The Bad, Bad Law, IRS, Congress and Stealing from Grandma

Photosource: Flickr Creative Commons by Tax Credits https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/

Photosource: Flickr Creative Commons by Tax Credits https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/

If you give the IRS the legal power to seize money without cause, they’re going to take that legal power and use it to abuse everyday folks.

It’s kind of like one of Newton’s Laws of Motion. It just works that way.

It seems that back when Congress was in one of its rare bill-passing moods, this time in a holy zeal to wage “war on drugs,” it turned diarrheic and passed any stupid law that came into its collective head. Among these was a law that gives the IRS the power to seize monies of private citizens without preamble or proof of wrongdoing, without, in fact, suspicion of wrong-doing.

Here’s how it works. Suppose, say, you sold 3 prime acres of the old family homestead. Suppose you got the not-so-princely sum of fifty thousand dollars for the land.

Rather than deposit all of the money in one savings account, suppose you opened a second savings account and deposited 7 thousand you were setting aside to pay taxes on the sale. Then, you put another 5 thousand in an account set up to pay for the funeral of an elderly relative when the time comes. The rest of the money you put in your main savings account.

By doing this innocent, and even intelligent, bit of allocating of your own money, you would have committed a federal crime called “structuring.” Because you had “structured” your money to suit your needs, the IRS could seize it without warning.

The IRS does not have to prove that you had criminal intent for the money. It does not even have to believe that you had criminal intent for it. Your money could be seized and you could be prosecuted without having done anything wrong at all, simply for allocating your money to suit yourself like, say, a free American.

The law that allows this was passed with the supposed purpose of catching bad guys, specifically bad guys who are funding terrorists and laundering drug money and such. As will all bad laws, I would imagine that anyone who questioned its utterly stupid verbiage was accused of being “soft” on crime. This kind of emotional and political blackmail, writ as it is across the internet and in cable news talk-a-thons, can scare lawmakers into voting for bad laws.

When the force pushing for the law is none other than the IRS with their vast terror-tactic powers and the president of the United States, who is off on a legacy-building crusade, voting against even a law as obviously horrid as this one gets dicey. Political demagoguery and political cowardice are how grandma loses her life-savings to government forfeiture and ends up defending herself in federal court against charges that she has violated this nebulous and entirely unjust law.

The IRS has been seizing private monies with this law for a long time. According to Yahoo News, they seized $242 million in 2500 cases between 2005 and 2012. Fully one third of these seizures “were nothing more than cash transactions under $10,000.” Half of these were returned after owners challenged the IRS action.

That’s sounds sorta good. It means that half of these people were able to defend themselves. But think for a moment what defending yourself against the IRS entails.

Think of the anguish, the fear, the expense, the protracted and ugly battles and accusatory conversations, the search for an attorney who specializes in this stuff, the legal fees. Think about that and tell me that even the people who got their money back didn’t suffer a kind of legal purgatory because of this bad, bad law.

Consider also that not every innocent person whose money was flat-out stolen from them under this law was able to get it back. It takes determination and cash to fight these things. It takes willpower and nerves of steel. It takes a lot more fight than, say, an elderly person who had been depositing their spouse’s life insurance in separate accounts, divided up for the kids, would be able to muster.

The IRS has run into a bit of criticism because of the fact that it’s using the legal power that Congress gave it in the way the law clearly says that it can. As a result, the IRS is saying that it will stop being such a bad boy agency in this regard. They promise that they are going to stop seizing money that comes from legal sources. And we’re supposed to believe them and trust them and call it square.

What’s missing in this is the responsibility of our elected lawmakers in Congress to either repeal or amend this law. I know, it sounds like science fiction to expect our lawmakers to stop positioning themselves to either (1) take back the power if they are the Ds or (2) add the White House to the power they’ve got if they are the Rs, and do their jobs.

I know that’s not going to happen. Running for the next election is all they do in Congress. Governing this great country and representing the interests of We the People is not what they are about.

They aren’t going to change that just because the government is abusing the people they are supposed to represent due to a bad law that they passed themselves. That would be responsible. It’s the kind of thing that an actual public servant might do.

This is the United States Congress we’re talking about. They don’t do nothin’ but run for the next election and serve the special interests who pay for their campaigns.

This bad law won’t change so long as We the People continue to be bamboozled into thinking that either of the two political parties is the answer to our woes. So long as they can engage us in their ridiculous pie-throwing contests and keep us mesmerized with blind party loyalty, they’re going to continue with their bad governance and dereliction of duty.

So what we have is an agency saying that it’s going to change how it enforces a bad, bad law in order to stop a bit of bad, bad publicity. Meanwhile the people we’ve elected to write the laws are ignoring the problem and behaving as if lawmaking, actual lawmaking and law-fixing, has nothing whatsoever to do with them.

What’s wrong with this picture?

From Yahoo News:

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa widow is charged with a crime and had nearly $19,000 seized from her bank after depositing her late husband’s legally earned money in a way that evaded federal reporting requirements.

