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Sunday, July 28, 2013


WHERE ARE TODAY’S ATHLETIC ROLE MODELS? I have a grandson who turned 12 this week. He just finished playing on his Little League District All Star team in the Iowa State Tournament. While he certainly has some level of natural talent, he has made the All Star team primarily due to hard work. He practices hard, is always the first to arrive for practice, and the last to leave. He does this, not to receive praise or honors, but because he loves baseball, and wants to play the game he loves as well as his God given physical talents will allow. He also enjoys hearing me talk about the baseball stars of my era, and the kind of men they were. Stan the Man Musial, Ernie Mr. Cub Banks, Ted Williams and so many others. I think at least part of the reason he listens to these stories is because he can’t trust any of the baseball players of today. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear about another player who is using steroids, human growth hormone or some other performance enhancing drug. If not performance drugs, we hear about athletes caught using so-called recreational drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy or others. It saddens me that a 12 year old boy can’t model his play on a player, or show admiration for an athlete, because his performance may be based on cheating. Even when caught, players often excuse their behavior by blaming ignorance, or denying their involvement in the face of positive tests, or complaining to their players union that they have been unjustly accused or punished. Punishment is also a joke. Suspending a player for a limited number of games without pay means little to an athlete who may lose 2 or 3 million dollars when the drugs he used rewarded him with a contract worth 100 million dollars. The owners of the teams are also not greatly affected. If a player is suspended for a number of games, they simply add a replacement player from their practice squad, or farm team (dependent on the sport). In other words, the consequences of being caught with drugs is scant punishment when weighed against the potential gains for the athlete, his team and the owners. I am not naive about this. I understand that to most of us, sports is just sports. But to the owners and players, as well as the networks, media and all their employees, professional sports is a business. And like all businesses, it is the profit motive that drives almost every decision. That being the reality, the only way to clean up the drug issues in sports is to make it painful to the business aspect, which will affect the bottom line. I have a simple suggestion that could begin this process. As a hockey fan, I understand the use of the penalty box. If a player commits an infraction, he is sent to the penalty box for a specific period of time. His team must then play with one man short. Five against four, or six against five if you count the goalie. The team who was guilty is at a distinct disadvantage, while the team that was victimized by the transgression has a chance to gain a goal in the mis-match. Perhaps this same philosophy can be applied to all professional sports with respect to drug usage. Simply put, if a player is suspended for violating the league drug rules, that roster spot cannot be filled by a replacement player for the duration of the penalty. In baseball, each team has a 25 player roster. If one is suspended, the team can only utilize the remaining 24 players for the period of the suspension. If two are suspended from the same team, the team is now down to a 23 player roster. This would only affect the team roster. The number of players fielded during a game would not be affected. While this may only be a beginning step, it would show that the owners, players and their unions are serious about cleaning up their respective sports. If this or some similar action is not taken, we can look forward to cheating and drug use for many years to come.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011



I am not sure how this happened. I don’t know when it happened. I am unaware of what I did to have this happen. But I am now considered by many of my countrymen, and by my government, an enemy of the state.

An enemy of the United States of America. Me. An enemy of the state.

At the age of 66, the very principles that I have believed in my entire life have led me to be labeled an enemy. After working more than 50 years, paying taxes, raising my five children, spending thousands of hours volunteering with various organizations, and obeying all of the laws that applied to me (with an occasional lapse with regard to speed limits), I have lost my status as a citizen of the country in which I was born. How did this happen? Apparently, it happened because I believe in the fundamental principles upon which my country was founded.

Since I do not believe in the progressive agenda of the President, he has labeled me a bitter man, clinging to my guns and my bible.

Since I believe that all foreign nationals who enter the United States should do so legally, with proper documentation, the President has said that I am the enemy, and must be punished.

When I and others objected to the 870 billion dollar “Stimulus” legislation, the President said that I should move to the back of the bus.

As a person who disagrees with abortion on demand, am a member of the National Rifle Association, and believe that all elected officials must adhere to the Constitution of the United States, the Secretary of Homeland Security, appointed by the President, has identified me as a potential domestic terrorist.

The Congressional Black Caucus, of which the President was a member when in the Senate, has called me a racist who wants to see Black Americans hanging from trees.

The Vice President has called me a terrorist, as I agree with the limited government objectives of the Tea Party protesters.

The Vice President has also called me a barbarian, because I believe in the free market system of American capitalism.

The President of the Teamsters Union, speaking from the same podium as the President, has called me a Son of a Bitch, and the Chairperson of the President’s party agreed.

While the former Chief of Staff to the President did not call me a terrorist, he did say that if I disagreed with the President, I must be retarded.

