Replacing Blake Farenthold

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial

   

Photo design by Dan Thornton

     Campaign signs are springing up along the roadways which is a clear indication that an election is coming soon. In fact, the Texas primary election will be held on March 6th. One of the most important local races will be the Republican primary to replace Blake Farenthold. Blake Farenthold is not running for re-election, and I recently suggested to a friend that Blake was not running due to a guilty conscience, but my friend quipped lawyers don’t have a conscience. That is something to think about, but in the meantime, I am thinking about the five candidates in the Republican primary. They are Michael Cloud, Christopher Mapp, Jerry Hall, John Grunwald and Bech Bruun.

     In a report for KRIS TV, The “Out-of Towners Running for Farenthold’s Old  Seat,” it was reported that three of the five candidates do not actually live in the 27th District. Bech Bruun has a vacation home in Rockport, but his permanent residence is in Austin. KRIS TV reported that Bruun has been living in his vacation home since December. John Grunwald did have a trailer in Wharton County which is in the district, but it got destroyed by a hurricane, and currently he is living in Houston. Jerry Hall has property and legal records that tie him to Florida; however, he has rented an apartment in Corpus Christi. Residing in the district is not a constitutional requirement, but it certainly is desirable.  Why else would a candidate rent an apartment or relocate to a vacation home in order to claim residency just prior to an election?

District 27 map

     There are two candidates who have permanent residences in the district. Michael Cloud owns a home and a business in Victoria, and Christopher Mapp owns a home in Port O’Connor. If the election came down to residency, the candidates would be Michael Cloud and Christopher Mapp, but that is not the case. Elections often come down to money, and the attorney Bech Bruun has attracted both money and endorsements. It now appears the election is shaping up to be a contest between Michael Cloud and Bech Bruun even though Bruun’s permanent residence is in Austin. Since the election is not going to be determined based on residency, it is important to know where the candidates stand on the issues.

     I reviewed Bech Bruun’s website looking for issue statements, but I found none. I did find endorsements on two different pages, and I found one page about the candidate. All that I was able to learn from the website was that he claims to be a conservative Republican, he is a lawyer, he has a wife and three beautiful children, and that he has worked for water development and Get-Out-the-Vote at a state level.   However, I could not determine his position on any of the key issues of our time, so I have to wonder whether he is a conservative or not. Honestly, I have to wonder, should we send yet another lawyer to Washington? Is he trying to deceive me by claiming his vacation home is his residence? Do lawyers have a conscience?

     In reviewing Michael Cloud’s website, I found that he too has a wife and three beautiful children. I also found a page of position statements that did cover the major issues of our time. I would encourage you to go to his website and read his position statements for yourself. What follows are some highlights from his website:

  • Commitment to responsible spending cuts
  • Cutting back federal regulations
  • Ensuring the military has the resources necessary to combat terrorism
  • Protecting your right to keep and bear arms
  • Repealing Obamacare
  • Providing parents greater input in educational choices for their children
  • Reforming immigration, beginning with securing the border and upholding the rule of law
  • Ensuring veterans have access to quality health care and education
  • Controlling  the EPA or other government agencies
  • Continuing to pursue energy independence
  • Standing against government attempts to discriminate against people of faith
  • Working to enact policies that recognize parental rights, respect marriage, and protect life

     Based on the information that is readily available, I would suggest that Michael Cloud is a conservative. I would encourage you to research the candidates for yourself.  You can meet Michael Cloud at the Padre Island Candidate Forum to be held at Schlitterbahn February 21st at 6:00 p.m.  Remember the election is being held on March 6th.  If you cannot do as Al Capone encouraged, “Vote early and vote often,” at least vote.

Until next time…

A citizen of the United States of America, a Texan and a resident of Flour Bluff, Dan Thornton, values enlightened reason and freedom. Dan is a lifelong student of history and philosophy, and a writer of poetry and song. The hallmark of his pursuit is a quest for universal truth. By admission, the answer is illusive, but he is undaunted, and the quest continues.

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Truth-goggles

Front Page, Opinion/Editorial
Photo by Dan Thornton

     I am glad to have survived another year of fake news, false claims, and frustration, and to tell you the truth, it has inspired me. I believe I am on the verge of the world’s greatest invention.  When I was a child, I remember seeing advertisements in comic books for X-ray glasses.  The prospect fascinated me, and I always wanted a pair of X-ray glasses, but the $2.99 price was always out of my reach.  I must admit that I did not think it was possible to merely put on a pair of glasses and acquire X-ray vision, but the idea was very appealing.  Later in life, I learned first-hand about beer -goggles, and much to my surprise they are at times very effective and affordable.  Like many others, I have found that beer-goggles alter reality in amazing ways.  While wearing beer-goggles, I find that I am taller, more handsome, funnier, dance better, and naturally more attractive to the opposite sex.  It is a rather amazing transformation at the right price.  Some would say that it is an altered reality, and they would not be wrong.

