Sunday, December 30, 2012

So Long, 2012

It always amazes me just how much can take place in a year’s time. This year, in a lot of ways, has felt like a lot of years all rolled into one. That is to say, it has felt like a very long year. It is also one in which I will be glad to see come to an end.

This year, a lot like the one before it, was not a very good one. For much of the whole first half of it, I suffered one of the worst bouts of depression I’ve ever had. It was mostly in response to my grandmother’s death and all the things we had to go through in dividing her property, missing her terribly, dealing with the emotions of myself and others, and learning to live without her (it still tears at my soul just thinking about her—recognizing how great a loss her death has presented, knowing just how much she was a part of my life). But it was just a very difficult experience, and it quickly sent me headfirst into a depression the likes of which I hope I will never experience again. I had trouble sleeping a lot of nights, and when I did, I’d dream of some of the worst things imaginable. I overate to find comfort. I cried enough to fill up a small lake. I didn’t want to be around people, and isolated myself much of the time. None of it was worth a second go around.

The summertime of the year wasn’t much better. I’d worked really hard to achieve two particular job openings at work, at the end of the school year, and wasn’t considered for either one of them. This was after I’d had virtually every worker at the place tell me they thought I’d get one of the jobs. I thought I had a really good shot, too. It wasn’t meant to be though, and the way it happened, it just really bothered me. It was a deliberate snub. That, too, was something hard to get over.

I’ve also had some of the worst fights with my parents and brother this year—particularly with my brother. To listen to him, it was my fault I didn’t get a better job, it was my fault that I felt bad, it was my fault that my grandma died, it was my fault that the sun is hot. You name it, and it was my fault. Thankfully, he lost this attitude somewhere around the time school started back. If he’d have given me anymore grief, I’d have probably chucked him out the door.

It has also been a very difficult year financially. I’ve had to scrap by on pennies more times than I can recall this year. I’ve had financial aid payments from college to start paying back, a lack of work through the summer, and a reduction in my pay rate at work due to budget cuts. So, needless to really say, this has been somewhat of a constant worry.

It was also a very political year. I follow politics quite a bit, so I was all about the primaries in the spring and the presidential election in the summer and fall. If you’ve been following me much this last year, you will know how I feel about how that turned out.

Overall, things have improved the last two or three months though. I’ve been in better spirits, trying to keep my hopes up, and everyone in my family has tried to get along with each other much more. I’ve been out of that state of depression for a few months now—thankfully. I’m not in the best shape financially speaking, still, but I do see hope that that will turn around soon.

So much has happened this year though. And I’ve seen myself age somewhat through it all. There have been bad memories, but also some very good memories as well (and I don’t mean to discredit any of them). There have been dreams, or goals, met, made, and lost. There have been tough decisions to make and easy decisions to make; fun things to do and not so fun things to do. But all I can say is that I hope this next year is a better one. I will remain hopeful that it will be--and not be so superstitious as to allow the “13” part of it get in the way of it being a good one. :)

I wish everyone else the very best throughout this next year, too. May it be a truly blessed one.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Spirit of Christmas

A few years ago, I was coming home with my brother from my grandparent's house on Christmas Day. It began snowing pretty heavily about an hour or two before dark; it was really very beautiful. My grandpa kept telling us we needed to leave before the roads got too covered though. We waited just long enough for the roads to get about an inch of snow and ice on them before we left. As we were driving up one hill, the tires started spinning and the entire car began sliding back down the hill--I was scared to death. We ended up just off the edge of the road, unharmed--thankfully--at the bottom of the hill. I couldn't get us out of it though. We had to wait nearly two hours in the cold and dark before a tow truck was able to come to our rescue.

That's one Christmas memory I'll never forget.

This Christmas, however, was one of the best I can remember every which way around. Everyone got along; we had some of the best food ever, and more of it than we could ever possibly eat; I got a lot of really nice presents, and was glad to see how pleased everyone else seemed to be with theirs; we played games, watched movies, sang songs; and I was, for whatever reason, so full of joy throughout the whole thing it was just amazing. It probably helped that I didn't have any car wrecking experiences this time around. :)

That joy, that sense of excitement, of happiness, of peace, of optimism has clung to me the last few days. It's a good feeling, and I'm sure it happened mostly because my family was just able to come together and enjoy each other's company so. After the year we've all had, this was a much needed time of fun and camaraderie. But I'm also sure that it's because I got into the spirit of Christmas. I wanted Christmas this year more than I have in many years. I wanted to celebrate Christ's birth and be renewed by His Spirit. I wanted to see the lights and decorations. I wanted to hear and sing the songs. I wanted to watch the movies. I wanted to spend that time with my family and friends. I wanted to experience something good. And I did.

I like how at the end of the story/movie, A Christmas Carol, it is said that Scrooge kept Christmas all through the year. I'd like to do that myself. I'd like to keep the spirit of Christmas with me at all times. That might not happen, but I think I'll keep up the decorations a little extra longer this year just to help it to. Frankly, that's one thing I've never understood anyway: why people take down all the decorations so soon after Christmas. I mean, it's a long winter. What's wrong with keeping things festive looking throughout more of it? Anyway, it's a goal I'd like to achieve.

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas as well. I had planned to write something else on here before Christmas, but I never was able to find the time. I'll leave you now with a collection of some of my favorite Christmas songs, in the hope it will help preserve that spirit of Christmas for you. :)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas, Margaritas, Movies, and the End of the World

Well, we’re still here. According to certain Mayan scholars and the like, the world was supposed to have ended sometime a couple of days ago, on December 21, 2012. I am glad to say they were wrong.

It always fascinates me how people can get so tore up about such predictions. I personally hold them as a curiosity, but always keep in mind the biblical teaching that no one will know when the end will come, except for Father God himself. There are far less worries with that in mind.

So, the other day my brother and I went Christmas shopping—believing the end of the world would probably not come as predicted and we’d still see another Christmas. It was a nice outing, though I was a little frustrated by the fact that EVERYWHERE we went to that usually has Candleberry Candles was either sold out or no longer carries them; I always get my Mom one of those candles for Christmas—she keeps one burning at all times (I’ve asked other members of the family to help me find one, so hopefully that’ll happen before Christmas). I also had some trouble finding something for my grandpa. In his case, I just had no idea what to get him.

Outside of shopping, we also went to see the movie, Lincoln. That turned out to be a really good movie. Daniel Day Lewis was perfect as Lincoln. He did a fantastic job. And it was very interesting just seeing how the Thirteenth Amendment got passed—seems like they had just as much trouble passing anything decent back then as we do nowadays.

And then I have to mention that we ate out at one of our favorite restaurants: Sonny's. I got my usual, but decided to add something I hadn’t before. I ordered a margarita. It was a bit salty, but extremely tasty nonetheless. I have to admit, I absolutely love margaritas. If I were ever to become a full blown lush, I’m sure it would be because of them. On that point, I will affirm that I have never been drunk, and never plan on being drunk. I’ve seen enough drunks in my lifetime to know that that doesn’t appeal to me in the least. But I am not opposed to a drink every once in a while and freely admit that my favorite of all drinks is in fact the margarita. Seeing that Christmas is coming up, I felt the need to celebrate and let loose a little though. I also bought a few bottles of it for later consumption. Keep in mind it is only for moderate, celebratory purposes (please don’t anyone else decide to drink and get stupid this Christmas).  :)

On Saturday, the whole family went to see the Hobbit. It, too, was a really good movie. It was a bit long though. Even though I was enjoying every minute of it, my backside was screaming to get out of its seat before it was all over.

Tomorrow, my Mom’s side of the family will be getting together for Christmas. The day after that, on Christmas Day, my Dad’s side will be getting together. I’m looking forward to both events. I think we all are. It’s been kind of a hard year in a lot of ways, so the comfort of being around family, with gifts and food and games and the like is all very welcomed.

In a very real way, I wish there could be at least a couple of more weeks until Christmas. It seems like it’s come about way too soon this year. I haven’t really had as much of a chance to watch certain Christmas movies I always try to watch, or listened to as many of the Christmas songs I’d like to have. And then I’ve just been so busy with so many things that it’s been hard just to clear my mind and actually absorb in that we are in the Christmas season. And I know I’m going to miss seeing all the Christmas lights and decorations once it’s over—there have been some beautiful ones this year. I suppose this is just a part of getting older though. I’ve always heard older people say similar things. I’d just never really felt so much like that before though. To be honest, the whole last year, time seems to have become a very huge commodity to me. I wish I had so much more of it.

