Thursday, December 24, 2009

100,000 visits to my blog

You know, when I started this blog a few years ago, I never thought I would ever have 100,000 visits. Some are looking to an article I linked to, or a photo I posted, and some are regular readers of my ramblings. Thanks for stopping by.

I know some blogs have 100,000 hits a day, but I don't mind, I would keep writing if no one read another post. Writing to me is part therapy and part creative outlet.

So what was the 100,000th visitor reading? My post of how to suck up to your wife. How appropriate.

I will take this time to thank my wife for no throwing things at me from the bedroom when I am clicking away on the keyboard at 11:00PM.

Thanks again for stopping checking in.

Do you suffer from a "Drug Problem?"

There must be a sea of ink written about the true meaning of Christmas in newspaper columns by now. I am going to resist my natural inclination to continue this tradition, and instead write about investing. Not a 401K or an IRA account, but the investments we make in ourselves, in our relationships, and the currency for this type of investing, your time.

If your IRA is anything like mine, the past few years have seen the balance in my account go up and down, and down, and then down some more. But what about your spiritual account? How is it doing?

If you have not thought about your spiritual account in a while, or even contemplated having one, you may want to use this Christmas season to do a little internal audit.

In your daily life, how often do you think about spiritual matters? Are you making any deposits in your spiritual account? Is your spiritual account overdrawn? I know mine can be. It seems when I get up in the morning, I immediately start thinking about my problems, or things at work, or even looking forward to the weekend ahead. My mind starts grinding away in the here and now. Don't get me wrong, there are some here and now issues that do take careful consideration and events that need planning, but if I spend all my time wrapped up in these worldly matters, where does that leave my relationship with God?

Wouldn't it be better to start your day, everyday, with a spiritual jump start? I'm not talking about an hour on your knees in prayer, although the benefit of that one hour would be paid back ten-fold if we would make that big an investment, but let's start small. Let's start with that walk to the shower, or pouring that first cup of coffee, or whatever makes up your normal routine. How about this as a very small, first step. Give thirty seconds of your time to acknowledge God, and the blessing in your life. Then another thirty seconds to pray for the coming day, and for the insight and direction in facing the day. That's it, just one minute, about the time it takes to make toast, but that minute could make a tremendous difference in the way you go through your day.

Once you start investing into your spiritual account, even in a small way, you can start looking at investing a little more currency in your account. How about an hour or so on Sunday? That's right, I'm talking about church. Okay, I know I am going to lose many of you right there, but stay with me, there are many wonderful churches in our area. Find a place that meets your needs, a place where they teach the Bible in a relevant way, in a way that speaks to you. Find a church with music you like and friendly people who you would want to get to know. If the first one you check out doesn't feel right, check out another one.

This weekly, corporate worship, meaning large group worship, is essential to your spiritual growth. The personal relationship you have with God is the most important, but being part of a larger group of believers, people you can lean on, learn from, and serve with is a big part of developing your faith. In many local churches, they have small-group Bible studies, they can be a great way to dig into your faith. I love my small group, they are wonderful folks who have become great friends to my family.

I know, I know, some of you have a "drug problem," you were drug to church every Sunday as a kid and hated every minute of it. It can leave a bad taste that last a lifetime. I understand this, but please, give church another chance. You may be surprised what you find there. Hey, they let me in, and if they let me in, they will let anyone in. It's not about being perfect, or about judgment, or guilt, it's about second chances and third chances. It's about love and grace. God's love and grace.

In this Christmas season, I would like to remind you that while the world likes to measure our success by our bank statement, the size of our house, or the car we drive, these things are purchased with cash. They can come, and they can go just as easy. The investments I am talking about, these spiritual investments, grow in a direct correlation to how much time we invest in them. I think spending time with God is the best investment you can make. It makes your faith stronger, it makes the relationship with your family stronger, and it keeps you focus on the things that truly matter.

Time is our greatest currency, and no one knows just how much of it they will have. How are you spending yours?

Here is hoping you and yours a very, merry Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

When the world won't stop

Tomorrow, the sun will rise. Just as it has for eons, just like it did today. The world will awake to another day, and people will stumble into their routines and their busy lives as if nothing happened. People will walk from the parking lot to their offices, check their email, say hello to their co-workers and finish that second cup of coffee. Just as if nothing happened. How could they know, how could they know this is not just another day?

For you, this has been the day that you never thought could come. It is a day that doesn't seem real, but it is, it is all too real. It is the most painful day you have ever experienced. The most painful thing you can even imagine. The loss of a child.

Your world, as normal as it ever seemed just a few days ago, is gone. Gone forever. It has been replaced with sorrow, anger, doubt, and an empty feeling in the middle of you that you cannot seem to fill. In that void are phone calls you never thought you would have to make, and decisions you never thought you would have to decide.

Friends and family want to help, but they can't fix what needs fixing, they can't heal what is hurting. No one can make this right, not this. You feel like you life will never be right again.

All you want is for the world to stop turning, for time to stop, just for a few days, just for a few hours, just until you can get your head around this terrible thing. But you can't, you can never understand this. Why? Why now, why him, why so young? There are only question, no answers.

People will say that as time passes, the sorrow will slowly go away; and it will, to a certain point. That deep, immediate sorrow will diminish over time, only to be replaced with a longing for what could have been, what might have been. A life that touches yours at such a base level, at such a elemental level, will stay with you forever. This will be the day you measure ever other day against.

Every joy, and there will be joy in your life again, will be measured against this terrible low. Every low, and you will have your share of those too, will also be measured against this day. But that is for another day. .

Forgive the sun for rising today, it does not understand. Forgive the world for going about its day, the world does not know about your loss. Forgive you friends and family for not knowing what to say, or what to do to help you. Forgive God, this was not His doing.

It may not seem like it right now, but you will get through this, even when all you want to do is cry. So go ahead, we will be crying alongside you.

For Rendell and Jasmine, in memory of Esius.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Hide the decline

With the UN's Copenhagen climate change summit fast approaching, how about this for an inconvenient truth, the "settled science" of man-made global warming is unraveling because the scientist have been cooking the books.

How many times have we been told in the past decade if we don't act today, not next week or next year, we will have gone over the tipping point and the earth would be irreversibly destroyed by global warming? We should be cooked to medium-well right now if these predictions were accurate, but they are not. Just in case no one has told you, and it is a pretty fair bet they haven't, the global temperature has actually gone down in the past decade.

How is this possible? China is firing up two power plants each week, and building them for nations all over Asia. Eighty percent of China's power comes from coal, and coal is evil, right? Didn't I read in Tom Friedman's Hot Flat and Crowded, that when we put carbon into the atmosphere the earth gets warmer, and that is indisputable? Hmm.

Did we all stop driving cars 1998? Did we stop burning coal, cutting down rain forests and all go vegan in the late nineties? It must be Bush's fault somehow; he hates polar bears you know.

For all the "settled science" out there, have you noticed that in the past few years the new buzzword for the environmental crowd is now climate change, not global warming? The high priests of environmental science had to stop using global warming as a means to scare us. It is pretty hard to scare people when your global warming conference has to be canceled due to a blizzard.