     It is just that altered reality that has inspired my invention. What if you could put on a pair of glasses, and they would filter out the altered reality, the lies, and innuendo?  It would be like a reverse invention of beer-goggles.  Since I have not officially named my invention, for lack of anything better, I will refer to them as truth-goggles.  Imagine if you will that you put on a pair of truth-goggles, and then you peruse the New York Times or the Newsweek.  The truth-goggles will filter out the lies and misrepresentations, and all you will see are the facts.  Headlines such as “Melania Trump Orders Removal of 220-Year-Old Tree from White House,” as Newsweek reported recently will not be visible.  Instead you will see a pleasant photograph of Switzerland.  You would also see a pleasant photograph of Switzerland where TIME reported  that a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. was removed from the Oval Office by Trump.  When watching the news on television, your screen would display beautiful photographs of Switzerland instead of the ABC News story claiming Trump ordered Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials while a candidate, or when CNN claimed Trump and Trump, Jr. were given access to Wiki Leaks documents when in fact, the documents were public information.  I am sure you are thinking that the false stories have been retracted – and they have – but not in such a way that low-information voters are aware of it because the retractions were not bold headlines on the front page, and neither were they headlines on the 6:oo o’clock news.  In fact, the retractions were published in such a way that they received very little attention;  therefore, many voters walk around believing the original fake news.

     I am sure most people believe that the elimination of fake news would be worthwhile, and moreover some would agree that an invention such as truth-goggles would be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize like the one awarded President Obama for no apparent reason. It is certainly my belief, but I know there are some obstacles to overcome to actually get the truth.  My first thought was the use of contemporary fact-checking databases, but many of them have proven to be flawed.  I have discussed the problem with a trusted friend who suggested that I should contact Joe Friday of “Dragnet” fame, since he was interested in “just the facts.”  That of course presents a real problem since “Dragnet” was an old 1950s TV series that aired in wonderful black and white.  Many people will not remember the series and have the trust in Joe Friday that my friend has.  Even if everyone had complete trust in Joe Friday, there is still the obstacle of time travel back to the 1950s.  I thanked my friend for his input, but I have decided on another approach that does not involve time travel.

     I have decided to use artificial intelligence since the technology is readily available and can be miniaturized to fit inside my truth-goggles. The intelligence chip will only be required to do two things very well.  The intelligence chip will have to reason and absorb information instantly.  My research indicates that the absorption and reasoning process must be accomplished a mere nano-second faster than the fastest human, and of course a pleasant photograph of Switzerland will have to be selected and displayed instead of false information.  In my introductory model of truth-goggles, I anticipate using only pictures of Switzerland because all of the pictures of Switzerland are pleasant  and most are downright beautiful, so it will speed up the selection process.  As the speed of absorption and reasoning improve, I intend to offer an upgraded model of truth-goggles that will display any digital picture available.  Naturally the upgraded model will have programmable intelligence filters to assure that all displayed content will be age appropriate.

      I must admit that I can barely contain my excitement. To think that I am introducing a product that is world-changing actually boggles my mind.  There has never been a product in the history of mankind that has such profound implications.  Imagine a world without absurd advertising claims, a world without pseudo-science, a world devoid of false political claims, a world where truth prevails, and people are not continually bombarded with misinformation.  Once truth-goggles are introduced, and people begin to see only the truth, the false claims and the fake news will disappear from recorded media.  There will be no reason to publish false claims or fake news because the content will not be visible, so eventually the publisher will begin to produce the truth, and the entire system will become self-correcting.

     For the first time in the history of mankind, people will begin to learn the lessons of history because all of the gnarly, twisted misinformation embedded in historical content will not be visible. Mankind will actually understand Greek and Roman history and will learn from their mistakes.  The future of our nation and indeed the world will no longer be destined to failed systems and experiments.  The world will truly be enlightened.   The age of Aquarius will be within our reach.

       Once the initial truth-goggles are introduced, I will begin working on Phase II truth-goggles. The Phase II model will have the ability to sort out the truth in personal conversation.  The intelligence chip will have to go beyond rapid reasoning and will have to read the speaker’s mind.  As everyone well knows, mind reading requires very keen observation of gestures and expressions along with a great deal of intuitive thought.  The keen observation is the simple part and can be programmed to any artificial intelligence chip, but the intuition is a bit more complicated.  However, after the initial adoption of the Phase I truth-goggles, the intuitive programming becomes much simpler because people become accustomed to dealing in truth.  The truthful thought behind any verbal expression is very limited and can be categorized as either positive, negative or neutral.  Then it just becomes a matter of degree, and the truth can be discerned with relative certainty.  It really becomes a matter of studying the history of comments and their outcome.  It is important to keep in mind, that in any discourse,  the other party is interested in one thing above all others.  The other party always wants to know, “What is in it for me?”  Answer that question, and you can predict the thoughts.

     Perhaps an example would simplify the understanding required to read someone’s mind. Suppose you go to a car dealership to buy a car.  You find the car you want, take a test drive, and are pleased with the car.  Naturally you are thinking about the cost of the car, when the salesman asks you what you would like your monthly payment to be.  In that moment, your Phase II truth-goggles go to work, and you realize what he is really asking is “How much money can I make off of this chump?”  Realizing his thoughts, you do not take the bait, and you respond with “I will give you $28,000 for the car.”  This is not the response the salesman wanted, and he flinches noticeably.  You detect the flinch and think “I’ve got this sleazy car salesman in the corner.”  As it turns out, the car salesman has on his Phase II truth-goggles and sensing the satisfaction on your face he realizes that you think he is sleazy.  The salesman does not want to appear sleazy, so he puts on his best smile and says that he will have to talk to his sales manager.  After a brief visit with the sales manager, the salesman returns and says that he can accept your offer.  He begins immediately to complete the sales contract.  He quietly offers you the usual add-ons but is not pushy.  He accepts whatever response you give, and he completes the contract.  At this juncture you begin to think the salesman was not so much of a sleaze as you initially thought.  The salesman sensing your thoughts naturally puts on a pleasant smile and wonders if his next sale will be as easy as this one.