Anyway, I am excited that it is Christmas. I’m glad to have family and friends to have been spending time with lately. I’m glad for the plans we’ve made, and will hopefully be able to keep. I’m glad the world hasn’t come to an end just yet. I’m glad to have a savior so that we can have such a holiday as this. I’m just glad for all of it.

And to all of you, I wish a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Beginnings (Reflecting on the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting)

There are a lot of beginnings in life. We are born, to begin with. We learn to walk and talk, to feed ourselves, and to play. We go to school and learn new things. We make friends. We learn to drive a car. We get our first job. We graduate. We get girlfriends or boyfriends. We have our first drink. We get our first career focused job. We get married. We make love for the first time. We have kids. We move to a new place. We build our first home. We have grandkids. The list of beginnings can be long and varied, to say the least.

Last Friday, 27 people were killed in Newtown, Connecticut by a single gunman. 27 people saw not what could have been another beginning in life, but the sudden and very tragic end of their lives instead. Most of them were children as young as five and six years old.  As someone who works with kids, I can’t even begin to imagine anyone being capable of walking into a classroom full of kids that age and killing them one by one. It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

When I wrote my last post, I had no idea how relevant it would be. I talked about all the things teachers have to go through, including the violence that sometimes occurs. I didn’t get as descriptive as I could have though. I didn’t say that we prepare ourselves for the possibility of some lunatic coming into the school with the intent of causing harm. I didn’t mention that when a person does enter a school with such intent, that we teachers are usually the first line of defense for students at threat. It is our job to protect students at any cost. The educators at Sandy Hook Elementary bravely did just that, some of them to the point of giving their own lives in order to protect their students.

I know many people are already talking about us needing stronger gun control laws in this country. Maybe we do. But I think there is a better solution. Any lunatic wanting to cause people harm will find a way to accomplish that goal—gun or no gun. How many traffic accidents have to occur at the intersection before lights are put up? How many school shootings (and those at other locations) do we have to endure before people get serious about fixing this problem?

As an educator, there are a few simple things I can think of that would improve school safety.

1) Every school should have lock down procedures.

2) Every school principal should be licensed to carry a gun, which should be kept locked in his or her office until needed. They should be trained in how to use the gun and should undergo a psychological examination every month or two to determine whether or not they are still fit to have the gun.

3) Every teacher should be allowed a can of mace, or pepper spray, to use on anyone trying to enter their classroom with intent to cause harm to students.

4) Every school should be equipped with bullet proof glass foyers consisting of two sets of doors to pass through. Metal detecting devices should be placed around the first set of doors. If a person passes through them, setting off the devices, both sets of doors should automatically lock, preventing the person from either entering or leaving the school until security can be called.

5) Local law enforcement should patrol every school at least three times a day, and at random times.

6) No unauthorized persons should be allowed on school grounds during school hours.

7) Schools should be fully funded at all times to prevent lapses in security, such as limited personnel and a lack of security devices/monitoring.

8) Students should complete psychological evaluations at least once a month, where they are asked questions such as whether or not they like school; if not, then why not; what is their favorite subject in school, and why; what is their least favorite subject, and why; is there anyone at school bullying or bothering them; do they think people like them or not; do they consider themselves happy or unhappy, and why; did they eat breakfast this morning; did they eat supper last night; do they like their mom and/or dad; if not, then why not; if they could change anything about themselves, what would they change; and if they could change anything about school, what would they change. Answers to these sorts of questions could tell teachers so much about their students, from abuses that may be going on, to the mindset of the students, to even helping determine students at risk academically and the possible reasons behind that.

From a societal standpoint, I would argue that we have in a lot of ways not only lost our morals, but ran from them completely. As a nation, we have to return to Christ. And those of us already belonging to him must do a better job of introducing him to others. If we keep drifting further and further away, more and more events like the one that happened at Sandy Hook will continue to happen. And they’ll happen much more frequently as well. We should allow prayer in schools again. We should put the Ten Commandments back in the classrooms and in the public sphere. We should always and forever teach students the greatest of all rules: to do unto others as they would want others to do unto them. We should restrict the level of sex and violence portrayed on TV. We should do more to promote sustainable families as well. I can’t imagine what it does to some of these kids nowadays growing up with parents divorced, parents remarrying (and sometimes more than once), having to live here or there, getting and then sometimes losing step brothers and sisters—I mean, what sort of home life is that? We must also figure out better ways of handling mental health issues. I don’t only feel sorrow for the victims of what happened in Newtown. I feel sorrow for Adam Lanza, the shooter, too. According to many reports, he had Asperger’s Syndrome, which may have led him to have feelings that would allow him to do what he did. We need to do more as a society to help those struggling—with whatever problem/s they face.

And then there is the question of weapons. Personally, I don’t have a problem with banning some assault weapons. I know some gun enthusiasts would disagree with me, but I simply fail to see any logical reason for needing those sorts of guns, outside of just wanting a thrill. I’m sure a person could get a thrill from setting off a nuclear device as well, but that doesn’t mean people should be allowed to purchase and have them. I think the same applies to assault weapons. The only exception I would agree to would be if we were in a time of war, in which a foreign enemy was likely to invade our country. I know some people resist assault weapons bans out of paranoia or precaution against a possible takeover by our own government, but I would argue that the possibility of that happening is slim to none, and even if it did, we’d have plenty of other means of fighting back. But the greatest argument is that in allowing these weapons to be on the streets, we’re causing much more harm in the present than what has to be. That being the case, we should do our best to get rid of them. I don’t believe, however, that we should go to an extreme and begin banning just any and all weapons. I do believe we should preserve our right to bear arms as much as possible. I just don’t believe we should allow weapons that enable more violence in our society than that which is necessary; or to put it more simply, that cause more harm than good.

My heart goes out to all those involved in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. I can’t imagine the amount of grief and sadness the community there is experiencing. I can’t imagine what the family and friends of those who were murdered are going through. This was an unspeakably evil act, and I can only hope one that will never be repeated. If we can actually begin taking these sorts of threats seriously and finally take some sort of meaningful action against them, then we may see a real decrease in the number of these sorts of horrific acts taking place. Otherwise we may as well get used to the norm, because that is quickly what this is becoming.

In our sadness as a nation, let me leave you with this: a nation is only as great as the degree to which it takes care of its sick, its weak, its dying, its elderly, its young, and all those others who are unable to take care of themselves. We clearly have much more work to be done.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Those who can, do. Those who can’t…

I think most teachers wonder about how their students will turn out later in life. Some students struggle and always will. Some students struggle, but only for a while. Some students never struggle, but will as they grow up. Some students are wild and stay wild. Some students are wild, but learn to calm down. Some students are calm, but become wild. Some are quiet and shy and stay that way. Some are quiet and shy and grow out of it, finding their voice and self-confidence as they mature. Some are loud and outspoken, but somehow learn to shy away. Some students are mean and uncaring, and won’t ever change. Some students are mean and uncaring, but eventually learn kindness and concern for others. Some students are kind and caring, but with time, they lose those traits. Some students are thin and stay thin. Some students are thin and become fat. Some students are fat, stay fat, or become thin. Some students will become liberal as they grow up, while some become conservative. Some will be Christians, and some won’t. Some will turn out to be straight, and some will be gay, bisexual, or transgendered. Some will be short, and some will be tall. Some will keep their hair, while others become bald or gray-haired.  Some will live long lives, and some will live short ones. Some of these things you can have a pretty good idea about, too, but you can often be surprised—for the best and the worst. It amazes me to know how accurate some teacher’s predictions have been—you don’t have to work as a teacher for very long to see how certain things in a child’s life can impact their futures.

I often wonder about the students I teach; not just what will happen to them in the future, but in the present as well. I wonder if the smart girl in class who always raises her hand to answer the questions will always be so smart. I wonder if the shy kid who can barely speak above a whisper will always be so shy. I wonder if the effeminate boy will grow up to be gay or bullied because of it. I wonder if the little boy or the little girl who always complains about being hungry will find any food to eat at night. I wonder if any of my students are being abused. I wonder if any of them have done things already in their young lives they’ll always regret. I wonder about all of them, and try my best to help them in whatever way I can.

