There are certainly rules about assisting disabled individuals to vote, but isn't there some rule that the person at least needs to have the mental ability to freely vote for whom they wish to vote? I would never want a disabled person to be disenfranchised, but what those people did, especially with the mentally impaired people, was, well, evil.

(Three part video about the Crow Wing County early voting fraud. Worth watching.)








And I mean EVIL. What special kind of demon do you have to be to fill a bus full of mentally handicapped individuals who, from eyewitness reports, didn't even know what they were there for or what voting was or what a polling place was, and use them as literal pawns and puppets for the democrats to get more votes for their candidates? Isn't it bad enough that four out of five dead people vote democrat? This is much worse than that.

I would guess people who would do such things may be headed for that very, very special bad place they reserve for mean nurses and bad teachers. Because they all do the same thing: take advantage of or abuse helpless people. They make me sick.

So, we have a lot to be frightened of. Mark Dayton being our governor, for one. Sick, evil people who'll use the elderly and mentally challenged to swing an election their way.

But we have a great deal to celebrate as well. All that hard work really panned out (a special nod to Chip Cravaack, who unseated the damn-near unseatable Jim Oberstar.) Now, the newly elected need to take their mandate and run with it when they are officially seated in their new jobs.

They all need our positive thoughts and prayers, especially those with whom we disagree.



Monday, November 1, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Is Mark Dayton Really Sober?

I was doing research for this series of articles when I stumbled upon something, a word actually, that made me change direction from asking the question, "Is Mark Dayton stable," to:

Is Mark Dayton sober?

Dayton is a self-identified alcoholic who has been through treatment twice, most recently about three years ago for one full week after relapsing near the end of his senate career. Records show Dayton has only been sober for about three years. Or has he?

I ran across an article from the StarTribune, published July 4 2010, which lead me down a path that questions Mark Dayton’s sobriety. The article was titled, "Mark Dayton: a topsy-turvey ride." In the second paragraph, something caught my eye. It said, "Sipping from a bottle of kombucha, a fermented tea that has become a campaign trail staple, this former U.S. senator is trying to revive an up-and-down political career at age 63."

Fermented tea? Doesn't "fermented" usually mean something has turned to alcohol? There began my research on kombucha, the official drink of the Dayton campaign.

What I found was a treasure trove of reasons why an alcoholic shouldn't be downing kombucha tea, and if he is, he is no longer sober according to the sobriety requirements of Alcoholics Anonymous. Here's an article on Relapse Prevention, which may apply to this situation, because this tea is well known for its varying alcohol content.

A website called, "Organic-Kombucha.com. contains this heading: "Who should avoid drinking kombucha tea?" The a sub-head reads: "We strongly suggest not to use kombucha under the following circumstances:"

Alcoholics in recovery - Many recovering alcoholics have found it helpful to drink Kombucha during their recovery period. It is said to remove the desire for alcohol. But be warned though, Kombucha does contain a small quantity of alcohol, normally less that 1% by volume. Any recovering alcoholic knows that even a small quantity of alcohol can have a negative effect on them, so be careful.

Kombucha, in fact, may contain much more alcohol than mentioned above. On June 28, 2010, the New York Times reported Whole Foods pulled the product from their shelves because, "the alcohol content might be high enough to attract the attention of the federal government."

Well, they were right.

Two days later, the Treasury Department issued a warning stating kombucha may be subject to the same taxes and regulations as other beverages containing alcohol. The agency said it “is coordinating with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure kombucha products currently on the market comply with Federal laws..."

Analysts said some kombucha teas sold under brand names like Synergy can ferment after shipment, raising the alcohol content from a legal 0.5 percent or less to as high as 3 percent, similar to some beers.

Kombucha tea seems to be well known for its "buzz." In fact a lot of people flipped out when their kombucha was taken away. The way people talk about it, it’s as if they need it, not want it. There’s even a facebook site devoted to the lamentations of kombucha users deprived of their favorite drink: “Dude, Where’s my Kombucha?” You can track “bucha” sightings around the country, including a supply in Vista, CA, to be sold only to those over 21.

GT Dave, owner of Synergy Drinks, announced a recall after reports of elevated alcohol levels in Kombucha products. More publicly, Linsday Lohan blamed Kombucha for setting off her SCRAM bracelet due to its alcohol content. GT Dave believes the elevated levels may be occurring after the product has been bottled and left their facility.

If that is the case, the bottles would need new labels marking the alcohol content. Kombucha is said to increase metabolism, reduce cholesterol, and even fight the effects of ageing. Oddly enough, Kombucha has been said to cure alcoholism. This seems rather bizarre being that Kombucha contains alcohol.

One could argue, “Well, Dayton might not know it contains alcohol. So it’s not his fault.” I argue that it doesn’t matter. I once knew a recovering alcoholic who was given a glass of spiked punch at a party, which led almost immediately to heavy drinking and the destruction of his family. It doesn’t matter why an alcoholic drinks, it just matters that an alcoholic in recovery should not drink at all.

We don't know how many of these drinks he has per day. Is kombucha the reason Dayton often appears befuddled? Is it the reason he seems to slur his words at times?

There is a saying made famous by the movie, "28 Days," starring Sandra Bullock. It addresses when an addict should try to have a serious relationship. It is, in a nutshell: after an addict has become sober he should buy a potted plant. If after one year the plant is still alive, he should buy a pet. If after the second year the pet is alive, then in the third year the addict may begin to consider having a serious relationship with another person.

We don’t know exactly where Dayton falls on that sobriety spectrum. But either way it’s too soon for him to be entering into the very important relationship of governor of an entire state with responsibility for roughly five million souls. I just think it's unwise.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Top five reasons Minnesotans MUST vote for Tom Emmer: Reason #5

The election is drawing near, and I am hearing some disturbing whispers out there. They are scary; just right for Halloween. They are the comments and beliefs of life-long Republicans regarding Tom Emmer. Why is this so spooky?

Because the whisperers were fed half-truths by the mainstream media, and they swallowed them whole. There have not been TV spots or newspaper articles in large enough numbers and in the right places to refute the garbage the opposition spoon fed to the masses. So now (hopefully not too little too late), I'm presenting my top five reasons why Republicans, conservatives, independents and thinking Minnesotans must vote for Tom Emmer.

I choose my words carefully. When I say "must," vote for Tom Emmer, I don't mean "should," or any other lazy word that could be inserted into the sentence. I really mean "must." Why?

Because Tom Horner just isn't going to win. The last I looked, he was polling in at about 13-15 percent. If you usually vote Republican and you're a Horner fan, realize that a vote for Horner is a vote for Dayton.

I truly believe Mark Dayton as Minnesota governor would be disastrous for this state we all love and call our home. That's really the reason in a nutshell, but I've broken it down to five sections:


Reason #5
Tom Emmer is the only pro-life candidate.

Emmer has been endorsed by Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) for his flawless pro-life voting record in the Minnesota senate. He co-authored the Positive Alternatives Act, which was signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2005. The law provides grants to organizations that help women with alternatives to abortion. He has also co-authored legislation to end taxpayer funded abortions.

