Monday, August 26, 2013

Some questions I'd like answered regarding the NSA and their spying on ordinary Americans

"If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy" - James Madison 
In his book, A Time for Truth, William Simon (Nixon's Treasury Secretary) wrote about freedom when describing his trip to the old Soviet Union, saying that while they were never directly bothered by anyone there, they were aware of being under constant observation. It was on the flight back to the U.S. that he gained a true understanding of the nature of freedom: when the pilot announced they had left Soviet air space, everyone visibly relaxed. Simon wrote that it was at that moment that he realized that it's easy to take freedom for granted because it isn't a presence in our lives, but an absence. 

Here are some questions I'd like answered regarding the NSA and the new revelations of their breaking thousands of laws and spying on ordinary Americans: 
  • Why wasn't the NSA with all their data mining about to detect and prevent the Boston massacre? They even had explicit warnings from the Russians.
  • Why was the NSA was not able to stop the Maj. Nidal Hassan from committing his jihad slaughter of 13 individuals at Ft. Hood along with 33 who were injured? We had ample evidence of his radical Islamic beliefs several years earlier and didn't need any data mining to discover that he was becoming radicalized.
  • Where is there any real accountability with the NSA? Security agencies like the NSA define their own legal standards and have no real accountability. 
  • Where is the judge who rules on these privacy invasions? 
  • Where is the court where an ordinary citizen like myself can appeal this personal intrusions? What mechanism ever informs an individual that his rights have been violated?
  • How can we trust those who are in charge of our national intelligence when the director of national intelligence lied to the American people with no consequences? If we lie to the federal government under oath, we face imprisonment.
  • Explain why phone records of the 202 area code were mistaken for the dialing code of Egypt, (20)? Why was the 202 area code even available for such an error. This is a database query, so the records had to be in the database to query them. Which means that somebody, somewhere, thought that they should be or thought that they should not have been excluded from the collection.
  • Why should we believe anyone in this administration or those heading up the NSA or national intelligence when thus far, they have lied to us on numerous occasions and proven to be less than truthful in the scope and amount of data being searched?
  • President Obama assures the American people that there is no evidence of this data being abused or misused against the American people. In light of the IRS going after Tea Party groups, and the Justice Dept. going after Fox reporter, James Rosen, why should we not believe that this information could be used against any American to destroy their life or put them in jail just because they are opposed to this administration?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I propose that we award the medal of freedom to Edward Snowden

Everyday, it's like peeling an onion, layer after layer, bringing tears to our eyes and now justified fears that our privacy has been invaded by a government that's out of control. In this alphabet soup of scandals (IRS, DEA, HHS, OMB, etc.) I'm talking about the NSA (National Security Agency) which we now learn has violated privacy laws thousands of times. They probably read this blog post before you!

The NSA was granted broad new powers in 2008. Who controlled congress in 2008? Oh, that's right--the Democrats under Nancy Pelosi. This broad expansion of the NSA's power was not done by George Bush, but rather by Obama and his congress. We now learn that the DEA is receiving intelligence from the NSA on ordinary American citizens which they use for prosecution of "supposed" crimes. We have a government that sits in Washington DC and sees you and me as potential criminals, ripe for prosecution. How scary it that?

Edward Snowden, now a fugitive,  exiled in Russia
I don't know what you think, but right now, I'm ready to award the medal of freedom to whistle-blower, Edward Snowden who is languishing in Russia and may never step foot on U.S. soil again. Many pundits on the right have labelled him a traitor, but I'm not one of them. I don't march in lockstep with the right or the left. I'm thankful that Snowden dumped all this "secret" information and started this national conversation on security and privacy. We wouldn't be talking about this had it not been for Edward Snowden. We'd still be believing the lies of the James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (what an oxymoron!), who perjured himself under oath when he was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden if the NSA collected any data at all on hundreds of millions of Americans? His answer: "No Sir." (Watch the video yourself at the end of this post).

Here's what I would do about Edward Snowden, along with giving him the medal of freedom. I would exonerate him of all charges, reinstate his passport, provide free passage back to the U.S. along with a government-paid-for-tax-free home and land (with no property taxes) to compensate him for all that he has been through, and well as to reward his efforts on behalf of our freedom and liberty.

In my next post, I have some questions that I'd like answered regarding the NSA and their invasion of our privacy in the name of fighting the evil of terrorism (which DOES exist and needs to be taken more seriously than our President takes it. Instead of Islam being the enemy, Obama sees you, me, Republicans, conservatives, Rush Limbaugh, etc. as the enemy). For now, I leave you with this quote from Xavior Simon, "I for one have come to fear abuses of power by the government more than I do terrorism." Amen.