Most teachers I know do worry and care about their students. In a lot of cases we’re the only ones who do. It frustrates me to no end when I hear people talk about teachers as though we’re the scum of the earth. I hear people talk about how stupid teachers are, how selfish they are, how uncaring they are, and it just makes me want to pull my hair out. To anyone who thinks those things, I say to them: you come to school day after day, spend as much time with these kids as we do, go through all the things we teachers have to go through, and tell me then that we don’t know anything, are selfish, and don’t care. The overwhelming majority of us do care. We care a great deal! I’m only a substitute teacher and I’ve spent a great deal of my own money and outside time to help students one way or another. I see teachers spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year out of their own pockets to help their students. I see teachers stay after school to help students with their homework, set up activities for the next day, attend meetings to learn new content or meet with parents, putting in days as long as ten to twelve full hours long just to help make a positive difference in the lives of their students. I see teachers put up with pay cuts, loss of benefits, uncooperative parents, media that just wants to run them down no matter what they do, cussing and physical violence from students, and administrators and politicians who in most cases don’t know their own asses from their elbows about education, who always want to change everything on every little whim, and without any input from the teachers who have to implement their ideas and know above all others what actually works and doesn’t work in the classroom.

We teachers put up with a lot. But there’s a reason we do that. We do it because we love teaching and because we care about our students. We do it because we want to impact our students in a positive way, to help them learn and improve their lives as much as we can. We wonder what will be in the future for them, and we try to make that future the best possible outcome we can help make.

I enjoy teaching immensely. I love my students and care a great deal about them. I worry about many of them. I want them to have the best education in all regards, but I know that is too often not what they’re getting. When supplies run out in the Spring; or when assistants who do so much to help the students have to be let go; or when classrooms designed for twenty to twenty-five students at most become crammed with thirty or more; or when parents refuse to help their child/children with homework, feed them adequately, provide them with decent clothing, supplies, or any sort of stable home life; or when a child is being, or has been, abused; or when the standards have been changed, dumbing down the content and leaving so much out; or when good teachers decide to give up under all the pressure; or when a student gives up on himself/herself, which breaks my heart to see happen, I know the students aren’t getting what they need under any of those very common circumstances. Every day, in so many ways, is a reminder of how lucky I was growing up. I would never proclaim to be the smartest person in the world, or to have always had the best. When I was very young, I actually struggled a great deal in school and often had limited resources. As I got older, I caught up though, despite any limitations. I thank my parents and many of my teachers for doing so much to help me catch up. They worked with me and inspired me to be something better.

Those who can, do. Those who can’t… certainly do not teach, and have no place in education. To teach, you must do so very much. You must know the content, know how to use multiple teaching strategies, manage classroom behavior, plan your lessons, communicate well with your students, parents, and coworkers, give of your own time and money on many occasions, be responsible at all times, and challenge your students to go above and beyond. You are often not just a teacher, but a parent as well. You are a role model and an example for which your students can look up to. But above all the things you do, you must first and foremost always care. Most all teachers I know do care—that’s why they became teachers in the first place. I just wish so many more people would recognize this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


As often happens, I have managed to overwhelm myself with too much work, too many distractions, and too many projects to find time for this blog. My apologies to anyone concerned.

Thanksgiving went very well this year. I was honestly surprised and uplifted by how well everyone got along, and by how it all worked out with as few glitches as possible. I have to say I enjoyed spending some extra time with my family. I haven’t been able to see my grandparents that much this year, or my aunts and uncles. And of course it was nice to eat some home cooked food for a change that wasn’t my own.

I’m looking forward to Christmas as well. I think this may turn out to be the most strapped for cash Christmas I’ve ever known though. Not just for myself but for family and friends too. I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t said they’ll be cutting back this year. No one’s got the money to spend like they used to. And that’s probably a good thing actually, because Christmas has been way too commercialized over the last few years anyway. But I do wish I’d be able to do a little more than I know I’ll be able to. All of that aside though, I am definitely enjoying the Christmas lights going up and all the other decorations and songs and such. I’ve been working on a Christmas around the world teaching unit which has really got me in the Christmas mood as well. It’s quite fascinating learning all the different ways people celebrate Christmas.

This will be the second Christmas without my grandma. I miss her terribly. I was in a store just the other day and saw something I couldn’t help but think she might have liked for Christmas. It was one of those immediate thoughts. Afterward, I couldn’t help but feel a little down. I’d give anything to spend another Christmas with her.

Moving on.

I wish I could say I was pleased with the election results this year, but I was not. To be perfectly blunt, I was completely dumbfounded that Obama won, and that he won by as much as he did. Hindsight speaks volumes though, and I can see many areas in which Romney cut his own throat. However, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to say I still thought he was the lesser of the two evils. I was going to get into all of the mountain’s worth of facts to prove this, but I’ve said enough in at least three former posts already, which is sufficient enough. I really can’t help but believe we Republicans just picked the wrong horse. Even though Newt Gingrich had some demons from his past, I really think had he been our candidate, I’d be writing right now about President-elect Gingrich. Whereas Romney couldn’t say anything without putting his own foot in his mouth, Gingrich really is one of the best communicators for conservatism I believe there’s ever been. He’d have fought harder and made the better argument, something Romney proved he just couldn’t do.

I am pleased to say that the newest James Bond movie, Skyfall, turned out to be so phenomenally good. It has to be within the top five of the series. Daniel Craig literally brought to the screen Ian Fleming’s Bond from the books. He did a fantastic job. Judy Dench gave her best performance as M. Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris were great as well. Let me not forget Javier Bardem though. For crying out loud, he was excellent as the villain, Silva. I would rank him within the top three villains of the whole Bond series. It was a villain completely out of his mind for revenge, a real physical threat, manipulative, and one that you can actually feel sorry for. And the story itself was amazing, having borrowed a few plots from Fleming that hadn’t been used before.

So… that’s about it for this post. I know. It’s completely useless, but oh well. I hope everyone’s doing well. :)

Monday, November 19, 2012


When I was younger, I used to really get freaked out virtually every single time I would find another guy attractive. It didn’t matter if I was at school, in a store, at church, at work, or someplace else. I would see another guy, think “WOW!”, try not to let on that I found the guy attractive, and then feel completely wretched about the whole thing. I’d feel like running as far in the opposite direction as I could, and often did. I’d find my heart racing, my mind whirling, and my self-esteem completely deteriorated. In short, I would freak out about it—sometimes to the point of near panic attacks.

As an example, I remember going to the theatre to see the first Lord of the Rings movie back in 2001 and thinking Orlando Bloom was absolutely hot as you know where. I ended up sitting there feeling uncomfortable as all get out throughout most of the movie, wishing my parents weren’t sitting beside me, and that I could be anywhere else, or just crawl under my seat.

Having matured some, finding a greater acceptance of self, and caring somewhat less about the thoughts of others, I no longer have such a problem. I see another guy, think “WOW!”, try most of the time not to let on that I find him attractive, and then go about my day without another care toward it. I’ve learned to accept that my attractions for other men are nothing to get so tore up about. They’re just a part of who I am, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I find other men attractive. Big deal. It’s not the worst that could happen.

I wish I’d felt like this much earlier in life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

It just wouldn't be Halloween without watching these two classic bits of nostalgia.  I loved them as a kid and I still love them today.  I was lucky to find all of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but couldn't find all of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (so I just included one of the best parts of it).

Happy Halloween, everyone!  Stay safe, but have lots of fun.  :)

Friday, October 19, 2012


A few months ago, I decided to check out a few dating websites. To suggest that I felt somewhat sleazy doing so would be an understatement.

I’ve never really liked dating sites. It’s not that I disapprove of them, or that I don’t like the people I see on them, or that I judge others who use them; I just don’t like the idea of finding a potential romantic interest in that sort of way. I don’t like the way these sites allow you to look for a potential romantic partner in a way that’s comparable to reviewing a person’s resume for a job position.

I know they allow you to get right to the chase. You can see who appeals to you physically, who has similar likes and interests, and in some cases get a feel for the person’s personality and hang-ups as well. The lazy in me sees this as a good thing, but I can’t help thinking at the same time that the fun has been completely taken out of the equation. By fun, I mean that moment by which you first encounter someone and you begin to get to know them gradually as a person. At the same time, I wonder how many people could find their true love, not by accepting the ones who look acceptable only, but by going after those who seem to be completely incompatible, or the opposite, of them. How many people using a dating site have completely brushed aside someone who could have been the love of their life simply because that person’s profile didn’t meet their qualifications?