So why has the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) been hiding the decline in global temperatures and destroying the raw data? Cold, hard, cash. Your cash. If you haven't figured this out yet, the whole climate change scare is a money play, plain and simple. Carbon credits, carbon taxes, Cap and Trade, if you just listen to the folks at the forefront, they want to use global warming to create the largest redistribution of wealth in history. The idea of carbon trading was created with the help of Ken Lay. Remember Ken Lay, from Enron?

Many smart people, with good intentions, have been snookered into believing that driving your car, mowing your yard with a gas powered mower, buying a new HDTV, and using incandescent light bulbs are equivalent to drowning polar bear cubs with your bare hands. Don't worry, there are actually more polar bears on the earth today than there were 30 years ago, but the global warming crowd suppressed that information too.

So where do we go from here? Good question. First, let us get scientific with our science. In science, I was always led to believe you go in with a few assumptions, and you let the data lead you to the facts, whether they support your assumptions or not. However, climate change science seems to have become more of a religion than a scientific pursuit.

Hey, let's invent the "carbon footprint" to make people feel guilty about living their lives and ignore that gigantic ball of burning gas at the center of our solar system. Let's not talk about the reduction in solar radiation in the past decade, we can't tax the Sun, we can only tax people.

There is an unlimited amount of grant money, publicity, Academy Awards and Nobel prizes out there for anyone who can write a research paper claiming humans, and more specifically Americans, are causing the earth to warm. If you produce a study saying the only way to fix this mess is some type of Cap and Trade scheme, well then, you get on CNN and the Today show. If you actually follow the data and find there are many other factors that affect the global temperature, then you are labeled a climate change skeptic.

Look, I believe the earth's temperature could start warming back up this year. It could also decline for another decade, or another century. The only truly settled science is this; the earth has been much warmer than it is right now, and it has been a lot colder. The earth's climate changes, and it will continue to change, no matter how many awards Al Gore receives.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful for Thanksgiving

In the days when personal computers were the size of an American Tourister suitcase, I remember taking one of the first online personality tests. My friends answered the questions on my survey first, and the results did not reflect my personality at all. So I answered the questions, and we all agreed that the personality profile was much more accurate. The ability to be honest with one's self is important in many aspects of life. We have such an ability to deceive ourselves, as well as the rest of the world; it's amazing we are able to function at all.

Of all my quirky personality traits, and I know it sounds strange, but I am grateful for my sense of gratitude. I am not sure how much of these traits are learned behavior or if it's just how we were made, but I think it must be a bit of both. I remember back in my younger years, I took many things for granted. I expected that things should always go my way and I would become upset or depressed if things did not work out the way I planned. The more success I achieved, the more I thought I deserved, and the more I wanted.

It is so easy to become complacent with our current situations in life. Our job, our spouse, our children, our health, everything that makes up our life right now, as mundane an unglamorous as it seems, are the very things for which we should be grateful. Don't believe me? What if they were all taken away from you tomorrow? Somewhere, maybe just down the street, someone is going through that very situation right now.

How many of us just expect to have our job waiting for us when we show up? How many of us have walked into our place of employment only to be told that we need to go home because our job had been eliminated? Been there, done that, walked out with a cardboard box with my personal belongings. Talk about a bad day.

Now you may be thinking, I wish I could get away from everything in my life. I hate my job, my spouse, my kids are brats and if I could walk away, I would. The world is full of people who have done that, only to find in a few short years they are stuck in another job they hate, with a new spouse they can't get along with and kids that are driving them nuts. Maybe the problem is they can't look past their problems to see the blessing in their lives.

As I sit down with my family this year for Thanksgiving, if I begin to complain about anything, I hope someone will give me a kick in the pants. I have a great family, a good job with co-workers I consider friends, a roof over my head and most importantly, a relationship with a loving God.

From a personal standpoint, I am still a mess. But I keep working on many aspects of my personal life, trying to become a better husband, father, and certainly a better Christian. For all the faults I still possess, ingratitude is one I am working hard to eliminate.

I know that the blessing I enjoy right now have been the result of so many people in my life who have helped me, stuck with me, believed in me, encouraged me, gave me a chance and even a second chance when they didn't have to. Thank you, one and all, and thank you Lord for putting these people in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Having been out of town for the first serious storm of the year, I missed a few things. I hear the October storm was a bad one, with strong winds and almost two inches of rain in a few hours. While we need all the rain we can get after three years of drought, the first rain always brings some surprises. I find that the first good rain serves as a wonderful memory jogger. This is how it plays out at my house.

Did I bring any firewood up to the house or is it still in the woodpile? Did I leave those bags of redi-mix concrete outside the barn or did I put them away? Did I leave my bucket of fencing tools on the ATV trailer? Did I move the BBQ under the eves? Did I roll the windows up in the truck? Where is my rain gear?

You get the idea.

A transition must take place between the end of summer and the onset of fall. Some people plan this transition. They have a checklist of things they must put away, store, cover, and protect before the first storm clouds peek over the horizon. I hate these people.

These are the same people who have the pegboard wall with all the tools outlined in felt pen, like some sort of hardware crime scene. They probably have cutting boards marked for vegetables, poultry, beef, and "other." They are the people who have the original box that everything they have ever purchased came in, and they put it back in that box when they are done using it. Cmon', where is the fun in knowing exactly where everything is?

These people will never know the excitement of dashing through house trying to find your camera when you are late for your flight. They will never learn how to make a slip-n-slide out of a blue plastic tarp and a hose because you can't remember where you stored the real one.

No, they will always have everything in its place, but they will never know the thrill of chasing the patio umbrella across the back yard on a dark, windy night because you forgot to take it down in October. It's a shame, I mean really, what a dull existence.

I may try to find some sort of happy medium between these two extremes. This year I am going to break with my own personal tradition and put up the Christmas lights right after Thanksgiving. I will not put it off until the week before, like I normally do. I will also use the next sunny weekend to cut a load of firewood. This year I may, and I shudder just thinking it, have all my shopping done, the tree up, and the decorating done by the first week in December.

Yes, this year I will get everything done early. On the other hand, I might just relax and go shooting.

Now where did I put my .308 ammo?

Monday, November 16, 2009

An early Thanksgiving

Is it just me or have the major retail stores skipped over Thanksgiving this year and have pushed straight on into Christmas? It seems I was just watching my daughter carve her jack o lantern last week and now I am supposed to be whittling down my Christmas shopping list? Is it too much to ask for, taking one holiday at a time?

Can we have the chance to celebrate Thanksgiving, please? It is one of my favorite holidays. Okay, so I love turkey and pumpkin pie, but there is much more to Thanksgiving than a big meal with family and friends. It is a time to take account of all the things in our lives we are thankful for. There is even a 30 days of thankfulness going around on Facebook, and I am glad to see people counting the blessing in their lives, even if it's on a social networking site.

In that spirit, there is a special event coming up this weekend I wanted to share with you. This Sunday, November 22nd at Bayside Church of Woodland, they are holding their Heroes Weekend service. It is a chance for our community to give thanks to all those who serve us the line of duty. There will be special presentations, music and as a way to say thank you, each department will be receiving a donation to their favorite charity.