He supports the Women's Right to Know Act, which provides pregnant women with crucial information about their pregnancies and the procedures involved in an abortion procedure. (e.g., Materials providing information concerning an unborn child of 20 weeks gestational age and at two weeks gestational increments thereafter covering the development of the nervous system, fetal responsiveness to adverse stimuli and other indications of capacity to experience organic pain, and the impact on fetal organic pain of each of the methods of abortion procedures commonly employed at this stage of pregnancy.) He also supports a federal ban on partial birth abortion.

Mark Dayton, on the other hand, supports partial birth abortion and voted against the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act twice when he was a U.S. Senator (you know, the job for which Time Magazine named him one of the five "worst senators").

He supports abortion on demand and rejects any attempt to ban taxpayer funding for it. He is against parental notification for minors to have abortions, a law which is currently on the books in Minnesota. He recently donated $5,000 to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States. How long do you think he would be governor before abortionists could again perform surgery on a minor without the knowlege of her parents, or any adult for that matter? This would be a boon to child molestors as well because they could bring their victims in for abortions, no questions asked.

Dayton also opposes the Women's Right to Know Act because it's better for the abortion industry if women are given no information other than what the abortion mill wants them to think: that they are about to undergo riskless procedures and they are just carrying blobs of tissue instead of living human beings.

Tom Horner was sculpted from the same piece of clay as Dayton. He supports abortion on demand, he is in favor of taxpayer funding for abortion and he opposes the Women's Right to Know Act as well.

The clear choice for life is a vote for Tom Emmer for Governor of Minnesota.

Check back very soon for reason #4, Stability.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The left think Americans are stupid

For those of you who have been wearing earplugs and bags over your heads for the past few weeks, this is what has happened. The nutshell version is that Bill O'Reilly went on The View, which caused Juan Williams to be fired by NPR. Seems kind of stupid when you put it that way, doesn't it?

Well, it is stupid. Actually "stupid" is the proper word to use as an explanation for the why discourse in our country has become stilted, thanks to the Church of Political Correctness (CPC).

Bill O'Reilly was a guest on The View and said he was against the proposed mosque being built so close to the ground zero site because Muslims killed us on 9/11. Whoppie Goldberg and Joy Behar, after yelling and swearing at their guest, got up and walked out of the interview. What made them so angry?

In statements they've made since the incident, both Behar and Goldberg have said they essentially couldn't just sit there while O'Reilly was painting all Muslims with the same brush. Goldberg continues to assert if all Muslims killed us on 9/11, does that mean Mohamed Ali killed us on 9/11? Of course the answer to that is "no."

So the remedy for O'Reilly's "mistake" was to clarify his statement with one word: "extremists." If he had used that one little word, the whole circus would not have come to town.

I like words. Words are of the utmost importance in my life. I think words have incredible power, and I guess that's why I love them so much. It's important to use the correct word in the correct situation. One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain. He said, "The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug."

In the case of O'Reilly's statement, the use of the qualifier "extremist" would have been enough to assuage the CPC in Goldberg and Behar. Okay. But I agree with O'Reilly's statement that people know what he meant. When he said, "Muslims killed us on 9/11," he didn't mean every Muslim in the world was involved in the plot to kill us on 9/11, and he thinks America understood that. I believe that's true. Why?

Because I don't think Americans are stupid. I don't think they are such useless morons they couldn't have made the distinction that O'Reilly's statement wasn't meant to include every Muslim on the planet. I believe they are smart enough not to need the qualifier "extremist" to know what O'Reilly meant.

Goldberg's argument (a ham-handed attempt to prove O'Reilly's statement to be wrong) that American terrorist Timothy McVey wasn't a Muslim and nobody runs around saying Christians bombed Oklahoma City is irrelevant to the argument because McVey didn't commit his terroristic attack because of his religious beliefs. For him, it was all about politics. Goldberg's argument is like comparing apples and bicycles.

There are some things that are just true even if we don't want them to be. And one of those truths is that not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists since 9/11 have been Muslim. It's just true. I'm sorry about that, but it is. But we have become so beholden to the CPC that we can't speak the truth, or act on the truth, at least without fear. That's why 85-year-old Norweigan grandmothers are searched before boarding planes. And that's an example of how far the PC movement reaches. It reaches into our safety and scrambles it up.

I don't want to be hypocritical here. It so often happens that when liberals get caught saying something stupid in public, and the public reacts, they clutch their collective pearls and gasp in surprise and horror that someone would actually take action against a famous person because of something that person said. Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Bruce Springsteen and Sean Penn spring to mind. Maines was shocked and outraged people would burn her CD's and stop buying them after she made a derogatory remark about President Bush. Springsteen saw his concert ticket sales plummet after he made several similar remarks during the 2008 election season. And I, and many other conservatives, will never pay to see a Sean Penn film because we don't want to line his pockets with more money so he can continue his traitorous activities, such as visiting Saddam Hussein weeks prior to the start of the Iraq war.

These celebrities and their fans think it's simply wrong to punish these people with boycotts, etc., for what they say in public. They scream and yell things like, "What happened to free speech?" "This is America. Don't we still have the right to free speech?" What I have always said about these situations is, yes, you still have the Constitutional right to free speech, but what you don't have is protection from any reactions to that speech as long as those reactions aren't from the government and don't involve things like imprisonment. You can talk all you want, but people are allowed to judge you--it's as simple as that.

So I am not saying the left has no right to react to O'Reilly's statement on The View and Juan Williams' subsequent comment about his own private thoughts. They have every right. What I'm saying is that the basis of their reactions is stupid. It stems from left-wing elitists who see themselves as opinion leaders because they are above the mere rabble who might be too stupid to see the nuances in language without everything being spelled out for them.

This argument isn't really about outrage about O'Reilly's statements. It isn't about outrage about Juan Williams' statements. It's really about elitism. The CPC is an elitist group that thinks America's little people can't understand a person's intent without things being absolutely perfectly worded. They understand words have power. Look how far president Obama has gone to erase the word "terrorist" from the American vernacular.

In my opinion, the "progressives" have come full circle. The political correctness religion practiced by most of them has made them the most bigoted, intolerant, narrow-minded group in America. There. I said it.

What began with (I have to try to believe) an honest attempt to stop using speech that was hurtful to individuals or groups has turned into an ugly monster that attempts to devour our right to free speech, stomps on our freedom of expression, and at times, strangles true intellectual discourse.

There was so much good that came out of the PC movement before it became a religion. It stopped people from using the "N-word" to the point where most white people wouldn't be caught dead saying it, and they truly think it's wrong to use that word. That's great. Because it is wrong.

All of the other racial slurs are wrong too. I don't believe in using the kinds of words that hurt people and that are meant to take the targets of the words down and lessen them as human beings. So I do admit the genesis of the PC religion had good intentions and some good results. I'm glad I live in a society in which it's considered socially unacceptable to use racial slurs or, for that matter, to degrade women. A society can only consider itself better if it is in that state of grace.

But, like most ideas the left get a hold of, they took it too far. Like free and reduced price lunches. Great idea. We don't want American school children going hungry. Yay. But then it was free breakfast for every student, regardless of need, free before and after-school programs for children regardless of need, and the pesky habit of teachers and school administrators to think and act as if students are being parented by a bunch of imbeciles who must be shoved aside so schools can raise the children instead, rendering parental choice to secondary status. They simply go too far.

