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Monday, August 25, 2014

Compare and Pardon

“The bargain that any president strikes with is, you give me this office and in turn my, fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure is gone. I am giving myself to you."
Candidate Barack Obama, 2008


Leaving the laughable "promise" quoted above aside, why can no news outlet mention President Obama's vacation time without dragging in the recreational record of former president George W. Bush?

Because they are making excuses and covering up for the current, very lavish Vacationer-in-Chief.

Nobody ever points out the fact that the Obama family vacations involve much greater expense of taxpayer funds than Bush hiatuses did. President Bush spent the overwhelming amount of his "time off" at the family residences--either the Texas ranch or the Maine home. Outside of the plane ride, there's not much extravagance involved in visiting your home. Contrast Bush's "stay-cations" with President Obama's repeated trips to Hawaii and Martha's Vineyard, not to mention his wife's forays to Spain, Aspen, and other exotic locales. Yet Bush's "days away from Washington" are pounded as evidence that President Obama, by comparison, is absolutely spartan in his vacation habits.

It's also worth mentioning that President Bush refrained from golf games beginning in 2003, because he felt it was inappropriate during the Iraq War. (He even has the good grace to defend President Obama's golf outings.) But considering the fact that President Obama was back on the green within an hour after giving his brief prepared statement of outrage over the beheading by ISIS of American journalist James Foley, I wonder what terrorist atrocity would qualify as worthy of eschewing a round of golf?

When the next inevitable "Big Hit" comes to the USA from Islamic terrorists, what will the liberal media's excuses be for our Golfer-in-Chief?


Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Go-See Movie

I think there's a message for us about the state of our world when a steady stream of post-apocalyptic stories involving young people battling their cruel, futuristic societies shows up at the movies. The popular Hunger Games franchise, Divergent, and the upcoming The Maze Runner are some prime examples. The movie The Giver, in current release, is yet another.

Without spilling any spoilers, I can only say what you probably already know--The Giver depicts a cold and emotionless future. In this rigidly structured society, there is one person who is selected to carry the memories of human emotion and experience, both good and evil. The Giver passes his ancient knowledge along to the Receiver, who will in turn pass his secrets on to the chosen one of the next generation.

The book The Giver, which predated all of its aforementioned counterparts, was written by Lois Lowry, published in 1993, and is the first of a four-book series. I don't know what took Hollywood so long to get to this one, but it's a shame they waited. By now, the teenaged-hero-saving-the-world meme is somewhat shopworn. Despite a cast that includes Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges, the box office has been lackluster. I think it's worth a go-see, because The Giver is a really good story. In fact, after seeing the movie, I'd like to read the book.

It is apparent to the viewer that the movie is only skimming the surface of the book's important themes very relevant to our times, such as the intrinsic value of each human life, the deep need for individual and cultural differences, and the consequential choices between good and evil. The film ends rather abruptly, which leaves the audience wondering about a sequel. I hope there is one; I, for one, will see it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Facts for Ferguson

Andrew C. McCarthy reviews Attorney General Eric Holder's visit to Ferguson, Missouri, in this NRO column. It's an article intended for readers interested in common sense and legal reality, not emotion and reaction.

Below is an excerpt:

If the Justice Department would not open a civil-rights investigation based on a black police officer’s shooting of a civilian, whatever the victim’s race, then a white officer is just as entitled to that presumption of innocence. It is no more legitimate for the Justice Department to target a white cop for being white than for a white cop to target a black man for being black. Both would be examples of what the civil-rights laws call “deprivation of rights under color of law.”

McCarthy is the former US attorney who led the prosecution of the terrorists responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Faith and Fate

"It didn't make sense, but faith did."
~ Jim Foley

When journalist Jim Foley was held prisoner the first time he was captured, in Libya in
Jim Foley - www.bbc.com
2011, he prayed the Rosary on his knuckles. We can't know, but I would guess he probably followed the same practice during his second captivity before his brutal execution by Islamic terrorists.

No stranger to mortal peril, Jim Foley seemed to face his gruesome death with resignation and an acceptance that his luck had run out. The covert rescue attempt by US Special Forces earlier this summer was unsuccessful; there's a story there, too, that may emerge in time.

I've only seen still photos taken immediately before his murder; I will never watch the video. You can't "unsee" something, so I choose not to carry that memory. It's enough to remember that Foley's life made a difference, in ways we may not yet understand.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Defining Terrorism

Words can be very effective vehicles of communication. They can also be completely misused to the point that true comprehension becomes impossible. In today's media, we see far more of the incomprehensible than the effective.

For example, let's review popular media descriptions of the Islamic terrorists. I insist on the use of the word terrorist, as it is the most accurate. (We'll get to that.) In news reports and political-speak, the Islamic terrorist murderers are alternately referred to as "militants," "extremists," "insurgents," and, my personal favorite euphemism, "rebels."

The most overused term seems to be "militant,"so let's take a look at the primary meaning of that word, according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition:

Militant - 1. engaged in warfare or combat: FIGHTING

That's a good start, but let's unpack that definition. What do the words "warfare" and "combat" mean?

warfare - 1. military operations between enemies: HOSTILITIES, WAR
combat - 1. a fight or contest between individuals or groups: CONFLICT, CONTROVERSY

Based on these definitions, how does the word "militant" apply to the deliberate murders of peaceful civilians, including the executions of unarmed men, women and children? Far from being "enemies," these innocent Iraqi Yazidi and Christian victims were families living their own lives with no ill will towards others when they were forced from their homes, many into horrific deaths at the hands of violent terrorists. There were no "military operations" on the part of those fleeing the terrorists; they sought no "fight or contest." But that didn't matter to the terrorists, who just wanted these people dead because they were not Muslim.