The Woodland Police Department, Yolo County Sheriffs Department, Woodland Fire Department, California Highway Patrol and the emergency dispatch center, these are the people who come to our aid when trouble hits. It's not very often you get a chance to say thank you to these folks, and this will be a wonderful opportunity to do just that.

If you have children, this Sunday will be a very special time. Barring any major disasters or events, all the departments bring out a few squad cars, mobile command units, fire trucks and this year, it sounds like we will have an actual Black hawk helicopter land out by the football field at Pioneer High School.

If you only make it to church on Christmas or Easter, you should try to make it out this Sunday to the Pioneer High School Theater for Heroes Weekend. The first service is at 9:15AM and the second service is at 11:00AM. Come out and say thank you to the people who put their lives in danger everyday to serve us and our community.

Walt goes Inside the Actor's Studio

Tonight we have a special treat. Tonight the Actor's Studio turns its spotlight away from film and Broadway to look at a very unique individual. Father, husband, writer, rancher, musician, lay pastor and amateur demolition expert, Walt Lucas.

Thanks James, this is unexpected indeed. I'm still not sure why you are here to be honest.

We do not limit our search for talent to Hollywood and New York. Inspiration is where you find it, Mr. Lucas. As Allen Ginsberg said "inspiration is just a feeling of heightened breath or slightly exalted breath, when the body feels like a hollow reed in the wind of breath."

.....Okay, whatever you say James. Please, call me Walt.

Let me start out with the usual questions. At what age did you feel the call to perform?

Um, I don't really know, I guess I have always felt like I could perform in front of people.

Do you feel at home in the spotlight?

No, I am actually quite nervous just before I speak or play music in front of a crowd.

And you never caught the acting bug?

No. I did play Bob Cratchit in a Christmas play in elementary school, but that was it.

Most of us know you through your writing, your blog and the guest opinion pieces you write for the local newspaper. How did that start, the writing?

I don't know really. I love to read and the more I read, I began to appreciate good writing and good writers. When I would read an article in the paper, I would get upset at the dumb things people would write. I thought to myself, heck, I could write a better piece than that, so I started my blog. It was fast, easy and free so I began to write at The Roughstock Journal under the name of Yolo Cowboy.

How did you come up with your nom de plume?

My what?

Your pen name, Yolo Cowboy.

Pretty easy James, I live in Yolo County and I am, or at least have been, a cowboy for a living.



Where do you see you writing taking you? Is there a novel in your future, a screenplay perhaps?

Uh, I don't think so. I usually just write about what is happening in the world around me, what is going on in my life and try to pass along some of the lessons I have learned the hard way. I figure even if I don't learn from my mistakes, maybe someone else can.

How magnanimous.


We will close tonight by asking the questionnaire made famous by the Frenchman, Bernard Pivot.


What is your favorite word?

Colloquialism. It just sounds cool.

What is your least favorite word?


What turns you on?


What turns you off?

People who won't bother learning the facts when they argue with you.

What sound or noise do you love?

I love the rhythm of a horse's hooves and the creaking of the saddle when you ride. I also love to my kids sing when they don't know I am listening.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Nancy Pelosi's voice.

What is your favorite curse word.

I hope my mom doesn't read this James. I try not curse, but if I do smash my thumb or drop my keys into lake Berryessa, again, I would probably say - Horse$#it.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I have always loved music, I would like to produce music in a studio.

What profession would you not like to do?

Press secretary, for any politician. Lying for a living would kill me in a month.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Well James, I do believe Heaven exists and when I arrive I would like God to say, well done my good and faithful servant, but He probably won't. He will say, it's a good thing you are a friend of my Son, because without Him vouching for you, it wouldn't be pretty.

Thanks for sharing with our students.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Winning the small battles.

Every few months the Men's group at our church's gets together on a Saturday morning. We go around the room and share a bit of what has been happening in our lives, we always have a good breakfast, and we usually finish with a special guest speaker. This past breakfast was special, not only because Roger made ribs for breakfast, which were great, but the guest speaker was one of our own. Darrin Williams is relocating to the Midwest and this was his last men's breakfast with us.

One thing about our church, we are a little 'outside of the box', as the ribs for breakfast would suggest. Darrin started his talk with a short video presentation. Not many church groups would start a devotional time by showing a few minutes of the movie Gladiator, but it was great. Trying to get men to pay attention on Saturday morning is hard enough, but when you start out with Gladiator, it makes it a bit easier. Darrin's message spoke about the way we view our spiritual lives. Not as one epic struggle but as many small battles. We learned how to win those battles, using strength and honor.

Strength and Honor, why are these traits so important in men, and why is it important that you strive for both, not just one or the other. Strength without honor is pride and selfishness. It is using your power to have things your own way. Having honor without strength means you will be honorable, which is good in itself, but you will not be able to make a strong impact. We need both in our lives if we are to become the men we were made to be.

Honor is doing the right thing, but how do we do that?

I know what I should do, what I want myself to do, but many times I fail and end up doing the exact opposite. When I fail in some part of my walk, the next failure seems more certain. I gave in the last time; I will probably give in the next time. It is almost as if you have a spiritual momentum. When you are heading in the right direction, one stumble can lead to two and then three, and soon you are heading in the wrong direction.

Strength or better-stated, spiritual strength comes when you allow God to use His strength in your life.

When I rely on my own strength to run my life, it usually ends up in disaster. Like most men, pride is how this manifests itself in my life. As soon as I start thinking, I am going to do it my way, and I don’t come to God in prayer before a big decision or when I am in a crisis, it ends badly. I have had enough practice doing things the wrong way and paying the price for those decisions, you would think I have learned by now. However, like so many of us, I am a slow learner.

No matter what direction we are heading right now, we can draw upon two things to win the next small battle, strength and honor.

As the saying goes, I can resist everything, except temptation. No matter what area in your life you struggle with, if you can break this big fight into small battles, you can prevail. I am going to win this time. I am going to resist, using God's strength to do what is right, what is honorable, right now. The other part of this strategy is to flee from temptation. There is no shame in running away when it comes to spiritual matters. Many times, I have been in a bad situation that I should have seen coming, that I did see coming, but I did not run away from it. Sometimes not putting yourself in a compromising situation, not showing up to the battle is the best plan.

So how we develop honorable and strong spiritual habits? We draw our strength as Christians through spending time in God's word. If you are not spending time reading the Bible, through a small group study or just on your own, you are losing some of that spiritual strength you need to win the next battle. Fellowship with other Christians is also important. I always feel uplifted after church, or after my small group Bible study, my spiritual batteries are recharged. I seem to make better decisions, more Christ-centered decisions.

To summarize, break up the big fights into small battles, flee from temptation and develop strong spiritual habits through spending time in God's word and fellowship with other believers.

We are going to miss Darrin, his wife Lisa, and their two boys. They have been a blessing to our church and in our lives. Good luck Darrin, strength and honor my friend, strength and honor.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

History; ancient and otherwise

I remember as a high school student reading about Columbus, our founding fathers, Lincoln and FDR. At the time they seemed as distant to me as if I were studying Greek mythology. As I grew up, I began to understand what was happening around me would someday be taught in a monotone voice by a seemingly disinterested teacher to even more disinterested students as history.