     As you can see from the example, Phase II truth-goggles simplified a complex transaction and left all parties satisfied. As Phase II truth-goggles are adopted and people begin to experience discourse with the new mind reading chip set, it will become second nature for people to eliminate the negative thoughts and approach every exchange with honesty and integrity.  With the elimination of negative thoughts, the Phase II truth-goggles will begin to process faster because they will only have to deal with positive or neutral thoughts.  When processing time has sufficiently decreased, I will introduce the upgraded Phase III truth-goggles that display three dimensional and holographic art.  It will truly be a beautiful world.

     While researching and discussing my project, many people have expressed an interest in investing in truth-goggles. For that reason, I have decided to crowd-source funding for the project.  This approach will allow anyone to participate and share in the eventual rewards.  It will be as though everyone has inside information and can get in on the ground-floor.  There are still a few details to work out, such as naming the product and the company, but that is the easy part.  Certainly truth will be incorporated in both the product and the company.  After all, it was Buddha who said, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”  It is with the Buddha’s thought in mind that I devised the mission statement for the company.  It will be, “Truth – to integrity and beyond.”

Until next time…

A citizen of the United States of America, a Texan and a resident of Flour Bluff, Dan Thornton, values enlightened reason and freedom. Dan is a lifelong student of history and philosophy, and a writer of poetry and song. The hallmark of his pursuit is a quest for universal truth. By admission, the answer is illusive, but he is undaunted, and the quest continues.

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Lessons I Learned in 2017

Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

Like most people, I want to start the new year with a little more knowledge and hopefully a little more wisdom than the previous year.  To recognize either, however, it is important to reflect on the year that came before.  I learned a few lessons from 2017 that I hope will help me handle the events of 2018 with a bit more understanding, courage, and grace.  I am relating these lessons in no particular order.

  • The storms of life are often unexpected and devastating but necessary. They bring us together and offer opportunities for working together, inspiring hope, giving freely and joyfully, and expressing genuine concern for those less fortunate.
  • We should put more faith in God and people than Hollywood and government.
  • When we are assaulted in any way, we must stand up to the offender and let it be known that we don’t tolerate rude or unseemly behavior. We must also report such behavior immediately for the sake of everyone.  Imagine what the world would be if everyone treated each other the way they want the person they love most in the world treated.
  • Hurricanes and snow storms can happen in South Texas within four months of each other. We should delight in the wonder of that.
  • We need more snow days. They give us a reason to do nothing except play, snuggle, drink hot chocolate, and marvel in how beautiful everything is when blanketed in snow.  Even the neighbor’s old shed makes for a great snow photo.
  • We should listen more, especially to those who struggle to find their voice. Our forefathers understood this and gave us freedom of the press to help do that.  That said, we should not allow anyone to be tried in the press.  We are a nation that believes in due process.  To ignore “innocent until proven guilty” hurts us all.
  • We should carry a trash bag on our walks and tidy up our paths. This is good for the environment – and our waistlines.
  • We should be quick to help and slow to criticize. Our opinions aren’t worth much, but our hands and feet are like gold.
  • We must admit it when we are wrong and forgive those who point it out. Most of us benefit from a bit of humbling now and again.
  • Investing in people pays higher dividends than investing in Bitcoins. Mentor a child who may not have a responsible adult in his life to teach him about right living.  Both of you will change for the better.
  • Find a way for kids to spend time with farm animals. It teaches them respect and a healthy fear of the big ones and allows them to see how even the smallest one has a purpose.
  • Patience is still a virtue. Sometimes waiting for what we need or want saves us time and trouble and unnecessary expense.
  • We should preserve the history of the common people and share it with our children by telling them or writing it down. It is our past, after all, that defines the direction we take in the future.
  • We must put names, places, and dates on pictures and writings so that “Who’s that?” and “Where are they?” and “When was this?” can be answered.
  • We should spend more time with four-year-old kids. They have the courage to hold a snake and sing and dance in public.  We should nurture this in them – and in ourselves.
  • We learn what our loved ones cherished by the paper treasures in their attics. Print newspapers and magazines allow us to leave a trail of what we value for those who may one day dig through our old shoe boxes stored in the closet in search of who we really are.

I am certain that everyone who reads this list could easily add to it.  So, print it, attach it to a piece of paper where you list your own life lessons from 2017, tuck it into a box or between the pages of a book, and give your children and grandchildren something to think and talk about after you’re gone.  They’ll be glad you did.  May each of you have a happy and blessed New Year, and may your resolutions turn into actions that make you a better person.