Janet Malone, 68, of Dubuque, is facing civil and criminal proceedings under a law intended to help investigators track large sums of cash tied to criminal activity such as drug trafficking and terrorism. But some members of Congress and libertarian groups have complained that the IRS and federal prosecutors are unfairly using it against ordinary people who deposit lawfully obtained money in increments below $10,000.

At issue is a law requiring banks to report deposits of more than $10,000 cash to the federal government. Anyone who breaks deposits into increments below that level to avoid the requirement is committing a crime known as “structuring” — whether their money is legal or not.

The IRS has increasingly used civil forfeiture proceedings to seize money from individuals and small businesses suspected of structuring violations, according to a review by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group. The agency seized $242 million in 2,500 cases from 2005 to 2012 — a third of which arose from nothing more than cash transactions under $10,000. Nearly half was returned after owners challenged the action, often a year later.

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History of the Crusades: Muslim Conquest of Christian Syria-Palestine 633-638

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by http://maps.bpl.org

I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings in 633-638 AD. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.

I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost 1400 years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate  history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity.

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Darrell Waltrip’s Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast

This is a video for Darrell Waltrip’s full speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last week.

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Pope Francis and Me: Praying to St Thomas More

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Pope Francis and I have something in common. He asks St Thomas More to pray for him every day and so do I.

He also listed “15 diseases of the Curia” in the same address to Vatican officials. Among the “diseases of the curia” are spiritual petrification, existential schizophrenia, spiritual Alzheimer’s, funeral face and gossip.

I think all of us suffer from the same diseases to some degree. They are spiritual diseases of our times, and of the fallen human.

From Chronica:

Pope Francis has revealed that he prays to the English martyr St Thomas More every day.

In his annual end of year address to Vatican officials the Pope said that there is a prayer to the saint for good humour which he prays daily saying that a healthy dose of humour in our daily lives is very beneficial.

Pope Francis also outlined “15 diseases of the Curia” which included the diseases of mental and spiritual petrification; existential schizophrenia; spiritual Alzheimer’s and the disease of the “funeral face,” reports Vatican News.

The Pope said that “spiritual petrification” was when men “lose their internal peace, their vivacity and audacity, choosing to hide under papers and become procedural machines.

He also described “existential schizophrenia” as the disease of “those who live a double life” and endure a “spiritual emptiness” which cannot be filled with degrees or academic titles.

He explained to diplomats that “spiritual Alzheimers” was a “progressive decline of spiritual faculties” which “causes severe disadvantages to people”, making them live in a “state of absolute dependence” on their, often imagined, views.

The Pope also appealed to the officials not to give into gossip describing the sin as a form of “satanic assasination” of other people’s good name.

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Is the I Aborted My Baby Because He was a Boy Story a Confabulation?

 

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Elvert Barnes https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Elvert Barnes https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/

The I Aborted My Baby because He was a Boy story is almost too perfect.

By “perfect,” I mean that it reads like someone took every crazy accusation anyone ever leveled against man-hating feminists and characterized them in a blog post. Is this story a not-so-funny first-person prank? Did someone make up a tale about how they murdered their baby boy with abortion?

The bedeviling thing, to me at least, is that I’ve dealt with people just as crazy mean as the author of this post sounds. I’ve dealt with women who are this man-hating, and I’ve dealt with men who are this woman-hating and neither one had any qualms about sharing their viewpoint. That gives the post a certain cultural veracity.

None of the people I’ve dealt with took to the web to write blog posts about it. They either contacted me in anger about legislation I was trying to pass, wanted me to “help” them pass a hateful law, or, occasionally, wanted me to use my legislative powers to “get” somebody for them.

What that means in terms of the I Aborted My Baby Because He was a Boy story is that I know it’s possible it’s the truth. I know this because I’ve met and listened to people who are this crazy, this evil and this self-righteous about their vile beliefs.

I went back to the Injustice Stories web site this morning and read through the posts that it lists. The blog is said to be a forum for individuals to post their own “injustice stories.” Thus, the various blog posts are purportedly written by different people.

I’m not a linguist, but it doesn’t seem to me that the writing style differs from one post to the next. It’s not difficult to tell my writing from Kathy Schiffer’s or that of the Anchoress. All three of us write differently from Deacon Greg. Our writing is a “voice” we use, and it is somewhat unique to each of us. It’s usually that way with people.

I’m not saying that the posts on Injustice Stories are all written by one person. I don’t know that. But I will say that they do not differ in voice or syntax enough to sound like more than one person is doing the writing.

So, the question is out there? Is the I Aborted My Baby Because He was a Boy Story an attempt to prank the internet? Is it true, or is it confabulation?

I don’t know the answer to that.

Confabulation or fact, the story is possible. Sex-selected abortion is a horrible realty all around the world, including here in the United States. The world’s two largest nations by population — China and India — both have seriously lopsided male-female ratios due to sex-selected abortion. Men outnumber women in these countries by margins wide enough to unhinge the social order.

Live Action has released videos of Planned Parenthood counselors in locations all over the United States who are willing to help women obtain abortions simply because their unborn child is a girl. Half a world away, an Australian doctor had to fight to keep his medical license because he refused to either do or refer for a sex-selected abortion.

