The Crazies of Guns

 Constitution, Faux News, Featured Video, Media, Politics, Television  Comments Off on The Crazies of Guns
Feb 152013

Some time has lapsed since the horror that was the Newtown shooting, and now there have been even more gun deaths, and five people were shot accidentally on “Gun Appreciation Day,” hastily thrown together by the gun nuts. I grew up hunting with my Grandfather and other friends. I know my away around guns, and believe they are something that responsible people should have for sporting purposes, but extremists have gone entirely too far with the rhetoric, and their arguments that every person should have totally unfettered access to any kind of gun. So I want to put my spin in the discussion and dissemble the arguments that I keep hearing circulated.

funny-christmas-cards-second-amendment-christmasFirst, let’s cut right to the chase on the primary argument that seems to be implied by nearly every gun nut out there. They seem to think that any regulation whatsoever results in them having their guns “pried from their cold dead hands.” I’m tired of hearing this. None of the laws I’ve heard proposed make anyone surrender any guns, and nothing that’s been proposed includes the elimination of all gun sales. We have always had regulations for the sale of guns, and there are still plenty of guns in circulation.

As a society, we have, for nearly the entire life of the Republic, recognized that many things we are entitled to as rights, can still be reasonably restricted to make sure we can all get along. You have a right to free speech, but can’t yell fire in a crowded theater. We live by the principle famously attributed to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

So stop already with the claim that any regulation would somehow prohibit you from owning a shotgun for shooting quail, or even a handgun. It’s just not true.

The other continuing meme that Obama is preparing to take all our guns is beyond ridiculous. His base has been in favor of stricter gun control for the entire time he’s been in office, but up until Newtown, his Administration had never touched the subject.

I’m also tired of the argument that the Constitution provides carte Blanche for gun ownership. Let’s take a look at the language of the Bill of Rights. Amendment I famously begins with the prohibition, “Congress shall make no law…” The founders clearly gave thought to the wording of these original documents. They proscribed the making of laws that regulate some of the rights they believed we inherited, and they used very specific language to do that. They did not, in Amendment II, make any statements limiting the authority of Congress to regulate the ownership of guns. I believe, given the wording of other Amendments, had the people of the time intended for gun ownership to be completely without regulation, they would and could have written it right there in Amendment II. Continue reading »

Bin Laden and His Family

 Politics, War  Comments Off on Bin Laden and His Family
May 112011

I’ve been torn about the action against Bin Laden and how the situation has been handled. My attitude is that every reasonable effort should have been taken to capture him alive and try him in a U.S. Court. Of course, I realize a lot of people don’t think we should give fair trials anymore, and I understand there would be risks. Also, I wasn’t on the ground at the compound.

Once he was killed, however, I think there was an issue with what to do with the body. I hope he did receive some religious rites. Everyone is entitled to that, and I think a burial at sea was most likely the best solution. There’s no real need to release the photos. There are people who will make all sorts of claims regardless of whether or not the photos are released.

I think I understand some of the spontaneous celebrations that broke out, but, maybe because of my background, I don’t think it’s right to celebrate a death. It’s just not my thing, so it’s not something in which I would have participated, but as I say, I understand it.

Now let’s look at the already rising tide of conspiracy theories:

  • The first one seemed to be that Bin Laden was killed 10 years ago and kept on ice. I’m surely not buying that. George Bush and Darth Cheney would have been pounding their chests. How silly to think otherwise.
  • Now Iran claims he died a natural death a couple of years ago. His family is giving every impression he was still alive on the day of the attack, and there seems no question that one of his son’s and a wife were killed.
  • He’s still alive and being questioned. This could be within the realm of possibilities, but there would have to be a lot of people in on that, making it pretty hard to maintain the secret.
  • It wasn’t him, and he’s still alive and well and living in Miami. Again, not completely out of the realm of possibilities, but as noted above, a lot of people would have to be in on the hoax, and that makes it a difficult secret to keep.

But now we have his family complaining that internal laws might have been violated. Could be, but despite being a stickler for that sort of thing, they’re not going to get a lot of sympathy from me. The guy sent out tapes and statements claiming responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, so I’m confident of his guilt.