But the reason I felt sleazy looking at those dating sites was because I literally found myself going through profile after profile, scrutinizing every last thing about each person I found to be “potentials”. I didn’t like doing this. It did make me feel sleazy. It made me feel lazy, closed-minded, shallow, and judgmental. It just wasn’t the way I want to find the person I’m supposed to be with. I’d much rather run into someone on my own, meet them someplace, or be introduced to them by someone else—one of the more traditional (or old school) ways of finding someone. There again, I know the old school way just isn’t used that much by a lot of others nowadays, and being gay, especially in a very conservative leaning, rural area, just makes the chances of meeting someone that way slim to none.

What do you think?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Late One Friday Night

Well, since my last post, we have seen Mitt Romney completely outshine President Obama in one debate, and Vice President Joe Biden act like a complete disrespectful buffoon in another. In several swing states, Mitt Romney has now taken the lead, and in many other states, Obama’s lead is quickly diminishing. I think Mitt Romney is well on his way to winning this election. There’s still a lot of time (especially in the world of politics) for that to change, but I really don’t think it will. When President Obama can’t speak about anything other than Big Bird, it just goes to show how little he has to offer the American people, and how little he has to show for the last four years. But we’ll see.

On a personal note, I am overjoyed to say that Adele was indeed chosen to make and perform the theme song to the newest James Bond movie, Skyfall. I’ve heard the song and I have to say I think it’s amazing. I wouldn’t say it is the best of the Bond theme songs, but it is certainly a classic theme song and should rate in the better half. It really is a very good song, and her singing is by far the best since Sheryl Crow’s. I can’t wait to actually see the movie and see how they use her song in it.  Click here if you want to hear it.

I must also say that I have been thoroughly enjoying the build up to Halloween. I absolutely love this holiday. October just in general has always been one of my favorite months. The leaves are already changing, there are great, old, spooky horror films being shown (I’m watching the original House on Haunted Hill as I write this), and people are planning parties and decorating. It’s just a fun month. My family, for a couple of years now, has had a Halloween get-together where we’ve gone on some big Halloween themed scavenger hunt. Last year we expanded it to be town wide. It was so much fun. We’re planning on doing this again this year, and I can’t wait.

I’ve been writing quite a bit more the last couple of weeks as well. I’ve had several ideas just sort of sitting on the shelf, so to speak, for a few years now. I’ve had some breakthroughs in the development part of the stories, so I’ve been writing up a storm. One of the stories, in particular, I really do think is going to be quite good. I’m very excited about it.

I have been somewhat worried on the job front, but I’m trying not to focus too much on it. Recent budget cuts have decreased my pay somewhat, so I’m in the middle of weighing my options. I like my job, but if it’s not going to pay enough, I’m just going to have to figure something else out—either get a second job or just give this one up in favor of another one altogether. I hate the thoughts of the latter, because that could really hurt future prospects, but I know it’s become a very real reality. Anyway, it’s been on my mind, but, like I said, I’m trying not to worry too much about it. I have no doubt it’ll work out as it should.

Anyway, there’s a little bit of an update for you all. Overall, life’s been good and there’s been a lot to look forward to. I hope everything’s going well for all else. :)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Politicking: Part Three

