Frenzied shoppers declare war on Christmas

You almost can set your calendar to it. This time of year brings the usual phony contention that the “liberal media” have declared a “war on Christmas.” The charge comes from the conservative media, led by the Fox News Channel, which keeps harping on the bogus assertion.

They contend that liberals insist we should say “happy holidays” to be sensitive to our non-Christian citizens.


No, the real war on Christmas is being waged on another front.

Check out this link.

Therein lie the actual combatants in this war on Christmas. They are the Black Friday shoppers — and the retailers who promote the daylights out of this event. The morons recorded in the attached videos have done more to sully the sanctity of this holiday than anything the so-called “liberal media” have done or ever will do.

My wife blurted out a suggestion yesterday when she saw some of this hideous behavior being played out. “Lock up anyone charged with a criminal act until after Christmas,” she said. By the looks of some of the videos shown around the world, that could fill our jails to the brim and beyond.

But I get her point.

Jesus Christ himself was known to have a temper. I suspect strongly that the Son of God is quite angry at what has happened to the holiday intended to honor His birth.

As for the conservative media, focus your anger on the real — not the phony — warriors against Christmas.

GOP platform goofs on red-light cams

Tom Pauken is a smart guy who’s running for Texas governor.

He’s running as a “true conservative,” which means — I am going to presume — that he favors small government and less intrusion into local affairs.

Why, then, does this stalwart Republican say he opposes cities’ authority to install red-light cameras at dangerous intersections? “I support a statewide ban on red-light cameras as prescribed in the Texas Republican Party’s platform,” Pauken said in a recent news release.

What? The party platform opposes cities’ right to act on their own to curb what they believe to be a problem at certain intersections?

Amarillo has deployed these cameras for the past five years. They’ve had mixed success. People are still running red lights, either just blazing through them or taking off from a complete stop to violate the law. The Amarillo City Council, instead of retreating from the strategy to reduce these infractions, has expanded the number of intersections that will be patrolled by the electronic devices. Good job, City Hall.

Back to Pauken’s point about endorsing the GOP platform.

Republicans keep yammering about government interference. They decry “big government” paternalism. They keep saying localities should have the right to determine policy issues. Amarillo acted in its own interest when it decided to activate the cameras. What’s good for Amarillo isn’t good, say, for Lubbock — which once deployed the cameras, only to take them down because too many people griped about them.

By my reckoning, Pauken’s insistence that the GOP platform is correct doesn’t make sense coming from the so-called “true conservative.”

Presidential term limits need to go

Jonathan Zimmerman, a history professor at New York University, says it well.

Let’s repeal the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits presidents to two consecutive terms.

He wants to allow presidents to serve as long as the public can stand them.

His Washington Post essay lays out the case quite well. As one who opposes congressional term limits, I understand where Professor Zimmerman is coming from. Term limits already exist, in the form of elections.

Only one president ever has been elected more than twice consecutively: Franklin D. Roosevelt won a third term in 1940. He was elected to a fourth term in 1944, but died shortly after taking the oath in early 1945. His cousin Teddy was the first president to seek a third term. He served two terms consecutively after becoming president in 1901, after President William McKinley was murdered. He was elected in his own right in 1904, then walked away in 1909. He sought the presidency in 1912 as the Bull Moose candidate, but the office went to Woodrow Wilson.

Zimmerman takes note of President Obama’s low poll standing. It’s highly unlikely, at this moment at least, that he would be elected to a third term if he had the chance. Indeed, most presidents burn out after two terms. President Reagan lamented late in his second term that he would have liked the chance to run again. President Clinton said much the same thing near the end of his presidency.

The 22nd Amendment was enacted in 1947 by a Republican-controlled Congress to head off what some feared would be an imperial presidency. They didn’t like that FDR served seemingly forever. But he was the voters’ choice — four elections in a row!

As Zimmerman notes, even the Father of Our Country, George Washington, disliked the idea of term limits. “I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the service of any man who, in some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public,” Washington wrote to Marquis de Lafayette, according to Zimmerman.

Let these people serve until the voters say otherwise.

Where has my penmanship gone?

I made a startling discovery the other day as I picked up a pen to write a short note to someone.

It was that I am losing my ability to write … as in cursive writing, with pen and paper.

This is the Mother of Revolting Developments.

There once was a time when I had excellent penmanship. I think I inherited that skill from my parents, both of whom wrote with pen strokes that were things of beauty. I have in my possession letters that Mom wrote in the late 1940s to my Uncle Jim. Her handwriting was exquisite then and it remained that way until she died in 1984. Same with Dad, who was a bit of a wanna-be artist when he was younger; his handwriting reflected his artistic skill.