Which brings me, as promised, to the definition of terrorist:

Terrorist - 1. one who applies the systematic use of terror esp. as a means of coersion. 

To terrorize means "to fill with terror or anxiety: SCARE." 

Terrorism. Terrorists. Terrorize. These are the words that effectively communicate the evil that is occurring in Middle East. I wish that media representatives and government officials alike would start calling reality what it is. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Writing vs. Editing: A War of Words

I see but one rule: to be clear.
~Stendahl


pentopapercommunications
As both a writer and an editor, I found this piece, "Against Editors," to be a fun read.

I think that being a writer first, an editor second, is a good combination. The written word is a writer's baby. To watch a red/blue pencil do damage to carefully constructed writing can cause actual physical pain. When I'm editing, I keep that fact in mind. It helps me to avoid making edits:
  1.  For the sake of change
  2.  To make it read like I would write it
  3.  That would change the author's "voice"
I try very hard to confine my edits to:
  1. Spelling
  2. Grammar
  3. Punctuation
  4. Clarification
While the first three concerns are by-the-book, the fourth is a gray area. If I don't understand exactly what the writer is expressing, I'll flag that line and ask my question. No writer wants a confused reader, and the editor is the first audience for any written piece. It's an editor's job to call out any ambiguity. It's the writer's prerogative to accept or reject the validity of such challenges.

Writers tend to appreciate all the above considerations. Remaining a writer first and an editor second, for me, is the best approach.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Golf and War


"There being not much happening around the world at the moment, the President played golf today..."
~ Mark Steyn

Photo: PJ Media
No matter how grim the circumstances, Mark Steyn can find a way to make me smile. His effectiveness as a sharply humorous chronicler of current events has landed him in legal hot water. As is a well-known fact, the progressive "Thought Police" don't much relish being made light of. Disciples of accepted left-wing gospel truths are usually as serious as a heart attack and can be just as dangerous to life.

No amount of humor can hide the fact that we are in serious trouble. We have no national leader at present, a first in my lifetime. Even President Jimmy Carter made the effort, as ineffective as it was. Our current president seems completely disinterested in our role as a country and an ally. He'll chime in on race-baiting whenever the opportunity presents itself. In fact, I haven't ever seen race relations this bad--and I grew up in the '60s. I'll chalk that up to part of President Obama's "legacy."

The dangers we face today--strengthening Russian aggression, barbaric Islamic terrorism and genocide, disintegration of our southern border--are not worthy of the president's tee-time. Yet even if he switches to his bike ride in an effort to avoid it, the sand trap of the Middle East yawns before us with no way around it.

Regardless of who he choses to blame, this is Obama's war, and it's one that his disinterest has needlessly driven us into.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Another Fallen Star

There are so few of the great stars remaining from Hollywood's golden age, and Lauren Bacall was one of the brightest left to us. Over the decades, she had endured as a legend of that era.

It's famous show business lore that she and Humphrey Bogart were a team both on and off the silver screen. They married, had children, and parted only at Bogart's untimely death in 1957. The story of her trademark "look" is also well known; Bacall said she was so nervous on camera that she could only keep her head from shaking by lowering her chin and casting her eyes upwards.

Screen icons such as Bacall are unique and irreplaceable. It's some comfort that she will always shine on in her films.
Lauren Bacall ~ 1924-2014

The Solitude of Suffering

The overblown media coverage and the emotional public outcry over the untimely death of actor and comedian Robin Williams is so interesting to observe.
Robin Williams ~ 1951-2014
Photo: collider.com

Why are people so acutely affected by this loss of a beloved celebrity? The ongoing reactions are shocked, devastated, disbelieving. It's a sad and upsetting event, of course. I've always enjoyed Robin Williams as an entertainer and will miss him terribly. But is it really so shocking that a comedic genius, who had spent most of his life tormented by inner demons, would eventually lose his very human battle?

I think the forceful reactions to Williams' death are expressions of our own human vulnerabilities. They are a reminder to us that we are each alone with our own soul; no one can truly know the depths of another person. Internal struggles can remain forever hidden, or they may result in a tragic suicide like Robin Williams. Not even loved ones closest to Williams knew the extent of his pain.

Perhaps that's what bothers us so much. Robin Williams had fame, wealth, family, and almost universal goodwill and admiration. If someone as blessed in life as he was could be conquered by his darker side, who among us is safe? This is an ancient question with an unchanging answer. The poem Richard Cory, published in 1897, expresses well the mystery of a troubled man's private despair. In following the narrative of Richard Cory's life, Robin Williams played his final part. The brilliant comedian has left us through a self-imposed tragedy. Now, because he is gone, the world is a poorer place; and we are left to wonder why.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Five Things Romney Got Right

It's not much comfort, but 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been proven correct on much of his campaign discussion topics:
  1. Withdrawing U.S. troops abruptly from Iraq would have terrible consequences
  2. Russia is our "top geopolitical foe"
  3. Veterans should be allowed to use vouchers to obtain medical care outside of the VA
  4. Tax reform is needed to keep businesses in the U.S.
  5. Bipartisan and problem-solving skills are sorely needed in Washington D.C.
It's too late to do us any good, but it's gratifying to see the better man proven right.