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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beware the Media

Have you ever heard of Bob and Nancy Strait? Married over 65 years, the elderly couple lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You haven’t? Are you sure? Their home is in the 3300 block of modest, but neat homes on East Virgin Street. Still say you’ve never heard of them? Well, I’m not surprised. A man broke into their home March 14 and assaulted them. Eighty-five year old Nancy was raped and beaten to death. Her ninety-year-old husband was hospitalized for multiple injuries. The next day, Tyrone Woodfork, 20, was arrested driving the couple’s Dodge Neon. Bob and Nancy are white. Tyrone is black. Now do you understand why you have not heard of the incident? The national media has been too involved with the white on black killing of Trayvon Martin to give any more than minimal back-page space to a black on white killing. Naturally, there are more headlines up for grabs in the Martin-Zimmerman circus than the Strait-Woodfork assault and murder. White on black is sensational, made even more so by the biased advocacy of zealous firebrands. Black on white or black on black is not sensational. There is a chilling concept here if you look hard enough. Did you hear about the mayor of Chicago shutting down the beaches because gangs of blacks were assaulting white families? Nope! Did you hear about the two black youths in Kansas City who threw gasoline on a thirteen year old and shouted ‘how do you like that, white boy?” Nope! There were only a handful of journalists who covered the Woodfork-Strait story among them Jerry Wofford, a World Staff writer. Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University, penned a perceptive OpED article in the Times-Dispatch on the dishonesty of the media. Professor Williams is black. He’s worth reading. There are many more instances of stories being downplayed on the national level because they lack the sensationalism of other stories. And much too often, the media exacerbates the story by deliberately manipulating the contents. Manipulating—you spell it l-y-i-n-g. You’ve had to be hiding under a rock not to have heard how the Today Show created a racist image of George Zimmerman when they deliberately altered his 911 call to the Sanford police. The Show claimed Zimmerman said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.” His actual words were “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining, and he’s just walking around, looking about.” The 911 officer replied. “Ok, and is this guy—is he black, white, or Hispanic?” “He looks black,” Zimmerman replied. You might be a bleeding heart liberal, but even you will have to admit the Today Show narrative screamed racism while the true narrative in no way suggested such. I’m like everyone else. I want to see justice done, but for NBC to deliberately lie just to improve ratings is horrendous. The show can deny all it wishes, but it was acting as a judge and jury. When the network got caught with its pants down, it claimed that it is investigating the incident. Folks, there ain’t nothing to investigate. The Today Show lied. According to Professor Williams, editors for the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune admitted to deliberately censoring information about black crime for political reasons and in an effort to "guard against subjecting an entire group of people to suspicion." Why? Ratings! And the fact the liberal papers don’t want to get on the bad side of the president. Now in our part of the country, Southeast Texas, we’re lucky in that our news media do not exhibit the intense bias as the national media. But with technology today, local citizens are much more exposed to national opinion than local. I’ll wager you have a better idea of the president’s opinion on oil than you do that of your mayor. Most don’t even know their own mayor’s name. None of us want to see murderers go free, thieves escape punishment, or innocent wrongly convicted, so before you form your own opinion, consider the sources. Just because glitzy news anchors spout opinions doesn’t mean they are true. They’re simply reading what someone in the editorial department put together. Remember that come election time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Little Mistakes, Big Consequences

Have you ever noticed how sometimes decisions that appear to be insignificant can bring about a drastic change in life, or in the history of a country?

What brought that observation to mind was the fact that 176 years ago on this past April 21, 1836, Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna and his army at San Jacinto, removing the last obstacle to the Independence of Texas.

The battle could have gone the other way, except for a few almost insignificant decisions made by General Santa Anna that normally might not create insurmountable problems. Sort of like ‘the final straw’.

He learned the hard way that regardless who is fighting; the location of the engagement; the strategy, or the strength of the forces; ‘there is’ to quote Walter Lord, ‘a time when any general needs more than a plan and intuition—he needs a touch of luck.’ Or bad luck.

Luck was with Houston in 1836.

Over the years delving through stories and articles regarding the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto, I’ve questioned many of the decisions of both Texian and the Mexican armies.

