Independence Day 2017

Declaration-colors

The United States of America is a country about an idea, and as long as that idea resonates in the hearts of men and women, the USA will endure. That first statement is little bit poetic and I think it’s more accurate to say, “We are a country about a couple of ideas: human rights and self-government.”

The first idea is that “all men [and women] are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This quote comes from our founding document, the Declaration of Independence. And maybe when it’s expressed in that archaic language from 1776, it sounds a little bit old and dated. It doesn’t sound new, or hip or cool.

But don’t we all believe that we should be free to be who we were born to be? Or who we choose to be? After a certain age, no one else should be telling us what to think, or what to do, or how to be, or whom to associate with. As long as we aren’t hurting anyone else, leave us alone. Maybe in this day of robo-phone call marketing and social media constantly dinging updates in our iPads, it’s more accurate to say something a little different. Maybe it’s more like this: everyone will try to tell us what they think, what they think we should think, but each of us has the right and responsibility to choose what we do think. Would-be leaders and elected officials and celebrities will constantly bombard us with messages about who they think we should be, but we each get to choose for ourselves. Or to make it up for ourselves, if we happen to be one of Nietzsche’s supermen.  Choosing for ourselves, self-government.  Being who we chose, human rights.

And this notion of a Creator, is that a little bit dated as well? Hasn’t evolution and cosmology explained the origin of humanity and the entire universe without the need for a creator? Well, let’s stop and think carefully about that for a moment. Even celebrated scientist of the 1970s and 1980s Carl Sagan – the Neil deGrasse Tyson of his time — said toward the end of his life, “Science should not rule out God, until God can be proven not to exist.” And Albert Einstein – the Stephen Hawking of his time – said, “God does not play dice with the Universe.” I can also tell you that Sir Isaac Newton [also the Stephen Hawking of his own time], the man who literally wrote the book on Physics and Calculus [it’s called Principia and I studied from a version of it translated into modern
English]…. Anyway, Sir Isaac Newton actually wrote several books on physics and mathematics, but he wrote more books and essays on faith and Christianity than he did on physics and math. Being a student of physics myself [I hold a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from West Point], I keep up with these things.

As humans launch bigger and better telescopes higher above the atmosphere, to see farther out and older light than has ever been seen before, the patters that emerge show a beginning. Even in quantum mechanics, the math takes us right back to Planck Time – a fraction of an instant after the beginning of the universe. A few weeks ago, one of those orbiting telescopes finished observations, taken over many years, that prove light bends when it passes a strong source of gravity – proving Einstein and quantum mechanics. Now, does this notion that science does show a beginning, prove that the Southern Baptists are right and God is Jay-zus Kriiist of Nazr’uth (aka Jesus Christ)? Maybe. And the secularists out there are probably wondering who this Hay-zeus Tchryst is anyway [You thought Jesuschrist was just a swear word, didn’t you? Admit it.]. It doesn’t prove that anyone’s interpretation of the Divine is right, or wrong. But it strongly suggests that there is One – a Creator. The rest we have to take on faith and as the Oracle told Neo, “Make up your own damn mind.” Me, personally, I’m not just a man of science, I’m also a man faith, and I do have a faith relationship with the Creator and Yeshua the Messiah, whom God sent. That’s how I’ve made up my own d@mn mind. But you, do your own homework and make up your own mind.

The idea here is that human rights come from Nature and Nature’s God and can be neither created, nor destroyed. They can be debated, surrendered, fought over, and sometimes taken away, missed, or unacknowledged. But like Newton’s Laws of Motion, human rights exist independent of any government’s, or court’s ability to grant or abridge them. Like an electron or a photon of light, human rights need only an observer with a point of view to see them and like static electricity, or sunlight, they are self-evident.

Abraham Lincoln made an observation that each generation must appropriate the founding of America for itself. That is what makes us Americans. Unlike Englishmen (Englishwomen), the French, or the Germans, most of us in America can’t trace our lineage back to the days of tribes. Except the indigenous Native Americans – they can trace their tribes back to 10,000 years ago when they walked across the landbridge from Asia – where the Bering Straights are now, they sea between Alaska and Siberia. Most Americans don’t have those thousand plus years of ineffable French-ness, or Italian-ness handed down in custom and oral tradition to tell us what it means to be American.