When I urged my State’s representatives in Congress to defeat the bill raising the debt ceiling, because of the phony spending reductions included, I was called a hijacker by members of the President‘s party, intent on destroying the economy of the nation.

Democratic members of Congress, presidential advisers, and liberal pundits have all agreed that I only oppose the policies of the President because he is Black, and I am therefore a racist.

The Attorney General of the United States, appointed by the President, has called me a coward.

Because I agree with the Tea Party agenda of limited government and reduced government spending, I am labeled a radical extremist by members of the President’s staff, as well as Democratic members of Congress.

Because I have deep religious convictions, I have been classified as a fringe voter, intent on making America a Theocracy.

When my parent’s generation went to war, they were called patriots and heroes. When my generation went to war, we were called baby killers and war criminals. Apparently, the definition of the citizen soldier had changed. When the Founders and their supporters outlined the ideas for a new form of government, they were considered traitors and enemies of the state by the King of England, but referred to as heroes by succeeding generations of their fellow Americans. 236 years later, because I revere the ideals they espoused, I have now become an enemy of the state. I guess the definition has changed, because I certainly haven’t.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010



With winter maintaining an icy grip here in Iowa, we are all faced with the prospect of the cost of heating our homes. At least for this year, our utility bills may be a bit lower, as the cost of natural gas is comparable to last year, and coal (the main source of our electricity) is stable. However, the Waxman-Markey energy bill commonly referred to as Cap and Trade, will have some significant effect on future bills.

In theory, this bill is supposed to reduce carbon emissions. In fact, it is a massive tax on many industries, with particular emphasis on energy producers. The bill establishes a limit to the tons of carbon emissions each state may emit. If your state exceeds this limit, it can either pay a penalty (an excise tax), or purchase carbon credits from other states that do not exceed the limits. So, how will this impact Iowa, and the entire Midwest?

Not surprisingly, the bill favors the states of the sponsors, and penalizes other states. Specifically, coastal states will potentially reap large credit payments from mostly Midwest and Southern states. In other words, we will subsidize some states, through higher utility rates, with the increases used to buy credits from the states which will benefit from the skewed limits placed by the government. Let me illustrate, using the EPA figures included in Waxman-Markey. The following illustrates the initial tonnage allowed for specific states, and the allowances for ongoing years.

California - 87 now, between 99-127 in 2012
New York - 57 now, between 58-69 in 2012
Massachusetts - 24 now, between 23-27 in 2012
Oregon - 20 now, between 20-23 in 2012

Notice how these four states, all Obama supporters with influential members of a Democratic Congress, all receive large increases in the allowed carbon tonnage. So, how does this compare to our neck of the woods?

Iowa - 36 now, 21-29 in 2012
Wisconsin - 55 now, 34-44 in 2012
Minnesota - 56 now, 33-45 in 2012
Indiana - 75 now, 52-61 in 2012

Gee, all four of these states are reduced in allowable emissions from present usage. In fact, the reductions are substantial. What this means is that utilities in these four states will be required to buy credits from the other four states, which receive an increase each year. I sure am thrilled at the prospect of my utility rates “skyrocketing”, (Obama’s word), so that we can subsidize the rates in California, New York, Massachusetts and Oregon. I am sure our neighbors are also excited by this prospect. Keep in mind that all of these costs will ultimately be paid by us.

The bottom line is that beginning next year, we can either be cold, or pay a lot more to stay warm. Frankly, I have problem with that. This bill has passed the House of Representatives (I guess Mr. Boswell is actually a Congressman from California), but has not yet cleared the Senate. I will be watching to see if our Senators care about us at all, or if their constituency is actually on the East or West Coast. To be honest, though, it may not matter. The Environmental Protection Agency already has the regulatory power to enact these provisions, without Congressional approval. Lisa Jackson, the EPA Administrator, has announced her intention to institute the Cap and Trade regulations without Congressional action, under her regulatory authority. Right now, it looks like it sucks to live in the Midwest. Stay warm all.

If you would like to fact check my comments, feel free to do so. A good link is:

Monday, November 30, 2009



I lost my best friend on Sunday. While we only had her for four years, her impact on our family was in much greater proportion than her size.

In my 64 years, I have always had large dogs. When our Rottwieller had to be put to sleep because of advanced arthritis, I felt that we should not have another dog. Losing a pet is like losing a family member, and in my late fifties, I did not want to deal with any more losses.

After more than a year, my college age daughter brought home a tiny little furball named Lucy Belle. A Silky Terrier puppy, she was not much bigger than my hand. I had no experience with small dogs, other than yappy little ankle biters. Lucy, however, did not fit that description from the very beginning.