It is a rather hard idea to grasp as a sophomore in high school, but it is true nevertheless; history is happening every day. Students give your thumbs a break from texting for a moment and try to remember just one or two things about what is happening in the world right now. Even if your world view changes in the years to come, just remembering how you felt about what is happening today may give you an insight to balance what someone writes in a textbook or newspaper years from now.

This coming Monday, November 9th marks the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For those of you in high school, let me put this event in context for you.

Imagine for a moment out there in the world is a very real, very large, very militaristic, and very evil nation who has vowed to defeat your way of life and conquer your nation. Imagine that for as long as you can remember, you have watched the flickering, grainy images of "Duck and cover" a short film on how to protect yourself from a Soviet nuclear attack on your city by getting under your desk. Imagine that same nation is expanding its reach across the globe and there are those inside your country who think Soviet Communism will ultimately overtake American Capitalism and freedom. Imagine a world with two competing ideas, two very different ideas on the best way forward for the human race. One that focuses on individual liberty and freedom and one that emphasizes the collective good of "the state" over the individual. Imagine you are right in the middle of that battle, and there is no clear favorite.

That was what it was like to be alive in 1989. For many of us, the center of this battle, this Cold War, was Berlin in West Germany. Not the bustling, prosperous Berlin of today. This was a city divided into two parts, West Berlin, a free democracy, the other surviving under the oppression of its Soviet masters back in Moscow. The wall separating the city was not put up by the free citizens of West Berlin; it was built to keep the oppressed people of East Berlin from escaping.

While everyone had an opinion as to what to do about the cold war, not many had a clear understanding of the stakes, and the real differences between the two ideas at the center of the struggle.

Ronald Wilson Reagan was a man who understood this struggle and more importantly, he understood that we could win, we must win. Twenty two years ago President Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate, the dividing line between East and West Berlin and called out the new soviet leader.

The infrastructure holding up the Soviet Union was a rotten and ready to collapse. From the outside, the facade looked menacing and impenetrable, but underneath was a crumbling foundation. It is not clear just how much of this was known outside of the Soviet establishment, and many folks have claimed that we just needed to give it a push and the evil empire would come crumbling down. In hindsight, I don't think that is right. No one knew how vulnerable the Soviet Union was at that point, Reagan just knew the west needed to push because it was the right thing to do.

I remember many criticized Reagan for even talking about pushing back against communist aggression. When Reagan called the Soviet Union the evil empire, there were those in the media who were terrified that we were provoking our mortal enemy. This actor turned trigger-happy politician was going get us all killed, that is what elites in the Washington thought. President Reagan stood up to the Soviets because we were right and they were wrong.

Right here is where your civics teacher will stop and point to the sins of America, from slavery to the unjust treatment of Native Americans to the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Guilty as charged. America is not perfect, it simply the last best hope for freedom loving people around the world. I often quote the late Democratic Senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan "Am I embarrassed to speak for a less than perfect democracy? Not one bit. Find me a better one. Do I suppose there are societies which are free of sin? No, I don't. Do I think ours is, on balance, incomparably the most hopeful set of human relations the world has? Yes, I do."

Now for a confession; early on, I was not a fan of Ronald Reagan. I was still young and naive, dreaming of a world where everyone would learn to get along and we could settle our differences by talking nice. In other words, I was a Democrat. Reagan opened my eyes to the realities of the Soviet Union by telling me who they were, what they stood for, and conversely who we were and what we stood for. Warts and all, Reagan truly loved this nation and wanted to show the rest of the world what is possible if you unleash people to pursue their dreams, free from an oppressive state or an overpowering government. What can I say, I was young.

Reagan's speech aimed at the new General Secretary of the USSR contained a clear and concise message.

There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate.

Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate.

Mr. Gorbachev -- Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. Even Reagan's own State department guys did not want him to mention the wall in his speech, too inflammatory, too confrontational; this was not talking nice.

In two short years, on November 9th, 1989 the collapse of the Soviet Union was well underway and the Berlin Wall was torn down by jubilant Germans from both sides. The reunification of families separated for decades by this concrete barrier was a scene that flashed around the world. The world learned that day to put their faith in freedom.

As we look back on that day, let's remember it was not about armies as much as it was about ideas. It's not that Reagan was right about the wall, or the fall of the Soviet Union, it's that Reagan was right about America.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A political earthquake.....

I know, I know, I pay way too much attention to politics. Case in point; the Republican candidate in the upcoming New York 23rd Congressional election, Dede Scozzafava, has dropped out of the race, leaving the late-entering Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman with a clear path to win the vacant seat.

Scozzafava, who in most other areas of the country would be considered a Democrat, was the choice of the local county Republican committee, after four internal ballots put her on the ticket as the GOP candidate for Congress. The local ranks of Republicans were outraged with the choice and decided to back Hoffman under the Conservative party banner. After the three-way race with Democrat Bill Owens tightened to the point where Hoffman was out polling Scozzafava, she decided she could not compete with the flood of cash coming into the race from Republicans across the country backing Hoffman.

I commend for getting out of the way, but her career in the GOP would have been over if she had stayed in and allowed a Democrat to win a seat that should go Republican. With Scozzafava's pro-card check, pro-union and pro-choice views, I would be willing to bet money that she will be back in NY politics soon, but maybe as a Democratic.

Newt and the GOP insiders were tone deaf in this race and the early backing of the RHINO Scozzafava should be a warning to leaders in the Republican party. The people will not blindly follow whoever the GOP sends up as a candidate. The candidates had better have the right ideas, not just an "R" behind their name....

Friday, October 30, 2009

Esparto Homecoming

The Spartans (from Esparto) played a great game. You could just see that with a four-man bench, the boys ran out of gas in the second half. Here are some highlights....

Aaron Rome going vertical, unfortunately in high school football, this is a penalty.

Here is Roman Reyes putting the Esparto boys up by 6 in the first quarter.

And it wouldn't be a football game unless you have the cheerleaders.....

That is it for the EHS home games. Kind of like a Cubs fans, there's always next year. Now I have to get ready for basketball season. Say a prayer tonight for the East Nicolaus player injured in the fourth quarter, looks like a few months in a leg cast for him.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dirty Jobs and other worthwhile endeavors

While walking through campus last week, I was swallowed up in a sea of students making their way from one class to the next. In this flood of young faces, you could imagine that many of these students will go on to become very successful. Likewise, it was not terribly hard to imagine that more than a few were just wasting their parent’s money or piling up a mountain on student loans with not a lot to show for it. Knowing a few students who have just graduated from UC Davis, as well as my wife who is an Aggie alum, I understand the hard work that goes into earning that diploma.

It does make me wonder how many of these successful young adults could actually survive a week of hard labor. Not a week behind the counter at Subway or Starbucks, but a week with a landscaping crew, a plumbing contractor, or working on a farm. Not that I am playing a game of class warfare, pitting blue collar workers against their white collar counterparts, I am simply wondering if people today understand the value of hard work.

