Motives do matter: Obama finally engaged but why, really?

Howard Kurtz writes a piece in which he describes a more serious media covering a war president. He mentions Republican Peter King’s comment basically saying that we should all get together and support Obama. “What’s past is behind us,” he said. While I most certainly approve of taking the needed actions to eliminate a threat to peaceful people, I can’t simply dismiss the actions of the President leading up to this engagement nor ignore the obvious motives.

President Obama simply couldn’t be bothered to take any of this seriously. Until, that is, his polling numbers started falling like a brick knocked off the Washington Monument. Am I to believe that a man who casually dismissed the enemy as the “JV team” barely a month ago suddenly reassessed the threat all on his own? Sorry, don’t think so.

Obama may be doing the right thing, now, and I support the strikes against the Islamic State terrorists wholeheartedly, but he’s only doing it because he and his fellow Demand in office are trying to forestall the impending electoral damage heading their way. And as soon as that’s handled, they’ll go weak-kneed again.

NASA’s Maven to reach Mars tonight

NASA’s Maven spacecraft, a probe set to examine Mars’ upper atmosphere, is set to make its orbital insertion later today.

NASA’s Maven spacecraft is on track to reach the red planet late Sunday night following a journey spanning 10 months and 442 million miles.

If all goes well, the robotic explorer will slip into Martian orbit for a year or more of atmospheric study. It’s designed to circle the planet, not land.

Maven’s mission involves studying the effects of the solar wind on Mars’ atmosphere and to determine the rate at which key elements of the atmosphere effectively “leak out” into space. The idea is to figure out the process by which Mars went from a warmer, wetter planet millennia ago to the cold and dry world it is today. I certainly wish the team at NASA well and I hope this probe continues the stellar performance of NASA’s other Mars missions, particularly Spirit and Opportunity.

Healthcare.gov site still a security nightmare and a hacker’s dream

Almost a year after the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov, the Obamacare web site that cost millions to stand up and, yet, was still a staggering failure, the site remains a barely-functional, vulnerability-ridden mess. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is according to the Obama Administration’s own Government Accountability Office (GAO):

Despite efforts to protect patient information on the HealthCare.gov website, a new government watchdog report scheduled to be released Thursday says security issues are still a concern.

According to the Government Accountability Office report, “weaknesses remained in the security and privacy protections applied to HealthCare.gov and its supporting systems.”

According to the report, the GAO made 6 specific recommendations to HHS to fix security and privacy vulnerabilities and 22 recommendations to fix technical security weaknesses in those security and privacy controls mechanisms that they did actually deploy. HHS, I would like to note, has agreed to 3 of those specific implementation recommendations and all 22 of the technical fixes on what’s actually there. That means that HHS is fully aware that those weaknesses are present in what they’ve deployed and that 3 of the 6 things the GAO wants implemented are things HHS agrees ought to be there. Speaking as a professional in this field, that ain’t a good position to be sitting in and claiming to be running a good program.

The media has allowed the Obama administration to sweep a lot of the Healthcare.gov mess under the rug in the last year so let me remind everyone that the critical back-end systems – the specifically mandated-by-law requirements to check immigration status and income records, and to do so before an individual is allowed to apply subsidies to their insurance plan – aren’t finished and functioning even now. Years into this program and several tens of millions of dollars and they still don’t have a web site that does even remotely close to what was promised and what the law requires.

As a result of those deficiencies, the personal information of millions of citizens has been placed at risk and lots of it has already been compromised by hackers. The systems that were supposed to keep people who don’t qualify for subsidies from getting them in the first place aren’t implemented, meaning that people are likely going to have to repay some of the funding they’re already received. That lack of income checking has placed as many as 360,000 people in danger of losing their subsidies, making that “affordable” insurance plan anything but. Obama’s people take turns sounding tough and claiming that they’ll enforce that repayment if those people identified don’t provide income documentation. On the other hand, there’s talk from some in the Obama Administration that they will simply waive the repayment in order to garner votes, thus putting the taxpayers on the hook for even more and making this law – already completely unable to meet the “pays for itself” criteria so touted when it was being rammed through Congress – even more expensive than thought.