Like all Silky Terriers, Lucy topped out at about 14 pounds. However, she thought she was a big dog. All of her neighborhood canine friends are big, including Ava the Retriever, Charlie the German Shepherd, Beau the Yellow Lab and Wrigley the Boxer mix. Our extended family also includes larger dogs, especially my oldest son’s two rescue Dobermans. Lucy fit right in, playing with them, and tearing up the yard with the best of them. They accepted her as an equal, and all of them became fast friends.

Lucy loved company, and on our many walks, made friends with all of the neighborhood children. She would play ands run with the older ones, and was very gentle and affectionate with the younger ones. Many small dogs are nervous around children, but Lucy loved kids of all ages. Her soft and luxurious coat was an invitation to them to pet and cuddle with her, and she loved the attention.

She also assumed the duties of watchdog, and pest control expert. No one could approach the house without our little dog bell letting us know, and she stopped the local rabbits from eating my wife’s flowers and plants. She played roughhouse with our young grandson, and enjoyed tug-of-war, fetch, and tag with anyone who would join in. But it was her impact on my health that I will miss most.

2008 was my year without a summer. For me, summer meant lots of camping with the Scouts, training new adult leaders in Scouting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities. However, beginning that May, I had a stroke, heart attack, and quadruple bypass surgery. Upon my release from the hospital, my first physical challenge was to walk, made difficult by my substantial weight loss (dropping from 175 to 135 pounds), and leg pain from the stripping of veins for the bypass.

Lucy became my physical therapist. Our walks were the first step in my recovery. She somehow knew that I was not the same person I was before, and was patient as I slowly built up my endurance. The first walks were only four or five houses from home, and at a very halting pace. As August turned to September, we were walking a mile, at a rate close to that prior to my medical issues. When I began my cardiac rehab sessions in September, the staff were surprised that I had already progressed to that point. I could only say that my little friend Lucy encouraged me to work on regaining my strength.

More than a year has passed since I graduated from cardiac classes. This past summer, I again went camping with my grandson, attended baseball and basketball games, helped coach Little League, and resumed my Scouting activities. While all of these activities are part of my life, what I looked forward to each day were the walks with our little girl. They provided me with both physical exercise, and a chance to reflect on what is important. Family first, community and friends, my faith, and all of the issues of the day are worthy of thought, and are best shared with good friends who don’t pass judgment or criticize, but simply accept who you are. Lucy fit all of this, and more.

Lucy charged out of the house this past Sunday, perhaps to chase a rabbit, and out into a street. She didn’t make it across. Like all Terriers, she was a sight hunter, and if locked onto a target, ignored everything else. The emergency room veterinarian did all he could, but her internal injuries were too severe, and she passed away without a sound.

We lost our eldest daughter in October. As my Grandson and I left the animal hospital, he said that he thought Aunt Kim was now walking Lucy. He said he was glad that Lucy had a friend in heaven, waiting to take care of her.

I have loved all of the dogs we have had over the years, but Lucy will remain special to me. A tiny dog with the heart of a lion, and a true friend who helped me regain my health, leading me to what I call my “bonus year”. Thank you for being part of our family, my little friend. You will remain in my repaired heart for the rest of my days.

Thursday, October 01, 2009



I have remained silent about all of the “Special Advisors” and assistants to President Obama, despite my serious misgivings about their qualifications and personal agendas. However, as a parent and grandparent, and past and present volunteer with youth groups, I cannot in good conscience remain silent about one of President Obama’s appointments.

Kevin Jennings has been named as the person in charge of the “Safe School” program for the Department of Education. As such, he is to be responsible for programs and policies that are supposed to protect our children while they are in school. I find this hard to understand based on his admitted actions when actually confronted with a real case of child abuse.

Let us first agree that a sex act between a fifteen year old and an adult significantly older than the child is statutory rape, and certainly qualifies as child abuse. No High School Sophomore should be considered fair game for a predatory adult, and an adult who craves sex with a minor is certainly a predator.

In 1988, while a teacher at a High School in Concord Massachusetts, Mr. Jennings counseled a 15 year old student who was engaging in a sexual relationship with an adult who was significantly older, that began in a bus station in Boston. The sum total of Mr. Jennings’ advice and counsel was to tell the child; "I hope you knew to use a condom." Over the next two years, until the student graduated, Mr. Jennings was aware of the ongoing relationship between the student and the adult, yet he took no action. I would note that Mr. Jennings has written about this, so there is no doubt as to his actions, or lack thereof.

I am not familiar with the laws of the state of Massachusetts, but I do know about laws pertaining to the rape or abuse of children in my state of Iowa. As outlined in Iowa Code section 232.69, there are categories of people who are mandatory reporters when they examine, attend, counsel, or treat a child in the scope of professional practice or in their employment responsibilities. Among the listed mandatory reporters are teachers and other employees of schools. In Iowa, Mr. Jennings would have been required by law to notify the appropriate authorities of this relationship, and take active steps to protect this student.