This is why the I Aborted My Baby Because He was a Boy story is plausible. I don’t know if this particular blog post is a fact or a confabulation. I don’t even know the author’s last name. But I believe that baby boys have been aborted just because they were boys, and right here in the United States.

Why would anyone do that?

Because they can.

When you legalize killing a whole group of people for any reason whatsoever, they will be killed for every reason possible.

We live in a fallen world. We all bear the mark of Cain. Blood guilt is our heritage, born of unending war, violent crime, family violence, abortion and euthanasia.

Legal abortion knocked over the carefully tended wall we had built between human life and our passions. It let the wolves of our own depravity into the fold. We defined a class of people as subhuman and declared open season on killing them.

So why should we be surprised when people avail themselves of this freedom to kill by doing exactly what we have given them the legal right to do: Kill for any reason that suits us.

Is the I Aborted My Baby because He was a Boy story fact or confabulation? If it’s fact, a precious baby boy has been horribly murdered. That matters quite a lot.

But in terms of social/political commentary in which individual lives get swept up and lost in talk of millions dying for decades, no, the veracity of the story does not matter. It does not matter because the laws which allow such things and the belief systems which excuse them are real.

Every abortion kills an innocent person who can not fight back, can not even speak for themselves. We can pretend they are not real, and if confronted by a million ultrasounds attesting to their reality, we can persist and refuse to back down in our claims that they are not human. If that fails, we can fall back on claims that, yes, they are human, but not human enough.

And that concept of not human enough is another slippery slope of illogic claiming to be the heart of rationality that leads even deeper into the abyss. If we can kill human beings because they are not human enough, the door swings wide for euthanasia and after that killing the poor and disabled, the “useless eaters” among us. Not human enough is such a subjective and frail reed of verbal positioning that it falls easily before the next new killing plan.

A large segment of our society has abandoned the notion of moral absolutes and seeks to replace it with verbal positioning. If they can concoct an argument that sounds convincing in their own ears, then whatever they are arguing for becomes their new morality. Ironic as it is, they then claim this newly-minted moral reality of theirs as a moral absolute.

When it comes to legalized killing, there is no bottom for these people. They sincerely believe that it is a moral imperative to allow the legal murder of any group of people that they can convince themselves should be killed. The great wall of the sanctity of human life was breached with legal abortion and that let the wolves in.

Now, they, like satan, prowl about, seeking whom they may destroy.

 

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Ascension Press: Following Jesus to the Priesthood

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by VISION Vocation Guide https://www.flickr.com/photos/visionvocationguide/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by VISION Vocation Guide https://www.flickr.com/photos/visionvocationguide/

Ascension Press has released the beautiful video below to encourage young men to consider the priesthood. I am drawn to the raw honesty of these young men’s testimony. It also appeals to me that this is a video about vocation to the priesthood that focuses on God, instead of us.

Too much of our discussion about vocations focuses on attacks on the liturgy, women in the Church and other things that are supposed to make us more worthy of God. That leads to blaming, attacking and limiting one another. It creates self-righteousness and hurtful behavior that drives people away from Jesus rather than drawing them to Him.

Vocation to the priesthood really is about God and His call. We need to trust Him more and our prejudices and rages less.

Enjoy the video. It’s well worth the look.

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President Obama’s Prayer Breakfast Speech: Offensive, but Not Surprising.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

President Obama’s tiresome predilection for offending Christians showed itself again at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. It seems that our prez will besmirch Christianity, even if he has to dredge up stuff from a thousand years ago and mis-characterize history to do it.

I’m going to put a video of the full text of his speech below. Parts of it are good. But, as usual when President Obama talks about religion, he can’t resist taking a swipe at Christianity.

This predilection he has for ham-handed attempts to be “fair” to all faiths by belittling and defaming Christianity seems ingrained in him. It harms his presidency, divides this nation and makes it tough to be a Jesus-loving Democrat.

After all this time and the great political price he and his party have paid, you would think he’d be smart enough to get out his pen and draw a line through these statements when his speech writers put them in. But he doesn’t. Maybe the reason is that he means it so much that he doesn’t care about the political consequences.

He’s so set on this that it makes me cringe when he says something complimentary about Pope Francis. I don’t feel that he’s complimenting the Holy Father. I feel that he’s patronizing him. When he talks about American freedom of religion, I cringe again. This president has directly attacked the First Amendment with his HHS Mandate. So, when he praises this country’s great freedom of religion, I feel that he’s patronizing the American people.

As for his comments about Christianity vis a vis ISIS, the Crusades happened hundreds of years ago, which hardly makes it pertinent to the rapes, beheadings and burnings alive that are happening today. Also, the Crusades were a defensive war in response to an invading army. Much of the Middle East was Christian before this “conversion” by the sword which resulted in the deaths and exile of whole populations of Christians.