In an effort to appear tolerant of groups like Muslims (and I truly believe a lot of it is about appearance, like when people said you should vote for Obama because he would change America's image because he's young, black, handsome and captivating), they collectively stomp on Christians. In schools, children learn all about Muslim holidays, Kwanza, etc., but it's not okay to talk about Christmas. The left just can't find balance. It's in their nature to take things to a point of ridiculousness.

Now, in PC land, people aren't allowed to say what they mean without being blasted by the left. If you say something with which they don't agree, or it's outside the boundaries they have set for all of us, you are toast. They are creating a society in which one must speak as they are told or suffer grave consequences. If you don't agree with them, you are labeled. If you speak the truth, you will be labeled. If you think outside the box, you will be punished.

So what started as a movement to stop racial, religious and sexual slurs quickly transformed into the word police. And if you really think about it, I mean really think, you'll discover, as I have, that the reason for most politically correct speech is the elitists on the left think the average American is too stupid to sort out an argument unless it is Dick and Jane'd to them.

Now, another "word" moment has happened on The View. Today Joy Behar, in rare form, called congressional candidate, Sharron Angle, a "bitch" and said she is "going to hell." This is a pretty straightforward statement requiring no additions or translations by the PC Police for the average American to understand it.

But let's see what happens next in this soap opera of words. Juan Williams was fired from his job at NPR because he talked about his own fear of seeing people in Muslim garb at airports. He used no racial slurs and no hate speech, but he was fired immediately.

If I want to skip down the yellow brick road of political correctness, I would label Behar's outburst today as hate speech. I believe that, all things being equal, she should be fired immediately.

Should I hold my breath? I'm told I look good in blue.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Shining Light on Impulsive Mandates

President Bush signed into law a bill that phases out the incandescent light bulb by 2014. Not only was this hasty, but it’s disturbing because of the environmental impact and issues of personal freedom.

Americans have been strongly encouraged to replace their incandescent bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs). A common example to quantify the benefits of using CFLs is: If every American home replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and it would be like taking more than 800,000 cars off the roads. It will also reduce your energy costs.

Sounds like a great idea. But like most seemingly simple solutions to complex problems, it requires deeper thought.

CFLs contain mercury. Mercury is a neurotoxin. Therefore, CFLs must be disposed of as hazardous waste. You could take them to the nearest hazardous waste drop off center. You could wait for a free hazardous waste drop off day.

Or, you could follow the advice of Joseph Rey: “If you’re the Marriott hotel disposing of a great number of bulbs, you have to do it so mercury doesn’t leak into landfills. But if you’re one person, you can just toss it out.”

Who is this guy? He’s director of education for the American Lighting Association. He gave this sage advice in an interview in the February 2008 issue of House Beautiful magazine.

According to the 2000 census, Eden Prairie has 21,026 households. If every household did as told in the above recommendation and used one CFL, but then also did as Joseph Rey said and just threw them away, there would be 21,026 CFLs ready to leach neurotoxins into landfills. Of course we wouldn’t all do that, but you know there will always be people who will dispose of hazardous waste improperly if they know they won’t get caught.

We should be concerned not only about the earth, but the environment in our very homes. Using CFLs could be especially worrisome if our families include infants, small children or pregnant women, who are most susceptible to the effects of mercury. Most important, we should have the choice to make these kinds of decisions for ourselves.

If you break an incandescent bulb, you sweep up the pieces and throw them away – safely.

However, the American Lighting Association has very specific guidelines for what to do if a CFL breaks in your home. They include: open windows, leave the room for at least 15 minutes, wear gloves while you scoop up fragments and powder, seal them in a plastic bag, and place that into another sealed plastic bag. Throw it in the trash if your state allows; otherwise, dispose of it as hazardous waste. If you must use a vacuum, put the used vacuum bag into two sealed bags. The next several times you vacuum the area, shut off your heating or air conditioning and open the windows for at least 15 minutes after you’re done vacuuming.

Wow, that’s a lot of precautions to take for something CFL proponents insist isn’t toxic, as evidenced in this often used example of how safe CFLs are: There are only 5 mg. of mercury per CFL compared to 500 mg. of mercury in a thermometer, so you’d have to break 100 CFLs to expose yourself to the same mercury as in one thermometer.

Well, OK, but how many people do you know who still use mercury thermometers, let alone walk around breaking them all the time? Following this scenario, Eden Prairie would have to throw away 210 thermometers to equal the mercury levels of one improperly disposed CFL per household. That seems unlikely.

There are other health issues to consider. Migraine sufferers around the world are uniting to protest governments mandating the use of CFLs. The British Association of Dermatologists has called for exemptions to these mandates to allow for those with skin conditions worsened by fluorescent light, such as some forms of lupus. Eastern medicine practitioners consider fluorescent light to be detrimental to humans because it emits frequencies they believe worsen or cause multiple health problems.

Should the government have the right to mandate use of something containing toxic materials whose health effects haven’t been fully studied and with no exemptions for people with health problems that could be exacerbated by the mandate? If the government so readily pulled the trigger on this mandate in the name of environmentalism, what’s next?

Could they ban lawns because of the water used to maintain them? How about air conditioning? Burning wood has been banned in Sacramento, and in southern California, building wood burning fireplaces in new homes is prohibited. These governmental intrusions are growing. For the government to invade the homes of its citizens by telling them how to live is the antithesis of what America stands for.

I know “going green” is a hot issue right now, but let’s slow down, think things through. Let’s not accept knee-jerk reactions to the fear mongering of environmental activists. The CFL mandate is just another example of getting carried away with something that looks really good … until you shine a bright light on it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Three Small Words: Remembering September 11

Nine years ago, I wrote this letter to the editor, which was published in the Eden Prairie News shortly after September 11, 2001:

On September 11, among the many lessons to be learned, I learned that three small words can be used to convey something fearful and despondent, while at the same time convey a message of reassurance and hope .

When my nine-year-old son came home from school that afternoon, he didn't seem to know much about what had happened. I sat him down and explained to him the terrible events of the day. He looked at me, his round blue eyes searching mine for reassurance. "Will we have a war, Mama?" he asked. "Yes, we will," I said, wanting to bite back my words, but at the same time knowing I was doing the right thing. I had to be honest with my son. Thanks to the evil of terrorism, my answer was true.

Later, my 13-year-old daughter quickly began to understand the gravity of the situation. In typical teenage fashion, avoiding my eyes and trying not to sound too serious, she asked, "Will America make it through this, Mom?"

I told her about the deprivation of the Great Depression, the civil war that pitted brother against brother, and two world wars that tested the strength of every American. "Yes, we will," I answered. I had to be honest with my daughter. Thanks to the indelible American spirit, my answer was true.

Three small words. "Yes, we will." They can mean so many things. That day they meant a promise of war and the promise of victory. Other days, they mean something else.

Life does go on, as it has, since September 11, 2001. We've started a war in Iraq. We've elected a new president who has barely spoken of keeping us safe. We've wondered who will be on this season of Dancing With the Stars. We've become obsessed with vampires. We've worried about Brad and Angelina's "status."

We've forgotten.

Before you say, "Oh no we haven't," I say to you, "Look around. The unity we found that day is lost. We are a country divided. We stand on opposite sides arguing about whether a Mosque should be built near the Ground Zero site. Do you think this argument would have even found a voice on September 12, 2001?"