And they have the nerve to release the following statement, “”We maintain that arbitrary killing is not a solution to political problems and crime’s adjudication as justice must be seen to be done.” Seriously? A son of Bin Laden has the nerve to condemn “arbitrary killing.” Some people don’t have the moral authority to say some things, even if what they are saying might be correct. This is one of those cases.

I think it’s just to close this chapter, and move on to whatever is next.

Many Thanks Senator Kennedy

 Congress, Featured, Politics, Society  Comments Off on Many Thanks Senator Kennedy
Aug 262009

I’m old enough, barely, to remember the John Kennedy Presidency, and all the hope and enthusiasm of that time. Then the renewed spirit of Bobby Kennedy’s run for the White House.

The Kennedy family is huge, and to this day members of the family enter public service, but the death last night of Ted Kennedy at age 77 marks the end of that original family dynasty. This is a family that has known way more than their share of tragedy, and perhaps the final tragedy is that Ted Kennedy’s life’s work of healthcare for all was not realized before his death.

“This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, “that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.” For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it’s always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.”— Ted Kennedy

He stood up as one of only fourteen Senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. During the 2004 debate on a proposed federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Kennedy said:

“We all know what this issue is about. It’s not about how to protect the sanctity of marriage, or how to deal with activist judges. It’s about politics and an attempt to drive a wedge between one group of citizens and the rest of the country, solely for partisan advantage … The Constitution has never been used as a tool to entrench currently popular views at the expense of an unpopular minority – and it should not be used that way now.”

In 2007, Sen. Kennedy questionedPresident George Bush’s anti-gay nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. James Holsinger about a 1991 paper Holsinger wrote about the “Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality.” During the confirmation hearing, Kennedy called out the nominee for the paper’s “unscientific, biased, and incredibly poor scholarship.” Holsinger was never confirmed for the position.

Recently Kennedy was the chief sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the fully-inclusive Employment Non-Descrimination Act.

The thing that most impressed me about this family was that these sons of privilege were instilled with the concept of nobilis oblige, and lived out that responsibility well. The United States Senate and our country lost a piece of our heart today with the death of Senator Kennedy, and we will be less for his passing.

John, Robert and Ted Kennedy

John, Robert and Ted Kennedy

From the opening of Faure’s Requiem: “Requiem eternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Rest eternal grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them.)”

My First and Last Word On Michael Jackson

 Culture, Entertainment, Music  Comments Off on My First and Last Word On Michael Jackson
Jul 152009

I know it would seem I’m late with this post about the recent death of Michael Jackson, but the drama continues to unfold and will for some time. The story is no where near its end, but the dust is settling some, and media hype is now down to a dull drone. I thought this would be a good time for me to offer my opinion.

Jackson was definitely the consumate entertainer. It really isn’t going too far to proclaim him “King of Pop.” He was innovative, talented, and I believe genuine in his wish to please his fans.

One of his sisters was said to have made a comment that he was, “the greatest person who ever lived.” I think I’d take exception to that. I have given him credit as an unmatched influence on popular and popular culture, but I hope she was just a little carried away in her grief.

As is so often the case with a person vaulted to such a lofty place in our pop culture at such an early age, Jackson definitely had his problems. He certainly became and extreme eccentric, and in the end, it became his undoing. As with so many who gain his level of fame and fortune, he became surrounded with sycophants who never him accountable for his own actions, and who encouraged his every eccentricity.

A lot of people spent a lot of time referring to Jackson’s legal issues over the molestation charges, and calling him a perverted. As noted, he was certainly eccentric, but the charges were never proven, and he was, in fact, acquitted. In this country, that means he is innocent, and we would do well to remember that applies to everyone all the time.

Frankly, I don’t believe Jackson ever did molest anyone. I really don’t think he was very sexual at all. But he did certainly exercise some very poor judgement, and had some ideas about how one should relate to children that make most of us uncomfortable. Did he sleep with these kids? Most likely he did. That’s weird for most of us, but not illegal.