Jim Crow was brought to ground by a great Christian leader, leading equally great Christians. These men spoke from the prophetic voice of the Gospels to animate a movement and convict a nation of the powerful message that we are, all of us, made in the image and likeness of God and deserve the same legal rights. The Civil Rights Movement was led by black pastors who had held the black community together and given it dignity for decades. Martin Luther King, Jr preached the Gospel to power, and that power changed history. It was Christianity that ended Jim Crow, just as it was Christian abolitionists who ended slavery.

I am offended by President Obama’s mis-use of history to convict today’s Christians of the crimes of ISIS, Boko Haram, al Queda, and others. But I am not surprised.

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Pope Francis Calls Human Trafficking a Shameful Wound Unworthy of Human Society.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by thierry ehrmann https://www.flickr.com/photos/home_of_chaos/

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Woman Brags that She Aborted Her Baby Because He was a Boy

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Britt-knee https://www.flickr.com/photos/lsuchick142/

Beautiful, precious, baby boy. Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Britt-knee https://www.flickr.com/photos/lsuchick142/

The woman in question is Lana.

Lana wrote a post for a blog called Injustice Stories. I don’t know if Injustice Stories is a series of confabulations or not, but even if it is, it’s still horrifying. In one blog post she related how she murdered her baby boy with abortion just because he was a boy. As chilling as that is, the post is worse.

It’s a long explanation about how this woman killed her own child because she saw it as some sort of execution in the name of women’s rights. This was no “I thought it was a blob of tissue” abortion. It was a deliberate, considered murder of an innocent child because she “couldn’t bring another monster” into the world.

Her feeling is that a baby boy is a monster because all male human beings are monsters.

I don’t know what to say about this woman. I have no idea if it was horrific events that made her this way or if she’s just using her totally bogus version of feminism to glorify her own psychopathy.

I do know that, based on her own words, she murdered her baby. As I said, this was not a confusion. She was not in a terrible plight. She simply killed her baby because he was a boy and he would grow up to be a man and she hates men. She ends “if the curse returns, I will do exactly the same thing again.”

In a follow-up post she reacts to the things people have said in response to her story. “Do people really exist who want to see me dead because of what I chose to do with my own body,” she asks. “Those are the minds of mentally disturbed individuals.”

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Jordan Goes to War for Real

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Klaus Nahr https://www.flickr.com/photos/klausnahr/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Klaus Nahr https://www.flickr.com/photos/klausnahr/

Lt Muath al-Kasabeh, the Jordanian pilot ISIS burned alive, did not die in vain.

Jordan has responded to this infamy with vows to “wipe out” ISIS and they appear to be willing to put firepower into the endeavor.

Here are Jordan’s military objectives against ISIS:

1. Target top leadership, with al-Baghdadi at the helm.

2. Stop illegal revenues which ISIS has been getting from fuel.

3. Weaken and destroy training centers and logistical centers.

These are sound military objectives.

From CBN News:

“We are determined to fight IS until we achieve the goal of this war, which is wiping out the IS completely,” al-Jabour said, adding that this is the beginning not the end of their campaign to defeat ISIS. There’s some speculation that Jordan is planning a limited ground campaign. Meanwhile, Britain’s Prince Charles visited King Abdullah at the start of a six-day Mideast tour. The prince told the BBC the plight of Middle East Christians was an agonizing situation. King Abdullah faces a daunting challenge. He needs to mobilize and maintain his country’s fight against ISIS while realizing that a significant minority of his citizens sympathize with the Islamic State. The king will be looking for the military and moral support from the U.S. and other coalition partners as he fights for the future of his kingdom.

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Book Review: Climbing Piano’s Mount Everest

Alan Rusbridger, editor, The Guardian Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, The Guardian

Alan Rusbridger, editor, The Guardian Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, The Guardian

I love the piano.

I mean, I really love the piano.

The fact that I’ve taken it up late in life and have no ambitions about it — and I mean absolutely no ambitions about it — is part of the reason why I love it.

My elderly mother is constantly telling me how much she regrets that she and my father didn’t give me piano lessons when I was a child.  “You could have been someone really great, a concert pianist,” she tells me.

Her short term memory is gone, so she repeats this refrain often. Each time she says it, I tell her that I have no regrets about the fact that I’m taking up piano now, and not earlier.

I love it.

Now.

It makes me happy.

Now.

And if there’s one small thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that the best time to be happy is always — you guessed it — Now.

My newfound love of the piano is without a doubt the reason why I downloaded, Play It Again, an Amateur Against the Impossible onto my Kindle. It’s the first-person story of British journalist Alan Rusbridger’s attempt to learn Chopin’s Ballade No 1 in G Minor.

The Ballade, as Mr Rusbridger calls it, is something of a Mount Everest among pianists. Playing it is usually considered the province of the best of the best, the professionals, and not the amateurs among us.

While Mr Rusbridger is an accomplished and enthusiastic musician, he is not by any stretch a professional pianist.  His day job is at the British newspaper, The Guardian, where he’s the editor. That’s a big job at any time, but the year that he chose to take on the Ballade was also the year of Wikileaks and the story about a powerful British newspaper bugging cell phones to get stories. These stories were both broken by The Guardian, and neither of them was received easily by the world at large.