As I pause to think about that, visions come to mind of people rising in the streets across America to ask the people who wish to build it to have some decency, some compassion. People jumped out of those buildings rather than be burned to death. Firefighters rushed into the buildings to save others while knowing they would lose their own lives. Even the Imam in charge of the project now questions the sensitivity of the proposed site because whether we like to admit it or not, the atrocities of that day were carried out by Muslim extremists in the name of Allah. It's just the truth.

Do you remember? Do you remember the photos on the front pages of your newspapers of people, your fellow Americans, on American soil, covered in ashes to the point of being unrecognizable as they stumbled through the streets of New York desperate for safety, shelter, a sip of water, a breath of air? In America? Our America?

I remember that night here in suburban Minneapolis. The sky was clear and dark and salted with a few stars. My neighbor and I were standing in her backyard talking when a military helicopter roared over her house. We knew the skies had been shut down and cleared of all traffic. The helicopter was flying low, and even though it was one of ours--there to keep us safe--for a moment we were terrified. We stopped talking and just sort of hung there in frozen time, as if our hearts had stopped from fear and needed to be jump started before we asked, "What the hell was that?"

Earlier that evening my church held a special service. I'll never forget the image of my daughter, dressed in black, hugging a fellow Sunday School friend on the steps outside. They stayed in each other's arms for a long time, her head resting on his shoulder. Then they held hands, as if not wanting to let go of one another for fear of losing the other before our next church service. I watched from the top of the stairs with tears rolling freely down my face as I realized my daughter's generation had just become a generation at war. They had become a generation in which the sanctity of the American bubble that had always protected them was shattered by airplanes filled with hate and bound for death. They changed that day--the children. Forever.

That night my children slept in bed with me. Their father couldn't sleep and stayed up all night. My daughter held my hand as she slept, something she hadn't done since she was very small. When she was little, she always wanted to hold my hand as she slept if she was scared. I lay awake and heard another plane fly over the house. I gripped my sleeping child's hand a little tighter.

As I write this on the eve of the ninth anniversary of this terrorist attack on America, I am saddened by how far apart we've come. The weight of this horrible atrocity seems to have slipped from our shoulders, and we've become the frivolous, politically-correct society we were before this ever happened.

Of course we can't be a society hobbled by the hatred lurking in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to kill us. But all I ask is that for tomorrow, please take a moment to remember. Really remember. Wherever you were in America, it hit you. It touched you.

It changed you.

Before this, you were safe. You are safe no more. You know it. You accept it. You scoff at it when you have to board a plane. It inconveniences you, but it does not effect you, not anymore.

I'm asking you, if only for one day, to let it effect you. Let in the fear of knowing you are never safe. Let in the knowledge that there are people on earth who hate you and what you stand for so much that they will kill you and your babies in the name of their cause without blinking an eye.

Then, see the issues of the day through those eyes. Do you see the Mosque at ground zero as a shield against further attacks? I think that's the reason some are for its construction at its proposed site. "If we build it here, they'll think we're nice and they won't hurt us," to put it in Kindergarten terms. Maybe that's why some are such violent proponents of this Mosque. More than that, I think some people are for it so they can appear "enlightened," in a world in which if you are against anything anyone does for any reason, and those people happen not to be white Christians, you are called a bigot.

Islam is such a complex thing that it's nearly impossible to deconstruct. I know Muslim people who have Minnesota accents stronger than mine. I have personally seen the good side and the dark side of Islam. So I am not one of those who condemns all who cover their heads and pray five times per day. I just don't want the extremists to blow things up.

I understand the pull toward political correctness that is threaded through our country. But without a healthy dose of fear, wariness and protectiveness, I believe that pull will become so strong we'll all be taken along for the ride whether we like it or not, consequences be damned.

So, will you say three small words for me? If I ask you, "Will you remember?" will you answer,

"Yes, we will."



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blink

"Blink and you might miss it," is how the saying goes. People use variations of this saying for all types of reasons. For travelers: "That town is so small, if you blink, you'll miss it." Empty nesters: "Childhood goes so fast, if you blink, you'll miss it."

Friendly Neighborhood Republican: "Freedom and liberty were changed before our eyes, but America blinked."

And we missed it, or so it seems. Missed what? The beginning of the end to our liberty. The blatant actions of a tyrannical government. The consequences of a government run amok with power.

While America was busily distracted by Arizona immigration law, President Obama signed into law one of the most frightening pieces of legislation I've ever seen. And we blinked.

It's time, America, to open our eyes to what is really happening here. Conservatives, Tea Party Members, Libertarians and other freedom-loving Americans have been concerned about the rise of socialism in America since Barack Obama was elected president.

What is contained in the new Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection law makes socialism seem like a beach party.

Obama called the "reforms" contained in the bill "the strongest consumer protections in history," after signing the bill in the Ronald Regan Building (a slap in the face to Regan-loving conservatives).

Obama added that the recent recession was caused by a breakdown in the financial system that cannot be allowed to happen again. "I proposed a set of reforms to empower consumers and investors, to bring the shadowy deals that caused this crisis into the light of day, and to put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all," Obama said. "Today, thanks to a lot of people in this room, those reforms will become the law of the land."

There is such irony in those words. The people in the room included senators Chris Dodd and Barney Frank, who created the law. Barney Frank's fabulous Fannie/Freddie debacle is blamed by many for the bulk of our current financial woes. It strikes me funny, in a very creepy way, to credit him for creating a law that Obama says will bring "shadowy deals that caused this crisis into the light of day...," when those shadowy deals were created by Barney Frank in the first place. And isn't it convenient that in the new law, Fannie and Freddie are exempt from any scrutiny. Hmmmm...

So America prattles on about Arizona immigration laws, amnesty, and the Mosque at Ground Zero. These are important issues, but they are a distraction from the real monster lurking around the corner.

Buried in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection law are some little "gems" that should be of interest to all freedom-loving Americans. Let's talk about a few of the ones contained in this new law, which some have called the most sweeping piece of financial legislation since the Great Depression.

First, at the last minute, in the middle of the night, Congress added to the bill a $19 billion tax on the most successful financial institutions to pay for the implementation of the new regulatory powers contained in the law.

The tax can hit any financial firm with more than $50 billion in assets (excluding banks that have deposit insurance, and Fannie and Freddie or any government-sponsored enterprise) and hedge funds that manage more than $10 billion.

This will take $19 billion out of financial firms that supply capital to growing companies, and it will punish the firms attracting the most capital because of their above-average performance. Who suffers here? The growing companies, of course.

Typical liberalism here: let's punish the successful to pay for our whims, without thinking it through enough to realize that by punishing the successful, we're really punishing the little guy that relies on the big, successful firm to survive. When will these people get it?

Secondly, hidden in the bill are job-killing, employer-crippling diversity mandates. Former chief economist at the Department of Labor, Diana Furchtgott-Roth, explains it well in this article she wrote for the Washington Examiner. In a nutshell, government agencies that deal in finance will be required to prove they meet standards for race, gender and ethnic diversity. Not only the government agencies, but private-sector contractors who work with them. This requires the creation of more than 20 Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion in key government agencies. This is considered by many to be unconstitutional and in direct opposition to the 14th Amendment's equal protection policy.

But with an administration whose motto seems to be: "Constitution, Schmonstitution," the unconstitutional status of the bill certainly wasn't a problem for Obama, who happily signed this 2,319 page monstrosity into law.