Something else I want to take a look at is the level of division between Americans today. When President Obama took office, he said he would unite us. I remember fondly when he said in his election night victory speech, “It's [democracy] the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.” This was a powerful statement, revealing what I thought would be a show of unity and an olive branch between the president-elect and those who did not favor him. I thought, along with most other Americans, that this would be a president who would unite us like never before. Four years later, I can sadly say that that hasn’t been the case.
President Obama has been one of the most divisive presidents we have ever had. Not only has he refused to work with Republicans (which sparked them to refuse to work with him), but he has even refused to work in cooperation with members of his own party. He has pitted the poor against the rich, blaming the rich for all of their life’s woes (reminding me of the Bob Rumson character in the movie The American President), and initiating a full scale class warfare the likes of which we haven’t seen in over a century. Mitt Romney’s taxes have recently come into question just to play into this narrative, the President and others pointing to Romney’s taxes to try and say he is rich and therefore the problem with America. To begin with, Mitt Romney paid what he was required to pay or more in taxes, which is what the majority of Americans do. He’s no different in this regard. Now, some have had a problem that he’s paid so little in taxes, but they forget that Romney has not had a real job since he was governor of Massachusetts. What he has paid taxes on is his income made through investments, which this country generally has always taxed less for than regular income, and still more so than most other countries. This comparison to what he paid and what most other Americans have paid is a false comparison. You’re comparing two separate kinds of income. If I made $30,000 dollars teaching this last year, for instance, and made an additional $2,000 from investments, I would pay a higher tax for that $30,000 than I would that $2,000. Not because of the different values, but because of the differences in how they were made. Mitt Romney didn’t have that $30,000 dollar comparison, because he didn’t work. If he had worked, he’d have paid much more in taxes than he did, and that would probably been more than most Americans. So, if people have a problem that he paid less on his investments than they did on their regular incomes, they must realize that to remedy that, they would have to receive a tax increase themselves for all of their investments, matching their investment tax rate to that of their regular income tax rate. This is a ludicrous idea considering we do pay more in taxes in this regard than most other countries, and that having it even as high as we do, has been proven to prevent some foreign investments here in this country already. To lower that rate would actually spur new economic growth in this country through investments. So, what the President is arguing against Mitt Romney’s taxes is foolish and demonstrates that he either doesn’t fully understand how the economy works, or he is betting that the American people don’t in order to sway their vote.
We have also been told to look at Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital. By all accounts, Bain Capital is just as much a capitalist company as any other in this country. If you can find a major company who acts differently, I’d love to know, because I have yet to find one. Now, this is a company that specializes in investments, for itself and other companies as well. In that process, they have bought or invested in many failing companies over the years. Some of these companies, like Staples, Dunkin Donuts, and the Sports Authority, Bain Capital was able to invest in and save, or turn around. Others, however, were not so lucky. Some companies were forced to close their doors after Bain bought them. Some have argued that this was done purely for a profit. Perhaps it was. But I would remind people, this is capitalism. It happens that way. In a capitalist economy, not everyone is always going to keep their job. In a capitalist economy, each company is going to try all they can to make as much money as they can. Sometimes this may even come at the expense of others. I’m not saying I like when that happens. But it is an inevitable part of capitalism, one which cannot be remedied, lest we no longer have a capitalist economy. And we’ve already seen the total collapses of enough other forms of economies around the world that I surely, for one, do not wish to abandon capitalism just yet.
When President Obama demonizes Bain Capital and Mitt Romney because they acted as capitalists (successfully at that) to make as much money as they could for their company, a concept which most all other companies in this country have embraced since our very beginnings (one that we used to celebrate rather than denounce), it makes me wonder why. Why has this president influenced his supporters to condemn capitalism? I think there is a very simple answer for that: either President Barack Obama does not like capitalism, and truly is a socialist or communist at heart, or else he’s only doing it to garner support for himself, playing off of the hardships of others. Either way is bad, and harmful to our country.
We can look at the Occupy Wall Street protests as well. This was a group supported by President Obama and other high ranking Democrats, whose main objective has been to essentially demand from the rich their “fair share”. On the surface, one would think this was a noble effort. However, it has served more to create an even further distance between those who would support capitalism and those who would see us fully change to a socialist/communist society, first and foremost, pitting the poor against the rich. When we demand something for nothing, or even demand no riches for anyone, we destroy the very fabric that has held our society together for ages. We encourage individual prosperity for no one, and begin down that very path of destruction that so many in Europe and elsewhere around the world have experienced time and again. It is not a path I would want to go down.
But there is something to be said for the way this president has consistently worked to apply a one-size-fits-all policy of economics, education, and healthcare in this country. He has consistently worked to take power away from the states, particularly when it comes to education and healthcare, so that what used to be under state control, for each state to work at their own local levels to try new ideas in competition with the other states, simply no longer is allowed. With Barack Obama, there will be one healthcare for all, one education for all (which continues to woefully fail our children, and it is far from being the singular fault of teachers—it’s the inadequate standards, first and foremost) [I want to also express that our First Lady’s school lunch policies have created a one-size-fits-all lunch program, wherein many kids who only get one meal each day (from school) are now starving and begging for more food], and one economy for all, dictated only from the highest level of government. This is not what our founders had in mind when they created our Republican system of governance, with both state and federal branches of government having their defined roles of authority. One-size-fits-all has never worked, and particularly in a nation as diverse and as large as ours continues to be. One-size-fits-all, I would argue does indeed place a burden upon all those who would seek the freedom to live in different ways.
We must also look at the way this President has pitted Republicans and conservatives against Democrats and liberals. In this election, President Obama would have us believe that Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are anti women, anti middle class, anti immigrant, and anti all forms of government assistance. This is far from the truth! Republicans have fought for the advancement of women from Sandra Day O’Connor, America’s first female Supreme Court Justice, appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, to Condaleeza Rice, America’s first female National Security Advisor (and only second female Secretary of State) appointed by Republican President George W. Bush. If this party in the past has fought against women at all, it has been predominantly concerning the allowance of women to fight in the military. It was not for fear that they couldn’t handle their assignments, but because men know the wages of war, and have wanted to prevent women from experiencing all those horrors experienced by men in wars past. Perhaps Republicans have kept in place a sense of chivalry that is no longer wanted, but if they have fought to exclude women from anything, it has been mostly for this reason.
Some would argue that our Pro-Life stance, concerning abortion, is also an affront to women. I would disagree. It is not so much an affront to women as it is a defense of those who cannot defend themselves. Whether one agrees with abortion or not, you must realize that Republicans are not against abortion to punish women. We are against abortion because we believe when the constitution guarantees the right to life, this is meant not just for those that are born, but for all innocents living from conception on. I know several in America and around the world would argue that life does not begin at conception, but the way I see it is that if almost all scientists around the world can call a piece of fungus growing on the side of a tree something living, then surely we can all call a human being living from the point of conception, when we are in our very first stages of development.
A most absurd view of Republicans being against women has come in the suggestion that we are out to ban contraceptives. That is not true. It is a lie if there ever was one. Republicans are not in favor of banning contraceptives. We are, however, against the provision of Obamacare that would provide contraceptives to people free of change, at tax payer expense. Republicans have always tried to adhere to principles of personal responsibility. This is certainly an area in which people can be responsible for themselves. No one should ever have to pay for someone else to have a good time, as such. Not unless you’re a parent buying condoms or birth control for your own child/children. But no one is trying to prevent women, or anyone else, from being able to purchase whatever contraceptives they see fit to purchase. We just don’t believe others should be forced to fit the bill for what you can easily take responsibility for yourself.
Immigration is another area I want to address, because there has been this false belief for years now that Republicans are anti-immigrant. I tell you now that this is a lie. Republicans are not anti-immigrant. We are, however, anti-illegal immigrant. I’ve heard some say that we should just allow anyone to come here who wants to, but there are many flaws to this train of thought. Population control is always something that should be taken seriously. At this time, we can sustain the 300 million or so living here in the United States to a relatively good degree. But if that number suddenly jumped to 400 million in less than a couple of years, for instance, we may see severe economic hardship for people all across the country. Demand for products may far exceed supply, causing prices to sky rocket, thereby crippling the economy. It is a very real concern, and one that has dictated our limits to the number of people we allow to come to this country each year. I would agree with many, including Governor Romney, that we can allow far more than we have though. We must also deal compassionately with those who have come to this country only looking for a better future, and especially with those who were either born in this country to illegal immigrants or who were brought to this country from a very young age. This is why we need immigration reform. I was amazed a few days ago to hear President Obama say that the greatest mistake of his presidency was that he hadn’t been able to achieve immigration reform, and to then blame this on Republicans. The Republican Party has called for immigration reform for years now. President Bush even fought for it, but it failed to pass in Congress. There have been members on both sides of the aisle working for immigration reform. It is one of those issues that the President should have bipartisan support for. However, he has not chosen to work with members of Congress to create any such reform. Again, he attempts to pit immigrants against Republicans though.
On one more topic concerning immigration, Republicans have been questioned for their lack of compassion. I would argue against this to the death, because I know nothing could be further from the truth. Democrats seem to think it should be okay for immigrants to come here illegally. The problem with this is that by doing so, they die in record numbers in that endeavor, they are forced to hide in the shadows of our society, and they are often exploited by businesses and others who would use them in drug trafficking and in the sex slave industry. That, to me, is far less than compassionate. Republicans, on the other hand, are against illegal immigration because we know it is not what is best for the immigrant who comes here. We would prefer they come here legally, safely, to benefit fully from the American way of life, and better able to avoid exploitation. And yet we are considered the party less caring?
We can also consider Harry Reid’s most recent assertion that Mitt Romney has “sullied the Mormon faith”. As with the tax issue, this is nothing more than our Senate Majority Leader trying to distract Americans from the real issues in this campaign, as well as to drive a wedge between Mitt Romney and those of various faiths. Harry Reid presumes, incorrectly, that a large number of Christian conservatives will be turned off by Romney’s Mormon faith and so if he reminds people of it, it will drive a wedge. Again, this is all in an effort to divide and conquer. At least in this regard, I do not believe it will succeed. Harry Reid incorrectly assumes that Christians are far more intolerant of other religions than we are and, unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney has never attempted to impose upon those of religious faith. We understand this.
Race has also been inserted into our politics by President Obama and his supporters. Vice President Biden recently made a comment that if Republicans took back the White House, we would put blacks back in chains (a nice way of saying we’d reinstate slavery). I would say President Obama’s failed economic policies have already placed blacks in economic chains, but that’s just my opinion. The fact that African American unemployment has far exceeded that of whites during President Obama’s presidency is a pretty good indication of this. But Republicans do not in any way, shape, or form wish to put African Americans back in slavery, or to even unfairly put upon them, or take away from them.
In all these ways President Obama and his party have attempted to drive us apart. His is truly not a nation, as I hoped he meant, made up of young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled, and not disabled, uniting together as one people, but a nation in which he obviously believes works best when we are fractured and divided. I, along with most Americans, would disagree. For as Kentucky knows best as its motto: united we stand, divided we fall. I am not yet ready to see our nation fall because Barack Obama has decided it’s best to divide us purely so that he can obtain a few extra votes come election time. I stand with Mitt Romney who would work far greater to bring us together in our most principled basic goals—that of building our economy and standing strong for our values and freedoms.
As I watched the Democratic Convention this year, I kept looking at the overall themes being presented. Those themes were that big government is better government, Republicans are anti everything and borderline evil, and that the Democrats will actually give you everything you want. Thinking on those themes, I was reminded of two quotes. The first is by a Democrat President, John F. Kennedy, who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” The second is by a Republican President, Gerald R. Ford, who said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away from you everything you have.” I thought about those two quotes and about what was being presented at the DNC and the following came to mind. I don’t want all that I have to come only from the government. And I don’t want a government so large that on a whim or by default, can take away from me all that I have. I want a government that encourages individual growth and prosperity, not a government that promotes failure and dependency.
Under Barack Obama, our nation has become more dependent upon government, our government has expanded to become much larger than it ever should be, our economy hasn’t improved, we’ve become further in debt, and our foreign policy has become an outright disaster. This is not the direction I want our country to continue on the next four years.
I’ll be the first to agree that President Obama has done some good. I think that signing legislation that guaranteed equal pay for women was very important. It was something that should have been done years ago, and it was something my party should have supported overwhelmingly. I also support President Obama helping to end discrimination of gays and lesbians being allowed to serve in the military. Discrimination should be fought wherever it raises its ugly face. But it just hasn’t been enough.
In my opinion, it’s time for a real change, and for real hope. Not mere words, but honest action, and honest results. I’m ready for a President who will seek to honestly unite us, who will improve our economy, and who will fight for our values and our freedoms at any cost. And that is why I am a Republican, supporting Mitt Romney in this election. I’m ready for a change.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Politicking: Part Two