Mr Rusbridger had to be determined to find 20 minutes each morning for piano practice. While that night be enough time for a child to learn this week’s lesson, it is not in the universe of the amount of time a pianist needs to devote to master something like the Ballade.

He took lessons from three extraordinary teachers and interviewed experts in related fields during the course of his journey with the Ballade. He also engaged in lots of social music playing with friends.

After a year and a half, he successfully performed the Ballade for a group of friends, which, for him, was mission accomplished.

The important thing for me is that he never, at any time, worked toward a professional performance. He had a goal, but the journey was just as important as the final outcome.

This is what piano is to me. It’s about the music, yes, but in a personal, entirely selfish way. Of all the things I do, the piano stands alone among as the one thing that I do entirely for myself. I am an amateur and I have a determination to never be anything else.

The joy of it all is that it’s not about being a professional musician. It’s not about being a musician at all. It is, simply, about the pleasure, the incredible, totally absorbing and absolutely healing to the depths, pleasure of me and the piano and the music that is in both of us.

I identified with this book on many levels. Mr Rusbridger works in a public profession that is competitive to the point of combativeness. His tools are words that change people’s lives. He is constantly on call, always under the gun, never really “off” from his job.

Ask any elected official and they’ll tell you that this sounds a lot like what they do.

I always wanted to play the piano, but I never did. It was a vague longing with no direction. It might have stayed like that except a friend from my church told me she had a friend who wanted “to get rid of” a piano. I jumped at the chance to get it, and the rest is a love story.

It turns out that the piano and I were star-crossed lovers, or at least we were on my part. I sit down at the piano and the world falls away. When I first touched those keys, it was if a long-slumbering part of my brain woke up, kicked it’s heels and started doing fist pumps.

Mr Rusbridger talks a lot about his problems remembering the score. I have a somewhat analogous disability. I cannot, for the life of me remember notes. After I’ve plunked through a new piece of music the first time,  and I look back at it the next day, I remember the sound. I hear the note when I look at it on paper.

I’ve had a hard time describing this to my teacher, but here’s what it’s like. I look at a note on the page for D, and instead of thinking D, I hear the note itself. It’s weird and it makes what people call method books almost painful to me.

I pulled myself out of the method books and into real music within a couple of months. I’ve been working on one advanced piece of music for almost 8 months now, slowly learning my way through it. First, the fingering, then the hands, then, ever so slowly, the hands together, and then, finally, the pedals. The whole time, I’m searching for the music in the notes, the story it’s telling me.

It’s a slow process, but it is so much fun. Let me repeat that: It. Is. Fun.

If you take a good piece of music apart, you will see quite quickly how it moves from one key to the next, how the chords come apart and combine, how the sounds repeat but do it differently, how they build and then fall, how it speaks. That’s the fun of it; finding the story in the music, the voice in it that uses these sounds to create a world of its own.

Mr Rusbridger studied music as a child, went through the (to me) mechanical process of graded learning. He’s modest about his abilities, but it is just modesty. I gather from reading the book that he is actually a very good amateur pianist. Which is to say that he may actually be a better pianist than the homogenized and rather dead predictability of much professional pianism I’ve heard in recordings.

We are veering toward a computer-like perfection in classical music, which is to say, we are taking the life out of it. Mr Rusbridger discusses this in some depth in his book. He theorizes that it’s the power of our recording studios to eliminate the flaws in performance that leads to this.

We are doing to music what Photoshop is doing to the human form: Replacing it with a plasticized shape that is a caricature of the beautifully flawed reality of life.

Real music, played by real people has flaws. But it also has voice and power and tells stories that reach into people and bring their deep inner selves to the surface. People love music. They love to listen to it, to dance to it, to just let it wash over them and lift them up and away.

The value of amateurs such as Mr Rusbridger, and, yes, even me, is that we keep music alive. We lift it out of the recording studio and the sterility of computer programs that eliminate flaws and place it squarely back into the human.

Mr Rusbridger makes an excellent case for this, and I will take it one step further. Without amateurs, music dies. This is true partly because the audiences for professionals is made up of amateurs. It is also true because the flaws, fun and good times of amateur playing is where the life of music lives. Music is of the human soul, not the human-made equipment that wipes performances clean of flaws and packages them to sell.

My family was a musical family. I never thought about this, took it for granted, until I got my hands on that first piano. We would get together and after a big meal with fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad, homemade ice cream and watermelon, everyone would get out their fiddles and guitars.

Nobody could read music. They just played. The standard line when someone asked “Do you know …” was “Hum it.” If you could hum it, they could play it. First one, then the other would take it up, and they’d be off.

That’s the ultimate amateurism; one step removed from playing a bottle and keeping time on a washboard with a spoon. It was also, I realize now, beautiful.

Not the music so much, although if I remember correctly, it wasn’t all that bad. The beauty was in the family, the love, the life of it. Music is a human invention.

Music is emotion, language, math, symbolism, and our driving need for beauty all rolled up into a profound self-expression. It links us, one to another on a profound and visceral level.