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

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The Sociopath, the Psychopath and the Wrong Path

Front Page, Health, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial, Science

First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs (San Antonio Current Photo, 2017)

 

 

     Shots ring out, 14 are left dead, 29 are wounded and the shooter is dead at the scene from an apparent suicide. The motive is not known, but an investigation is underway.  Stop.  Does this sound familiar?

     It sounds familiar because it is. Five of the deadliest shootings in the United States occurred in the last ten years.  In 2007, 32 were killed at Virginia Tech.  In 2012, we had the Sandy Hook massacre and 27 were killed.  In 2016, there was the Orlando night club shooting where 49 died.  In 2017, we have had the Vegas attack and the Sutherland Springs attack with a combined total of 84 dead.  Since 2007, there have been 54 mass shootings.  In the ten year period, from  1997 to 2007, there were 23 mass shootings, and from 1987 to 1997, there were 17 mass shootings.  Based on the statistics available from Mother Jones, it appears that mass shootings are on the rise, but why?

     The easy answer and indeed what appears to be the only answer is guns. Nearly every article written about mass shootings concludes that guns and assault weapons in particular are the problem.  Without guns, there would be no mass shooting; the reasoning goes, but that is like saying, “Without cars, there would be no auto accidents.  Both statements are of course true, but neither statement addresses the cause.  Cars do not cause accidents.  Careless drivers, distracted drivers, sleepy drivers, drunk drivers, and even texting drivers cause accidents, and guns do not cause mass shootings; psychopaths do.

     Most articles on mass shootings eventually get around to the psychopath behind the gun, but it is done with great reluctance, and only after guns have been sufficiently blamed. The reluctance to label a mass murderer a psychopath is somewhat understandable.  Typically a mass murderer has not been clinically diagnosed as a psychopath, and in fact, the term psychopath has fallen out of favor for a more politically correct term.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM IV) used by psychologists and psychiatrists contains a category called “antisocial personality disorder” (APD) which covers both the psychopath and the sociopath.  While it is true,  mass murderers exhibit antisocial behavior.  It seems to me that referring to their mental condition as an antisocial personality disorder is inadequate to describe the morally depraved mind of a mass murderer.  For that reason, I will use the more descriptive term psychopath.  With that said, I will attempt to shed light on  the question, why is the frequency of mass murder on the rise?

     To be accurate both the frequency and the magnitude of mass murder is increasing. The impact of advertising, the moral decay of society and drugs are perhaps three of the contributing factors.  Radio, television, and other media coverage of mass murder functions as advertising and encourages other psychopaths to act out at some future time.  Often sensational headlines glorify the killing which inspires more killings.  Headlines can also offer a challenge.  Consider this headline from CBS News, “Two of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history come just 35 days apart.” I can imagine some psychopath reading that headline and saying to himself, wait until they get a load of what I can do.  Perhaps a better headline would have been written like this, “Two low-life psychopaths dead at the scene just 35 days apart.”  Sometimes headlines convey sympathy for the psychopath like this one, “He was the loneliest kid I’d ever met.”  That was the headline for a 14-year-old that killed his algebra teacher and two classmates.  The headline might have read, “Deranged 14-year-old murders his teacher and two classmates.” Certainly news coverage of mass murder is necessary, but the media should be careful not to glorify or sympathize with the psychopath and cover mass murder with an awareness that coverage can advertise.

     Acting out in our contemporary society appears to be the norm. It matters not whether you are taking a knee during the National Anthem, creating riots in the streets, or merely changing your gender.  Acting out is trendy and cool and is usually encouraged in the media.  However, being trendy and cool is merely symptomatic of changing values or moral decay in society.  As values change, actions that were once forbidden by society are now permitted.  The more values change, the more permissive society becomes until you reach the point that psychopaths feel it is okay to act out their macabre fantasies.  It is my belief that as values continue to be eroded, mass murders will continue to rise as they have in recent years.

     This notion is borne out by the immanent Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung.  In Carl Jung’s The Undiscovered Self, Jung mentions an  element of latent sociopathy and psychopathy within any given culture.  Perhaps 10 percent of a society is composed of latent sociopaths and psychopaths, and 1 percent or less represents actual sociopaths/psychopaths. Most of the latent people will never become dangerous if they are living within a culture that is healthy and morally balanced.  In fact, those with inherent psychopathic traits can become very high functioning members of society who excel at careers in business, government, and the arts.  However, in the event values continue to erode, latent sociopaths/psychopaths have the potential to become active sociopaths/psychopaths and act out as they see fit.  It is a disturbing prospect to consider that the mentally disturbed 1 percent could evolve into 10 percent.