If you ever wonder why I started working in the communications field, it was a direct result of my previous employment in the concrete cutting and breaking industry. I guess you could call me a hypocrite, but at age 30, I was standing on a scaffold, in the rain, operating a concrete saw thinking that there had to be an easier way to make a living. Fortunately, I found one. Whenever I start thinking that I have had a particularly tough day at work, I just remember those 12-hour days loading chunks of broken concrete into a wheelbarrow. My "tough day" seems to melt away with a little perspective.

It seems with all the technological advancements we have in our modern world, we still have not found a way to replace every hard or dirty job in America. That I think, is not such a bad thing. There is a feeling you get at the end of a long day, with your shirt soaked through and your boots covered in dust, which some people will never experience. That is a shame.

I worry sometimes that we are raising a generation who could not plant a tree from a one-gallon container without watching a YouTube video on the proper procedures, buying a new pair of gloves, kneepads, and a fiberglass handled shovel from Home Depot. Are we becoming a nation of people who have to call a plumber when the toilet backs up? Maybe there is a YouTube video for that too.

I guess not everyone has the everyday skills our parents had; maybe that is a good thing, maybe not. I guess if you make enough money, all the skill you need is the ability to find a handyman and write a check. That is a handy skill to have, if your bank account can back it up.

Having been raised on a cattle ranch I spent my youth chasing cows, stacking truckloads of hay and building fences, pipelines and barns. Doing these dirty jobs as a kid was wonderful experience when I went out into the world. Can you operate a backhoe? Yes. Can you drive a dump truck? Yes. Can you weld and run a cutting torch? You bet.

Many of you who grew up in the city had different experiences, and while you probably never had your arms inside a cow's private parts trying to pull a calf, I'll bet you have stories of helping your father re-roof or paint your house, or some other dirty job that you remember fondly. Well, you remember it fondly now, at the time I will bet your feelings were a bit different.

Being able to complete a hard task is a good thing, and I believe it may be something you just can't replace with success or income. I guess the more you earn, the less hard work you have to do, but there is that special feeling you get after you finish a hard job. If you have never experienced that good night's sleep after a long, hard day, you just won't understand.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just because you can....

I am probably going to step on some toes here, but I would rather take some heat for putting my nose in your business than writing a flowery memorial service for a teenager.

You have to keep your kids from drinking. Even if they hate you for it.

Yea, I did it when I was a teenager, and I am damned lucky to be alive. You probably did it too, and you might say, so what, kids are going to drink anyway, you can't stop them. Well, maybe that's true, but if you condone or enable underage drinking, you are making a terrible mistake.

This issue came to everyone's attention at Esparto High School in the past few weeks and I do not want to stir that pot or even address that particular situation. The point I am trying to make is that teenagers are more than capable of making terrible decisions all by themselves, and adding alcohol to the equation increases the chance of a poor decision becoming a life altering or life-ending decision by a factor of ten.

If you have been around alcohol for any length of time, you have seen people, adults, make terrible decisions and do stupid things. If you were out with me in my younger years, you would have seen me make some stupid decisions. I also did some things that I am ashamed of to this day. The fact that I am here, and not dead or in jail does not mean that it was okay; it just means that I rolled the dice and my number did not come up. Others I have known have not been as fortunate.

I remember a couple who were three years ahead of me in high school. They were involved in a drunk driving accident where he was killed and she was paralyzed. She ended up graduating from a wheelchair with my class after the accident. I also remember the group of Woodland High kids who were involved in a graduation week accident at "second beach" out in Knights Landing. This is not a "valley problem" or a Yolo County problem, it touches every area, every race, every economic class, it touches everyone.

People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. That is shocking, at least it should be. The younger kids are when they start drinking, the more likely they are to binge drink. Now that is truly frightening.

I remember my parents allowing me to drink in high school, and I thought at the time I could handle it. I was young, strong, bullet proof, and nothing bad would happen to me. Boy was I wrong. As my son has grown older and faces these decisions, I make sure he knows where I stand. I have told him on more than one occasion that if I lived my high school years over ten times, I would surely die in six of them. If just one of the thousands of decisions I made in high school went the other way, I would be dead or crippled or worse, I would have killed or injured someone else. I shudder just thinking about living with the knowledge that my mistake, my stupidity changed or took another person's life.

That is what we are talking about here, life and death. It's not that you allow your kids to have a beer when they are at home. It's the fact that by doing so, you tell them it is okay for them to drink. I don't care if you threaten them with a beating if you ever catch them drinking at a party, or getting behind the wheel after they have been drinking. The point is, you are telling them that drinking is okay under the right conditions, and for teenagers, it is not okay. You are also teaching them that you have to have a cooler of beer in order to have a good time. That is a lesson they take with them into adulthood; it's a lesson you don't want to teach them.

High school kids may have adults sized bodies, but their decision-making abilities are just not there yet. One drink leads to two, two drinks to three and so on. People do things under the influence of alcohol that they would never do sober. I am talking about boys and girls here. It may not be a car accident that changes their life, it might be giving in to teenage urges and teenage hormones, it may be giving in to the peer pressure of drugs, it could be a thousand things that they would never do when sober. A terrible decision once made, is made. There is not reset button.

But you say, it's only beer, or I only let them drink when I am here to watch them, or its better that they drink here than somewhere else. Talk to a parent who has lost a child as result of underage drinking. I'm sure they would say do everything you can to keep your kids from drinking. Even if it means that you are the bad guy, or you have to give up being your kid's friend. You are the parent, even if you are not the best role model when it comes to alcohol, give your children the chance to grow up and make their own choices, as adults.

If you say it's none of my business, you can tell me to get lost. But I do not want to see one of my friends lose a child, or start that child down a path towards alcoholism. Being a kid is tough enough as it is. Let them grow up.

Monday, October 19, 2009


All things are well at Casa de' Cowboy. Almost. My son seems to back to normal, or at least normal from him, but my wife and daughter came down with the bacon flu while I was hunting. I am trying to wash my hands often and have not kissed my wife since my return. Yea, I know, lucky for her.....

Thanks for all the prayers and support for my son and our family.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

1,000 miles and just down the street

Having just returned from my long awaited hunting trip/vacation to visit my family in north Idaho, I am drawn to the similarities between our two small towns. Although Bonners Ferry is a bit larger than Esparto, driving down the main street of Bonners is like driving through any small town in Yolo County, or America for that matter.

Esparto has our local eateries like the Burger Barn, Hog Canyon Deli and Los Tios, Bonners Ferry has the Badgers Den, the Chic-N-Chop and the Friday night all you can eat fish fry at the Three Mile Cafe. The vehicles you see in town are very similar, with the exception there are more white Chevy trucks than white Ford trucks in Bonners. I guess farmers like Fords and loggers like Chevys, or they need a Ford dealer in Bonners, or both.

Having traveled to quite a few small towns in my time, one can meet the people, look at the places and the scenery but never really connect, because you are an outsider. This trip was a little different, not only did I have my mom and sister to show me around, I had a guide, a local.

My sister's fried Roy is the very definition of a local. Roy knows everyone, and everyone knows Roy. Even though my family has been in the Bonners area for almost 15 years, they are transplants, Californian transplants. They get along fine up there, but not everyone does.