The next thing I want to discuss is foreign policy.
In the last four years, President Obama has got us out of Iraq, is drawing us out of Afghanistan, gave the order to kill Osama Bin Laden, gone after al-Qaeda much more thoroughly, and kept us from getting involved in other wars. On the surface, these look like positive foreign policy achievements. I would argue that, for the most part, they are not.
To begin with, President Obama ended the war in Iraq too soon, leaving no US presence in that country, and without the Iraqi government and military fully prepared to take over from us. This has allowed Iran to gain a great deal of influence in that country, more than it ever should have been allowed.
Secondly, the drawdown in Afghanistan is foolish at best. Since President Obama took office, the Taliban has had a resurgence in that country, attacking and influencing others to join their cause in the process. That country is nowhere near ready for us to leave. And if we do leave by 2014, in the same manner we left Iraq, that country will most likely quickly fall back into the hands of the Taliban. Let us not forget that al-Qaeda has had a larger presence there in recent years as well.
Thirdly, the decision to kill Osama Bin Laden, while celebrated by many in this country and others, may prove to have been a wrong decision in the end. Here’s why. With Osama Bin Laden alive, we could box him in and prevent his influence from having any sort of positive outcome for al-Qaeda. Killed, however, Bin Laden becomes a martyr for the cause, inciting retaliation by al-Qaeda and promoting recruitment to their cause. I’m not convinced that President Obama’s assessment of Bin Laden’s killing is the right one. President Obama would have us believe that al-Qaeda has been weakened by the death of Bin Laden and that they are not the threat they once were. With recent events in Libya and attacks in Afghanistan and other nations, I find President Obama’s assessment hard to believe. I’m much more inclined to believe that we have made a martyr out of Bin Laden, which is something Bin Laden wanted, and that that may prove to have been foolhardy of us in the end.
Fourthly, when it comes to keeping us out of additional wars, I will give President Obama a gold star. He has kept us out of additional wars, and I’m sure most Americans are thankful for that. However… was this for our best, or for the best of others around the world? I’m not convinced that it was.
When we look at the events of the Arab Spring, the people in many of those Arab countries wanted us to stand with them. For years we told them that if they stood up, we would give them aid. But we didn’t really do that. We aided them diplomatically, but only once it was clear they would win and actually overturn their dictatorial regimes. We waited. When it comes to military support, we did virtually nothing. We allowed other nations, like France, Germany, and the UK, to take the lead. We didn’t fight for them. Because we took a back seat, we allowed the events of the world to shape us, rather than actually shape the world by our involvement. Our lack of leadership slowed the democratic process from taking place, allowed those less supportive of democracy to gain power and influence, and allowed those dictatorial regimes to remain in place far longer than they should have. We looked weak by our inaction.
We can also look at Iran. Under President Obama’s watch, Iran has gained nuclear capabilities. This was something that Presidents in the past have fought and prevented, but President Obama was not able to prevent. Since gaining nuclear capabilities, the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel with an atomic bomb, and has continued to advance Iran in that goal, testing missiles and the like. This has justifiably terrified the Israelis and caused them to want to take a tougher stance against Iran. What we’ve seen in reaction by President Obama is to push for UN sanctions against Iran, which have been unsuccessful at best, and to put our alliance with Israel in question by refusing to meet with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, calling Israel only “one of our allies” in the middle east, rather than “our greatest ally”, which they are, refusing to draw any red lines or give Iran any ultimatums in order to prevent their achieving a nuclear weapon, openly talking down our relationship with Israel in conversations with other world leaders, and refusing to call Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Now, this is just my opinion, but if we were ever on a course that could lead to a third world war, this is it. If Israel decides we don’t have their back, and decides to strike against Iran, we could see a war spread all across the globe in response. If Iran strikes Israel, we could likewise see a war spread out all across the globe. I say this because each country, Israel and Iran, have their dedicated allies. If these two countries go to war, all of their allies will inevitably go to war as well, and this would include the US. I don’t think President Obama understands this, or else he would do as Mitt Romney has said he would do, which is to take a firmer stance on the side of Israel, to impose greater sanctions on Iran, and to strategically work at destroying Iran’s nuclear sites. I have heard many people think that Mitt Romney wants us to get into a war, but all I see is his earnest resolve to help keep us out of one, whereas President Obama’s lack of leadership will almost certainly see us in one, if not perhaps the greatest this world has ever known.
If I haven’t scared you away yet, let us discuss the current situation going on in Libya and across much of the rest of the Arab world. On the eleventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, America was once again attacked by members of al-Qaeda at our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. This was the first terrorist attack on American soil (one could actually argue the second depending on your thoughts of the Fort Hood shooting that took place in 2009) since September 11, 2001. For the first time in roughly thirty years, one of our ambassadors, Chris Stevens, was killed in that attack, along with three of our servicemen. This happened because our President’s foreign policy was flawed.
After this attack, we have learned much. President Obama has claimed that the reason this attack happened was because of a spontaneous outrage/protest generated by an anti-Muhammad video posted on YouTube. According to his press secretary, Jay Carney, this was not a planned terrorist attack, the ambassador had security, it was in reaction to the before mentioned video, and there were no threat warnings prior to the attack. Other administration officials, such as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and UN Ambassador, Susan Rice, were quick to mirror such sentiments. All of these statements have since been proven wrong. There were no protests at the consulate, it was a terrorist attack (by al-Qaeda) from the beginning, it was a planned attack, it had nothing to do with the video, Ambassador Stevens did not have an adequate security detail with him, and there were in fact warning signs that such an attack was imminent. This was a failure of foreign policy, and the Obama administration knew all of this. Rather than admit their mistakes, however, they chose to lie to all of America instead for nearly a week before changing much of their story. At the same time, they chose to bash Mitt Romney for his statements made the night of the attack, which have since proven to be right.
As for the anti-American protests that have popped up all across the Arab world since, which in large scale were probably brought on by that video, that too demonstrates a failure of President Obama’s foreign policy. President Obama has told us repeatedly that his foreign policy is right; that it has made us more liked throughout the world and made the Middle East and Arab world a safer place. Polls, however, have shown that people favor us less in that region now than they did four years ago. And considering Israel and Iran are at the brink of war, Iran has gained influence in Iraq, things in Afghanistan are deteriorating, al-Qaeda is still alive and well, we’ve been attacked in Libya, the Syrian government is slaughtering their own people in a civil war, and we’re being protested against in nearly thirty different countries now at the same time, I would say President Obama is wrong. His foreign policy has been a failure.
I will also remind everyone that before he was president and afterward, for a time, Barack Obama said he would close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (better known as Gitmo). He also said he would repeal the Patriot Act. Neither of these promises has come true, and I’d argue that they can’t. President Obama openly tried to close Gitmo, only to find out there was no place else he could send those detainees held there. No one wanted them, and the security risk of placing them in other areas was too great. Likewise, President Obama discovered he could not adequately fight terrorism without the Patriot Act. I would argue that he didn’t know what he was talking about before taking office concerning both of these issues. In my opinion, he was only against them in the first place purely for political reasons. When he became president, however, he realized he was wrong and needed both. I bring this up only to demonstrate that President Obama’s foreign policies have been failures from the very beginning of his presidency; that from the very start, he didn’t understand what was best for America in this regard.
In contrast, I believe Mitt Romney will stand up for our allies, make it clearer who our allies are, and take a tougher stance on all those who would call themselves our enemies. I believe he would follow common sense rather than ideology as well. As I said a moment ago, Mitt Romney was proven correct about the events in Libya on the night they were happening. He understood that people don’t just show up to a spontaneous protest with major assault weapons. He understood that four Americans had been killed in a terrorist ridden part of the world. He understood that it wasn’t likely to be coincidence that something like that just happened to happen on an anniversary of 9/11. He used common sense, rather than ideology, and knew what turned out to be right, while President Obama and his administration lied to us, or just flat out got it wrong, for nearly a week.
There’s something else we must look at though. And this concerns all Americans, beyond just foreign policy or economic policy. Let’s look at the video which apparently outraged so many in the Arab world. To begin with, I don’t agree with the sentiments in that video. And I can understand why some would be angered by it. However, I will defend the right of the one who made that video and said what he did in it to the death, just as countless of Americans present and past have as well. One of the greatest parts of being an American is that we are guaranteed a right to free speech. It is one of the most transformational freedoms we have promoted around the world since before the idea of our nation was even conceived. We Americans have always valued our God given right to free speech.
In recent weeks, I have doubted whether President Obama truly believes in this freedom or not. When he learned that a video had incited some outrage toward us overseas, President Obama’s first response was to apologize for the insensitivity of it. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if it hadn’t been his only response to it (at least for two weeks until giving a speech to the UN). I can understand apologizing for the hateful comments presented in a video, but I cannot excuse this President for making that his only response. Whoever our president is, he or she should always stand up first for our freedoms, rather than downplaying them because of the intolerant, hateful, religious fanaticism of others who would turn to violence rather than peaceful forms of disagreement. When we apologize for the insensitive comments of some, but say nothing in support of their right to make such insensitive comments, we are in essence downplaying and apologizing for our right to free speech. It hasn’t helped either that President Obama announced to other nations during his most recent UN speech that we accept as a nation when other countries do not allow freedom of speech. If we were ever going to tell other countries that it was okay for them not to allow freedom of expression, this was certainly it.
Another example of this has come in the way the State Department, upon learning CNN was going to reveal the contents of Ambassador Stevens’ journal (which they were able to just pick up and walk away with from the crime scene in Benghazi four days after the attack took place—some security clean up there, huh?), tried to prevent them from doing so. Once CNN did publish the contents, revealing that Ambassador Stevens was indeed fearful for his safety and life, the State Department then released a statement against CNN, inciting other news agencies to demonize them for publishing the truth.
And it’s not just our freedom of speech that is being potentially threatened, but our religious freedom as well. There have been concerns about President Obama for some time now in this regard, but I will only discuss one particular concern. Again, this comes back to a provision of Obamacare, which would force religious institutions to provide contraceptives to healthcare patients. The Catholic Church has been on the frontlines of this issue. According to the church, it is sinful to use contraceptives. So, in forcing them to provide contraceptives, this forces Catholics to go against their faith, thereby infringing upon their religious freedom. President Obama has not backed down on this issue, instead pushing for litigation that would force Catholics to provide contraceptives.
Maybe it’s just me, but I seriously have the feeling that President Obama only truly supports our freedoms when they serve him. When they do not serve him, he seems fine to do without them.
To be continued...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Politicking: Part One

Hold onto your butts, everybody! I’m about to get political…

As I mentioned in the first post of this year, it is an election year!  YAY!!!