                                 35 sec. video of James Clapper lying under oath

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The "contrived outrage" over the Missouri rodeo clown

When Missouri does stupid, they go all the way! I'm talking about their reaction to a rodeo clown who dared to wear an Obama mask (BTW, get your Obama Halloween mask now, while supplies last) as the announcer called for him to "get gored." Talk about contrived anger. The response to this incident by the libs in Missouri and elsewhere is so out-of-proportion!

This is no different than the Islamic crowds marching, chanting for those who have offended Mohammed to be beheaded. The leftists in Missouri and this country are behaving like the Taliban. They're acting as though Obama (the Messiah) has been blasphemed by a rodeo clown!

Of course, you have the AP reporter who had to hunt down the one offended spectator who likened this to a "KKK rally." So now you have a racial incident. The rodeo clown was "racist" and what he did is a hate crime!

The State Fair commission has now called for the members of the rodeo association to prove that all officials and sub-contractors have completed sensitivity training before competing in future rodeos. Are you kidding me? Do you know what sensitivity training is? It's like being "brain-washed"--it's where you are told to keep your mouth shut because almost anything you say or do will offend someone. Sensitivity training is basically a course in "You'd better think like we want you to think, or you're a racist, hatemonger." It's the leftist's attempt to destroy free speech, to basically curb your first amendment rights. 

George Bush with his head in a noose.
I suspect that the poor rodeo clown who dared to mock Obama will now be audited by the IRS and investigated by our Justice Department for civil rights' violations (hate crimes). 

Does anybody remember George W. Bush being hanged in effigy including the famous "Pants on Fire Tour" led by Ben and Jerry's founder Ben Cohen who hit the road with a 12-ft. tall effigy of Bush? The Left did things like this to Bush every other week including making a movie depicting his assassination. And nobody ever "had a cow." Nobody was ever fired, lost their job, sent to sensitivity training, or anything else. In fact the media loved it and celebrated it because it's OK to mock the sitting President if he happens to be a Republican. When are Republicans going to learn that making fun of Democrats is illegal?

When all is said and done, this was just some guy wearing an Obama mask, parading around as a clown. The real clown is in the White House.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Crash Reel and the quest to be "fully alive"

Svati Kirsten Navala in the Atlantic writes, "Watching the documentary, 'The Crash Reel' is like watching a high-speed train hurtle toward a cliff." The Crash Reel which is currently playing on HBO features 15 yrs. of footage showing the epic rivalry between half-pipe legends Shaun White and Kevin Pearce, pushing each other to attempt even more dangerous tricks in the run-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The film cuts to the next stop on that road, Park City, the place where Pearce, a popular X Games medalist and world champion, suffers a bad fall and traumatic brain injury. His friend and fellow snowboarder, Scotty Lago calls it "the perfect storm of all falls; it couldn't have been any worse." Kevin is left in a coma as his tight-knit Vermont family flies to his side to help him rebuild his life as a brain injury survivor. Their first image of Kevin is a broken, bruised body with tubes everywhere. The film shows Kevin's dramatic recovery, re-learning how to walk, speak and eat. 

The film poses the question: "How much risk is enough? How much risk is too much? The filmmakers peel away the sport aspect to reveal a cut-throat business with rewards, endorsement contracts, fame and perpetual celebration. We see an exploitative business where the athletes are uninsured and pushed to conjure up bigger and better and more dangerous tricks.

Kevin Pearce
“It’s very hard to get out of it, you get caught up in it, ” says Simon, Kevin's father and a professional glassblower. “Then there’s the expectations, and all the sponsors, and everybody’s expecting you to do better and better and more and more, and so you push the limits.” The camera cuts to close-ups of his wife, Pia, and children as he speaks. “The only way to be successful in that sport is to push the limit. Everybody’s having bad falls, and it’s just luck whether you have what happened to Kevin or you don’t.” 

The film cuts to another scene where Kevin's parents caution him to rethink his plan to snowboard again, he argues with them, still in love with the old self now lost: “How much longer am I going to have to take this advice?” he asks, “I feel like there’s no trust in this family.” Knowing that another head injury might be catastrophic, his father, Simon, sees it as a matter of risk, not trust. “Is it fair to your mother and your family to be put in the position of taking care of you the rest of your life ?”

Shaun White winning Olympic Gold Medal at Vancouver Olympics
From Kevin and others who engage in extreme sports, you'll often hear something like, "I feel the most alive
when I'm doing this!" "The Crash Reel" reveals the cleverly disguised selfishness that resides in all of us and pushes its way to the surface in any number of ways. Most extreme athletes are very selfish and self-centered. They have to be, and they exist in a world where they are idolized which serves to feed their ego and self-image. Kevin is forced to consider the toll that his accident and rehabilitation has taken on his family.