You have to face the fact that this was a high profile crime, and the prosecutor and police were under tremendous pressure to get a conviction once the charges were made. But despite that, they were not able to make a winning case. Also, we have to remember that Jackson was a high-profile and potentially lucrative “target” for these parents.

But let me state again, he did exercise poor judgement and engaged in unacceptable behavior.  Continue reading »

News for the Week of Nov. 2, 2007

 Crime, Fun Stuff, Gay Issues, Society, Travel  Comments Off on News for the Week of Nov. 2, 2007
Nov 022007

Fatalities in N.C. Beach FireThe New York Times
Fire engulfed a beach house at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina early Sunday morning. Ocean Isle is about 30 miles north of Myrtle Beach, S.C. It is unclear how many people were in the house, but the reports it was college students possibly from the University of South Carolina. Approximately six were taken to the hospital, but there were deaths from the fire.

UPDATE: It now appears about six people were injured and seven died in the fire. They were mostly USC and Clemson students.

Happy Birthday to the NYC Subway SystemSlate
This past weekend marked the 103rd anniversary of the opening of the New York City Subway system. It’s now the largest subway system in the world.

Couple Arrested for DUI – Dayton Daily News
A Michigan was stopped and given a prelimary breath test which Police said read above the 0.08 limit. He had his 12 year old son in the car, so police told him to call his mother to come pick him. She arrived with the couple’s 9 year old daughter in the car, and was found to be drunk herself.

Dog Shoots HunterDayton Daily News
James Harris of Tama, Iowa was shot by his dog on opening day of Pheasant season. Harris was hunting with a group, and a bird was shot. He laid his gun on the ground to climb a fence to get the bird, and his dog stepped on the gun, causing it to discharge and put 100-140 pellets into Harris’ calf. I wonder if there’s any chance of getting this dog on any of Dick Cheney’s hunting trips?

The Sky Falls In OhioPlanetout News
Either the sky is falling or hell has frozen, but an out gay person has been appointed as a judge in Ohio. A former Dayton city commissioner is Ohio’s first openly gay judge after being appointed by Gov. Ted Strickland, the Washington Blade reported. Mary Wiseman is replacing Common Pleas Court Judge John Kessler, who retires Wednesday.

Frontline-The Undertaking

 Culture  Comments Off on Frontline-The Undertaking
Oct 312007

I watched most of an excellent and touching Frontline episode last night on PBS. It was called The Undertaking. Thomas Lynch is a writer and poet in a small town in Michigan, and he’s also a funeral director. His family has been caring for the dead in his hometown for three generations. Given my background, this certainly caught my attention. I was not disappointed.

Matt Roush with TV Guide described the show this way:

Steering clear of Six Feet Under irony, this deeply moving meditation on mortality shows the Lynch family business going about its work with quiet reverence. … Far from being depressing, The Undertaking lifts the spirits by reminding us that, in Lynch’s words, ‘The dead matter to the living,’ and that the ritual of a funeral helps return the grieving ‘to life with the certain knowledge that life has changed.’

Lynch believes as do (and recently commented on), “We have in some ways become estranged from death and the dead. We’re among the first couple of generations for whom the presence of the dead at their own funerals has become optional. And I see that as probably not good news for the culture at large.”

The Lynch family believes that the rituals of a funeral are more than mere formalities. “Funerals are the way we close the gap between the death that happens and the death that matters,” Lynch contends. “A good funeral gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be.”

I want to read Lynch’s book now, but I would encourage everyone to try to watch on-line or order the DVD. This was a very thoughtful look at something that haunts us all.

Home Funerals

 Culture, Family, Southern  Comments Off on Home Funerals
Oct 262007

I read an article on MSNBC a few days back about a small but growing practice of “home funerals.” It’s touted as a way for people to reclaim their death rituals. Having been a funeral director in the past, the title certainly caught my eye.

I am old enough to remember when it was very common for the embalmed and casketed body to be taken to the family home for the wake. I remember relatives being brought home, and while that was on the decline by the time I was working in the funeral business, we certainly still took bodies home from time to time. Anecdotally, I believe this practice was more common in the rural areas of the south, but I have no statistics on that.  We’ve had instances where the funeral service itself was in the home followed by the graveside service at the church cemetery.