I recently spent the better part of a year in part of the world where they have cities that are older than most countries in Europe. I spoke to men from the Pashtun tribes who can trace their lineage back to Biblical Adam, or at least to the Babel event, when languages were confused and families scattered all over the world. The Pashtuns, who lack enforceable borders and a country recognized in the UN, nevertheless, have an e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y well-developed sense of e-x-a-c-t-l-y what it means to be Pashtun. They know who they are and where they came from, and it has been passed down from grandfather to grandson and grandmother to granddaughter since before the beginning of history. Think about that for a moment. The Pashtuns have unbroken oral tradition that goes back father than the Siberian Landbridge. They know who they are. Unmistakably. But Americans tend to lack that ineffable American-ness. Until they appropriate the founding for themselves. Much like the Jewish Passover, when Jews say, “I came up from Egypt,” or “My Creator brought me up from Egypt,” Americans need to appropriate the founding for themselves.

Americans need to understand that we are a self-governing people with home-rule back to 1495. Yes, I’m from Florida. So, I date home-rule back the original town councils in St. Augustine, in Olde Espanish Florida. For the rest of the country, homerule goes back to the Pilgrims in 1620, or in the case of Texas back to 1836. But I digress. Americans need to understand that we have a tradition as old as some city halls in Germany and some cathedrals in France, of making up our own damn minds, of disagreeing without being disagreeable, of winning and governing from the center.  We have a tradition debating and losing and waiting until the next election cycle to “throw the bums out.” Or “!!Tida ellos por la calle!!” as they no doubt used to say in St Augustine.

We have a tradition of self-reliance and looking to our friends and families for support, before we look to outsiders. We have a tradition of being self-made men (and women) and work our way up in a chosen profession from the level of page, copy-boy or sweeper-of-floors to being the “Most Trusted Man in America” like Walter Cronkite or the Anchor of NBC Nightly News like Lester Holt. We have a tradition of kindness and generosity like private citizens donating a $1 Billion to relief efforts after the World Trade Center fell, or sending $100s of millions in private relief to islands in the Pacific that were devastated by a Tsunami during the Bush 43 Administration. And we have a tradition of recognizing when we are wrong and changing, like Robert E. Lee taking a knee next to a freed slave at the Meeting House during Reconstruction. No, our history isn’t without injustice or misdeed. But who else sent people to the Moon? Who else could lead the Allies to victory over tyranny in both the European and Pacific Theaters of War during World War II? In what other country would a man like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, take as his examples, both Jesus Christ and Gandhi, walking the path of love and nonviolence, to lead his people? The Rev. Dr. King led his people to vote and politely demand that local councils, state legislatures and the U. S. Congress recognize the human rights they were born with. Yes, Americans have done things we should be ashamed of. But we have also done things that worth of reverence and emulation. As Jason Lee’s character said in Vanilla Sky, “the sweet just ain’t as sweet, without the sour.”

So, the USA is a country about two ideas, really, human rights and self-government.  As long as men and women yearn to be free and make of their own lives, what they choose, these two ideas will endure and America will endure with them.


The opinions expressed above are my own, unless otherwise quoted or cited, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U. S. Defense Dept, Texas Military Dept, Dept of the Army, or Texas Army National Guard.  Each of these organizations has its own Public Affairs Officer, who should in no way be confused with me.

Memorial Day 2017

Memorial-Day-Hero-2-H

Memoiral Day Weekend! The start of summer movie season and a little bit more.

Time stands still for no one. Memorial Day comes around toward the end of May every year and we celebrate with backyard barbecues and the beginning of Summer Blockbuster Movie season. We have some really good movies out right now and some that are kind of …interesting. But Memorial Day started as Decoration Day in the years following the U. S. Civil War. Memorial Day began as a time when the widows of soldiers who did in that Civil War went to clean and decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in burial sites near their towns and communities. Memorial Day began as a day to remember those soldiers (sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen) who died fighting for every American’s freedom and way of life, and the freedom of many, many more.