The failure to take the required actions in Iowa is a criminal act under Iowa Code, to wit: Iowa Code section 232.75 provides for civil and criminal sanctions for failing to report child abuse. Any person, official, agency, or institution required by this chapter to report a suspected case of child abuse who knowingly and willfully fails to do so is guilty of a simple misdemeanor. In addition, any person, official, agency, or institution required by Iowa Code section 232.69 to report a suspected case of child abuse who knowingly fails to do so, or who knowingly interferes with the making of such a report in violation of section 232.70, is civilly liable for damages.

The bottom line is that in Iowa Kevin Jennings would be admittedly liable for both criminal and civil actions for his failure to act on behalf of this student. I say admittedly because he has included this information in his own book. In his defense, he has stated that he was young, and could have handled this differently. I would ask if the state of Massachusetts has similar laws to my state, and do they inform teachers of their responsibilities as mandatory reporters? If so, did not Mr. Jennings violate the laws of Massachusetts? If not, why not? If Massachusetts does not have mandatory reporting laws, why are such laws not in place?

May I respectfully say that this appointment is beyond inappropriate, but is in direct conflict with the goals and stated mission of this position. Mr. Jennings has already shown that he does not have the best interests of our children at heart, as shown by his disregard for the safety and welfare of a student in his care. He should have the good grace to resign, and if he fails to do so, he should be fired. The safety of our children is too important to be entrusted to someone who so blatantly has failed to act in a responsible manner when presented with a real life situation.

Thursday, August 27, 2009



Many of my friends here in Iowa know that I am a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. They attribute this to the fact that I spent my childhood growing up on Waveland Avenue in Chicago. I was fortunate that I had a Grandfather who was a Cub fan, and often took me to games at beautiful Wrigley Field. As a boy, the only present I wanted for my eighth birthday was an autographed baseball from Hank Sauer.

My friends, and even my family, often tease me about the fact that I was born in September, 1945, the last year in which the Cubs appeared in a World Series. While I have waited my entire life of 63 years to see the Cubs in a series, the fact that it has been 101 years since last they won a World Series is beyond a topic suitable for teasing.

But the long wait for me to see my team play in a World Series is not the main topic for this piece. Rather, it is to discuss why I have raised all five of my now adult children to be Cubs fans. While only two of the five were born in Chicago, all of them root for the Northsiders. I happily instilled in them a love for this benighted team, not out of nostalgia, or a misplaced loyalty to my boyhood idols, but for very practical reasons. Please let me explain.

Raising my children to follow the Cubs, rather than another baseball team, has allowed me to provide two separate and distinct advantages to each of my offspring. Any person raised as a Cub fan is automatically imbued with life lessons which will help them deal with the challenges they will face as adults, and instill in them a faith in the system of American values which have enabled us to become the greatest nation on earth. And before you write me off as a complete lunatic, please bear with me.

First of all, being a Cub fan is not easy. Traditionally, Americans tend to favor winners. It is easy, for example, to root for the New York Yankees. Their record over the decades, and the super stars they have fielded, makes it easy to admire them and claim a share of their glory. But the truth is, most teams, and most people, will never achieve the level of success that the Yankees have produced. Rather, we do the best we can with the skills and abilities we have, and with a bit of luck we will reach a level of success that is commendable, while not record setting. In other words, our expectations are more realistic, and our goals are achievable. A life lesson well learned.

The Cubs often have a player of superior ability, but he remains a rose among the thorns. A single star, while attaining personal success and adulation, can remain an also ran in the race for a World Championship. Baseball is indeed a team sport, and despite an individual of great talent, the team will only rise to the level of its collective skills. A co-worker of mine had a sign on his desk that read, “It is hard to soar like an eagle when you work with a bunch of turkeys”. A lesson learned that while you do your best, not all of those around will equal your effort. That is a fact of life that Cub fans understand all too well.

In life, we all face disappointments, and deal with failure at some point. For those who are well balanced in their outlook, failure and disappointment leads to renewed efforts to overcome adversity, with some degree of eventual success. Cub fans are realists when it comes to immediate expectations, but have an undeniable optimism about the future. While the fans of other teams wait with bated breath about the final outcome of their team’s season, Cub fans often look toward next year by the mid-season All Star break. While others bemoan the collapse of their chosen team’s standings in the last month of the baseball season, Cub fans have the anticipation of next year long before the current season ends.