My sisters’ handwriting remains quite good.

Mine? It’s gone to hell.

I blame it on two factors.

One of them is the profession I chose to enter upon returning from the Army in 1970. Journalism is murder on penmanship.

Journalists spend the bulk of their day with a pen and notebook, scribbling furiously what they see and hear. You’re on the phone with a source, gathering information. The source is talking to you rapidly. You have to write just as rapidly to keep up. For the most part, the same process plays out when you’re talking in person to a source.

You can guess, then, what the scrawl looks like. It’s unintelligible to anyone except the author. A standing joke in the media business always has been to dare a lawyer or a judge to subpoena your notebook to enter as evidence in a court proceeding. Good luck trying to decipher what it says.

My handwriting skills deteriorated slowly over the 37 years I worked in daily journalism, a fact that never was lost on my wife — who to this day chides me over the loss of my handwriting skills.

The second thing that occurred was the introduction of the Internet. Yep, I’ll blame the rest of it on telecommunications technology.

I’m writing these words on a computer. I write almost everything now by punching keyboards. Send a note? Email.

The death of my handwriting isn’t yet complete. I can still sign my name, which is something a lot of youngsters reportedly no longer can do. I also can manage a legible note, but it requires greater attention and concentration than ever before.

Technology is a wonderful thing — most of the time.

It’s not so wonderful when it contributes to the decline of once-rudimentary skills.

Health care law faces huge day

There are big days … and then there are those days on which everything seems to ride.

The Obama administration is facing one of those “everything” days.

It’s supposed to get the website fixed by the end of the day. This is the site that all but crashed in early October when millions of Americans tried to sign on to the federal exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act.

Turns out the website wasn’t ready for prime time. Then came the cancellation notices that President Obama said wouldn’t come. He’d promised that we could keep our insurance plans if we were happy with them. That, too, turned out to be incorrect. Did the president actually “lie,” meaning did he make that promise knowing he couldn’t keep it?

I’m not proficient enough of a mind-reader to know that, unlike the president’s critics who’ve called him everything but the Son of Satan. Oh, wait a minute, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure he’s actually been called that too.

We’ll get to see now if (a) the administration’s computer geeks can deliver the goods on the website and (b) whether the critics will keep their mouths shut if the geeks actually make good on their promise to make the website user-friendly.

I’m cautiously optimistic on the first part; not so on the second.

Alec Baldwin gets hosed; Martin Bashir survives

I’ve already declared my disgust with two MSNBC hosts, Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir.

Baldwin needed to get fired for his hideous outburst against a photographer in which he yelled a homophobic slur against the man. It was disgraceful, disgusting and thoroughly degrading. MSNBC decided to ax his 9 p.m. (CST) show that aired each Friday. So long, Alec.

Then he fired back at the network for what he said is uneven treatment of his transgression and that of Martin Bashir, another MSNBC talking head.

Bashir did something that also was vile and disgusting. While offering a comment one afternoon on his show, he referred to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a “world-class idiot,” and then said she should be degraded with feces and urine. Bashir challenged Palin’s assertion that the national debt is akin to slavery; he made some point about the kind of torture and degradation that slaves endured, which included being soiled with human feces and urine.

Bashir went on the air shortly after his hideous rant and apologized. Palin said she accepted his apology.

He’s still offering his commentary … on the air.

Baldwin said the network is being unfair because it fired him for his spontaneous outburst, which occurred off camera, while keeping Bashir on the job for reciting a scripted critique of a one-time elected official.

Doesn’t Baldwin have a point here? Martin Bashir’s ghastly rant, it could be argued, was more egregious, given that it was a pre-meditated act.

Why, then, aren’t both men banished from the same network?

Will the tide turn on Hispanic votes?

Paul Burka’s blog on the candidacy of state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte suggests a now-or-virtually-never scenario for Texas Democrats.

Van de Putte is running for lieutenant governor. She is a Hispanic woman with a lot of appeal to the base of her party. The question she faces — as do Texas Democrats — is whether she can motivate Texas Hispanics to vote in next year’s race for lieutenant governor and governor.

Van de Putte joins state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth at the top of the Democratic Party ticket next year. Davis’s chances of becoming the next governor are longer than long, according to Burka and many other analysts. I’m not so sure about that … but that’s just little ol’ me.

Burka is right about Hispanics’ turnout in previous elections. It hasn’t been good. He notes also that Texas Hispanics are descended from folks who came into Texas from Mexico, where the political culture hasn’t been kind to folks who depend on government. Burka writes, “Hispanics emigrated to America from a country whose government seldom did things FOR people, but rather did things TO people. In such circumstances, the degree of trust or belief in government and politicians was, and remains, negligible. All too easily, the culture of Mexican politics was transplanted to the Texas side of the border.”