The third gem hidden in the law is the power given to unions and activist organizations to install their representatives on the boards of directors of every major American corporation.

"This legislation includes provisions totally unrelated to the financial crisis which may disrupt Americas fragile economic recovery" said John J. Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable.

Gem number four hidden in the gigantic law is that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will no longer be compelled to present documents or records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The FOIA, enacted in 1966, was intended to give the public access to government records. The FOIA gave power to the people of the United States by allowing them to ask for, and receive government records, with only nine exemptions. Disallowing the FOIA to have access to SEC records is a blatant attempt by the Obama administration to hide information from the American people. One wonders what they are cooking up that the SEC will need to hide.

At least this portion of the law has caused enough of an uproar that several bi-partisan bills have been created to amend it.

One can only hope they are successful in their quest for true transparency, a term this administration throws about freely, but clearly doesn't understand--or doesn't care--about its real meaning.

These are only some of the items included in this law that should be of interest to all Americans. Our freedoms are being chipped away, new regulations threaten to cripple America's financial industry, and $19 billion in taxes are hidden in a law happily signed by the president.

It's fascinating how much damage can be done in the blink of an eye.





Sunday, July 4, 2010

Arlington

It's been exactly one month to the day since our family traveled to Arlington, Virginia, to inter the ashes of my father-in-law, John Kelley, at Arlington National Cemetery.

John was Captain of all the Marines on the U.S.S Missouri in the Pacific Theater of WWII. He was in Tokyo Harbor when the peace treaty was signed by the Japanese on the deck of the Missouri, though he was on land that day securing the harbor and missed the ceremony. After the war, he moved his wife and daughter to Minnesota and began working in the family insurance business.

John and his wife had the awful, horrible misfortune of losing three of their daughters, all at separate times. The first daughter died while John was serving active duty, and she was buried at Arlington. The other two are buried there as well. We went to bring John's remains to rest next to his three daughters.

I'm writing about this on the Fourth of July because a funeral with full military honors conducted at Arlington National Cemetery is truly a thing to behold, a true testament to love of our country and the honor it is to serve her. This is the day we celebrate our Independence, and without people like John Kelley, we might not be celebrating at all. When one is at Arlington and beholds the vista of grave after grave covering rolling green hills as far as the eye can see, it drives home the enormity of the sacrifice our service men and women have given and the insoluble link between what they gave and the freedom we enjoy today in the United States of America.

There was a very large turnout for John's interment. Many of us came from Minnesota, and there was a large contingent of east-coast relatives. A granddaughter and her boyfriend came from Thailand for the service. A grandson came from Colorado with his wife and new daughter, born two days before John passed away.

On the day of the interment, we all gathered in a meeting room in a large marble-floored building to mingle with one another and talk about John. His widow was taken to another room to meet with the officiant for the service. On the tables peppered throughout the family reception room were photo albums of the cemetery--a view of things that would take hours to see in person.

Then we gathered for the procession to the grave site. We were in ours cars and drove up behind a horse-drawn caisson carrying a coffin draped in the U.S. flag with with a number of Honor Guard servicemen. Two of the Honor Guard, with precision and care that one would use if he were carrying a box containing the most important substance on earth, transferred the box of John's ashes to the larger flag-draped coffin being carried by the caisson. There was a small door in the back of the coffin, which they opened to place John's ashes inside.

This was when one of the most moving things occurred, at least in my opinion. From our car, we could see that as we drove through the winding roads to the grave site, there were people obviously dressed as tourists who stopped, stood at attention, took off their hats if they had them, and put their hands over their hearts. They had no idea who John Kelley was, but they gave him the respect he deserved because they knew by the trappings of the service that John had served his country. In what capacity these tourists didn't know, but they honored him anyway. I found that touching beyond words, and I'll always remember looking out of my backseat window and seeing these people stopped and standing at attention in respect for John. It gave me hope for America's future to see these civilians being so respectful. To be honest, the entire service gave me hope.

The grave site is also the grave site of John's three daughters. Their headstones were there. I had never seen them before; my son, on a choir trip to D.C., had very kindly been allowed to find his aunts' graves, on which he placed a guitar pick to let them know he had been there.

We gathered around the grave site, and there were about 15 chairs in three rows. The widow, John's brother and some of John's children sat in the front row, and I sat in the second row because of my walking and standing difficulties. Everyone else stood behind and around the chairs.

The service was officiated by a military pastor dressed in white. He was perfect in content and tone, and made us all feel proud of the man we called father, husband, grandfather, brother, and great-grandfather. We prayed and sang "Amazing Grace." Then came the military rituals.

I don't recall in which order they were done, but I do recall every one of them very well. The 21-gun salute, with gun shots so loud it was kind of startling. I've never been around guns much in my life, and I was surprised at how loud they are in person. The servicemen with the guns were somewhat away from us, on a gradually sloping hill. Then there was "Taps." If you can go to a military funeral without crying, you will only make it until "Taps." The trumpet, played by a serviceman on another hill, was so haunting and quiet and alone. It is the military equivalent of bagpipes at an Irish funeral. It's impossible to have a dry eye.

Then came two parts I will never forget. The folding of the flag, during which six Honor Guard officers meticulously, with every move practiced to a science, folded the flag that had draped John's casket, into a perfect triangle. I cannot explain how regimented and controlled their movements were as they folded the flag with the utmost care. A neighbor sent me an e-mail the other day containing the meaning behind the 13 traditional folds made in the American flag. I think it is important for us to know that every fold can have deep meaning. I urge you to take a moment to look at this link to help you understand that, though there are no "official" flag-folding symbols, everything done at this kind of military funeral has meaning behind it.

Then, one of the Honor Guard took the flag, got down on one knee in front of John's widow, and presented it to her. He removed his pristine white glove and shook her hand, and told her how it represents the country's thanks for his service. Another Honor Guard member approached her, got down on one knee and presented her with a pouch containing the spent shells from the gun salute. He removed his white glove and shook her hand. Then came the last Honor Guard member, who got down on his knee, removed his glove, and took her hand while he thanked her for her service to our country, by being a military wife and raising children alone for a while (John didn't see his daughter, Tina, until she was six months old) and all the other sacrifices a military wife makes.

What struck me most about these three young men--beautiful in their military dress uniforms, with rows of medals across their chests--was their eyes. I was sitting directly behind John's widow, so I saw how each man looked into her eyes as he spoke to her. Sincerity and reverence were just glowing from their eyes as they spoke to her, and I truly believed that it was an honor for them to be participating in the interment of the remains of a WWII Marine Captain. Sadly, we are losing our WWII heroes at a very fast pace now. The "greatest generation" is dwindling.

I came away from the service with this thought: Sometimes it seems, especially as a conservative blogger and columnist, that the country is extremely divided, and it is in danger of being lost. While those things still exist and are absolutely true, being at the service made me also believe we are still a great country, and there is still respect, honor and sacrifice going on for her sake. We are still steeped in tradition, ritual and reverence in honor of those who fought for liberty.

My daughter commented that it was awe inspiring to see all the people who were lost fighting for our liberty. I told her this: They were not lost. Their lives were given. For the most part, these fighting men and women give their lives--they don't lose them--for freedom. It is a gift they have given to our country, the ultimate sacrifice.