As you can imagine, there is quite a stigma attached to folks who move up to Idaho from the golden state, and with good reason. Californians looking to "get away" from the rat race, escape to small towns in other states only to find the simple life found in places like Bonners is just a little too simple for them. They want to have all the conveniences, amenities, and culture they are accustom to, in a town of 2,000 people.

The local population is not very interested in how things work back where you came from, in fact they would rather you keep your ideas to yourself. If things were so great back there, why did you move up here? Small town people have an independent streak in them. They are slow to embrace change; in fact they want nothing more than to be left alone. This is true in almost every small town in this nation.

Not every small town longs to be just like Davis, California or Madison, Wisconsin. They really don't care if you have a PhD in city planning and want the city to revamp the downtown for better flow. They would just like you to go back to your custom built home and learn how to shovel the snow off your roof so you quit calling your neighbor for help every time it snows. We got along just fine before you folks moved up here, thank you very much.

As I said, I was fortunate to have a hometown guy showing me around so I was not too worried about being pegged as a Californian. I tried my best not to say Dude, and I was wearing my Carhartt jacket and Wranglers along with my hunting boots. I even bought a package of Red Man chewing tobacco. My north Idaho camouflage was complete.

Together, Roy and I ran errands in town and like most small towns, you couldn’t swing a dead cat around without hitting someone Roy knew. I think I met at least 10% of the greater Bonners Ferry population. At Far North, the local sporting goods/gun store, I met Chris and the gang. On Wednesday evening, my sister Lisa and Roy took me to Mountain Springs Church. It was a very nice service and I met some of my sister's friends. She loves introducing me as her "baby brother", but she did cut my hair while I was there, so I was on my best behavior.

On Friday night after the fish fry at Three Mile Cafe, we all went to the homecoming football game. The weather had warmed up from the teens to the mid 50s and although it was chilly, we all stayed warm in the stands as the Bonners Ferry Badgers beat the team from Kellogg. The football game was very similar to a game at Esparto, only colder. The kids from the high school look just like the kids at any high school in our area. Sure, there are many kids in Carhartt coats and blue jeans, but there are many wearing Famous Stars or DC shirts and hats with skinny jeans and even a few Goth kids. I guess if you have MTV in your town, that sets the fashion, and everyone from Malibu to Montana dresses the same.

I came home this weekend to temperatures in the 70s and my wife and daughter just getting over the flu. I was glad to be home, but I was also a little saddened because I had such a great time with my mother and sister and my new friend Roy. I hope to be back next year for hunting season and to see the family again.

By the way, before you start looking at real estate ads, Roy said to make sure I tell everyone that the hunting stinks, the town is full of backwards rednecks, and it snows every day from August to May. You really would not like it…..

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The battles you fight on your knees

Anyone with children would probably agree, having a seriously ill child is one of the hardest things we have to deal with as parents. I cannot even begin to understand how the loss of a child would tear you up inside.

Experiencing a medical crisis of your own is hard enough. The thoughts of what would happen to your family if you were suddenly gone from the picture, the idea of your children not having both parents to help raise them, it is very sobering stuff. When it’s your child who is sick, the feeling of helplessness seems to overwhelm all others.

A while back I wrote about lines in the sands of time, and how there will always be another one of those days lurking out there, waiting. My advice was to live for today, let those around you know how much they mean to you. I think that advice is still sound. One thing I would add is to be thankful for the ordinary days. Those ordinary days are so easy to overlook. It's just Thursday, it's not my birthday, there is nothing important on my day planner, I am going to work, the kids are going to school, it's just Thursday.

Our son has been feeling pretty bad for two weeks now and we have been back and forth to the doctor a few times trying to find out what is making him so tired. Last Thursday my wife and I were told about a one centimeter "shadow" on our son's CT scan. It ceased to be just another Thursday right then. A million questions went through our minds; a thousand scenarios went through our minds as well, not many of them pleasant. It would have been easy to give in to those fears and allow them to take over the next few days, and I admit that they were always in the back of my mind, but I tried to stay in the moment. As we scheduled a follow up MRI for Monday, the uncertainty of our son's situation was the hardest part to deal with.

I can't imagine going through times like these without my faith. These are the battles that are better fought on your knees.

In the past I had used God like a 911 call. Hello Jesus, come quick, I'm in trouble. Then I would start to play “Let's make a deal” with God.

God, if you get me out of this, I will do whatever you ask. At that particular point in time, I meant it. If God would have faxed down a contract, I would have signed it. However, when the situation improved a bit, I would start to renegotiate the contract. Lord, I know that I said I would go to Borneo to do mission work, but my kids are in school, and I just got raise at work. I'll do what you want me to do later, okay?

While I still might make this plea today, having a deeper, stronger relationship with God helped me in ways I didn't understand, until now.

The one thing that kept going through my mind during those long days was a passage from the book of Psalms. "Be still and know that I am God." The knowledge that whatever happens, good or bad, God would still be there and He would still love me and my son was a great comfort. I don't know how I would have made it though without it.

One of the goals I had for this year was to take the family to Yosemite and for my son and I to go see a baseball game. We are now two for two. This past Saturday a large group of friends from the valley went to the last home stand of the Oakland A's. My son, who was still feeling very tired, said he was up to it and we spent a wonderful day tailgating and then sitting in the warm sunshine of the left field bleachers. The shadow on his CT scan was far from my mind most of the day.

Be still and know that I am God.

Some of my friends knew about our situation and we spent the better part of Monday emailing and taking calls from friends and family waiting for the results of the MRI. I did not tell many people because we didn't know anything, and I didn't want to have everyone worrying all weekend, sorry mom. We received the news late Monday that the MRI was negative. The relief we experienced was palpable. It was as if a large weight was taken of our chests ad we could take a deep breath again.

We are still awaiting more tests and so our relief is tempered, but as before, we will pull together and get through this. I know one thing, if we ever get back to that place where I start to think the days are ordinary; I hope someone will remind me that every day is a gift from God. It is up to each one of us to make it something special.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Be careful what you wish for....

Many folks in the higher circles of the GOP are giddy with the possibility of a major realignment in the American electorate. In these next two election cycles, the Republicans could make real gains in both houses of Congress, take back a few governorships and stop the Obama hope and change express cold. All of this is well and good for the Republican pundits and campaign managers, but I have a question. What then?

The Democrats were sure, once they rid the White House of George W. Bush, the world would be righted by the sheer power of Barack Obama's genius. Woops. Very large, very complex, and systemic problems require drastic action and bold, honest leadership to fix.

Bringing about a fundamental change of this magnitude will require something I believe the American people have lost their taste for; pain. We want someone to fix the problem without paying the price in discomfort. We want someone to make it better, without changing it. We want a dentist to fix 20 years worth of dental problems with no shots, no drilling and very little inconvenience. We want hope and change, not pain and change.