Without music, would people die? Would we become like neglected children who fail to thrive? Would our eyes hollow out into deep pits of despair and our bodies grow frail and and wraithlike if we lost our ability to sing?

I think we would. I really think we would.

Because music is not about perfection or performance or making money. Music is, and always has been, our soul’s voice with wings.

 

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Is Brian Williams a Star or a Journalist?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Peabody Awards https://www.flickr.com/photos/peabodyawards/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Peabody Awards https://www.flickr.com/photos/peabodyawards/

I’ve been looking at videos of Brian Williams. The thing that jumps out at me is that he has been more of a personality than a journalist for quite a while.

There’s something vaguely trashy about the anchor of a network news show performing as he does in these videos. However, it goes a long way toward explaining his I Caught a Fish THAT BIG story about coming under fire in Iraq. That story was part of the Brian Williams act, the Brian Williams persona.

All this is in keeping with the way “news” has been trending for a long time. On cable news channels, they don’t so much report the news as they talk about it.

Each of the cable channels brings in “experts” of one sort or the other to dice up some itty bitty story or an itty bitty aspect of a large story that they’ve decided to focus on. Invariably, this chosen aspect they are going to dissect with talk, talk, talk is something that they can massage to put forth the slant, the bias, of that particular network. The “experts” viewpoints reflect the cable “news” channel’s bias, as well.

On network news, there’s a bit more reporting, but they have been overtaken by the star power of their anchors. The whole idea of a journalist being a “star” is antithetical to journalism. When the guy reading the news becomes bigger than the news he’s reading, we get a messy, viewpoint-driven version of events that veers haplessly toward propaganda and flat-out lying.

What I’m saying is that “news” as it’s being served up to the American people on television is one part trashy entertainment, complete with verbal pushing and shoving, one part star bias, one part network bias and a smidge of actual reporting.

That’s why news channels report, report, report non-news about one story: It’s cheaper to produce and easier to do than actual journalism.

The problem we are experiencing with our free press, at least on television, is that it’s not a free press. In fact, it’s not a press at all. It’s a corporate-owned propaganda machine that is being used to drive public opinion in order to control rather than inform the populace.

Brian Williams, star anchor and teller of tall tales, is just a symptom of the overall lack of credibility and journalistic chops in our money-driven television news empires. He’s just a good looking guy who reads the news.

I’d rather have homely folks who report the news without becoming the news themselves.

Brian Williams’ apology.

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Brian Williams, describing the helicopter story in 2003, before it became the I Caught a Fish THIS BIG story.

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Brian Willaims, telling the full I Caught a Fish THIS BIG story on Letterman.

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Brian Williams’ newscast in which tells his I Caught a Fish THIS BIG on NBC news. The self-promotion in this is shameless.

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Brian Williams, talking about the importance of the news.

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Stars and Stripes debunked the I Caught a Fish THIS BIG story. There is a video with the reporter who debunked the story here.

From Stars and Stripes:

Williams and his camera crew were actually aboard a Chinook in a formation that was about an hour behind the three helicopters that came under fire, according to crew member interviews.

That Chinook took no fire and landed later beside the damaged helicopter due to an impending sandstorm from the Iraqi desert, according to Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Miller, who was the flight engineer on the aircraft that carried the journalists.

“No, we never came under direct enemy fire to the aircraft,” he said Wednesday.

The helicopters, along with the NBC crew, remained on the ground at a forward operating base west of Baghdad for two or three days, where they were surrounded by an Army unit with Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams M-1 tanks.

Miller said he never saw any direct fire on the position from Iraqi forces.

The claim rankled Miller as well as soldiers aboard the formation of 159th Aviation Regiment Chinooks that were flying far ahead and did come under attack during the March 24, 2003, mission.

One of the helicopters was hit by two rocket-propelled grenades — one did not detonate but passed through the airframe and rotor blades — as well as small arms fire.

 

 

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Brian Williams and the I Caught a Fish THIS BIG Story

 

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Peabody Awards https://www.flickr.com/photos/peabodyawards/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Peabody Awards https://www.flickr.com/photos/peabodyawards/

Deacon Greg and the Anchoress have done a good job of covering the story.

It seems that news anchor Brian Williams has, over the years, slowly dressed up a story about what happened when he was covering the Iraq war. A helicopter was shot at and forced down. Brian Williams was in another helicopter that was not shot at and was not forced down. But he was near the helicopter that was shot down. Not very near, but somewhat near.

Over the years, his telling of the story has slowly inched toward saying that the helicopter he was in took the fire and was forced down, until he finally jumped the ole’ shark and said exactly that.

So.

Brian Williams has, over time, expanded an incident he was in during the time he was covering the Iraq War into a big windy.

And he got caught.

And then he apologized.

Sort of.

It turns out that his apology wasn’t all that truthful, either.

And now, everybody is piling on.

Oh what tangled webs we weave.

Do I care?

Nope.

Or at least not much.

So far as I’m concerned, Mr Williams is a good looking guy who reads the news. I never took him all that seriously in the first place.