The “three player” rule is another advantage of being a Cub fan. We spend months agreeing that the Cubs are only three players away from a World Series team, but can argue for hours about which three players we need. Some teams may need various numbers of players to improve, and that number changes from year to year. For us, we know it only takes three. A cynic might say that the three are the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but we know the three specific players that need to be acquired.

For Cub fans, despite over a hundred years of disappointment, hope springs eternal. The American spirit of never giving up, or giving in, is a mainstay of the psyche of Cub fans. We know that next year will be different, and things will be better. The failures of this year do not deter us, and there is almost nothing that will dampen our enthusiasm for our team. This is more than a lesson, but rather a guiding principle that can be applied to every aspect of our lives. I think forgiveness may also play a part in this. Again, we don’t hold grudges about mistakes made in the current season, but seek ways to overcome these setbacks.

Americans have always prided themselves on inventiveness, and originality. In less than two hundred and forty years, we have come from a small group of disorganized colonies to the most free, powerful, wealthiest and successful nation in history. In that vein, I think it beyond argument that the Chicago Cubs have found more unique and original ways to lose ball games than any team in history. This may be the factor that makes the Cubs so beloved of their fans. In them, we see all the foibles, miss-steps, lost opportunities, mental lapses and inadequacies we all fall prey to from time to time. Yet despite this, we fans remain true to their cause, and ever hopeful that next year will be “The One”.

Let me close by saying that I have no way of knowing how long it will take for the Cubbies to appear in a World Series, let alone win a championship. What I do know is that I will remain a fan for the remainder of my days, and like my children, will always have hope for the future. Let the games begin, and it’s never too early to say “Wait til next year”.

Thursday, June 18, 2009



Dear Keirick;

Your eighth birthday is fast approaching, and I wanted to put down some thoughts as you finish up Second Grade, and prepare for next year.

I was very proud on your first day of school, when you were the only one in your class of five and six year olds who knew the pledge of allegiance. When your teacher asked you to lead the class in the pledge, my heart swelled.

You surprised me when you asked Grandma to get you a policeman costume for Halloween. I had not appreciated how much you admired your uncle and two cousins who are police officers. Your comments about police protecting and helping people were wise beyond your years.

I put copies of the pictures you and I took at the Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge on your Mom’s computer. That way, you can look at them any time you want. I know from the questions you ask, that you worry about your Uncle Patrick and Cousins Keith and JoAnn while they take on their very important jobs. I hope you understand my answers, and know why they can’t always be with us when we want. I worry about them too, but we both know they are very smart, and they know what they are doing and how to take care of themselves and their friends. Like all of our family, they want to protect you, but sometimes must be away while they do that. Just remember to include them when you say your bedtime prayers, and all of the men and women in the military.

You won’t understand this part for awhile, but you were a very big help to your Mom when she was sick from the cancer medicine. She tells me that you have even made dinner for both of you when she was too tired from her college classes and medicine to cook. I don’t know how or when you learned to do some of the things you help your Mom with, but I do know that every time you help it is just like saying “I love you” to your Mom.

When you started first grade, you were able to officially join the Cub Scouts. You have already been to Scout Camp many times, helping your Mom and me with different Scout activities. That means you know some things the other Cubs won’t know yet, and will be able to do some things they haven’t learned. Don’t be a show off about the things you know, but help your fellow Cubs learn how to do those things themselves.

Like all parents and grandparents, I wanted my children and grandchildren to be smarter, healthier, happier, freer and more prosperous than my generation. Your test scores have already shown that you are much smarter than I was, and your level of activity is an indication of your health. What worries me now is the prospect that you may not have the same freedoms and opportunities that I had. And for that, I take responsibility.

I had the duty to future generations to insure that the principles upon which our Nation was founded were protected, nurtured and grown. And in this regard, I have not kept that duty well. While so many adults are worried about the economy, jobs and finances, we have looked in the wrong places for the answers to our questions. We are relying on others to fix things, instead of fixing things ourselves. And the ones who we look to for help are often the same folks who caused our problems.

As a Scout Leader, I have tried my best to be true to the twelve points of the Scout Law. To me, the most important is to be Trustworthy. But I have broken that law, by allowing people who are not trustworthy to become the leaders of our country. Many of our elected officials have lied, cheated and even stolen from others. Yet I, and others like me, have not cared enough for your future to demand better behavior from those who have authority and power. And now, they are taking away the freedoms I had all of my life. By the time you reach adulthood, I fear you will have been given a country very different from the one I found as a young man.

I want to make a promise to you, and I know that you trust me to keep my promises. I will do whatever I can to help bring our country back to our values and character. I will not just let things happen, but will take a more active role in becoming a true citizen, trusting in our founding principles to give you a country and a future that cherishes our freedoms and opportunities. I cannot guess how things will be as you grow up, but I will do my best to give you a country where you can make your dreams come true; and that will make my dreams come true.