I love election years.  If you didn't know, I am somewhat of a political junkie.  I often look at politics as a sport, and my favorite at that. There are teams and players, ideas and game plans, preseason playoffs, finals, and then winners and losers. Everybody has their favorite team and players and ideas, and cheer on each of these as they advance, or attempt to defend them as they regress.  I am no different.

When I was in fourth grade, we discussed in social studies class the differences between the two major political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. This happened to coincide with the ’92 election as well, so I was already somewhat familiar with the two major candidates running in that election due to seeing them on TV and hearing older family members talking about them. It was during that time I became a fan of the Republican Party. I liked the grandfatherly image of George Bush, the Republican Party mascot (the elephant), and I liked that Bush seemed much more serious about the issues. I remember thinking being president must be very important and that between George Bush and Bill Clinton, George Bush seemed to want to talk more about the issues and knew more about those issues, than Bill Clinton who just seemed to want to have fun (little did I know then how much fun Bill Clinton would have in that Oval Office in later years). But what grasped me to the Republican Party most was just that sense of seriousness Republicans seemed to have. In short, I tell you all of this in order to describe what first led me to become a Republican. I made that decision then, and it has been a decision I have kept with ever since. It’s a decision I can say in all honesty I am proud of.

Over the years, I have supported every Republican presidential candidate put forward by the Republican Party. I have done so because I approved of most of the conservative policies they put forward. At heart, I am a conservative when it comes to fiscal policy, a moderate when it comes to social issues, a supporter of smaller government, and a supporter of strong defense. I supported Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and now Mitt Romney because each have, for the most part, upheld those beliefs.

I was, and still am, a big supporter of George W. Bush. Unlike many, I don’t fault him entirely for the short falls of his presidency, particularly those which happened during his second term. I actually still believe it was the right thing for us to go to war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. I think it was important that we went after al-Qaeda after the events of 9/11. I think instituting the Patriot Act allowed for us to fight terrorism both here at home and abroad, and so I think this was also an important move by Bush, not only allowing his administration to better fight terrorism, but the current Obama administration as well. I think cutting taxes was a good move to help the economy after Clinton left it in recession and 9/11 further damaged it. I think it was important that Bush reformed Medicare to help make prescription drugs more affordable. This cut costs dramatically for people reliant on those drugs at all age levels. I think it was important that Bush did more to help fight in the war against HIV/AIDS not only in this country, but especially in Africa as well, where more people have been effected by that horrible virus than anywhere else on Earth. It was important, too, that Bush led the effort to end partial birth abortions. We should never allow in this country the deliberate death of a baby so near to birth. I also think it was important that Bush tackled education reform, social security reform, and immigration reform—even though he was unsuccessful with those last two.

Having mentioned some of the good points to Bush’s presidency, let me now discuss some of those down falls. People have blamed President Bush for increasing the debt/deficit, 9/11, the response to Hurricane Katrina, failed or manipulated intelligence used to get us into Iraq, and perhaps most importantly, the economic recession began during his last year and to which we are still feeling the effects of today. I personally do not hold President Bush entirely at fault for any of these things. Democrats looked at the exact same intelligence President Bush did, concerning the lead up to both 9/11 and the Iraq War. Democrats voted, right along with Republicans, to create the tax cuts which have presumably caused the greatest increase in our national debt/deficit. Democrats on the city and state levels were lacking in leadership leading up to and after Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans. And now we come to the economy.

In 2006, Democrats took control of both houses of Congress. As such, they took control of the economic affairs of our nation. They were in control of oversight and, to a great degree, what sorts of regulations would be in place. Those last two years President Bush was in office, he warned of the looming housing and banking markets collapse, to which the Democratically controlled House and Senate did very little to prevent either one. So, I do hold them just as accountable as Bush for the collapse of both markets, and the overall economic recession in which both created.

When President Obama became president, I believe he made several serious missteps toward getting control over the declining economy. I think, in a very real sense, he and a large number of Democrats, believed the Bail Out would be enough to halt and reverse the economic decline. In some ways it did help, but in other ways it didn’t. One of the biggest failures of the Bail Out is the added deficit/debt it created for our country. The question is, did we get enough back for our buck? I don’t think we did. A lot of banks took the money and kept it, rather than loaning it out as they were supposed to. Some companies like GM and Chrysler didn’t need the money. They could have gone through a structured bankruptcy, which would have allowed them to stay afloat, without costing the federal government huge sums of money. And then certain government investments, through the Bail Out, haven’t paid off. A solar power company called Solyndra, for instance, was given millions, but wasn’t able to stay afloat. The state of Nevada has received over one billion dollars to create green energy jobs, but to this date, only about 300 jobs have actually been created by all of that money. It was also promised that the Bail Out would prevent unemployment from getting to double digits, yet in many of the months since the Bail Out, unemployment has been at 10% or higher. During the last four years, it has never been below 8%. The Bail Out also did not nearly accomplish the degree of infrastructure spending that had been promised in the last election, nor that has been needed in the years since.

Another misstep by our current President was to add several thousands of new regulations, which made it harder and slower for companies to do business during this recession. Not only has our president hampered economic growth in this fashion, but he has also tried to increase tax rates across the board in various ways. Neither of these two things has helped promote economic growth—quite to the contrary, they have prevented it.

And now we can look at Obamacare. In many regards, Obamacare is a great piece of legislation. I wouldn’t dispute this, and many more Republicans wouldn’t either. But in some very real ways, it is not good legislation at all. To begin with, it has added regulations that have already began costing American companies up to billions of dollars in extra spending, prompting several companies to lower their employment numbers so that they can avoid extra costs. It also expands the IRS and creates a healthcare board, both of which add to the federal debt/deficit. Furthermore, it creates no provision to open up insurance between the states—a Republican idea, which would lower the actual costs of healthcare.

Something else we can look at is the rise in government spending. Spending has continuously risen, even though Congress has not passed a budget in more than three years now. The budget President Obama proposed called for three trillion dollars of spending in just a single year (and I thought he promised he’d bring down the deficit/debt). When it was voted upon in the House, it received no yes votes whatsoever. When it was voted upon in the Senate, it also received no yes votes. Not one Democrat in Congress would vote for President Obama’s budget proposal. If that doesn’t tell you how disconnected President Obama is on the subject, and how bad his proposal was, I don’t know what will. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, hasn’t put forward any budget proposals the last three years. The Republicans in the House have put forward and passed a budget proposal, but it has been held up in the Senate and President Obama has threatened to veto it if it did get through. This is the epitome of economic irresponsibility, and it rests solely with the Democratic Party. They call Republicans the party of No, but just who is really saying no to a budget? It sure isn’t the Republicans.

It is also not the Republicans saying no to a real “all of the above” approach to tackling our energy problems in this country. President Obama often touts his “all of the above” strategy, yet he often fails to tell us that the EPA, under his direction, has imposed many regulations halting or slowing new coal and natural gas sites from development. President Obama has also halted the Keystone Pipeline, approval of additional nuclear sites, and approval of additional on and offshore oil drilling. In fact, the only energy he seems to be in favor of is renewable. Now, I am in favor of renewable, green energy, just as many Republicans are (in fact I encourage going green as much as possible), but it cannot be the only source of energy we promote. We must truly have an all of the above approach if we are going to have any real chance for energy independence. Had President Obama truly taken such an approach, we may not currently have gas and oil prices as high as they are, and have been.