When we were kids, of course there were the barbecues and maybe a ceremony or parade. The high school marching band and the Veterans of Foreign Wars would march down Main Street and play patriotic music. For my generation we had Star Wars and Superman movies to see (or see again).

Now that I have classmates who have died in the recent wars, and I have friends and fellow graduates who lost husbands, wives, fiancés, children, siblings….My perspective has changed. Now that I have have been part of an Afghan Army Advising Team that had active threat streams targeting us and our counterparts, my perspective has changed.  Some people will spend a good chunk of time this weekend bringing their children, nephews and nieces to the military cemetery, or war monuments, to honor departed fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, grandparents, loved-ones and friends. Others will barbecue and go to the movies or concerts.

There’s a meme that’s gone around Facebook the last few years with the widow at the military grave bawling her eyes out next to a toddler and an infant. That touches my heart. I have a dear friend who loved flying helicopters more than almost anything in the world. But she may not ever fly a helicopter again because she loves her fiancee who died fighting in Iraq more than she loves flying. Fortunately, it’s her son that she actually loves more than anything else in this world. I have classmates and fellow graduates from West Point who died in these recent wars. I know a graduate from the class after mine who lost her son to combat this year. My heart moves for these stories and others.

Some people will never quite get past the loss of their loved-ones in combat. And maybe they never should. I don’t know. I’m not them. I haven’t walked thru their experiences or lost anyone I loved more than my own life, yet. So all I can say to them is, “Grieve as you need to and live as you can.”

Some people don’t quite understand the sacrifice of courageous military men and women who died fighting for their freedom. Some people just enjoy a sunny weekend, grilling food in their backyards, drinking beverage of choice, and going to rock shows or movies.

Some of us military folk have looked down on those who just barbecue and go to movies and concerts for Memorial Day. We think we’re superior because we understand the sacrifice that made it possible for the others to celebrate. I’m not sure that either celebrating without knowing why, or the smug sense of superiority is really very good. I think our relatives and friends who died for our freedom and way of life, would want us to do all of these and more, but do it to honor their memory and without feeling smug.

Thanks for reading. If you liked or hated what you read, please tell your friends.  If you liked it and want to read more, feel free to peruse my blog, and also click follow.  Lastly, please remember that DoD, Texas Military Department, the U. S. Army and the Texas National Guard all have actual spokespersons and Public Affairs Offices and I am none of these.  These opinions are my own.

Difference-Between-Memorial-and-Veterans-Day

Texas Adoption Bill

The Texas Legislature made some waves earlier this month when the House sent the Senate a Bill about the rights of conscience in Child Welfare Services.  It’s called HB 3859.  This link goes to the text of the bill.  The New York Times, and Atlantic Monthly, have written about it. Equality Texas is particularly opposed to it, saying the bill would trample the rights of Gay and Lesbian couples.  ABC News complains loudly the bill could allow Texas Adoption Agencies to ban Jews, gays, and Muslims.

If you want to, take a few minutes and go to the link and read the bill for yourself. We won’t go away while you’re gone.  We’ll still be here.  We promise.

Are you done reading, yet?  Good.  The whole Bill is about four pages long in 10 point font, a little longer if I make the writing bigger for old eyes.  The Texas Legislature isn’t like Congress in that respect.  Congress likes bills hundreds of pages long, or even thousands, written in complex legalese that require a JD to even pronounce the words.  The Texas Legislature drafts short bills in plane understandable language.

Does the text contain the name of any religion?  It does not.  Does it specifically call out gay, lesbian, transgendered children or couples? It does not.

Then what does it do?  This bill simply protects the right of conscience of any private agency that works in child welfare.

  • If there were a Muslim Adoption Agency in Irving, Texas, that wanted to ensure Sunni couples adopted Sunni children and Shi’a couples adopted Shi’a children, they would be protected.
  • If there were an LGBT organization in Austin that wanted to step up and make sure LGBT kids get placed with LGBT families, as long as they have a religious explanation, they would be protected.
  • I dare say, that a Child Welfare Agency full of Secular Humanists who refused adoptions to Christians would also be protected by this law, as long as they explained their position in religious terms and referred them to another agency.