There gets to be a point at which serious people who are really interested in addressing the actual issues of the day must, if they wish to be ethically forthright, question whether the entire concept needs to be re-thought and perhaps a new course charted. I’d like to think there are people in the needed positions who will think that way, but with this current Administration, I know better.

Australia foils Islamic State plot to start lopping off heads. But… why there?

First, the good news:

Australian security officials say they stopped a suspected plan by Islamist extremists to capture random citizens and behead them in public and on camera.

More than 800 security personnel raided 25 homes across two cities early yesterday morning in what authorities said was the largest counterterrorism raid ever conducted in Australia.

Authorities said they arrested 15 suspects, one of whom, Omarjan Azari,  22, appeared in a Sydney courtroom later in the day. The raids also resulted in the seizure of computers, documents and a firearm.

To the Australian agents and officers involved: well done. You saved lives because these terrorists would absolutely have done what they were threatening to do.

The report does raise an interesting question, though. You’ll note that they confiscated a firearm. Now, how did that happen? I mean, they’ve banned the private ownership of firearms over there for years. So, there can’t possibly have been a firearm possessed by someone who wasn’t a police officer or some other government agent, right? Or, perhaps, a law that says you can’t own a firearm just wasn’t that compelling to people who have already decided they’re going to pull random Aussies off the street and cut their heads on YouTube. In short – laws don’t stop criminals from acting criminally. It’s the decision to ignore the law that makes them criminals to begin with. The only people these laws keep guns away from are people who abide by the law in the first place.

This incident, frankly, should be making Aussie across their country take a moment to wonder just what they would have done if these people hadn’t been caught. If confronted by a group of men (and women?) armed with swords and, presumably, 1 with a gun who aren’t interested in your valuables or whether or not you even stand against them, politically and religiously, who have decided they’re going to kill you in a very gruesome fashion, what will you do? How will you defend yourself when you’ve legislated away any real means of doing so?

Note that Australia hasn’t been all that active in the Middle East and they aren’t really on the leading edge of actions that these terrorist groups allege to be upset about. So why did these people make the plans to start sawing off heads in Australia? Why not in, say, Dallas? Or, perhaps, Tampa? Parts of Virginia, maybe? Why is it that these people feel like taking to the streets to behead a random person in places like England or, now, Australia? Could it be that they’re choosing those places because they know the citizenry can’t really stop them? Because if they try that in Virginia, they’re seriously taking a risk of discovering that they’ve brought a machete to a gun fight.

These people believe they are at war and they have no issue whatsoever with killing non-combatants. In fact, it’s part of their strategy. I would suggest that unless one wishes to remain at serious risk of being a mourned statistic on some news show somewhere that everyone get a bit more serious about retaining the ability to defend one’s self, family, and community. We are part of the law enforcement in a free nation. I believe we should act like it. And I believe our long-time allies should, too.

The DC teacher assigning homework to compare George Bush and Hitler is a symptom

Last week in Washington, DC, a public school teacher gave her 6th grade class an assignment to “compare and contrast” George W. Bush with Adolph Hitler, a ludicrously slanted question to even ask let along assign to 6th-graders. The Fox News story puts it like this:

A public school teacher in Washington who instructed sixth-graders to compare former President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler has learned her own lesson, according to district officials, but critics wonder why she still has a job.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson responded to the controversy late Wednesday on Twitter, saying no curriculum intended to make the comparison “in any way” and that the district and unidentified teacher are “deeply apologetic” about the matter. Henderson said the teacher has been ordered to apologize to the class.

“No DCPS curriculum says 2 make these comparisons in any way,” Henderson wrote. “Teacher used poor judgment & will apologize.”

First up, I have to wonder how “deeply apologetic” this teacher is if they needed to be ordered to apologize. Sounds to me like they are quite clearly not apologetic in any way. The story goes on to describe the assignment as being a basic compare and contrast worksheet centered around a Venn diagram and that it “was left to the students to determine how Bush, the 43rd U.S. president who was elected to two terms, stacked up against Hitler, whose Nazi Germany perpetrated a Holocaust that killed more than 6 million Jews.” But that’s not what the assignment actually said. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Bush Hitler Comparison Assign

The text of the assignment reads, in it’s entirety:

Now that we have read about two men of power who abused their power in various ways, we will compare and contrast them and their actions. Please refer to your texts, “Fighting Hitler – A Holocaust Story” and “Bush: Iraq War Justified Despite No WMD” to compare and contrast former President George W. Bush and Hitler. We will use this in class tomorrow for an activity.