Website Graphs - Violence
Note: The FDA estimates that less than 1% of all serious events are ever reported to it, so the actual number of side effects occurring are most certainly higher. (CCHR International Mental Health Watchdog)

     If the prospect of a growing number of psychopaths is not disturbing enough, then consider that the problem is compounded by the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Most readers will have seen more than one commercial for a drug with side effects including suicide and violent behavior.  If you doubt the truth of this, then pay attention to the next Chantix commercial you see.  Chantix is administered to smokers to help curb cigarette cravings, but it is 18 times more likely to be linked to violent behavior than other drugs. Even more interesting is the unadvertised psychotropic drugs administered to children.  Today more than 10 million children are prescribed addictive psychotropic drugs with the warning the drugs can cause suicide in children and adolescents.  In fact, according to the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System, the following drugs are linked to violence:  Pristiq, Effexor, Luvox, Halcion, Strattera, Lariam, Paxil, Prozac and Chantix.  Most of the drugs are antidepressants and are often prescribed for the treatment of ADHD in children.  It is probably just me, but it seems we are taking the wrong path when we give children with mental problems a drug that will increase the likelihood of suicide and violence.  I am not aware of any studies that link pharmaceutical drugs to mass murder, but it is interesting to note that Stephen Paddock, Devin Patrick Kelley, and Dylann Roof all had mind altering prescription drugs prior to their killing spree.  Perhaps we are no nearer to answering the question, which came first the drugs or the psychopath?  But should we deny the connection?

     We can continue to blame guns for mass shootings because it is easy, and it fits a political agenda. However, if we want to know the cause of mass shootings we need to look elsewhere. After all, “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions,”  according to Claude Levi-Strauss.

Until next time…

A citizen of the United States of America, a Texan and a resident of Flour Bluff, Dan Thornton, values enlightened reason and freedom. Dan is a lifelong student of history and philosophy, and a writer of poetry and song. The hallmark of his pursuit is a quest for universal truth. By admission, the answer is illusive, but he is undaunted, and the quest continues.

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Oh, How I Miss a Hometown Newspaper!

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, North Padre Island, Opinion/Editorial
Coffee and News © Shirley Thornton

     As I dig through old news clippings from the Flour Bluff Sun to research our local history, I am reminded of how much I loved that little paper.  Marie Speer, owner and publisher, gave us something to anticipate every Friday.  Whose picture would make the cover?  What tidbit of Flour Bluff history would she include?  Who made the all-star team?  What community events were coming up?  What new business opened in the Bluff?  Who was born or married?  Who died?  What battle would surface in the letters to the editor?  Not until Marie’s staff rolled each paper, bound it with a rubber band, and tossed it onto the lawn would these questions be answered.  When we lost the Flour Bluff Sun, we not only lost the news of the day, we lost a print record of our community’s history.  I am still in search of past editions of the Sun and of an earlier newspaper called The Flour Bluff Reporter, which was owned and published by Bill Smith.

Flour Bluff Sun, published by Marie Speer beginning in 1976

     Jeff Craft, owner and publisher of the Flour Bluff Messenger, tried to revive the old spirit of truly local news, but sadly he had to give it up.  I am grateful for his efforts and for the opportunity to submit articles to it.  I am especially grateful to have hard copies in hand.  There is nothing like sipping a cup of coffee while reading a real hometown newspaper on real newsprint.  This is always done with a pair of scissors nearby in case I need to clip something out of the paper, articles or pictures that I will post on the fridge, share with a friend or family member, or tuck away in a box or book for safekeeping.  Maybe one day one of my great grandchildren will stumble across a news article I saved about his mom or dad or the community in which they lived.  Yes, print newspapers are not a thing of the past; they are evidence of the past.

Jeff Craft’s publication kept the Flour Bluff informed for two years.

     Once again, residents of Flour Bluff, Padre Island, NAS-CC, and parts of South Side will have the chance to keep a piece of history for future generations.  Ron Henne, who owns and publishes The Saltwater Angler Magazine, and a few of his friends have taken on the task of creating a print newspaper for the folks in our community, one that merges the old with the new but highlights what matters to all of us.  The first edition will be available December 1, 2017.  I have done a little writing and editing for this new publication, too, and I pray it will make it because I really miss having a hometown newspaper.

Image may contain: text

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

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Conflicts and Consternation

Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

     

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

     If you do not take it too seriously, conflict can be amusing. Consider the NFL, ‘Neeling Football League, for example.  Yes, I know that I omitted the silent k, but what the heck, the k is silent.  In recent weeks, the NFL has claimed that it supports the players’ rights to free speech (kneeling during the National Anthem).  It was not that long ago when the Dallas Cowboys wanted to wear stickers on their helmets in honor of six policemen who were murdered in Dallas, but as I recall the NFL, National Football Liars, denied them their right to free speech.  They were to remain as silent as the k in kneeling.  Amusing, isn’t it?

    President Trump voiced his concern about players kneeling during the National Anthem, and as far as I can tell, he disapproves of kneeling. I am amused by the fact that his predecessor, President Bill Clinton, approved of kneeling.

     It has not been widely publicized, but women’s rights recently took a huge leap forward. Saudi Arabia’s king proclaimed that Saudi women now have the right to drive.  However, it is not clear whether a Saudi husband can still use an honor killing as a way to suppress his wife’s right to drive.  The conflict is obvious – if not so amusing.  We will have to wait for a clarification from the Saudi king.

     Michelle Obama clarified the official position of women when she whined that women voted against their own voice when they didn’t vote for Hillary. Surely she was not addressing “the deplorables.”

    The deplorables have enough problems with their elected representatives. Despite controlling the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Presidency, the Republicans have failed to repeal Obamacare, build the wall,  or scuttle the Iran deal.  Now they are promising to fail at tax reform.  It should be obvious the majority of the Republicans love Obamacare and the Iran deal, but they do not love the wall.