What this Bill actually does is protect everyone’s right of conscience.  I expect that if it were to become law and be challenged in court, it would even protect Atheists who have religious reasons to keep Christians from adopting.  The bill would require any agency refusing services on religious grounds to refer those seeking services to another agency that would help them, or to the Texas Department of Child and Family Services.

What this Bill doesn’t do is allow anyone to use threat of law suit or government force to coerce someone else to violate sincerely held beliefs.  Don’t we need more of that?  Don’t we as a society want more protection for all sincerely held beliefs, even if those beliefs aren’t exactly the same as anyone else’s?  Don’t we want more liberty and less coercion?

On thing we do need to ensure is that while Texas is requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, the Legislature and State Agencies make adoptions easier and less expensive. Not harder.

If we’re truly pursuing Virtue here, then we need to make it easier for couples (or singles) who would nurture children and help them flourish to adopt, regardless of creed, belief or religion. As a society we should keep children out of the hands of the violent and the abusive regardless of creed, belief or religion.

Thank you for reading.  We do appreciate you.  If you liked (or hated) what you read here, please tell your friends and click the follow button.

And lest I forget, these views are my own and I’m not writing here to represent the Texas Military Department, the Texas National Guard, the U. S. Army or the DoD.  All these organizations have Public Affairs Offices and spokespeople who should not be confused with me.

Obamacare repeal begins. For real this time.

WASHINGTON, DC — On 4 May 2017, the U. S. House of Representatives overcame fear-mongering from opposition party members to pass the American Healthcare Act.  The American Healthcare Act is a bill that begins the process of repealing and replacing the prior Administration’s signature healthcare law.  Noteworthy within the prior Administration’s law were a large number of taxes, mandated benefits to be included in all health plans, employer mandates and the prohibition against health insurance companies pricing health plans by the health of the customer.

A brief review of the summary of the American Healthcare Act shows that this bill does repeal many of the taxes included in the prior Administration’s healthcare law, as well as  individual and employer mandates.  It looks like the bill may also open up the definition of what coverages are allowed/required in ‘qualifying health care plans.’  More freedom is seldom a bad thing.  The bill also allows health insurers to price their offered coverage according to the age and health condition of customers whilst also assisting those with ‘pre-existing conditions’ and severe health conditions in paying for their own coverage.

Further, it appears to allow States to decide whether to roll back the Medicaid expansion.  Federal Funding for the Medicaid expansion will continue to remain available to States through 2020.

The American Healthcare Act has several hurdles yet to be crossed before it can become law.  It must still be debated, amended and voted on in the U. S. Senate. It must have differences in the House and Senate versions worked out by a Joint Committee.  The final version must pass both houses of Congress.  Finally, the President must sign it into law.

This bill appears to go a long way toward removing the shackles the prior healthcare law placed on the entire U. S. economy with the taxes and mandates.  Employers will be free to give more hours to part-time employees and to expand their businesses by hiring more total employees, without the mandate to provide expensive healthcare coverage.

Without the mandates, philanthropists, public-spirited organizations and religious denominations will have to step in to ensure that noone falls through the cracks.

The bill passed the House by a margin of 217 to 213, with no members of the Democrat Party voting for it.

Opinions expressed herein are my own and in no way reflect those of Texas Army National Guard, the Texas Military Department, the U. S. Army or the U. S. DoD.  All of these organizations have their own public affairs offices and spokespersons, which do not actually include me.

 

Sources:

Summary and full text of the American Healthcare Act

Reuters

Wall Street Journal

UT Austin Stabbing suspect had mental problems; may also have been religious.

AUSTIN, Texas — University of Texas at Austin Police Chief David Carter stated the suspect in Monday afternoon’s stabbing attacks, Kendrex J. White, “obviously” had mental issues of some description.  Chief Carter did not elaborate on the mental issues except to say that suspect White had been involuntarily committed recently in another city.  In documents obtained by Austin TV News KXAN, suspect White claims no memory of the attacks.