I couldn't help but think about the words of Jesus in John 11 where he shows up four days late to find his friend Lazarus dead and buried in a tomb. Fighting back the tears, Lazarus' sister, Martha, says to Jesus, "If you had only been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus assures her that Lazarus will arise again. With some resignation, she says, "I know. He will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus then says to her, " I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She says, "Yes Lord, You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come into the world." 

At this point in the story, her sister, Mary, comes and falls at Jesus' feet and almost seems to be laying a guilt trip on Jesus by saying, "My Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." She then takes Jesus to the tomb where Lazarus is buried and Jesus asks those present to roll away the stone to the protest of Martha who tells him that there will be a horrible stench if the tomb is opened because Lazarus' body has been there for four days. Jesus, after praying to his father (more for the sake of those gathered than for himself) calls out to Lazarus, "Lazarus! Come out!" All of a sudden, this mummy comes walking out of the cave. It's Lazarus bound head to toe in linen strips like a mummy.

Now I can hear your puzzled thinking. What does this have to do with Kevin Pearce and The Crash Reel? Much in every way. Mary and Martha thought that Lazarus would live again in the afterlife, what we call heaven. What Jesus wanted them to know in a practical demonstration of his power over life and death is that he came that we might have a resurrection life right now, today. He is the source of life. He declares, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, even if he dies, he will yet live! And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die!" (John 11:25-26)

What Kevin Pearce and other extreme sports athletes seek in terms of feeling "fully alive" is fleeting at best and can only be felt during those moments of great risk. But Jesus said that all of us, including every extreme sport athlete, could know what it is to truly be alive through a relationship with him. Jesus says in John 10:10, "I came that they might have life and have it to the fullest." This is being "fully alive" and you don't have to risk your life doing tricks on a snowboard, skis, snowmobile, dirt bike, free climbing, hang-gliding, or whatever extreme sport you can come up with. Being "fully alive" happens when you take the greatest risk of all, giving up your life to follow Jesus and serve Him. It's in giving up your life that you find life.

From that moment on, your desire is not for self-glory or adulation, but to see Jesus glorified because He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the One who has created us all and the One who is responsible for our very next breath. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

For $1.00, a wine tasting and a free dog!

Blue Sky Winery, a taste of Tuscany
Martin Luther said, "Beer is made by men, wine by God."

Most who know me would be surprised, maybe even shocked to learn that I harbor a secret desire to be a winemaker (vintner).
Enjoying the shaded deck at Owl Creek Winery
If I owned a winery, I think I would find it satisfying watching and listening to visitors' reaction as they tasted my assorted wines, nodding their heads in approval and raving about the delicate, complex taste of each wine.

But since that is not going to happen anytime soon, let me introduce you to one of the best kept secrets here in Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois, The Shawnee Wine Trail, a winding, scenic 25-mi route between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers where you can visit about 12 or more wineries. There are certain spots where the terrain reminds me of the Napa Valley in Northern California.

A week ago, a group of us (3 carloads) visited 3 wineries on the Trail. Our first stop was Owl Creek Vineyard, a family-run business that has a 4-level back deck with musicians playing nearby on an old flatbed truck. After the wine tasting (which was $1.00 to taste five wines) we sat on the top deck surrounded by trees. It was as if we were out in the woods. The atmosphere at Owl Creek makes you want to linger over a glass of wine enjoying the company of friends.

Wine tasting at the Van Jakob Winery
Our next stop was Pomona Winery where the wines are made from apples and other fruits. After the personal wine tasting hosted by their chief vintner, we gathered for a picnic lunch and were joined by a friendly dog who showed up at the winery the night before (Apparently, this dog is one of many that has been abandoned by his owners). This reddish-brown dog quickly made friends with everyone in our group. It was obvious that he'd missed several meals over the course of the past 2 days.

Next thing I know, my daughter, Sarah, wants to rescue him. We ended up bringing him home, and for the time being, we are his surrogate "masters". We named him Cinder. He's about one-year old--a mix of bloodhound and beagle, weighing about 40 lbs. Thus far, with a visit to the vet, and two visits to Pet-Smart, Cinder has cost us over $400.

Sarah & her rescued dog, Cinder
From the way he cowers at the sight of a broom, or a raised voice, we're pretty certain that Cinder was abused. He craves love and attention. Surprisingly, he can easily get through the doggie door which is designed for our 11 and 18-lb terriers and 9-lb cat.

Cinder Yancy
Our final stop of the day was the Van Jakob winery (they have two locations on the trail and this was the smaller, older and more rustic of the two). We sat in their enclosed patio, enjoying some wine and some interesting conversation. We'll be back this coming fall for some more wine, good food and the enjoyment of friends.