Given that, having a body brought back home for a wake, and left over night, would not strike me as terribly unusual. I am also a believer in the importance funerals and the other rituals around death. I think today’s all to common practice of a cremation with just a “memorial service,” followed by a quick reception fails to honor the importance of the life of the deceased person, and doesn’t allow people an adequate outlet their grieving. I want the body there in a casket, to bring home the fact that this person has died, but that they were important enough to the lives of all gathered to be honored and memorialized with a funeral.

I think having a visitation or wake the evening before with a funeral the next day is just not too great an imposition. Today we seem to want to “do the right thing” by having some sort of service, but we need to get it over with with as little disruption as possible to our busy lives. I believe it dishonors our loved ones, fails to acknowledge the importance of their lives, and leaves people without a process for grieving.

Now having said all that, I must admit I found some of the practices with these “home funerals” a bit over the top. Rather than home funerals, they strike my as do it yourself funerals. Here’s the description of one of these funerals from the article:

After Daron died at her home in Bellevue, Wash., Howley kept her there for two days. Family members washed and dressed the body of the teenager who loved soccer and played the cello, placed dry ice under her torso to slow decomposition and moved her to a back bedroom so visitors could pay their last respects. A sister who flew in from New York painted Daron’s nails and applied her makeup. Howley slept in the same room as Daron.

“It was really comforting to be able to go back and touch her, to have her still there,” Howley says.

Now I’m a strong believer in observing the rituals of life and death. I think they are an important part of life. They not only help adults grieve, but help children begin to understand the cycle of life. I have no problem with bodies being taken home for wakes, but I find this to be a just little over-done. Dead bodies are not sanitary, but can be made so through the embalming process. I love my family members, but even after having grown up in the funeral business (my father and several relatives were in the business), and my experience handling and embalming bodies, I do not want to be involved in the preparation of the bodies of my family members. In fact, more often than not, funeral directors and embalmers pass along the task to colleagues. Not because a bad thing to do, it’s just uncomfortable.

Everything considered, I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with going to a do it yourself funeral process, but going through more traditional rituals is certainly an important part of grieving.

Can One Literally Die From Laughter?

 Fun Stuff, General, Humor  Comments Off on Can One Literally Die From Laughter?
Nov 172005

It’s certainly possible to die while laughing — probably by choking on something. But I was unable to find any documented evidence of someone literally “laughing to death.”

In fact, recent research suggests laughing is actually very good for you. According to the Indiana University School of Medicine, laughing helps relax tense muscles, lowers blood pressure, and even burns calories. Humor and laughter is also becoming increasingly popular as a form of psychiatric therapy. Look out, Carrot Top.

Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that people with heart disease are 40% less likely to laugh in a given situation than people without heart disease. The key here seems to be stress reduction; stress impairs the production of endothelial cells, which form a protective lining in our blood vessels. A weak endothelium can lead to hardened arteries and, quite literally, a hardened heart.

What exactly is laughter? As HowStuffWorks explains, laughter is a physiological response that’s triggered by the limbic system, or the part of the brain that governs motivation and emotional behaviors. During laughter, the epiglottis constricts the larynx, restricting our ability to breathe. That’s why a really good joke can sometimes seem pretty dangerous — but thankfully the breathing instinct always wins in the end.

You Had To See This One Coming (Pun Intended)

 Religion, Right Wingnuts, Weather  Comments Off on You Had To See This One Coming (Pun Intended)
Oct 102005

Well, this should come as no surprise to anyone. Pat Robertson is now suggesting that the recent rash of natural disasters could be a signal of end times. Its always amazed me that the return of Christ to begin his thousand year reign of love and heavan on earth would be heralded by the death and destruction of millions of innocent individuals. Except of course all those heathen sinners in the French Quarter…oops, that was the only place not wiped out and flooded.