With Love


Tuesday, March 31, 2009


On Monday night, March 30th, I attended a lecture at the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Des Moines. The guest speaker was Brigitte Gabriel. Frankly, it was one of the most remarkable evenings I have ever experienced.

Ms. Gabriel is a Lebanese Christian, who survived the Lebanese Civil War while a child. She was saved from slaughter by the Israeli Defense Forces when they moved into Southern Lebanon. She later lived in Israel, and now is a resident of the United States. As a former journalist covering the Middle East, she is uniquely qualified to discuss the current events there, as well as the impact of Islamic extremism in the United States. If you have read either of her books, you have a basic understanding of the nature of her talk.

I would not be presumptuous enough to try to encapsulate the content of her talk. It lasted about an hour, with another hour of Questions and Answers. What I would rather do is discuss the venue, and the audience.

I arrived early, in order to become familiar with the Synagogue, never having been to Tifereth Israel before. I first went to the lounge area outside of the community room. In the community room, Ms Gabriel and a panel of local congregation members were hosting a large number of educators from the Des Moines area. High School, Middle and Grammar School teachers, numbering well over one hundred, were at the Question and Comment point. I listened in for awhile, but the questions were mostly inane, suggesting that most of the invited attendees had little comprehension of the nature of Islamic extremism. I heard the words tolerance and diversity in numbers too large to count. I felt I was at risk of having a brain numbing experience, so I went to the sanctuary.

The sanctuary, built in 1929, was done in a classic style, reminding me of the synagogues I visited in my youth in Chicago. I was comfortable in this setting, and sat in a pew just two rows from the lectern. Being early, I was able to watch and visit with many of the attendees for the evening lecture as they arrived. This was the first highlight of my evening.

I must point out that security was very evident. I am sure most know of the very real and explicit threats that Ms. Gabriel has received since beginning her education activities on the nature of violent Islam. But this is Des Moines, not Toronto, New York or Southern California. As it turned out, the security (Des Moines Police Officers) were mainly occupied with directing folks to the rest rooms, and insuring that Ms. Gabriel was not hugged into asphyxia.

My first conversation was a brief one with former Iowa Governor Robert Ray, and his wife Billie. I have met him on numerous occasions, and was pleased that he remembered me. As always, they were gracious, and greeted many of their friends and admirers with grace and courtesy. Sitting next to me were a middle aged couple who are members of the congregation. The wife was very knowledgeable on the history of the synagogue and its congregation, and gave me a brief education on Tifereth Israel. Behind me were a white couple and an African-American man who were members of an evangelical church in the neighborhood. We had an interesting discussion of heart healthy diets, as the African-American man was also a survivor of stroke, heart attack and by-pass surgery. Turns out we shared the surgeon, and had graduated from Cardiac Rehab at our mutual hospital just two months apart.

By 6:50 PM, the pews were filled, and additional folding chairs had been brought in for the side aisles and open spaces. I would guess total attendance at well over three hundred. I cannot describe adequately the diversity of the audience. College students from Drake and Grandview, High School students, parents with their children, married and single adults, middle aged and elderly people; all mingled in a delightfully haphazard manner. Not surprising for Iowa, the conversations among the guests were lively, friendly, and filled with introductions, handshakes and laughter. Three hundred strangers drawn together in what was for many an unfamiliar setting, but with a shared desire to learn.

After appropriate acknowledgments and introductions, the emcee turned over the microphone to Ms. Gabriel. The audience was immediately enraptured by both her personality, as well as the content. She spoke without script (no tele-prompter), referring to a single page of notes only when using an exact quote, or with reference to specific figures or names. The attendee reactions were among the most sincere and genuine I have ever witnessed. Laughter when she make a humorous remark, serious attention when she spoke of matters of importance, and free flowing tears when she talked of her childhood as a Christian child under attack by Moslem former neighbors and friends. The savagery of her experiences was underscored by her obvious emotion.

After the formal talk, Ms. Gabriel opened the floor to audience questions. Again, this is Iowa. Those wishing to ask questions lined up quietly at the microphone, and waited their turn politely and quietly. I was fortunate to be the second person to raise a question, and I introduced myself before posing my question. Every person who followed did the same, introducing themselves and telling the audience why they were here before posing their question. As with the audience, the questioners reflected the wide background of attendees. Among the expected folks who were Jewish, Christian, native Iowans and transplants; were three who stood out. One was a Lebanese Christian who was also a refugee from the turmoil of the seventies. Another was an African Christian from Darfur, and the third was a Muslim African, also a refugee from Darfur.