History seems to suggest that after the fall of the Alamo, Houston did nothing but retreat until he stumbled on to Santa Anna at San Jacinto.

The truth is much different.

The unrest among the Texian settlers began in the autumn of 1835. By January, many of them had already fled to the protection of the United States.

Some did, however, remain, hopeful the ragtag Texian army could protect them.

After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Houston left New Washington to take charge of the troops and go to Travis’ aid. In Gonzales on March 12, he learned of the fall of the Alamo six days earlier.

When the remainder of the settlers heard the news, they fled east.

Houston and his small army remained at the rear in an effort to delay Santa Anna and buy precious time for the retreating settlers.

Houston pulled up at the Colorado, planning on making a stand and waiting for Fannin to join him as ordered.

Fannin did not follow Houston’s orders. Instead of moving out immediately to join Houston, Fannin opted to wait until two of his companies returned. That decision gave the Mexican army time to intercept him. He surrendered his men and arms for the guarantee of their safety and ultimate release.

On Palm Sunday, he and his men were executed.

The four hundred men Houston counted on were not coming. The next day, he moved his army east once again, despite his army’s complaining. They wanted to fight, not retreat.

For two weeks they camped on the Brazos until a mysterious messenger came to Houston that Santa Anna was to his south, heading his way. Houston moved out.

At this point, Santa Anna began making a series of mistakes that sealed his defeat. Hearing that President Burnet and his staff had moved to Harrisburg, he split his force, and with 700 men so he could move faster, headed south on a forced march.

He pushed his men hard until 9:00 p.m., picked a camp without water, pulled out early next morning, and hurried on. Anxious to reach Harrisburg, he took only a few men and raced ahead, riding into the village at midnight, but Burnet had moved his cabinet to Galveston.

Then word came that Houston was heading for the Trinity River to the east. Santa Anna saw another chance to end the revolution in one stroke--ambush Houston at Lynch’s Ferry.

At the head of his 700 men, he raced to Lynch’s Ferry, in his enthusiasm ignoring the sluggish waters of Buffalo Bayou on the left; San Jacinto estuary at the rear; and the marshes of Galveston Bay on the right. He left himself no room to maneuver, a schoolboy mistake made by the one who levied upon himself the ostentatious title, ‘The Napoleon of the West.’ His 700 soldiers were exhausted, but he had arrived ahead of Houston.

On the 18th, Houston reached White Oak Bayou. The Mexican army had just crossed Vince’s Bridge spanning the bayou. Next morning, Houston crossed the bridge. The next day, Sidney Sherman gave the Mexican army a quick jab with a small skirmish.

Early the next day, April 21, Houston gathered his officers. He allowed each to state his assessment of their situation.

That same morning. General Cos arrived with four hundred men, bringing the Mexican force to 1100 against Houston’s reported 783.

Houston knew another three thousand or so Mexican forces were coming. He ordered Vince’s Bridge destroyed, cutting off Mexican reinforcements and Mexican retreat as well as Texian retreat. It was fight or die.

At four-thirty that afternoon, Houston gave the charge. Eighteen minutes later it was over. They captured the Mexican general the next day.

But, what would have happened if Fannin had obeyed orders and joined Houston at the Colorado? What if Houston had not received that mysterious messenger on the Brazos? What if Santa Anna had not pursued Burnet? What if he had not split his troops? What possessed him to camp where he did, a spot not even a shavetail lieutenant would have selected?

Was Luck indeed riding on the Texian’s shirttail?

Or was Santa Anna’s arrogance his own worst enemy?

Maybe a combination of both.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nothing to Laugh About!

Usually, I get a chuckle when one of our politicians makes an open-mike gaffe. You know, when they think their mike is off and they make an unseemly comment.

Like the time a couple years back when Kenye West interfered with Taylor Swift’s country singer award and our president later called him a ‘jackass’, thinking the mike he wore was turned off.

What about at the Group 20 summit in November of last year when French President Sarkozy and Obama were each caught making disparaging remarks about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?