The fourth stabbing victim is apparently still in hospital as of this writing.

A review of suspect White’s twitter feed from the hours and days before the stabbing revealed several Bible quotes, some from the New Testament.  He last tweet before the stabbings was one word followed by ’emojis’ of religious symbols. Suspect White wrote “Yahushua” followed by an apparently Christian cross and the shape of an apparently Jewish six pointed star.

One could look at the word “Yahushua” and associate it with “Yeshua HaMoshiach” and the Sacred Name movement.  One further click on google reveals several pages of references to a ‘Yahushua the Black Messiah.’  So, this writer is going to suggest that the correct reference could be ‘Yahushua the Black Messiah.’

One internet observer, cited below, also screen grabbed some ‘Snapchat’ images from midday on 1 May 2017 that appear to be suspect White wearing a shawl white in color with blue Hebrew characters and blue stripes.  We’re still working on corroborating images for those cited at Heavy.com.  Photos and videos of suspect White being handcuffed by police, which are quite numerous, show that he could be wearing a grey or pale shawl with no apparent stripes of any color over a tan shirt and a multicolored bandanna.  None of the photos of the arrest found so far show an angle clear enough to positively identify suspect White’s clothing beyond his tan shirt and multicolored bandanna.

Only psychiatrists who interview suspect White can actually determine what was in his mind and the veracity of claims he doesn’t recall walking slowly and calmly, stabbing men chosen apparently at random on the afternoon of 1 May 2017.

Sources:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ut-austin-stabbings-student-suspect-had-obvious-mental-health-issue-police-say/

Dallas Morning News 2 May 2017 article

What we know about the University of Texas stabbing suspect

Kendrex White: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

UT stabbing suspect says he doesn’t remember the attack

Tragic Stabbing at UT Austin on 1 May 2017: suspect in custody

AUSTIN, Texas, 1 May 2017 — Authorities report one dead, three injured and a suspect apprehended on University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) campus in a series of stabbings Monday afternoon.  Austin police arrested knife-wielding suspect, Kendrex J. White, within two minutes of receiving the first phone call about the stabbings, according to UT-Austin Police Chief David Carter.  North Texas school district, Graham ISD, has identified the deceased as Harrison Brown, Graham High School Class of 2016.  As of the morning of 2 May, one victim remains in hospital and the others have been treated and released. Austin-Travis County EMS reported transporting three to hospital and treating and releasing an unspecified number of non-life-threatening injuries in connection with Monday afternoon campus stabbings.

 

According to witness statements, the suspect stabbed one victim adjacent to a food truck near Gregory Gymnasium on the UT campus around 1:45 PM.  Police reported recovering three other severely wounded victims within a few blocks.  Witnesses said the suspect walked calmly around the area stabbing his victims.  Police spokesperson said the suspect calmly surrendered himself to a responding officer who drew his sidearm and placed the suspect under arrest.  Photos of the victim being apprehended show an African-American male.

Suspect Kendrex White is a 21-year-old biology major at UT Ausatin. Mr White graduated high school in 2014 from Killeen High School in the central Texas town of Killeen, outside Fort Hood, Texas.  Travis County records indicate an April 2017 arrest for DWI in which Mr. White failed to yield the right of way, crashed a vehicle and reported a prescription for “happy pills,” listed as Zoloft.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.statesman.com/news/crime–law/stabbing-linked-mental-health-not-targeted-attack-sources-say/oCmhqRtxH14NhpHtvlcEJM/

Austin American-Statesman video interview with witness Rachel Prichett

http://hosted2.ap.org/APDEFAULT/3d281c11a96b4ad082fe88aa0db04305/Article_2017-05-02-US–University%20of%20Texas-Stabbings/id-64011ac9401048be998cf52718280aa7

http://www.kvue.com/news/local/stabbing-reported-on-ut-campus/435658092

Kxan.com/2017/05/01/what-we-know-about-the-university-of-texas-stabbing-suspect/

Image Credits:

abc news image of suspect K White in police custody

http://www.statesman.com/news/breaking-news/photos-one-killed-three-hurt-stabbing-the-university-texas-campus-may/s5uLulWHJ3r7NQXoDjBBBK/#23

Image credit: Ray Arredondo

Hello, yeah, it’s been a while… or Triumphant Returns (Teen Titans, Young Justice and St Thomas himself.)