   Speaking of love, Hugh Hefner recently passed away, and the outpouring of condolences was incredible. Funny, but most of the condolences came from people who oppose sexism.  Hugh will be missed.

     Speaking of missed, perhaps you missed the special report on the Antioch, Tennessee, church shooting. A Sudanese immigrant, Emanuel Kidega Samson, shot seven people and killed one of the seven. It is not clear if he was a Dreamer.  His motive was reportedly revenge for Dylan Roof’s church shooting in  Charleston, South Carolina.  The Charleston shooting occurred in 2015, and Dylan Roof has been sentenced to death.  We will have to wait and see if Emmanuel Kidega Samson gets a death sentence.

     It is difficult to discuss conflicts in contemporary society without mentioning racism, but what I find to be rich is the racist groups NAACP and La Raza calling anyone racist, but they do. In fact, the term racism has seen such extraordinary use that it is now a cliché and very much like “crying wolf.”

    Finally, I come to the fascist group called ANTIFA. Oddly enough, ANTIFA is derived from the term anti-fascist.  Apparently they are the hooded domestic terrorist group chosen by the Democrats to replace their other hooded terrorist group the KKK.  They believe violence is the answer to free speech.

    The irony of conflict is perverse in contemporary society but sometimes overlooked because of the mundane nature of the event. At other times it is glaring and cannot be overlooked.  Regardless of the magnitude, it was put in perspective by Blaise Pascal who said, “Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.”

Until next time…

A citizen of the United States of America, a Texan and a resident of Flour Bluff, Dan Thornton, values enlightened reason and freedom. Dan is a lifelong student of history and philosophy, and a writer of poetry and song. The hallmark of his pursuit is a quest for universal truth. By admission, the answer is illusive, but he is undaunted, and the quest continues.

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Stop It Right Now!

Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial, Religion

     In one week, the local school children will be headed back to school, and not a minute too soon according to many moms, especially moms who have two or more children at home.  The start of summer is usually great!  The kids play with each other, attend camps, go on vacation, and spend quality time together.  Those family photos from early summer show happy children frolicking in the sun and enjoying just being together without the responsibility of school.  Moms are able to sit back and read a book or sip iced tea while the kids play together joyfully. Ah, it is a wonderful time!

     Then, about mid-July, when the kids are forced inside by the extreme heat, things change. It’s too hot to play outside where there’s room to run and play and stay out of each other’s way. The camps are over. Vacation is just a memory.  The boredom sets in. What’s a kid to do for a little excitement? Aggravating a sibling by touching him or his “stuff” will certainly get the party started. So, one taps the elbow of the other who is about to put a spoonful of cereal and milk in his mouth, spilling it on the table and – if lucky – in his companion’s lap.

     “Quit it!” the victim screams.

     “You deserved it!” responds the offender.

     “What’d I do?” says the other.

     “Remember that time you took my headphones?”

     “That was last summer!  Who cares?”

     “I care.  I’m still mad at you.”

     “That’s stupid!”

     “No, you’re stupid!”

     “No, you are!”

     “No, you are!”

     “No…

     Now, this is where timing is crucial.  As soon as it becomes apparent that a fight is about to begin, the good mom quickly speaks in a loud and scary voice, “Stop it right now!”  For most kids, the “tone” comes through loud and clear.  They know that taking the conflict to the next level will most certainly result in something painful to their allowances, their free time, or their backsides.  Most won’t chance it, at least not immediately. As good moms know, it is during these times of unrest that they must be the most vigilant, watching and waiting for one child or the other to fan the flame and reignite the war.  She must be ready to douse the flame, being careful not to take a side. She must point out the wrongs that each child has committed to make them think about all the ways that either one could have been the better person and nipped the growing “war” in the bud. The good mom is not afraid to call them out and even inflict a swift and appropriate punishment on both.

     What a good mom knows – and must teach her children – is that dredging up old offenses never rights a wrong, but it can certainly create new ones.  She must be the voice of reason and – more importantly – the voice of  God’s wisdom, giving her children the words and thoughts they need to be able to live among other people.  She must speak as Paul spoke and let her children know that the past cannot and should not be forgotten.  She must teach them to remember their failures and learn what to avoid in the future.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  These words echo God’s words spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ““Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

     Most importantly, a good mom must teach the Golden Rule in the manner in which it was intended. In an article entitled “What Is the Golden Rule?” found at GotQuestions.org, it is explained this way:

“The English Standard Version translates the Golden Rule like this: ‘Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.’ Jesus brilliantly condenses the entire Old Testament into this single principle, taken from Leviticus 19:18: ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.’ Again, we see the implication that people are naturally lovers of self, and the command uses that human flaw as a place to start in how to treat others.”