Looking at the results of Obama’s handling of the economy over the last four years, I think speaks for itself though. Unemployment hasn’t come below 8% in the last four years, those no longer seeking employment (because they’ve exhausted benefits and the like) has risen, banks still aren’t loaning sufficiently, the housing market still isn’t good, more people are on Food Stamps and Welfare than ever before, household incomes are down, the price of gas and other commodities have increased significantly, college tuition has continued to rise, healthcare premiums have continued to rise, foreign investments have decreased, and the debt/deficit have both increased significantly.

President Obama has not helped our economy. I say that, not to mean that he has done no good, but to mean that by what he has done overall, it has not brought back, or even seriously begun to bring back, our economy as it should have been. There is a reason/s why this current economic recovery has been the slowest since the Great Depression, and it is purely due to the economic policies of Barack Obama.

In contrast, I believe Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for the presidency this year, would actually be able to spark much more economic growth than President Obama’s policies have. His plans call for a 20% tax cut for individuals at every level, a reform of the current tax code to make it simpler, a rollback of most all the regulations President Obama has added to businesses, a repeal of those parts of Obamacare that have hurt the economy, a repeal of Dodd/Frank, an amendment of Sarbanes-Oxley, getting tougher with China and other nations on trade, opening up trade with additional countries, supporting right-to-work laws, eliminating and reducing government waste and spending to help cut the debt/deficit, and raising visa caps to allow more highly skilled workers to come into the country (for more information about Romney’s Plan, check out the following:

To be continued...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Grand Illusions

You would think that as many times as I’ve fallen for friends in the past, who in no way wanted to be in any sort of romantic relationship with me, that I’d have figured out by now some way of not letting that happen.

A few months ago, I wrote about my love for a friend. I eventually disclosed my feelings to him and asked him if he’d be with me. I knew this was something I had to do because it was just eating away at me not knowing if he felt the same about me or not. It turned out he didn’t.

I was both upset and relieved that he didn’t want to be with me. I was upset because I really do love him and wanted to be with him. I was relieved because I knew he was a great friend and I didn’t want anything to ruin that friendship, and also because I still didn’t fully have it in my mind that being with another man is okay, which if we’d have gotten together I’m sure would have caused some problems.

When we first met, it was through email. He seemed to be in a very similar place in life that I was, and so I contacted him just to give him a bit of encouragement and let him know that he wasn’t alone. We ended up writing to each other a great deal more after that. I very quickly liked him, and thought it was nothing but a blessing from God that we’d ever met. I still consider it a blessing. He has been a wonderful friend; one of the best I’ve ever had. But, somewhere along the way, I began to not just like him as a friend. I began to love him as a friend. There is quite a lot to love about him. And I think it is good for people to feel love for others. However, those feelings, again, somewhere along the way, turned to feelings of not just love, but feelings of being in love. Maybe in some moments of loneliness, sorrow, arousal, or frustration, I wondered what it would be like for him to not just be a friend, but to be a boyfriend. Maybe he just possessed enough certain traits or qualities that I’d actually want in a boyfriend that it became hard not to wish he actually could be my boyfriend.

I fell in love.

I don’t think it was wrong of me, or that I necessarily did anything wrong, but I do feel that I put myself into some unnecessary situations and turmoil because of that. In hindsight, I think I should have known better. I should have thought a bit more about how impractical it would be for us to be in a relationship with each other, or how being with him could ruin one of the best friendships I’ve ever known, or how completely incompatible we are in a few regards. I can see now that it really is best that we only remain as friends, and nothing more. That doesn’t mean that I love him any less though. I’ve just learned to direct my love for him in a different direction.

It’s never easy or fun falling for friends who don’t share any mutual romantic interest in you though. So many of us go through this numerous times in our lives, and it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, it can happen either way. I think it happens because we see in our friends certain qualities or characteristics that we like and admire, and would want in any potential romantic partner. Then we combine that with enjoying our time with these friends; and the next thing you know, we’ve fallen for them. Certain looks, words, or actions take on untrue meanings, and then our entire perspective of what should only be a good friendship becomes misconstrued. We get this totally grand illusion in our heads that just isn’t so.

This is nothing to feel bad about though (unless you’ve become like Glenn Close’s character in Fatal Attraction). Most all people seek out affection and love at some point in their lives. Sometimes we get signals crossed. Sometimes we develop false realities. Sometimes we love and fall out of love. And sometimes we get it right and find the love of our lives. It is all trial and error.

Trial and error, trial and error…

It’s a tough thing falling in love with a friend who doesn’t feel the same about you. Sometimes this can mess up that friendship. Sometimes it can cause that friendship to grow. Sometimes it embarrasses. And sometimes it’s just funny. In my case, I hope it was something that only embarrassed me a little, can be laughed at now, and can grow our friendship. I hope my friend knows how much I love him. I will always love him. He will always be my brother, and he will always be my friend. And I will always be exceptionally happy if that is the only way I can know him. I just pray that if I do manage to fall in love with anyone else, that it might actually be with the person I’m supposed to be with, who can feel the same about me. I hope that I can also know the difference between infatuation, a crush, and actually being in love, because I think that matters as well. Perhaps if we could learn those differences a bit better, we’d spare ourselves much grief.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mocking God

This has to be one of the campiest, gayest scenes ever.

In my last post, I showed a clip from the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. I decided to show this one as well in order to illustrate the mocking attitude so many people have toward God and the Christian faith.

In this scene, we see Jesus standing before Herod, and Herod—in a most whimsical way—asking Jesus to perform a miracle for him. Jesus, knowing that Herod wasn’t really interested in the truth so much as he wanted a show, or spectacle, stood silent instead. This leads Herod to begin mocking him, hurling insults and telling him to leave.

This seems to be the attitude a lot of people have today toward God. In their great arrogance, they’d rather shrug off any possible signs of God’s existence and rely on their own limited human understanding of things, holding to a concept which cannot be proven, as some sort of enlightened thought.

It amazes me how so many people look at the Big Bang Theory and are somehow able to conclude that it proves the nonexistence of God. Having a better understanding of how the universe came about and the ways in which it works does not prove in any way whatsoever that God does not exist. At best, it only suggests a possible way in which God did create everything. This theory has never fully been able to explain how everything came into existence though. If there was a big bang, then what caused it? How could everything have just burst into existence from nothing? The simplest explanation is that there is a God, who is all powerful, and that He is the one who caused it all to happen. Scientists use a guiding principle that the simplest explanation is often the right explanation. However, when it comes to God, so many of them somehow seem to always want to predominantly turn a blind eye to this concept and tout a belief that is so complicated they cannot explain it. And yet they think themselves smarter for this?

Mocking God is no laughing matter. It’s arrogance, pure and simple. No one is so smart that he or she can see it all, hear it all, know it all, be it all, or do it all. In our existence as human beings, none of us has ever been so smart than none to follow could surpass our own understandings. And if that is true, then why put so much faith into a single thought, which is no more credible than that which opposes it, and which has greater consequences for you should you prove to be wrong?

I believe in Jesus. I believe he was the Christ, that He was God, and that He still lives today. His truths have never been disproven, and they never will be. And with the free will given to me, I find it much more worthwhile to believe in something, in someone, than to believe in nothing at all.

I could end this post on that note, but I’ll go a bit further, because I think this is important.

As a believer in Christ, I do have doubts sometimes. It would be easy for me to pass off past evidence of God as simple neurosis, lies, aliens coming down to earth, or time travelers interfering with human history. But none of those things explains what gives spark to life. None of those explanations reveals where we all came from, how it all happened, or even what caused it to happen. Having said that, I must admit, in truth, there is no way for me to prove the existence of God beyond any shadow of doubt. My faith does not make me so arrogant that I cannot concede that I might be wrong. I hear Christians admit this sort of thing all the time, but I often never hear such a concession from those who do not believe. And that’s fine. It’s their right to believe and conduct themselves in this matter as they choose. But I find it so discrediting when people who do not believe in God, who cannot prove their beliefs anymore than I can prove mine, say that they know there is no God and are unwilling to listen or consider opposing ideas.

People who do not believe in God, who would mock Him openly, a being that may actually exist despite their own beliefs, do so with a heart of arrogance, a closed mind, and a foolish sense of certainty. When you do that, you look as ridiculous as the people in this clip.