And they are not lost today. We carry these individuals in our hearts and our memories, and they will live on forever; in John's case, as a member of America's greatest generation. He will never be forgotten.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Visit New Examiner.com Article About the New Miss Minnesota, Kathryn Knuttila

Please visit my column at Examiner.com about our new Miss Minnesota, Kathryn Knuttila. I am on the Miss Twin Cities committee, and Kathryn was our Miss Twin Cities this year. The Miss Twin Cities and Miss Minnesota Organizations are both affiliates of the non-profit Miss America Organization.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

America Speaking Out.com: A new way to listen to conservatives or a new way for liberals to bash them?

There is a new website in the internet galaxy, and it's AmericaSpeakingOut.com. There is a video on the home page that explains what the site is about. It was developed by House Republicans as an effort to gather the ideas of fellow Republicans about the direction in which to lead our country.

On the site, you can post an idea and people can vote either thumbs up or down. You can list your own tags for your idea, and there are currently too many categories to count. They range from the normal (liberty, taxes, spending, constitution, second amendment) to the ridiculous (chipmunks, cheese, toaster, ha-ha, donuts and rent-a-boy).

It was a sincere effort by Congress to listen to the American people. Yes, it was developed by Republicans for Republicans, but they do encourage people from all political belief systems to participate in a "respectful" way.

Well you can ask, but, as Mick Jaggar said, you can't always get what you want.

This is what they are getting: (All grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors are from the original posts.)

In the pro-life forum:

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

In the 20th Century as women's roles in the work place increased so has the suffrage of women. Despite all of this, those pigs in congress feel content to ignore this terrible, terrible injustice. It is time to end this vicious cycle and outlaw women's suffrage. Make your voice heard america.

the sanctity of life should be protected. Before an abortion, the patient should be forced to name the baby, knit the baby pajamas, and make a mixed tape for the baby,

In a forum entitled "Borders:"

We need to do what the Soviet Union did in Berlin, along the US/Mexican boarder. We can make it into a video game like teh movie Gamer. We can set up machine guns and have gamers shoot them down as they run towards the boarder.

We need a righteous example set for the illegals which trespass against us. The Bible advocates the crucifixion of any foreigners which violate the Christian, God-bestowed borders of the USA. Remember your Corinthians!

In the Unemployment forum:

Why not institute on site brothels for our military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq? I'm certain we could find plenty of willing, and attractive, patriotic women to fill this much needed role. Remember America, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!

In a forum entitled "Oil Spill"

We need to make the enviro-whackos trying to create a panic over the golf oil spill to shut the he!l up! OIL IS A NATURAL SUBSTANCE!!! You cook with it (vegatable oil), clean with it (lemon oil), put it on your skin (oil of olay), etcetera. GOD put it there for us to use, and anyone saying that a NATURAL SUBSTANCE is bad for NATURE either is severly misguided or diliberately lying to promote thier own SOCIALIST agenda.

In the Family Values forum:

Sarah Palin and Levis Johnson need to get back together for the sakes of Truck and Tractor.

And the piece de resistance, the Xenu forum:

Xenu respects the life of all children, except John Travolta's. There are ten posts under this heading that are just as vile.


When I first visited the site, the trolling by liberals and the stupid, offensive posts were much, much more prolific. It looks like the moderator has been taking some things down. I hope they continue to do that because their, in my opinion, honest effort to communicate with the American people appeared to be failing because immature, leftist nut jobs couldn't leave the site alone.

One liberal wrote that this site was the most fun to troll, and there is a facebook page devoted entirely to Stupid things Posted on America Speaking Out, which I originally thought would contain some of the things like I posted here, but they were posting and making fun of actual Republican and conservative ideas.

So if you are conservative and want to post an idea, I say go for it. And vote on other people's ideas. But if you are a liberal, or progressive or whatever, if you go to the site, be a grown up and only post serious, helpful ideas. There were a few good posts from the left, and I really appreciated them.

As for the site, I hope this works out for the Congressional Republicans. It was an interesting idea and, I hope, a successful one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

StarTribune needs to check its headlines for accuracy

Saturday's headline in the StarTribune read, "Hopefuls for governor seek $6 billion solution: Gubernatorial candidates float ideas like taxing the rich, cutting human services, and putting slots at horse-racing tracks."

The headline should have read, "Gubernatorial hopefuls seek solution to $6 billion deficit: Democrat and Independent gubernatorial candidates float ideas like taxing the rich, cutting human services, and putting slots at horse-racing tracks." I didn't like the "seek $6 billion solution," because when first reading it, it implies the candidates are seeking to spend $6 billion as a solution to something. The headline is not only inaccurate but unclear.

This selection from the article details what I believe to be a sloppy job of reporting what Republican candidate Tom Emmer proposes:

Emmer, the Republican-endorsed candidate for governor, has not offered details on his plan to balance the state budget.

On the campaign trail, Emmer said a state government reduction of 20 percent "would be easy." He says the cuts would be the result of an overhaul of state government, rather than across-the-board slashing.

"We will start taking apart those things and do what people expect and deserve," he said.

Emmer said his budget plan will take shape soon based on talks with Minnesotans. His priorities include maintaining roads and bridges and providing general education.

A steady refusal to raise taxes characterized his budget philosophy in the Legislature. Emmer voted against the latest budget compromise, which included $3 billion in cuts and shifts negotiated by fellow Republican Pawlenty.

Emmer said he agreed with the spending priorities mostly, but the deal "missed the opportunity to do significant structural reform."

As far as the above excerpt goes, I think Emmer's wanting to talk to Minnesotans on the campaign trail before he produces a final budget plan is admirable. He is going into this with the absolute correct attitude: the governor of Minnesota works for the people of Minnesota. The people need to have a say in what the budget should include.

To say "Emmer hasn't offered details on his plan to balance the state budget" is just lazy. On Emmer's official website, Emmer for Governor, he offers this under the heading, "Government Spending:"

As governor, I will stop the spend-and-tax cycle by calling first and foremost for a balancing of the budget. I will not accept a spending bill until the deficit no longer exists. I will not support tax increases that place the burden for excessive spending on taxpayers. I will drastically reduce the size of government through elimination of duplicative programs and services within state agencies, and the employees who provide them.

We must define what government does, and then we must prioritize.

We can invest in our priorities by making smart choices. We must reduce the size of government by eliminating excessive and unnecessary bureaucracies, and spending will reduce naturally.

This is just a portion of what is included in the "Government Spending" tab on Emmer's website. Does the StarTribune not allow its reporters to use information the candidate himself put on his website and maybe, I don't know, contact the candidate or the candidate's staff for clarification? This seems easy enough to me.

The article's subhead: "Gubernatorial candidates float ideas like taxing the rich, cutting human services and putting slots at horse-racing tracks," only includes ideas from the Democrat and Independent candidates. Taxing the rich comes from Mark Dayton and every other DFL candidate. DFL endorsed candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher says she's against it, but then says she's for it:

She said she won't be limited by seemingly simplistic campaign pledges, such as no-tax promises or balancing the bulk of the budget on the backs of high earners. She opposes both ideas as ironclad approaches.

The next sentence, however, reads:

Creating a new top-tier income tax rate for couples with a taxable income of more than $250,000 is a top priority.

