Sunday, September 23, 2007


For no particular reason I'd like to say a little bit about our nephew, Chucky. For one thing, the kid's a powerhouse. From dawn to midnight, every day of the week, I've never met anyone who could match this kid in energy. And he's a sweet kid, at that. Sometimes I think that if we could just harness the energy beaming out of one of his smiles our country could solve our energy crisis in the blink of an eye. The kid's also got a hell of a lot of intestinal fortitude. Some call it commitment. I call it the human spirit which comes to us from on high. As a toddler he started loving the gridiron greats from the Emerald City--the Seattle Seahawks. He stood firm for them growing up in a family of SF49'er Fanatics. Pretty gutsy if you ask me. He loves my wife, Terese, his "Auntie T" and our toddler, Sonny, as if he's known them all his life, which I guess he has, in a way, because his magnificent heart has always come from a place of love. He'll never know how much it means to me. So here's to you, Chucky. I hear you're entering cyberspace soon and the net will be so much better for it. What do you say?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Angora Fire

When Governor Schwarzenegger visited South Lake Tahoe recently, he said we shouldn't point our fingers about the people responsible because the fire crews were still in the midst of bringing the fire under control, Well, the fire (Thank You, Lord!) is now under control, our preliminary investigation is complete and so it's time to take the gloves off.

Any property owner in Lake Tahoe will tell you how schizophrenic, divided, and dangerous the federal, state, and local governmental bureaucracies have become. Last month, we found out how truly dangerous their results can be. With the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency at first encouraging and now requiring the use of ground covers such as dry bark mulch and pine needles to prevent erosion and at the same time severely limiting defensible space around your dwelling to a scant ten yards, you can see how the government miserably failed to protect the people. You might remember the Tahoe local who refused to abide by T.R.P.A. regulations and cleared the defensible space to around 33 yards, more than three times the limit. His home still stands. He exemplifies the idea promoted by Governor Schwarzenegger who said a homeowner should be able to protect his private property as he sees fit. If this unsound, unsafe, and unwise regulation was the only danger facing Tahoe, we'd be well on our way to solving it on our own. Friends, neighbors, and acquaintances tell me they are already creating more defensible space around their homes--the T.R.P.A. be damned.

And let's not forget the Minden, Nevada air tanker that remained idle as Tahoe burned that day. At a mere 15 minutes away it would have saved countless homes and dollars. Instead, a full 50 minutes after the 9-1-1 call came in, the Sierra Front Inter-Agency Dispatch Center (in Minden, Nevada!) called up two air tankers from Reno, Nevada, more than 30 minutes away. Incredibly, the agency says their actions stem from Congress' close scrutiny of money and spending! I don't know about you, but I haven't found any evidence, EVER, of this close scrutiny.

The Tahoe region has also suffered from another turf battle over thinning out the forest canopy. Again, rather than working to protect and serve the people, agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the T.R.P.A., work tirelessly to feather their own nests and protect and serve their own bureaucratic turf. This produces tragedy. While the T.R.P.A. tells homeowners to clear away pine needles, brush, and small trees to create the vital "defensible space," the U.S. Forest Service controls immense areas of thickly-wooded sections where crowds of small trees and underbrush create fuel ladders for fires to race to the tops of the big trees and jump hundreds of feet. On Lookout Point Circle, where all the homes burned to the ground, the adjoining forest was "grossly overstocked," according to fire inspectors. A spokesperson for the Lake Valley Fire Protection District says property owners who had cleared a defensible space around their homes lost them anyway because their neighbors didn't bother adding, "You're only as safe as your neighbor." But what do you do when your dangerous neighbor next door is the federal government?

Finally, we have the government's fuels reduction project that was left unfinished a few years back. Hundreds of slash piles 6' tall, 8'-10' in diameter and less than 40' apart had been drying out for at least three years. When the fire reached the slash piles upwind of the Mule Deer area, they exploded into flames igniting and then taking out the entire neighborhood. It is a crime for the government to have let these hundreds of piles of tinderbox kindling accumulate in residential areas for years.

Where does this leave us? Well, citizens have to become more vigilant to the dangers of all of our government's bureaucracies. Unwise, vague, and slow-acting bureaucrats neither protect nor serve us. Until and unless we change the way we do things, all of us will live under a system that endangers us more and more every day. As President Reagan said, "Government is not the solution. Government is the problem."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Glimpses of My Father on the Silver Screen

My mom often talked about how my dad looked a lot like Humphrey Bogart. I could never see it, but then, I didn't really know much about "Bogie" back in the day. There were, in fact, quite a few physical similarities between the two. Brown eyes, slender build, slightly receding hairline, determined jaw, and an often-pensive facial expression--all of these could easily describe either man. But this was before video rentals, classic film tributes, and cable T.V. When Mom would tell us how much Dad looked like "Bogie" we had no true reference point. Back then, the only time they ran a classic movie (except for "The Wizard of Oz") on television was on The Late Show--long past bedtime.