     Judging by the behavior of some young rioters who are emerging in this country, it is possible that their moms failed to pass on these important words of wisdom or that they simply failed to listen.  Whatever the case may be, this childish behavior can lead to dire consequences – and has.  Whether a person believes in God or not does not mean that he can’t come to understand His teachings for living a complete life.  Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, put it this way:

     To all the moms who take the time to step in, step up, and speak words of wisdom words of wisdom, may God continue to bless your good works. For those who have somehow “missed the mark” (Strong’s Greek: hamartanó – to miss the mark, do wrong, sin), it is never too late to start righting wrongs.  It should not be done through rioting and killing and teaching hate but through telling the children (even the adult ones) to “Stop it right now!” Then, follow up with a lesson on what good, decent behavior is and how important it is to treat others with respect and kindness, especially when they make us angry.  More importantly, the moms (and the dads) must model the behavior they wish to see in their children.  When we choose to spread true wisdom, the kind that builds up instead of tears down, that forgives instead of condemns, that joins instead of separates, that loves instead of hates, we can start moving toward a perfect world, the one God intended for us.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

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Negotiating Healthcare with Leverage

Front Page, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial

     

Creative Commons photo

 

     In a recent tweet, President Trump said, “If ObamaCare is hurting people, & it is, why shouldn’t it hurt the insurance companies & why should Congress not be paying what public pays?” Good question: Why, indeed?

     Under Obamacare’s regulation, medical costs have risen sharply, and insurance companies have been subsidized by government to offset the rising cost. Even with the government subsidy, insurance companies have been leaving the Obamacare exchanges. Eliminating the insurance subsidy would certainly hurt the insurance companies, but it would also hurt the people they serve. Therefore, hurting the insurance companies seems unlikely, but why should Congress not pay what the citizens pay?

     The short answer was provided by George Orwell more than seventy years ago in his book Animal Farm. A sign was posted that said, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Congress believes they are more equal than the people they are supposed to serve. Congress believes it is above the law. It is that simple, but is it legal?

     In 2013, Obama allowed Congress to classify themselves as a small business, making them eligible for the small business exchange, where they receive an employer contribution through the Office of Personnel Management. This has often been referred to as the Congressional exemption to Obamacare. Clearly this exemption is unconstitutional because Congress is not a small business, and Congress did not appropriate funding for their subsidy from the Office of Personnel Management. Without the small business classification, Congress would have been directed onto the individual exchange which prohibits an employer contribution. More importantly Congress would have had to pay for their insurance like everyone else. There would have been no taxpayer subsidy for Congress.

     To qualify as a small business under Obamacare, an employer must have less than fifty employees. Congress has thousands of employees so the entire scam is based on fraud. Clearly President Trump could end the scam by instructing the Office of Personnel Management to eliminate the employer contribution for Congress. Taking such action would provide an incentive for Congress to address healthcare honestly and would be a move in the right direction with regards to “draining the swamp.”

     It remains to be seen if President Trump will take this action, but mentioning it has caused considerable discussion in Congress. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy used twitter to respond, “This is a clear threat to Congress: pass my health bill or as punishment I will end health care for you, your staff, & your constituents,” Murphy tweeted. Of course, Murphy is lying. There was no threat to end his healthcare. The threat was to make him pay for it. Murphy added moments after, “I would argue this is a very serious moment. President making personal threats to us and our constituents if we don’t pass his bill.” Clearly Senator Murphy does not understand President Trump’s use of leverage. Perhaps President Trump should have responded, “It is not a threat; it is a promise.”

     Not all responses were negative. Representative Ron DeSantis said, “I think the president would be absolutely within his rights to cancel the Obama rule (congressional exemption) that conferred this subsidy on Congress.” DeSantis also said killing the exemption would give lawmakers an incentive to get a health care plan approved. DeSantis is not alone.  Several Republicans have been criticizing the provision for years.

Congressman Ron Desantis  (Creative Commons photo)

     From the lack of congressional action on healthcare, it should be clear that Congress has no intention of repealing Obamacare even though they have been promising to do so for seven years. However, President Trump appears to be sincere in his desire to resolve the issue and has not given up despite having to deal with the pathetically inept and deceitful Congress. Congress would like to move on to tax reform, but President Trump has not finished negotiating on healthcare. In fact, the White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said, “The president will not accept those who said it is, quote, time to move on.”

Creative Commons Photo

     The President has a leverage in the congressional exemption for Obamacare, and he is not likely to give it up easily. Consider this quote from President Trump’s book The Art of the Deal. “The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you’re dead. The best thing you can do is deal from strength, and leverage is the biggest strength you can have. Leverage is having something the other guy wants. Or better yet, needs. Or best of all, simply can’t do without.” Congress wants the Obamacare exemption but President Trump controls it.

Until next time…

A citizen of the United States of America, a Texan and a resident of Flour Bluff, Dan Thornton, values enlightened reason and freedom. Dan is a lifelong student of history and philosophy, and a writer of poetry and song. The hallmark of his pursuit is a quest for universal truth. By admission, the answer is illusive, but he is undaunted, and the quest continues.

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His eye is on the little ones. . .

Front Page, Health, Opinion/Editorial
Infant Charlie Gard and his parents Connie Yates and Chris Gard, 2017

     We are living in an age of politics that seems to know no end to divisions of all kinds. But, when President Donald Trump, the Pope, European Parliamentarians, and even Cher are all putting pressure on the United Kingdom, perhaps this is a situation that needs to be watched. There is a hospital in the U.K. which has been making a decision that an eleven month old child needs to have all “the plugs” pulled, and thus are saying he must die. The parents have been spending at least half of this young boy’s life begging to be able to make that decision themselves or to at least take him home to die, if dying is what must happen. Little Charlie Gard has a rare condition called infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome or MDDS. The hospital staff and government entities have said he cannot survive. His parents have begged to fly him to the United States for even experimental treatment to give him a chance at life.