I know that Mr Williams sits in front of a camera night after night and reads stories to us that we are supposed to believe are the absolute truth of the way things are in the world. But I never believed these things were the absolute truth of the way things are in the world, not even before Mr Williams’ big windy.

I’ve been reported on enough in my life to know that every single news story is, at least in part, fiction. Not, usually, deliberate fiction, but fiction born of deadline pressure, reporters who don’t know all that much about the stories they’re covering and, well, human nature being human nature.

In some instances — not too many of them, but they were memorable — I’ve been part of stories that were reported with deliberate lies and propaganda. The coverage on a bill I did to stop doctors from paying women to have their ovaries harvested for eggs was one of the worst of these. I couldn’t even get one local news anchor to accurately report demonstrable facts. He deliberately and with knowledge of what he was doing ignored the facts and reported untruths when he knew they were untruths.

So, excuse me please when I tell you that I’m not all that lathered up because a news anchor has been telling an I Caught a Fish THIS BIG story about his wartime reporting adventures. When it comes to wartime, it always seems to work that way. Guys who never did the deal brag about what wasn’t and those who actually saw combat won’t say a word about it.

As for Brian Williams and his flapping gums, network news is still, even today, less of a carny show than cable news. But it’s been moving in that direction for a long while. There was a time when a news anchor who did something like this would have been anathema. But now? Not so much.

Which leads to the question:  Does anybody really believe the news anymore?

Anybody?

Brian Williams got caught exaggerating his wartime coverage experiences and slowly, over the years, side-stepped himself into a tall tale about how he ended up where nobody in their right mind wants to be in real life: In a helicopter, under such severe fire that it was forced down.

He was in a helicopter. And he was near (sort of) the attack that actually did happen. Helicopters were forced down. And he was nearby.

The rest of the story … drifted … over time.

Make what you want of this. I don’t care.

Has Mr Williams’ credibility as a newscaster been harmed?

Uh-huh.

Do I want to hate him to death over this?

Nope.

I’ll let all you folks who never told a lie cast the first stone at him.

If we hold to that standard of rock throwing, I think Mr Williams will be safe.

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10 Ways to be Pro Life This Year

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Wes Peck https://www.flickr.com/photos/wespeck/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Wes Peck https://www.flickr.com/photos/wespeck/

1. Pray a Rosary on Fridays for the unborn.

2. Make a pet project of one of your state legislators. Track their votes on pro life bills and send them a handwritten letter commenting on how they voted. Better yet, go to the capitol and tell them what you think — kindly — in person. If they vote pro life, send them flowers at the end of session. If they don’t vote pro life, tell them that you are deeply disappointed in them, and that you worry about how they will feel when they look back on their time in office later. Tell them also that you will pray that God will open their eyes to what they are doing. Then, send them flowers, even though they’ve voted anti-life. Pray for them when you pray the Rosary from number 1.

3. Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center.

4. Write a check to your local crisis pregnancy center.

5. Speak out for funding for rape crisis centers. Rape victims should not be left alone with no other help except exhortations to “choose life” if they become pregnant as a result of rape. We need to help them heal from this terrible trauma.

6. If your state is considering euthanasia, organize a group of your friends and go to your state capitol and speak to everyone you can, asking them not to do this horrifically evil thing. Then, follow up on this visit by writing notes to everyone you talked to. Repeat every month.

7. Write a letter to the editor against abortion and euthanasia.

8. Take care of your elderly parents. Love and cherish them.

9. Make a solid, stable, loving home for your family.

10. Look at the sex ed curricula in your schools. If Planned Parenthood is teaching there, write a letter to the school board asking that the teaching be done by an organization that does not sell the contraceptives and abortions they are teaching young people to use.

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Pro Life Oklahoma 2015: Rose Day

Wednesday of this week was Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

It was a clear, cold day and every parking space, everywhere, was taken. The capitol was full to the brim with pro life people, carrying roses to give to their state legislators.

I hugged a lot of people I hadn’t seen for several months and then found a seat at the back of the House Chamber for the program. Pro life people filled every seat in the chamber, including all the galleries, and there was overflow into the rotunda, as well.

If you don’t have a Rose Day in your state, consider starting one. It’s a great way to begin legislative sessions, since it reminds legislators — in a positive and loving way — just how many pro life people there are in their state.

Here are a couple of really bad photos I took of the chamber with my iPhone. The photos are terrible, but the love in that room was beautiful.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

 

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

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Pro Life Oklahoma 2015: Tulsa March for Life

Tulsa March for Life 2015. Oklahoma has two metropolitan areas: Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The state capitol is in Oklahoma City.

Tulsa has an annual march for life which draws thousands of people each year. Oklahoma City has the annual Rose Day at the State Capitol.