But lately, I've been seeing Dad in some of these classic films, if you know what I mean. I think of Mom watching these same movies and after all this time I think I understand her. "Bogie" was a movie star long before my folks met, so she had an idea of what "Bogie" was about when she met my dad and recognized these qualities in him. However, I don't find my father in "High Sierra," "Angels With Dirty Faces," "The Petrified Forest," or "The Desperate Hours." Bogart's fine creation of such menacing villains in these films obliterates any sort of semblance between him and my father. No, to see glimpses and glints of my dad on the silver screen you have to watch and listen to the devoted family/working man in "They Drive By Night," the quiet, war veteran turned hero in "Key Largo," or the hard-driving, stoically passionate riverboat captain in "The African Queen." The "Bogie" character Mom found to be the most like my dad had to be Rick, the reluctant warrior in America's most-beloved film, "Casablanca." Like the rest of the Greatest Generation and much of the Heartland in general, Rick is reluctant to battle and when is finally forced into it he fights for liberation--never for conquest. "Still Waters Run Deep" sings the song and that was my father as it still is for much of America. When there is even so much as talk of attacking America we reluctant warriors gear up. Remember these lines from "Casablanca"?

Major Strasser (of Hitler's SS): Can you imagine us in London?
Rick: When you get there, ask me.
Major Strasser: How about New York?
Rick: Well, there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade.

My dad didn't live to see September 11, 2001. But I know how he would have responded because the day after Pearl Harbor he enlisted in the army at the age of 17. Later on, his work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory helped win the Cold War.

Devoted. Patriotic. Passionate. Hard-working. War Veteran. Quiet. As the years roll on, my pride in him grows. I see in him what my mother saw, but I would have to add that he also closely resembled a resident of one of those "...certain sections of New York." Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

D-Day, Reagan, and The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc

I can't think of a better way to commemorate today, D-Day, than to watch the Gipper's speech from this day in 1984. What remains relevant to today is our purpose and motive for fighting evil:

"The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt."

Today I'll be thinking not just of all the people from my parents' generation who fought in WWII, but of all the people who have served in the U.S. military.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Sgt. York and a Journey of Faith

On Memorial Day, Terese and I got to see Sgt. York starring Gary Cooper on Turner Classic Movies. What a movie! Once in a while, at least during the Golden Age, Hollywood got it right. In 1941, when Sgt. York was made, Hollywood wasn't in the business of making apologies for America. The "Blame America First" crowd was around but much fewer in number than they are these days. The only real change the studio made in this story was to elevate York's rank from corporal to sergeant. I think Corporal York would have worked just as well. As Shakespeare says, "What's in a name?"

Gary Cooper plays real-life WWI hero, Alvin York, who single-handedly captures a German battle position at Argonne, France. The story includes several fascinating references to passages from the Bible as York tries to reconcile his faith in God with killing the enemy. Those familiar with the Bible in the original Hebrew know the Sixth Commandment reads, "Thou shalt not murder," rather than the oft-misquoted, "Thou shalt not kill." After basic training, an understanding captain allows York to return home to think about what he really believes and tells him, "If you still feel this way when you get back, I'll sign your discharge papers myself." At the end of a terrific scene when York searches his soul from a mountain promontory overlooking the Tennessee valley that is his home, he realizes he must heed the Lord's instruction to "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's..." So, York returns to the army knowing he must do his duty.

What is remarkable about York's journey of faith is the answer he gives for his reason in fighting the Germans so valiantly in the face of almost certain death. He attacks, and then kills the German machine gunners and hand grenadiers he says, because he wants to save lives. In the end, York defeats his external enemy, the Germans on the battlefield, and with divine guidance, a warrior's most dreadful internal enemy--doubt.

Some folks say we were a much different country then and that is very true. But the perception in Hollywood production offices and New York boardrooms nowadays is that patriotism and a sense of civic duty are foolish, unseemly, and of course, politically incorrect. They want nothing less than to undermine our men and women in uniform via negative public opinion which they foster and stoke at every turn. It makes me fervently wish with all my heart they'd take some time off for reflection and yes, prayer--maybe even from a mountain promontory back home.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Today, we remember those who gave their lives for America. Both my parents served in WWII. My father served in the Army Air Corps, a forerunner of today's Air Force. My mother served in the Navy, and, like my dad, served overseas during the war. And while they both survived to tell the tale, they never let us forget that, like the song says, "All gave some, some gave all."

It is the height of disrespect for some misguided folks to use Memorial Day to protest the war in Iraq. Yes, they, like all of us have the right to freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. Ironically, part of the reason they have those rights is because other patriotic people down through the centuries of America gave their lives so that we could live in freedom. To protest a current action on Memorial Day diverts attention away from the true patriots--the ones who gave the last full measure.

Our country needs more people to commemorate Memorial Day for what it is--a national acknowledgement that we enjoy our liberty because people have gone before us so that we could be free. To quote the Gipper, a true American hero, "We will always remember."

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Shining City Upon a Hill

"A Shining City Upon a Hill" will look for the answers to one question--Are we, as a nation forever young, holding to our faith in the ideals that made us great? Democracy, freedom, free markets, the marketplace of ideas, American ingenuity--some people seem to have forgotten these values. Unfortunately, many of them hold office or occupy positions of power in the media. They would do well to remember Ronald Reagan's Four Pillars of Freedom:

National Pride
Global Democracy

Individual Liberty
Economic Opportunity

These remain the ideals that can guide us to a better tomorrow for our country and the world. What are we doing to strengthen and expand each of these? Take national pride, for example. We have so much to be proud of, as Americans, but it seems our current leaders have chosen to neglect this area in favor of partisan rancor. Lincoln said, "Politicians think about the next election. Statesmen think about the next generation." It seems we have only politicians these days.