All of the questions were relevant, and polite. Ms. Gabriel answered each with thoroughness, and occasionally a passion, that showed her knowledge and experience on the issues presented. While she may have expected the standing ovation she received at the end of her formal presentation, I detected a bit of surprise on her face when she received another standing ovation at the end of the Question period.

After the event itself, there was a reception with light refreshments, and a book signing. As before, I met a variety of people during the reception, including the Rabbi of Tifereth Israel, the Cantor, the couple who sponsored the event, and a host of Jewish and Christian folks who all shared a common theme. The theme was a heartfelt thank you for the opportunity to attend, and an admiration for the guest of honor.

I had the privilege of speaking with Ms. Gabriel for a few minutes, and found her to be an engaging and intelligent conversationalist, who made those around her comfortable in a way that only very special people have. I would offer two thoughts from her that I wish to share.

“To tolerate the intolerable is in itself a crime.”

“Although the majority of Moslems are peaceful, their silence makes them irrelevant.”

Friday, March 13, 2009


The word hero is attached to many people in American culture. A Quarterback throws the winning touchdown with 6 seconds left in the game, and he is called a hero. A movie actor makes a political statement while accepting an award, and he is called heroic. A politician takes a stance on an issue based on popularity polls rather than ethics and principle, and he is deemed a hero.

I think we have lost the meaning of what constitutes heroic actions, and what makes a hero. I once heard that a hero is someone who controls his fear five minutes longer than those around him. While there may be some truth to that, I think true heroism involves so much more. Some heroes are made, and some are born, but they do have some common traits.

Heroes do what most of us can’t do, or won’t do. Heroes are driven by a desire to do what is right, not what is popular. Heroes put the safety and welfare of others before their own safety and welfare. Heroes have a strong belief in personal responsibility and honor, duty to God and country, and service to others. And heroes understand that we all will face a crisis decision at some point in our lives, and they neither avoid nor defer that decision at a critical time.

In my life, I have been privileged to know many heroes, both within my family and among my friends and acquaintances. My parents were heroes to me, as were my uncles and cousin who fought in World War II. I still view my brother, who served in Korea, though the eyes of a seven year old who felt that his big brother would always be his protector. My son, nephew and niece, who today wear the uniform of our Nation, are my heroes. So too are my nephews who serve in law enforcement, risking their lives to defend others. More than twenty of my former Boy Scouts who serve, or have served in the military, are true heroes. And many members of my own generation, who fought with courage and honor in the jungles of Vietnam.

I write this because my family has lost the last warrior of our greatest generation, our beloved Uncle Bobby. Major Robert Meyer, United States Marine Corp. (ret.) left us on Thursday. I was fortunate that I could spend several days with his bride, children and grandchildren as he fought his last battle. He was a larger than life man, and a role model of what a man should be to all in our family. My purpose in this piece is not to recount his actions in multiple wars, or his contributions to our country in those times between conflicts, but simply to acknowledge the man.

My uncle was a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle and great uncle to four generations. And he fulfilled all of those roles with honor. A loving husband and father, his time with his family was always golden. Never too busy to regale we younger ones with stories of his experiences, he did so with both insight and humor. He never discussed actual combat with us, but rather the experiences he had with his fellow Marines. His insights into the evolving technology of aviation, from his time in propeller bombers and fighters, into the jet age and beyond, bred in me a love of history that remains to this day.

He was a Marine to the end, fighting with all that was in him to remain with us for a little bit longer. As I left my extended family, and returned to my own family three states away, I had one enduring vision. When I was a boy in Chicago, Uncle Bobby was stationed in California. My mother and I drove to Glenview Naval Air Station to pick him up for a short visit with my grandfather and other family members. We drove onto the tarmac (no super security in those days), and watched as he taxied his fighter jet toward the hangers. As he opened the canopy, I watched as he removed his helmet, and carefully positioned his kepi on his head. He climbed down the short ladder, jumping past the last two rungs, and snapped a crisp salute to the ground crew. That done, he ran to my Mother, swooping his sister up in a giant bear hug. He then reached down to me, and hoisted me onto his shoulder. As we walked back to the car, several airmen walked by, saluting my uncle. He looked up at me with his trademark grin, and reminded me to return the salutes, because I was riding on the shoulder of a Marine. Despite my youth, I knew that I was in the presence of a hero, and I was so proud that others knew it too.

America has lost another hero. One who fully understood what “Semper Fidelis” means, and who lived it his entire life. Goodbye Uncle Bobby. Semper Fi!