Today, St Thomas reports not only his own triumphant return, but also the imminent  return of beloved television properties “Teen Titans” and “Young Justice.”  Yes, we’ve been off the net for a while. For those of you out there not counting, it’s been since November 2015, or about a year and a half.  Let’s get to the entertainment news first, and then the personal items.

“Teen Titans” television development is back on track, as reported in Variety . In fact, the show will be live action and will headline a new DC Entertainment streaming service set to launch next year, in 2018.  From fall 2014, through the end of 2015, a live action “Teen Titans” had been in development at TNT. With Oscar winning screen writer Akiva Goldsman attached, the show would have featured heroes from the comics and animation: Dick Grayson (aka Robin I, Nightwing), Barbara Gordan (aka, Batgirl I, Oracle), Starfire, Raven as well as superhero siblings Hawk and Dove.

Once again, Mr. Goldsman is attached to the new version, according to Variety and TV Line, along with DC Entertainment’s Geoff Johns and superhero TV uberproducer Greg Berlanti. Mr. Berlanti will also executive produce with Sarah Schechter. Production companies on the show include Weed Road Pictures and Berlanti Productions, for Warner Bros. TV.  No casting announcements have been heard, yet, but the show is said to be action-packed with characters including Dick Grayson and heroes from all around the DC Universe.

The inclusion of Mr Berlanti, Ms Schechter and their respective production companies on this project has produced actual excitement here at St Thomas Place.  These two producers have a history of bringing successful superhero shows (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow) and other action-oriented fare (Blindspot) to live-action television.  The fact that they are part of “Teen Titans” could be a sign that the show will actually get out of development-heck and get made.

Also associated with the new DC Entertainment streaming service will be the third season of Warner Bros. Animated series ‘Young Justice.’  According to Variety, the new season will feature young DC Universe heroes coming of age, while combating meta-human trafficking both on Earth and across the galaxy.

And now for the personal items…

What’s that you say?  Where have I been?

I’ve been in Afghanistan, doing my bit for Constitution and Country.  Shortly after my last  blog post in October of 2015, my National Guard unit received notification that we would be mobilized and deployed to Afghanistan.  After that, the pace and complexity of my own life increased substantially.  I had my regular job, visits with my teenage son, and my unit preparing to mobilize.  I just didn’t have enough time and energy to continue to deliver quality pieces to you, my readers.  Until now!

Another question…what was I doing overseas?

Troops from my unit and I advised the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

Did I get any awards, you ask?

Actually, I did.  I received an award for being instrumental to the success of the mission.  I was also promoted.

One more question…am I back, for good?

Well, I’m back for good, the same as the National Guard has been back “for good” during all of these Operations in Afghanistan.  My unit will come up in the rotation again in a few years.  We’ll see what happens then.

The entertainment beat is kind of a change of pace from the more controversial issues I wrote about before (just click the prior post link below).  Give me a break!  It wasn’t the Boyscouts or the Peace Corps over there in Afghanistan; it was the United States military, along with about forty other Allies and partner-nations.  And we weren’t on a camping trip or a development mission in a permissive environment.  There were adversaries over there who wanted to send us home.  Permanently.  So, yeah, I’m going to write about some more light-hearted fare for a while.  But, I promise, I’ll get back to controversy, before too long.

If you like what you read here, and you want to read more, click the follow or subscribe buttons.  Also feel free to peruse my earlier posts.

The views expressed herein are my own and facts not in evidence are documented.  In no way should this blog be construed to represent the Resolute Support Coalition, the DoD, the US Army or the National Guard.

Sources:

DC Entertainment Launching Digital Service in 2018 With ‘Titans’ Series

<I>Titans</i>: Live-Action DC Comics Series Back on Track, With a Surprising Home

TNT's <I>Titans</i> Aims to be 'Very True' to 'Groundbreaking' Superhero Property