This is a trap I hope the GOP will not fall into. The trillions in new spending and the industrial sized debt the President is piling up for our children will not lead to prosperity, they will lead to ruin. The American people are finally awakening to the sticker shock of this and are standing up to say, enough. So what happens if we give the purse strings back to the Republicans? Are we so certain this short walk in the wilderness has been long enough to drive out the big-spending habits of the Hastert/DeLay Republicans? I have my doubts.

If there is to be real, meaningful solutions for our nation's fiscal outlook, it will take more than a repackaging of old ideas. It will take a revolution in the way Americans think about government; what it should do, and more to the point, what it cannot do. To lead that revolution, we will need leaders who tell the public what the real price of reform will mean; sacrifice.

They will have to tell American's, vote for me, and it will hurt for a little while. Vote for me and I will spend your money as if it were my money. Vote for me and together we will have to make some difficult choices. Vote for me and I will promise to help fix these very large, very complex, very expensive problems, once and for all. Vote for me and you may be sorry when I cut some money from a program you like or receive a benefit. Vote for me and we will make many people angry, but we can look our children in the face and know we did the right thing for them.

Would anyone run a campaign like that? Who would say government is too big, tries to do too much, and it costs entirely too much? It will certainly not be the Democratic Party. Not now, and unless they rein in the progressives and revert back to the party of JFK, not ever. So, that leaves us with the Republicans. Not the 2000-2006 Republicans, but the 1994 Republicans, if there are any left.

Does anyone have the conviction to run as a candidate saying the government is not Santa Claus? I do not know. I do not know if anyone has the courage to say, we are going to reduce the size of government, not slow the growth, but over the next four years we are going to reduce the size government by 4%. One percent a year and everyone will need to take a little less. Defense, Education, Interior, even Social Security and Medicare. Everyone needs to be smarter about how they spend the taxpayer’s money. Everyone talks about waste, fraud and abuse, and the only way to find it is to make the bureaucrats account for every dollar, every full time position, and every check they hand out. It works in the private sector; it should work for government as well.

My fear is the Republicans will be swept back into power without truly repenting their past fiscal sins. Right now we need fiscal conservatives, and lots of them. After the 1.5 to 1.7 Trillion dollar Obama deficits this year, it won't be hard to say we will cut the deficit in half. That will be easy. We need someone who will explain, and then reverse, this huge government expansion before we go over the cliff that is surely coming.

That cliff is demographic in nature, and numbers do not lie. The massive flood of baby-boomers who will be coming into the Social Security and Medicare systems in the next two decades will break this nation, plain and simple. When you hear any politician say that SSI and Medicare will cost X amount in the next ten years, ask this one question. What will it cost in twenty? The first decade will be no picnic, but when the main surge of boomers hit their 70s and 80s and begin fully utilizing the Medicare system, those two government entitlement programs will take up the majority of our national budget.

So what can we do? I wish I knew.

In one respect, the President is right about health care, doing nothing is not an option. With Medicare going broke in the coming decades, the answer is not putting everyone on it, or something similar to it. The answer is not promising even more 'free' things that we simply cannot afford. The answer should be personal responsibility. Part of the answer should be tort reform, so doctors do not give you a myriad of unnecessary scans and tests in the hopes they will not be sued. Part of the answer should be using medical savings accounts to put you in charge of your heath care dollars. Part of the answer should be means testing these programs. Part of the answer will be vigorous, and I do mean vigorous, enforcement of Medicare and Social Security fraud. There will have to more ways to save money, and they will have to be found, fast. These answers are not going to popular, but the alternative is much, much worse.

If we keep electing people who say they will not cut anything, we will get what we deserve, a complete shutdown of the system. No more checks, no more care, no more 'free' anything. One day all the hospitals who accept Medicare patients will have a padlock on the door and a sign on the door saying come back in four months when the new fiscal year starts, we are out of money. All the SSI checks will stop and everyone will cry bloody murder. We are facing that reality in a few decades, if not sooner.

If Republicans think they can fix this with a few minor tweaks, they are sadly mistaken. If Democrats think they can tax their way out of this demographic noose, they are mistaken as well. The solution will be two fold. Grow the economy, and that means growing small businesses as well as reducing one of the highest corporate taxes in the industrialized world. The other part of the solution is going to be a smaller government footprint. However, even those who want smaller government are going to be upset when their benefits are reduced. Trust me; they will want you to cut off those "other guys" not my benefits.

Whoever takes on this problem had better be prepared for town hall meetings that make this summer's look like a Girl Scout bake sale. It will be ugly.

So, who is willing to say, follow me and feel the pain? The better question is, would you vote for that person?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I know, I am so ashamed

ACORN's "Cash for Chlamydia" program

Do you smell something? I believe it’s the dead horse I was beating a few weeks ago, but darn if it doesn't require another good whooping.

The main stream media has a giant blind-spot when it comes to scandals involving Democrats, so they can think of me as one of those curved mirrors on the passenger side of your car. My message is simply this; "Your demise is closer than it appears."

I know the MSM is going to give President Obama and Democrats a pass on almost every mistake, miscalculation and scandal, but the latest ACORN videos have made an end run around the MSM and people are asking where were CNN and the New York Times on this story. ACORN, at last count, has taken 53 $Million in tax dollars, and would have been eligible to receive much more through the billions in Community Development Block Grants found in the stimulus bill. The GOP tried to keep any stimulus money from going to ACORN earlier this year, but every Democrat in the Senate voted that amendment down.

Then a series of undercover videos were released. I guess the Democrats ultimately could not defend sending taxpayer dollars to people who would gladly give you advice on the best way to set up and tax shelter your underage prostitution ring.

(I do not condone graffiti, but this makes me laugh)

I can hear the liberals screaming that posing as a pimp and prostitute with a hidden camera is gotcha journalism, and should not be taken seriously. I guess you never heard of 60 Minutes, or Dateline. Undercover journalism is only acceptable when it steers clear of liberal groups and politicians, right?

ACORN, once untouchable and completely unaccountable, has finally been unmasked for the liberal boondoggle of corruption it is. I am sure that within any organization you will find some folks who are fine people, with a genuine desire to help their community. It is now plain as day that many others think ACORN is a place where you can be paid to stick it to “the man.”

Don't want to pay your taxes? No problem, ACORN can help you. Don't have a job and want a home loan? No problem, ACORN can help you. You want to be paid for turning in voter registration forms using names from the phone book? No problem, ACORN will pay you.
Oh, by the way, has anyone seen Attorney General, Eric Holder? He must be busy.

So here is my question. What do think would happen if this scandal had been with an organization supported by Republicans?

It would be wall-to-wall coverage. There would be a reporter behind every shrub and bougainvillea at GOP headquarters jumping out to ask Republican leaders what they knew, and when knew it. I don't see that happening here, in fact the MSM has tried its best to ignore this story. They finally had to report the story when the fifth undercover video was released showing ACORN employees actually offering advice to undercover journalist, posing a pimp and a prostitute, on the best way to smuggle underage girls into the country for the purpose of prostitution. He even offered to help them. Talk about customer service....

Those of us on the right have known about the corruption in ACORN for years. Maybe the
MSM is afraid to go after groups like this because they fear their reporting would be labeled as racist. This seems to be the standard operating procedure. If anyone questions your minority-based group, hit them with the R word. There is nothing like the charge of racist or bigot to scare even the largest news outlet into looking the other way. After years of doing it, the MSM does not even bother to look at groups like ACORN anymore. Too much trouble, too much downside possibility.