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Prominent US preacher Pat Robertson said that recent natural disasters around the world point to the end of the world and the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

"These things are starting to hit with amazing regularity," Robertson told CNN, remarking on the coincidence of a major earthquake that killed thousands in Asia Saturday and recent killer hurricanes slamming the United States.

Those disasters come less than a year after a massive tsunami levels huge portions of South Asia, killing more than 31,000 people and leaving some a million left homeless.

Devout Christians believe that the "last days" will be marked by political and geological upheaval, and Roberts said recent events show that those days might have arrived.

Citing scripture from the Bible, the conservative Christian broadcaster said the latter days would be marked by "the birth pangs of a new order, and for anybody who knows what it’s like to have a wife going in labor, you know how these labor pains begin to hit."

"What was called the Blessed Hope of the Bible is that one day Jesus Christ would come back again, start a whole new era, that this world order that we know would change into something that would be wonderful that we’d call the millennium," Robertson said.

"And before that good time comes there will be some difficult days and there will be likened to what a woman goes through in labor just before she brings forth a child."

Asked if the world was reaching this moment, Robertson said: "It’s possible. I don’t have any special revelation to say it is but the Bible does indicate such a time will happen in the end of time. And could this be it? It might be."

Hurricane Katrina has left more than 1,200 people dead in the United States, while nearly 20,000 people have died in the South Asian earthquake disaster this weekend.

As I noted….A God that needs to announce his return via death and destruction does not deserve our worship.

That 80s Show

 Family, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on That 80s Show
Jun 132004

Ronald ReaganA chapter of 2004 has now closed. At the end of year, during all the perspectives, certainly the funeral for former President Reagan (1911-2004) will be one of the most noted items, and for several good reasons.

For one thing, Americans nowadays so rarely come together for anything, that we need events like this big public funeral to take just a short time to quite our lives just a little, and hopefully dampen the political rhetoric some. I have to admire the Reagan family for being willing to share this most personal moment in such a public way. That has to be a very difficult thing.

As was typical of anything that involved Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, it came off with a lot of class. Perhaps that’s one of the things that has made Ronald Reagan so appealing from an historical perspective.

Let’s face it, the U.S. really was no longer a proud nation when Reagan came into office in 1981. We were still licking our wounds from Vietnam and coming from the unrest and consternation of the 1960’s.

I need to preface all these comments with the disclaimer that I can’t find much in Ronald Reagan’s policies that I can agree with, but I do have respect for him as one of the last of an unfortunately dying breed. He was a “regal” person. He knew how to wear the office. What I mean by that is, he found that mix of being almost princely, while still being able to touch and communicate with the common people. He made sure the office was always seen in the best possible light. As noted above, he was a class act.

Reagan's Funeral ProcessionHe really did treat political opponents with respect, and this seems to be the end of the time when people could disagree on political issues, but be friends after the offices closed.

I am convinced that Ronald Reagan was genuine in his patriotism. I think he really did believe in America and its people and the ideals of our founding fathers. And at a time when patriotism was unfashionable, he was unashamedly patriotic. I admire that. I think Reagan genuinely meant it when he said, “Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears; to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.”

I also believe that, even though I can’t agree with most of his positions and policies, he truly believed in them, and believed they were the best course for the country. I think he really did try to do his best, and failed only when other people with less noble motives were involved. Even then, Reagan didn’t do too badly at owning up to the situation and taking responsibility, as in the Iran-Contra Scandal.

Ronald and NancyClearly, he and Nancy Reagan were as completely in love as two people can be. She protected and cared for him in many ways. We laughed at some of the ways. Our cynicism lead us to just not believe it sometimes, but at the end of the day, she stuck it out to a very bitter and sad end, and then shared her husband with us all once again.

Reagan did help end communism as a major threat, and he did help restore some belief in the high ideals of America. So, as they say today, I give him “props.”

He was, in his heart, a good and decent man, who really did try to do his best. As Lady Margaret Thatcher said in her tribute, “Ronald Reagan knew his own mind. He had firm principles — and, I believe, right ones. He expounded them clearly, he acted upon them decisively.”

So what, if anything, will cause him to be viewed by history as “great?” Continue reading »