     The parents will make another court plea on Monday, July 10, 2017. They have at least one doctor in the U.S. who has offered help, and possibly more. The Pope said on June 30, 2017, “To defend human life above all when it’s wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.” The hospital officials have said he will be blind and unable to speak, and his life will be meaningless. Does anyone who has read about Helen Keller believe that Helen’s life was meaningless? And who are these “death panel” participants anyway to decide that parents cannot make this decision for themselves?

     In February of 2017 there was a story online on several sites about a bridge being repaired just above San Francisco. The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge repairs were put on “hold” for at least two weeks at the cost of an estimated seventy million dollars because ONE tree that needed to be removed in the process of this bridge repair had in it a TINY hummingbird nest. In that nest was ONE egg. No work could be completed until the tiny hummingbird was born and left the nest. (At no time was this called a clump of cells within the eggshell.) The species of hummingbird was called Anna’s hummingbird and is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The tree must stay until the “baby” was gone.

     We shall all have to wait now to see what happens to little Charlie Gard. His parents are fighting for his life. A website has raised enough money for them to travel to the U.S. for experimental treatment. His parents have managed to get him a travel visa to the United States. A Pro Life group in the United States has started a hash-tag “We are all Charlie Gard.” But societies and countries have sunk to a really bad place when the hospitals and the courts who are designed to protect the vulnerable now can decide on death for a child…and the parents have no say.

     I, for one, am hoping the outcome for Charlie and his parents will be a positive one, with at least the parents having the ability to decide what to do. Around the world, people are praying for little Charlie Gard. For now, I have a song that I keep hearing in my head…”For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”

Margaret Lynn (Margie) Dodson Lambert, lifetime resident of Nueces County. Graduate Corpus Christi State University (Now TAMUCC) , BA summa cum laude. Secondary education with certificates in English and History. MS Texas A & I in CC (now TAMUCC). Curriculum and instruction with all-level Reading Specialist Certificate. Taught one year in CCISD and 21 years at FBISD. Now retired.

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Barbecue, Bonfires and Balderdash

Front Page, History, Opinion/Editorial

     Summer has arrived in South Texas, and if it wasn’t for the heat and humidity, it would be the best season of the year.  The long summer days provide ample time for outdoor activities such as fishing, baseball, swimming and of course, celebrating Independence Day.  As I write, I can almost smell the smoke of barbecue pits and hear the sounds of fireworks.  Flags are being removed from closets and are unfurled on lawns, in gardens, and along the beach shore.  It is a glorious day for our nation and our people, and it is a day worthy of the greatest celebration of the year.  John Adams, one of the authors of the Declaration of Independence, wrote to his wife, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” However, John Adams was referring to July second because this was the day the Continental Congress approved a resolution of independence declaring the United States independent of Great Britain.  July 4th was the day the Declaration of Independence was signed; however, not everyone signed on that day.  The last person to sign the Declaration of Independence was Matthew Thornton, and he signed on November 4th of 1776.

     While John Adams was wrong about the date, he was certainly right about the celebration.  Independence Day has been celebrated annually since 1776.  In the New England states, it was the custom to begin the celebration on July 3rd with a bonfire, and towns competed to have the largest bonfire.  The largest bonfire recorded was made from wooden barrels that were stacked in a pyramid shape that was forty barrels high.  The custom is still practiced in some New England towns today.  In 1778, General George Washington marked July 4th with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute.  In 1781 Massachusetts became the first state to recognize Independence Day as a state celebration.  In 1870 the U. S. Congress made independence day a federal holiday for employees.  Today the celebration continues with picnics, barbecues, parades, fireworks, patriotic displays and of course, a big sale down at the Walmart.  And naturally politicians want to get in on the celebration and can often be found on Independence Day delivering political speeches filled with nonsensical rhetoric and balderdash.

     With all of the celebration, it is sometimes difficult to understand the significance of Independence Day or the Declaration of Independence.  However, in the preamble to the declaration, we find these words.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is one of the best known sentences in the English language and has influenced many other nations declaring independence.  The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen is one noteworthy example, but it has been used with variation by many other nations including Venezuela, Liberia, Viet Nam, Haiti, New Grenada, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Rhodesia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, New Zealand, and others.  Despite the influence our declaration had on the world, it was our independence that was important, and it is our independence and our birth as a nation we celebrate.

     Too often our Independence Day is referred to as the Fourth of July or simply July 4th.  I think this diminishes the significance and causes confusion especially to younger people who are not well versed in history.  I am reminded of the college student who saw the Declaration of Independence for the first time and remarked, “How cool is that?  They signed it on the Fourth of July,”  Make sense of that if you can.

Until next time…

A citizen of the United States of America, a Texan and a resident of Flour Bluff, Dan Thornton, values enlightened reason and freedom. Dan is a lifelong student of history and philosophy, and a writer of poetry and song. The hallmark of his pursuit is a quest for universal truth. By admission, the answer is illusive, but he is undaunted, and the quest continues.

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