So what other scandals and stories are out there? A better question is who will break them? Will it be the MSM with a newsroom full of professional journalists, or will it be another couple of college student?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Straight news

Is it just me, or have the major news outlets simply looked at the demographics and tried to carve out a market for their product, rather than just covering the news in a straightforward way? By any measure, this is not a new phenomenon. Before our nation was conceived, we can see how ideology was the driving factor in the newspaper business. Before the Declaration of Independence had been written, there were loyalist newspapers and pro revolution newspapers. Each paper would print stories 180 degrees apart from the other while covering the same story. As I am always fond of saying, you are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.

I am just old enough to remember when almost every local newspaper and local television station received most of their content from news wire services. The Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, they had the reporters on the ground in every major city and when a story broke, the local reporter would write it up and send it over the wire to news outlets who paid for the service. You had to trust the wire story because there was no real way to fact check it in time to make your deadlines.

That is not the case today. With the interconnection of the news, there are multiple sources, multiple reporters, and the almost infinite information that can be researched, and sourced on the internet. Just as the centerpiece document of Dan Rather's report on George W. Bush in the Texas Air National Guard was proved a forgery within hours; it doesn't take much research to find the truth, or at least the other side of the story. Unless you are not looking to find it.

Never has the mainstream media put its blinders on as they have for President Obama. They just do not want look under the hood. The scene from Star wars comes to mind. "These are not the droids you are looking for", says the President. "These are not the droids we are looking for," says the New York Times.

We understand that President Obama is their guy, it is not a secret, but can we at least have someone in the Washington press corps do the job they are being paid for? That job is not going to cocktail parties and taking free tickets to the Kennedy Center, that job is to be the eyes and ears of their readers and viewers. Maybe they forgot this principle, or it simply is no longer being taught at Columbia’s journalism school. Less than a year ago, any statement coming from the White House or the President was treated as a lie that needed to be proven true. In this task, the mainstream media were tireless, and I say, good for them. Under President Obama, the administration’s message is indisputable and any attack on the President’s message is treated as a lie.

Take the recent resignation of green jobs czar Van Jones. While everyone else who was paying attention knew the facts surrounding Obama’s friend being a “9/11 Truther”- you may not want to actually sign those petitions if you want to hold higher office Van- and his radical Communist past. Most in the media were willing sit on the story to protect the President from any further damage, especially with the President taking the heath care debate into a full court press.

If you think I am just making this stuff up, I am not. Read the 2005 piece by Eliza Strickland titled “The new face of environmentalism.” Van Jones is a self-confessed Marxist, Socialist, whose participation in fringe left-wing groups reads like Fidel Castro’s resume, minus the political executions and oppression.

Which brings up the question, did anyone in the mainstream press bother to look at the mountains of information available on Jones? It certainly doesn’t seem like it. For those who think Fox News and Glenn Beck are the Devil, know this; if the media did their job, Glenn Beck would not have one. The reason conservative news outlets exist is the fact that people are tired of hearing only one side to the news. I know I am. When I see the byline of AP or Associated Press, I know the story I am about to read will be slanted to the left. Every once in a while I find an AP story that strikes me as straight down the middle, just presenting the facts without an agenda. Those stories are striking because they are the exception rather than the rule. What a shame.

If you read the white washing of the Van Jones’ resignation today, you will hear term like “Swift Boated.” How laughable. If by Swiftboating you mean telling the truth about a radical, Marxists, 9/11 Truther appointed by the President to the higher circles of government, then yes, Van Jones has been swiftboated. If you mean he was slandered by unfounded rumors and innuendo, then no, he was not.

Before you comment, please do a little research, and I don’t mean on the Daily Koz.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Football in a small town

It has been a while since I had a rooting interest in a high school football game, twenty-six years to be exact, the game and the atmosphere has changed little. No matter the size of the school or the town, a Friday night game under the lights is a special thing.

The girlfriends of the players wearing the jersey numbers of their sweethearts, the grandparents cheering in the bleachers, the parents pushing strollers carrying the next generation of football players and cheerleaders, these sights are universal. I always thought if you wanted to teach a foreign visitor about America, take them to a Friday night football game in a small town.

High school football is a competitive, strenuous, disciplined, strategic game with controlled violence. It's no wonder the Birkenstock wearing, Prius driving people look down on it. It's no wonder the rest of us are drawn to it. I was reading a piece in the Wall Street Journal about football of all the things, and found this quote by former Notre Dame Coach, Lou Holtz;
"You aren't entitled to anything. You don't inherit anything. You get what you earn—your position on the team," Mr. Holtz said. "You're treated like everybody else. You're held accountable for your actions. You understand that your decisions affect other people on that team…There's winners, there's losers, and there's competitiveness."

Last night's game in Esparto was a study in the struggles and changing fortunes found in football. Last year was last year, and unlike politics, there are no incumbents. The Spartan junior varsity went undefeated in 2008; the varsity did pretty well also, 5-5 I believe. This year both the junior varsity and the varsity were man handled by their rivals from Winters High. In both games, it seemed the Spartans just didn't have the horses.

Many of the starters from last year's undefeated JV team are now juniors, leaving a depleted roster of experienced players. This year's juniors are getting their first taste of the speed and hard hitting of varsity football. Not to say this season is over, far from it. The coaching staff will get the best out of the players, and the players will grow into their new roles.

Even though both games were blow outs, it was still great night because the teams didn't quit. I know they felt terrible, and I remember that feeling from my playing days. Seeing the frustration and dejection on their faces, I wanted to jump over the ropes and tell them, it would be all right. I wanted to tell them, you gave it everything you had, and no one can ask anything more than that.

Sometimes your best in not enough, in football and in life. Either you can shrink from a loss like the one they suffered last night, or you can dig down deep and find something you did not know you had inside you. That is football, that is life. Here’s hoping the Spartans bounce back and a few young men step up to help their teammates become better.

As I walked along the sidelines, I ran into a bunch of my friends, even a person I played softball with 20 years ago. On Friday nights in the late summer and fall, all you have to do is follow the glow of the stadium lights and you will meet just about everyone. This was especially true last night if were in line at the snack bar. It seems this year the Esparto Boosters were told they must use a cash register, instead of doing what had been working for decades. This caused a single choke point in the concession process, and the line to buy a hot dog or hamburger looked like the lines to get toilet paper in Soviet-era Moscow. I am not sure how much money was lost last night because of people just giving up and heading back to their seats after waiting in a unmoving line for fifteen minutes, but I am sure more than a few folks did. I think this falls under the, it may not be perfect, but let’s not replace it with something worse, situation.

All in all, a wonderful evening. Both teams shook hands after the game and I saw players from both schools talking with each other as they left the stadium. Some of them are friends from 4-H and FFA. They have learned to play the game the right way, play hard, but leave it on the field. You did your best and you can hold your heads up, but don’t be surprised if Monday’s practice is a gut buster. Good luck Spartans, can’t wait for the next home game.