So let's see, she won't be limited by "simplistic campaign pledges" such as "balancing the bulk of the budget on the backs of high earners," but creating a higher tax bracket for high-earning couples is a "top priority." Hmmmmmmm.

"Cutting human services" came from DFLer Matt Entenza, and "putting slots at horse racing tracks" comes from Indepencence Party candidate, Tom Horner. None of these ideas is from a Republican.

So, the article's headline ignores the Republican candidate but doesn't say so. I think that's inaccurate. Then it lists potentially controversial ideas some of the candidates have come up with, and leaves it up to the reader, who may only look at the headline and not read every word of the article, to infer which idea came from whom.

I think the editor who writes the headlines should pay more attention to detail. Clearly nobody was really paying attention when this article was written, unless they intended to make Margaret Anderson Kelliher look like a hypocrite.



Monday, May 10, 2010

"Clifford the Big Red Dog" has Democrat view of presidency down pat

I was watching "Clifford the Big Red Dog," a cartoon series based on the books by Norman Bridwell, with my two-year-old granddaughter this morning, and political enlightenment was bestowed upon me by the characters in the story. You never know where knowledge is going to come from, do you?

Anyway, the children in the story were discussing what they wanted to be when they grew up. One character, who is particularly narcissisitic, said she wanted to be the president of the United States when she grew up. Cut to the fantasy.

In her fantasy, she was dressed in a blue business suit with her hair pulled back to look professional. She was still a child. She was speaking behind a podium addressing a crowd of people and journalists.

She said, (I'm paraphrasing), "I declare that every Friday will be Chocolate Chip Cookie Day!" The crowd cheers.

"I declare that there will be fountains of free lemonade in every park!" Again, the crowd roars and cheers.

"And, I declare that I'm having a great big party so all of you can come and have your picture taken with me!" The crowd goes wild.

That last bit was so Obamaesque that it was funny, but the rest of it really struck me.

There is no thought to who will pay for the cookies and lemonade, or the people who serve them. What about the massive uptake in the need for cookie ingredients like chocolate chips and sugar? Would there be enough supply, and what effect would it have on staple ingredients for families like flour and eggs. Where would we get enough lemons to make all that lemonade? Could we do it in the United States, or would we have to import them? Again, we'd be using sugar, so between the cookies and the lemonade, the demand for sugar would soar. Could the sugar cane growers and processing plants keep up with the supply? Jobs would be created, so that would be an upside...

Clearly Clifford's friend is presenting a child's view of what it is to be the president. It's not unlike when a child runs for class president and makes promises that sound great to the voters, but are impossible to fulfill (e.g. I'll have the lunch ladies serve cake every day). Sadly, though, this thought process isn't confined to children. It's rampant among Democrats.

Cause and effect thinking is what is always missing from ideas to give free things to the people. And it can cripple a country, as we are witnessing in Greece as I write this.

There is a website called "if I were president" and it compiles submissions from people answering that question. The answers range from scary (I'd cut one finger off of every driver caught without using a headset while talking on the phone and driving, for EACH offense. 10 offenses = NO fingers!), to practical (lower taxes, allow failing companies to fail, keep government out of our personal lives, and look out for the country's best interests), to admirable (I would remember that I am a servant of the people, not a dictator manipulated by everyone in town who has an agenda).

But so many of the answers are dictatorial in nature, including increasing pay for all teachers and eliminating taxes. There is a lot of giving going on in the answers--giving free health care to everyone (which many people mistakenly think the recently-signed health care law provides), providing vegan meal choices to all school children, etc.

There is little acknowledgement that the president of the United States isn't supposed to sit in the White House making declarations; the congress passes the bills and the president signs them into law. Clearly who is president makes an enormous difference; but he is not king, he is an elected official in a representative republic.

When President Clinton was in office, he was instrumental in getting 100,000 more police "on the streets" all across the country. He still brags about that one. The problem with it was that there was an expiration date. After a certain amount of time, the money for the program ran out and it was unfunded. The states were then stuck with all of these police personnel and no money to pay them. It's a perfect example of an idea that sounds good (we need more police, and that will reduce crime), enacting a "solution" without thinking it through, and having the consequences cause a huge mess. This happens all too often when Democrats are left in charge.

I really think Democrats believe the presidency is like Clifford the Big Red Dog's friend's fantasy. And even more frightening, I think our current president believes it too. Like the voter who uttered the now-famous quote that with Obama as president she won't have to worry about paying her mortgage or putting gas in her car, there are people who believe he has almost super-human powers because he's president. This childish view of the presidency is common.

It's the voters on the left who believed this and voted for Obama, and it's the Democrat leaders who keep promising things they never wind up doing. They've been promising to help the poor for decades, and they have made no strides in that area whatsoever. But they keep on promising. And the voters keep on voting.

And America keeps on living with the consequences of the immature who cannot grasp cause and effect thinking, but have the power to vote. Like Clifford's friend, America needs to grow up.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Check out my interview with Neal McCluskey from the Cato Institute on Examiner.com

Photo of Neal McCluskey by Tom Conlin


I was honored to be asked by VOICES of Conservative Women to interview their keynote speaker for their Education Policy event last Thursday evening. I conducted the interview for my column on Examiner.com: Hennepin County Conservative Examiner.

Neal McCluskey is the author of Feds in the Classroom, How Big Government Corrupts, Cripples and Compromises American Education.

Check out the interview at Examiner.com.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

What?

FNR hit the Huffington Post. How in the hell did that happen? I feel the sudden need for a shower...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Friendly Neighborhood Republican's endorsement goes to...

A lot of thought went into this decision. Even more than what I wrote about here regarding Emmer and Seifert's campaign styles and their personal and professional differences and similarities. I listened to each candidate's KTLK-FM interviews. I scoured their websites. I read every piece of mail they sent to me. I listened to and read what others thought, and I even interviewed former gubernatorial candidate Senator David Hann about why he thinks Marty Seifert is the man for the job. I also spoke to a representative from Tom Emmer's campaign. I did my research.

In the end it came down to two things: experience and campaign style.

Friendly Neighborhood Republican endorses Tom Emmer as the Republican candidate for governor of Minnesota.

Asking Emmer's representative Chris Van Guilder what he considers to be the biggest difference between the two candidates, and his answer that the two men formed their experience in two different walks of life, lead to one of the most influential pieces of research in this journey.

Comparing the two men's backgrounds, mostly as detailed on their own campaign websites, clearly showed that Emmer has much more life experience outside of government on which to base his decisions and actions. He is older has held positions in the private sector much longer than Seifert. When compared, Emmer stood out as the candidate with the kind of life experience to lead the state of Minnesota.

The other influential piece was campaign style. For Seifert to go negative didn't sit well with many people, including me. DUI is a very serious issue. I lost a cousin to a drunk driver, and I've seen the devastation that ripped through the family afterward. But I thought Emmer's response was appropriate. If the incidents had been more recent, it would have made a difference to me. I don't excuse what Emmer did so long ago; but I ask you, would you want to be judged by the mistakes you made when you were 19 years old? It seemed desperate to bring it up. It was as if Seifert put his personal victory over the potential victory of the party. I still think Seifert is a good man, but this campaign strategy was a mistake.

That, combined with the obvious gap in experience between the two candidates, sealed the deal for Emmer. I'm also thrilled with Emmer's choice of running mate, Annette Meeks, as his lieutenant governor.