There are others. Bush, thinking his mike was off, uttered a profane comment regarding a newsman, and his vice president agreed. I guess that would be a double open-mike gaffe.

Those are funny, but this last one President Obama made scared me. A couple weeks back, he was caught telling Russian President Medvedev that in regard to missile defense, “This is my last election. After the election, I will have more flexibility.”

Flexibility for what?

I’d like to know just what the guy has up his sleeve.

Hasn’t Washington done enough damage already?

I’ll bet you did not know that a few weeks back without any fanfare, he signed HR347, an anti-protest bill that could make free speech a felony.

Yep. Secret Service agents now have the sweeping power to seize and arrest any protestors the agents autonomously determine are gathering illegally.

Now, stop and think about that, folks.

You’re standing on the corner holding a sign stating your core beliefs and if a Secret Service agent so decides, you can be arrested and charged with a felony.

I don’t know about you, but it sounds like a police state to me. Obama is twisting the Constitution to fit his own policies.

United States Constitution, Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Now Secret Service agents can decide whether or not the gathering is peaceable. Between you and me, that’s too much power for a single agent to possess.

Have you noticed how the president continues to push the constitutional envelope? Despite later backtracking, a few days back he asserted the Supreme Court did not have the power or right to deny Congressional decisions.

Another instance of concern was voiced by Congresswoman Kay Granger when she stated that ‘fourteen days ago, the president issued an executive order giving unprecedented power to his office to take over all the fundamental parts of our economy in the name of national security during times of national emergency.

This includes all water resources, construction services, and materials such as steel and concrete etc…; civil transportation systems; food and health resources; energy supplies; and farm equipment.

It also states that citizens can be drafted into the military and even ordered to fulfill various labor requirements for the purpose of national defense.

Congress, according to Granger, will have no oversight, only briefings.

This Executive Order puts the Federal Government above the law, which is contrary to our Constitution.

She further poses the question of, ‘why this order was signed now and the consequences, especially during times of peace. This kind of Martial Law proposes a government takeover that is typically reserved for national emergencies, not in a time of relative peace.’

You don’t have to believe me. See for yourself at, March 16, 2012, Executive Order-National Defense Resources Preparedness.

I’m not the only one worried about the coming months. Cal Thomas put together a scary column quoting Dick Morris. Morris as you more knowledgeable remember, was a former advisor to Bill Clinton, so the guy knows sleaze when he sees it.

Morris’ predictions of a second term for Obama are chilling. He predicts that:

Obama will opt for a single-payer on healthcare, and that he will eliminate the private health insurance industry and all insurance will come from the government. It will all be according to the same plan.

He will shut down more drilling in the vast new fields opened up by the Bush administration.

The G 20, Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, and International Money Fund will acquire sovereignty over our economy.

He will sign the International Criminal Treaty that would force the U.S. to have U.N. approval (read that as Russia and China) before going to war.

He will sign the ‘Rights of the Child Treaty’ that could create a basis for suing to provide an increase of foreign aid to other countries.

He will sign the global ban on small arms, which as Morris pointed out, is a back door means for arms control in the U.S.

He will sign away all of our royalties for offshore drilling with the Law of the Sea Treaty and –

He will eliminate weapons in outer space, which will do away with our missile defense system.

Morris continued. ‘The final result is the U.S. becomes two countries. One is a small number of folks who work and pay taxes; the second a huge number who depend on the government and do not work.

Don’t smirk, folks. We’re being ruled by a guy who thinks there is nothing wrong telling Americans what they must do. This is the guy who picked an Energy Czar who wanted gasoline to hit eight or nine bucks a gallon so everyone will be forced to drive electric cars. (that won’t get more than fifty or sixty miles without going to a backup engine fueled by gasoline.)

These are possibilities at which no one can laugh.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Did a Mummy's Curse Sink the Titanic?

A couple weeks back, we journeyed to Houston with our daughter, Amy, and her two youngsters to the Museum of Natural Science to visit the Titanic exhibit that began March 16.

Her son, Keegan, is a Titanic fan, absorbed in every detail of the disaster. In fact, when he comes over, he goes straight to the laptop and boots up. He has his own websites on the favorite list, among them shipwrecks, in which the Titanic is one of about half-a-dozen sites.