A very high hurdle sits in front of Van de Putte and Davis as they seek to break the GOP’s hold on statewide offices.

They’ll need to “nationalize” this campaign by linking the Republican nominees for governor and lieutenant governor to the extreme policies of their party’s national brain trust: government shutdown, immigration reform reluctance and, of course, women’s reproductive rights.

If they can connect those dots, there might be a Texas transformation in the making.

Pizza Hut comes to its senses

You have to hand it to the corporate brass at Pizza Hunt, Inc. It knows how to wipe the marinara sauce off its face.

Seems that one of the company’s managers, Tony Rohr, refused to open an Elkhart, Ind., Pizza Hunt on Thanksgiving. He wanted to give his employees a day off to spend with their families.

The company asked Rohr to write a letter of resignation. He complied, writing: “I accept that the refusal to comply with this greedy, immoral request means the end of my tenure with this company. I hope you realize that it is the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible.”

Pizza Hunt fired Rohr for insubordination.

Then it hit the fan.

The bad publicity that hammered the company forced the corporate moguls to change their mind. They offered to give Rohr his job back.

However, Rohr isn’t so sure he wants to return. He’d been a 10-year employee of Pizza Hut. He told the company he’d think about it. “That’s something I can’t decide right away,” he told CNN. He also mentioned the pride his friends and family have expressed to him since the story got out.

Well, I’m neither a friend or a family member, but I’m proud of him too.

U.S. a ‘Christian nation’? Hardly

Ron Reagan has fanned the flames of anger by recording a radio ad in which he proclaims himself to be an “unabashed atheist.”

He’s signed on to the Freedom From Religion Foundation and has declared his disgust with those who keep interjecting religion into public policy discussion.

OK, here’s where I’ll make a couple of disclaimers.

One is that I am not an atheist. I was baptized a Christian as a baby and am now more of a believer in Jesus Christ than I’ve ever been.

The other is that I believe Reagan — the younger son of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan — happens to be correct in asserting that the United States is a secular nation.

I’m not going to get into bashing others today; it’s a vow I made the other day about commenting on Thanksgiving. I intend to keep it positive — at least for the remainder of this day.

I merely want to refer to the U.S. Constitution, the document that establishes the framework for this nation’s greatness.

I believe the founders mentioned religion precisely twice in that document.

The first time is in Article VI. There, they said officeholders shall swear to uphold the Constitution, then they added: “but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The second time is when they got around to establishing the Bill of Rights. The very First Amendment in part says this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ” The amendment goes on to give Americans the right to speak freely about the government, it allows for a free press, gives citizens the right to assemble “peaceably” and to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

You’ll notice that in the First Amendment, the founders laid out the religion part first. Why is that? I only can surmise that they did so because their forebears had come here to escape religious persecution. They did not want to told they had to worship a certain way. They wanted freedom from all of that, so they set sail for the New World, where they could be free to worship — or not worship — as they pleased.

I also believe the founders were guided by religious principles. They did refer to “the Creator” when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. I hasten to add, though, that the reference is to a universal deity — and not necessarily a Christian deity.

Ron Reagan’s declaration speaks to the trend in recent decades to keep insisting that the United States is a “Christian nation.” It isn’t. It’s a secular nation with no national religion. Our founders sought to separate the church from the state.

Moreover, to those who keep insisting that the words “church and state separation” do not appear in the Constitution, I only can refer them to the First Amendment. I know what it means. So do they.

And I give thanks for the founders’ wisdom in ensuring our government should be free from religious doctrine.

Happy, sad places have common threads

Forbes Magazine has come up with a survey of the happiest and saddest countries on Earth.

Take a look at the list. You might discover something I noticed immediately after scanning the list and looking at the pictures associated with the link.

Happy places are prosperous and peaceful. Sad places are poverty stricken and ripped apart by war.

Look at the people in the pictures and you’ll notice something else. Close your eyes and think of the stereotypical Norwegian, who lives in the happiest country on the planet. Blond and blue-eyed, yes? The rest of the 10 happiest countries are populated by people with similar stereotypical features.

Now, look at the pictures of the 10 saddest countries. Chad is the No. 1 on the sad list. Where is Chad? In Africa. It is populated by people of color, as are virtually all the countries on the saddest places list.

I’m not sure what the Forbes study is meant to prove. To my eyes, the obvious conclusion I’m drawing is that worldwide peace and prosperity need to be distributed much more evenly.

Maybe someone will come up with a list of strategies to make that a reality.