Who knows what will happen Friday night at the Republican Convention? But now I know what I wish will happen.

No matter what, I wish for all of us to unite behind our newly endorsed Republican candidate for governor. We have two good candidates, and we must all choose one.

There is nothing to be gained by fighting amongst ourselves. Whoever is ultimately chosen must be supported by us all, or we risk losing the governor's office to a Democrat.

Preventing that is worth fighting for.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Who will FNR endorse: Does campaign style matter?

We have seen over the last weeks and months two very different campaign styles coming from the Emmer and Seifert organizations. Does campaign style matter?

Well, I suppose that depends on what you're ultimately asking. Does campaign style effect voter opinion? Also, is the candidate responsible for everything his campaign, which may consist of many people, does?


Does campaign style reflect voter opinion?

This is a difficult one to answer. Let's take a look at some past campaigns. In Coleman vs. Franken, the campaign styles were all over the place. Well, at least on the Coleman side. Franken started out going for the jugular even before officially declaring his candidacy with his vitriolic "rally" at the State Capitol Rotunda, coincidently (if memory serves) on the same day Norm Coleman officially threw his hat into the race. Coleman ran attack ads almost from the beginning, but really, who could blame him. Al Franken? Come on, that's just a opponent bubbling over with fodder. People were very critical of the "mean-spirited" campaign. Anyway, after Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, Coleman had a change of heart and announced he would stop attacking Franken and only be positive. We all know what happened after that. I don't think Coleman could unring the bell once the negative attacks were out there. And I think people thought his turn around was disingenuous.

In the Democrat primary prior to the Obama vs. McCain presidential election, Hillary Clinton, in a desperate attempt to discredit Obama, an opponent whom her camp had deeply underestimated, claimed Obama hadn't been born in the United States and therefore couldn't even run for president under our current law that requires a U.S. president to have been born in the U.S. This issue is now associated with the extreme right wing, and its believers are called "birthers." Many don't realize, however, that Hillary Clinton actually dug up this little gem as part of a nasty campaign against Obama for the Democrat endorsement. We can all see how well that worked out for Madam Secretary Clinton.

In the campaign for the Republican gubernatorial endorsement between Tom Emmer and Marty Seifert, there has been a lot of talk from Emmer supporters about the negative tone of Seifert's campaign. This came to a head last week when Seifert's campaign sent a letter to delegates about Emmer's DUI arrests 20 and 30 years ago. Emmer's supporters were incensed. They pointed out one of Seiferts own personal code of ethics, which reads: "Any Seifert for Governor campaign employee or member of the Seifert for Governor team that engages in negative campaign ads of a personal nature against any opponent of either party will be fired or removed from the campaign should those charges be proven." I wonder if this will backfire on Rep. Seifert as it did in the prior examples?


Is the candidate responsible for everything his campaign, which may consist of many people, does?

In my opinion, the answer is yes. I don't believe in moral relativism, I believe in moral absolutes. One of those absolutes is that anything done in your name by someone you hired or who represents you, is ultimately your responsibility.

As Truman said, "the buck stops here." People in power must believe that. To be an effective leader in any capacity, one must take responsibility for what is done in his name.

So, in the above examples, Coleman, Clinton and Seifert would all be responsible for what their campaigns did whether it came right from their mouths or not. The only one who took responsibility for it was Coleman, but he didn't reap any political rewards for it.

Will the delegates hold Seifert to this standard when they are deciding whom to endorse on Friday? We'll see.


next: Who will FNR endorse? The decision.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who will FNR Endorse: Learning about Tom Emmer

I'm impressed with Tom Emmer's gubernatorial campaign. On April 22 I wrote the first in the series, Who will get the Friendly Neighborhood Republican's endorsement for governor: Emmer or Seifert, and I asked for anyone with any information on either candidate to contact me. Last night, the Emmer campaign did just that.

Looking at the how the two candidates feel abut the issues could lead one to believe they are incredibly alike. So when the Emmer campaign represenative called, I was able to ask my most important question, which is: "What is the biggest difference between the two candidates?"

The gentleman I spoke with, Chris Van Guilder, was happy to answer that question and just speak with me about the campaign in general.

So, what is the biggest difference between Emmer and Seifert? According to the Emmer campaign, it's that the two men formed their experience in two different walks of life. Tom Emmer's experience is life experience. At age 49, he's the elder of the two men. He's spent years as a small business owner, and five years in the legislature.

Marty Seifert, on the other hand is 38-years-old--quite young for a gubernatorial candidate. He was first elected to the Minnesota legislature in 1996, just one year after graduating from college. He has served in the legislature since then.

The Emmer campaign's position is that nearly all of Seifert's experience is from "within," while Emmer's experience was gained overwhelmingly from a life lived outside of government.

The two men's biographies included in their official websites could not be more different.

Seifert's bio focuses mainly on his childhood growing up on a farm in Springfield, Minnesota, and his college years. The biography lists 11 years of private sector experience: five years as a school teacher and six years as a school counselor before taking an unpaid leave of absence in 2006. It mentions that he co-owns a business, Seifert Properties, LLC with his wife, but not for how long or what exactly the business is.

Emmer's biography, on the other hand, is quite extensive before it even begins to speak about his legislative career. He is the father of seven children, very active as a volunteer in his community, and an award-winning trial lawyer. He received his Juris Doctor from William Mitchell College of Law in 1988 and is licensed to practice law in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. The biography details a long and distinguished career practicing law, and lists articles he authored and cases he defended.

When the biographies turn to their legislative careers, they seem quite different as well. Seifert was first elected in 1996 and, his bio reads, has been re-elected by large margins every two years since, always winning re-election by over 20 points. It also points out that he has had strong bi-partisan support from Independents and moderate/conservative Democrats.

Emmer's highlights the fact that he has served as chair, co-chair or a member of nine legislative committees and lists some of the legislation he has written, including truancy reform and stringent penalties and alternative treatment options for the "worst of the worst convicted sex offenders."

If one were to look at their respective biographies as the only consideration for who would make the better governor, Emmer would win. Van Guilder said, "Tom's job is to negotiate outcomes. That's his training," adding that it's an excellent skillset to have as governor.

If you want to listen to the radio interview Rep. Emmer had yesterday with Chris Baker of KTLK-FM, click here. Yesterday's blog post about getting to know Seifert focused on this set of interviews, but only on Seifert's portion. I urge you to listen to Emmer's portion as well.

During the interview, Emmer displayed his sense of humor when he described working on legislative projects such as native earthworms and warning labels on bags of mulch instead of working to balance the budget. He had a very down-to-earth persona as he spoke about Minnesota's having the best health care institution in the world (the Mayo Clinic), getting down to the real business of the people instead of pet projects, and pondering why some Americans feel success is a bad thing. It had the feeling of having a chat with a neighbor, rather than listening to a politician's prepared set of talking points.

Detailing Emmer's KTLK-FM interview on this blog isn't as important as it once was because I decided to focus on the information that came in from his campaign last night.

Thanks to the Emmer campaign for calling to talk to a little blogger from Eden Prairie about their candidate. It shows they are really plugged in to what people are saying about Emmer, and it shows an admirable committment to winning. I'm still comparing, but today's lesson in getting to know Tom Emmer has been quite valuable.

next: Campaign style--does it matter?