I won’t say he’ll spend hours watching them for he is a typical seven-year-old with ants in his pants. He will, however, devote a sizeable portion of his visit to the various explanations and theories of the catastrophe as well as model replications of the sinking.

He even had me drill holes in one of his old plastic boats so he could ‘study it when it sinks’. His exact words, honest.

So naturally, when his Mom learned the exhibit was opening, she knew he had to go.

The trip over was uneventful. As we left Beaumont, I realized from the new construction that Gayle and I hadn’t been over there in several years. Traffic hadn’t changed though. Cars everywhere, but Amy got us there with no problems.

Well, almost no problems. After parking, we went to the wrong museum, but then fate took pity on us. On the sidewalk, we ran into a gracious lady named Donna Meadows. When I asked if she knew where the museum was located, she told us to follow her. She worked there.

Keegan was pushing his little sister, Kenli, in the stroller, so he pulled up right along beside Donna. The little guy has never met a stranger, and he jabbered with her about the Titanic for the next three blocks.

We arrived minutes before the exhibit opened.

In the hundred years since the disaster, a haunting mysticism has enveloped the sinking of the ‘unsinkable’ vessel, and the exhibit captured that mystical feeling.

To gaze upon the artifacts, China Star place settings, glassware, clothing, luggage, maritime implements, all salvaged from the original vessel, seemed to transport us back into time. There was even a reconstructed stateroom complete with luxurious carpet, large bed, chests, table and chairs.

Naturally, everything was hands off, except for one exhibit, a twelve inch square piece of steel plate from the Titanic in a plastic box.

A hole had been drilled in the plastic sheet above which a note read, “Touch”. Keegan was thrilled—well, I was too. We all were. We poked our fingers through the hole and actually touched a fragment of the Titanic that had been under the cold waters of the North Atlantic for almost a hundred years.

There were several exhibition rooms, two of which were joined with a replica of the ship’s hallway, complete with carpeting, white paneling and doors with shiny brass hardware.

Before we entered the exhibit, I took over stroller duty, and I have to admit little Kenli was as good as you could expect, however when we entered the gift shop at the end of the exhibit, I took special care to steer her away from the shelves. If the little girl had gotten her hands on things, it would have been the Titanic all over.

From there we visited the dinosaurs, the African veldt, bugs, spiders, and then the butterfly center.

Keegan came running up all excited. He wanted to show me something in the African exhibit. I figured a lion or hyena, but I had to chuckle when he pointed out two crawfish chimneys beside a waterhole from which a leopard drank. Yep, crawfish chimneys just like the ones in our front yard from which he had dropped lines in an effort to catch his own crawfish.

Then we headed for the butterflies.

The butterfly center is an all glass hothouse, shaped like an inverted cone and about three stories high. The tropical rain forest environment, replete with appropriate plants as well as waterfalls and ponds, is home to countless butterflies of all types.

By now, the museum was packed. I stood in line for twenty minutes to get us some lunch from the McDonald’s in the museum.

We finished the day off in the planetarium with a show right up Keegan’s alley. In addition to being a Titanic nut, he’s also a star watcher, and this time of year, Venus and Jupiter are putting on a good show. Often you can find him around sunset peering up into the western sky.

There were other exhibits we couldn’t make, but I plan on going back.

Oh, yes. I forgot. The title of this article. Did a mummy’s curse sink the Titanic?

This is a long time myth supposedly originating from a ‘ghost story’ that journalist W.T. Stead told a group of friends about such a mummy. Since Stead went down with the ship, chances are this story was told so often it became one of those legends that became fact.

It was a day well spent even though we drove in a few circles trying to find the right road out of Houston.

As an afterthought, that night I woke up and found myself pondering the number of simple, human mistakes that brought about the demise of the great vessel. Individually, they were harmless, but together, they spelled disaster. To be honest, I could see the sinking of the great vessel as an analogy to the direction our country is heading. I could even title it ‘Did the President Sink America?’

I had a hard time going back to sleep.