Monday, December 08, 2008



Name calling in America, especially in the political arena, has reached epidemic proportions. Discussion, debate and differences aired in a reasonable tone today are as rare as the spotted owl. If anyone espouses a view that others disagree with, name calling is often the immediate response by the person holding the opposing view. While our political leaders should be setting an example of civil discourse, they seem to be among the first to sink to schoolyard tactics, avoiding any possibility of compromise, and reducing themselves to name calling bullies.

No matter what side you might take on any issue, there is no shortage of people who will immediately label you with a demeaning moniker, meant to identify you as some type of fanatic whose views should be discounted out of hand. This knee jerk reaction to any statement made with which you may disagree has reduced many of our fellow Americans to be identified as either “US” or “THEM’.

I certainly have views on many subjects, some of which may be viewed by many as controversial. Fine, I can accept that many people of principal will disagree with my positions. But while I am always willing to listen to opposing views, I rarely hear any rational arguments refuting my positions. Rather, I am inundated with a variety of invectives; defaming my intelligence, sources, upbringing, heredity, ethics or humanity.

I thought I would take a more proactive stance in this matter, and just admit to being a bigot, at least by the standards ascribed by a number of people and organizations. In fact, I believe I qualify as more than just a plain old run of the mill bigot, since I hold politically incorrect views on a wide variety of issues. So that there is no doubt, I have decided to list some of these views, and ascribe the appropriate label. However, I will not use obscenity, sexual proclivities, bathroom functions or other descriptive phrases that should not be used in front of my wife or children.

Like Dr. King, I believe people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. It is this belief that causes me to take the position that affirmative action was indeed appropriate at one time, to allow minorities time to catch up in those areas where equal opportunity did not exist. However, institutional racism has been legally exorcised from America, and even individual racism has been reduced to the level of social unacceptability. I believe affirmative action, practiced as raced based hiring and promotion, and educational preference based on race are neither needed nor fair. In many circles, this opinion qualifies me as racist.

I firmly believe that the Jewish people deserve a homeland, in the historic land in which they first became a nation. As such, they deserve the support of all fair minded people. That they have achieved this, and created the only fully functional democracy in that part of the world, should foster admiration and respect by all. This particular belief will cause me to be considered a Zionist (which the United Nations defines as racism), racist Nazi, genocide enabler and a host less dignified or printable descriptions.

I agree with the statement by a prominent Muslim scholar that while most Muslims are not terrorists, most terrorists are Muslim. While the majority of Muslims do not participate in acts of terror, nor engage in hostile actions against others, it is also indisputable that 15 of the major 18 areas of conflict in the world involve Muslims, primarily engaged in actions against non-Muslims. For this opinion, I am labeled an Islamophobe, a racist and a hate monger.

I believe that the United States is the noblest nation on earth. We are by far the most generous, easily outdistancing every other nation in personal per capita donations to charity and relief efforts, while also supporting our government in sending aid to those in need in amounts far exceeding any other nation. We are the only nation to have fought two wars to end slavery. (Those of you who are bereft of any knowledge of history will have to figure that one out on your own.) We have historically been generous to those we have defeated in war, and steadfast in our efforts to aid allies in need, both with our blood and treasure. We are one of only a handful of nations that understands the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are personal freedoms granted by God to all mankind, and that governments are instituted for the express purpose of allowing these rights to flourish. For this opinion, I am labeled a nationalist, xenophobe, and some names that cannot be repeated.

I believe that I am an American. I have a heritage that goes back to Ireland and Germany, but I am neither an Irish-American nor a German-American, as I was born in the United States, to parents who were citizens. I was raised and remain a Catholic, but am not a Catholic-American. If you were born a German citizen, and later became a United States citizen, then you can refer to yourself as a German-American if you choose. But if you are a native born citizen, you are an unhyphenated American. Frankly, I find the use of hyphens to determine your status to be divisive, and contrary to an American culture that seeks to create a homogenous population with a shared history and common societal ethics. For this view, I have been called a bigot, racist, anti-diversity, and culturally deficient.

I could go on, but I think these five points will illustrate my basic core values. As an American, I have the right to hold these views freely, and express them in any manner I choose, so long as I don’t interfere with the rights of others to express their views. Those with other views can certainly dispute and debate these issues with me, and I gladly do so. However, when a conversation devolves into name calling, my participation in the debate ends. Frankly, those who resort to labeling and name calling bore me, as the use of invectives is generally a response used when a rational counterpoint does not exist.

I would have mentioned my positions on gun ownership, same sex marriage, abortion, illegal immigration and a host of other issues, but the response would simply be more of the same, with little or no imagination used to refute my positions. I do find myself slightly bemused by the inability of those with opposing opinions to offer intelligent responses, but I guess my father was even more perceptive than I thought, when he told me “Those who use obscenities and name calling do so because they lack the intelligence to express themselves in any other manner.”

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