It was a blessing on my life that I was given the opportunity to be  the keynote speaker at this year’s Tulsa March for Life. Anything I can do for the babies is a gift to me. I will treasure the memories of this night for the rest of my life.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

 

Bishop of Slattery Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

Bishop of Slattery Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

 

Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

 

Me, speaking at the march. Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

Me, speaking at the march. Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

 

Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

 

I love this one. The Hunters for Life sign is so Okie. I love Oklahoma. Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

I love this one. The Hunters for Life sign is so Okie. I love Oklahoma. Copyright: Diocese of Tulsa. Used withPermission. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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ISIS Burns Jordanian Pilot Alive. Jordan Vows Revenge.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Klaus Nahr https://www.flickr.com/photos/klausnahr/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Klaus Nahr https://www.flickr.com/photos/klausnahr/

In their race to the bottom of the human pile, ISIS murdered a captive Jordanian pilot by putting him in a cage and setting him on fire.

I’ve decided to link to the video, primarily because I think that we need to know what ISIS is, and why they must be defeated absolutely. Anyone who joins ISIS or helps them should be hunted down and put in prison, even if it takes decades to get all of them.

You can see the video here.

The people of Jordan reacted explosively to the video. You can see a bit of their reaction in the video below. Jordan has already begun carrying out its promised reprisals.

I understand the emotion. I’ve been feeling the same emotions about ISIS for quite some time. Muslims who oppose this barbarism are our brothers and sisters in this fight.

We need to end ISIS. Hunt down the perpetrators and build a civilized and lasting peace. I pray that this war will not become an on-going blood feud that ultimately destroys civilization in that part of the world. In order for that to happen, ISIS must be laid to ground absolutely. But then, people must turn their backs on the bloodshed and move forward into civilization building.

This business of carrying on hates for generations (which seems to be the way they do things in the Middle East) will, if it is not checked, cripple and destroy that part of the world so that it never pulls itself out of the abyss of war.

I don’t know how you change people whose cultural trajectory is built on never forgetting and generational blood feud. But I do know that it is a necessity if that region of the world is ever going to move forward to provide stable and good lives for the people who live there.

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Tomorrow is Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol

Representative Gary Banz Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Gary Banz Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Gary Banz told me that when I left, he wanted my parking place.

I understood that.

My parking place was fantabulous; right next to the Gov’s parking place.

That’s what happens when a Rep has more seniority than anybody else in the building. She gets whatever parking space she wants.

Did Representative Banz get “my” parking space? I dunno. I haven’t been back to check.

I’m going to the Oklahoma State Capitol building for the first time since my son and one of his friends and I went out and loaded up my office and brought it home. That was, if memory serves, the Monday after the Friday on which we adjourned.

Oh, I’ve had phone conversations with people at the Capitol since then. Lots of them. And I’ve also had conversations with my former colleagues in the House and Senate. Lots of them, as well.

But I haven’t set foot in the actual building, or driven by it, for that matter, since I brought my stuff home to stay.

But I’m going to the Capitol tomorrow. I’m going with a couple of friends, who, because of their health problems, I will drop off on the Senate side of the building where they can get in without climbing stairs, and then I’m going to wind back south and park far from the building in one of the visitor spaces.

I will then go in, meet up with my friends and begin handing out roses to the reps and sens I know.

Because tomorrow is Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Photo Source: Oklahoma Rose Day Committee. Used with Permission.

Photo Source: Oklahoma Rose Day Committee. Used with Permission.

Rose Day is an annual event sponsored by pro life people, in particular the Oklahoma Southern Baptist Convention and Catholic Charities, which brings hundreds of pro life Okies to Oklahoma City to cheer on their pro life legislative heroes.

I loved Rose Day when I was in office. It was so nice to have people in the building who actually liked what I was doing by working to pass pro life legislation. The life of a pro life Democrat can be lonely, indeed. After some of the ugliness that happened to me, I drew into myself as a survival tactic. I just hunkered down and fought my way through the last half of my time in office.

Day after day, nobody asked me join them for lunch, nobody talked to me. When we stayed late in the evenings, I had friends from outside the legislature come pick me up for supper because I knew none of my colleagues would eat with me.

Rose Day was the one day that turned that on its head. For a couple of hours, I actually had friends inside that building.

That’s why I’m writing this now. If you are a pro life Okie, you need to be at the Oklahoma State Capitol Building tomorrow. You need to let pro life legislators know that you appreciate what they are doing.

You need especially to look up pro life Democrats and encourage them, because, believe me, they won’t hear another encouraging word all session long.

I’m going to Rose Day tomorrow as a spectator, rather than a participant. It will be my first time in a long, long time when I can’t just swing into my parking space next to the door and hustle up to my office.

Tomorrow, I’m walking in from the South 40, and then I’m going to have to find someone who will let me leave my coat in their office for a couple of hours.

I am so looking forward to it. I plan to drop by and encourage every single pro life Democrat I know, and to hug many of the dedicated pro life Republicans that I know. I’ll watch the inspiring program we have planned.

Then, I’m going to go back out to the South 40, get in my car, drive around and pick up my friends and we’ll go out and celebrate. Because this year I don’t have to stay. My time as an active participant in the legislative bear-and-bull-fight is over, and for that I am soooo grateful.

As for the pro life Okies reading this, be sure join me at Rose Day. Tomorrow is going to be a wonderful pro life celebration for all of us.

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