The entire assignment rests completely upon a premise, stated as a graven-in-stone fact, that President Bush “abused [his] power in various ways.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is pure political bias and rhetoric being served up to elementary school students as Authoritatively Confirmed Truth™. It is completely unsupported leftist/Democratic crap and it’s being foisted off on kids by people who allege to be teachers – and to be far better at it than the rest of us, thank you. Where, outside of Bush-bashing propaganda is the proof of President Bush abusing his power. Hitler abused his power, no question, and there’s a national psychological scar and about 6 million graves to prove it.

Typical leftist logic – what they disagree with is “an abuse” and all that required for “proof” is their repeating it over and over like a chant.

Had the teacher really wanted to compare and contrast 2 leaders who have abused their power, they should have substituted President Obama in for President Bush. The Supreme Court is on record more than once during this President’s term in office thus far ruling that the President exceeded his Constitutional limitations and that, folks, is the definition of abuse of power. And we haven’t even gotten to the bottom of matters like Benghazi, Fast & Furious, and the myriad of DoJ investigations that should have been pursued and weren’t. To say nothing of the deliberate decisions, time and again, to simply set aside the enforcement of laws that he doesn’t like or unilaterally rewrite them to his liking. That’s more than enough material to teach a class with.

Of course, this teacher, good little DC leftist that they clearly are, wouldn’t even dream of doing that. What does it say about the overall environment of DC’s schools – and academia in general, I might add – that this teacher felt perfectly comfortable setting this as an assignment and using a text whose title sounds suspiciously like a newspaper article as source material even though it wasn’t on the approved curriculum? It says they felt completely secure doing it. It says they felt like this was completely proper and expected behavior of an elementary school teacher in DC.

It’s a symptom of a greater problem in DC. There’s no way this person should still be teaching kids and the school district doesn’t owe a teacher with this level of poor judgment any protections. They should be named and they should be gone.

Prep for battle

In 1867, John Stuart Mill said, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” That’s true in a number of different contexts, physical and otherwise. It’s also been said before and by a great many people that “we live in troubled times.” This is, I firmly believe, true today and is especially pertinent. Over the past year I have watched events unfold and said very little. I’ve had the normal rigors of handling life’s issues take up a great deal of my time but, in truth, there’s been something else going on; something that I’m come to the conclusion that those proverbial “bad men” are counting on.

I grew tired and discouraged.

Blogger burnout is a real condition and it’s certainly taken its toll.  One of the truths of blogging – of speaking one’s mind, in general, and in whatever medium – is that if you’re not telling your side of the story, then the only side people hear is the other side, not yours. It’s important to speak up, to speak the truth, but it’s also the reality that watching people simply ignore the truth and act in accordance with ignorance and malice will, over time, give one the attitude of “screw it, then.” It gives one the impetus to simply shrug off the good of one’s community, one’s nation, and just concentrate on the day-to-day of one’s own life. To Hell with the idiots that want to run themselves into the ground, one says. Of course, that’s only smart when the idiots aren’t running you into the ground along with them. Or, even, instead of them.

The fact of the matter, I see now, is that we are at war. There are those who seek not to convince me, not to compromise with me and work with me to bring a better future for both of us, which would include me, by the way, but who seek to simply destroy me. They don’t care if I agree with them and they have no desire to have me join them equally. They want only that I shut up, follow their orders without question, and deliver the products of my efforts into their hands to do with as they see fit. Assuming they don’t want me actually dead.

As tiring as it has become to try to talk sense to people who will cheerfully vote into office men and women who clearly lie to us all – and I mean actually lie, as in “deliberately not tell the truth they know to be,” as opposed to the Bush-era, Democrat definition of lie, being “he said something I don’t like” – the fact is that if no one points out the lies to these people they’re never going to wake up. So be it. Time to get back into the battle and press ahead. It’s time to stop simply gritting my teeth in silence and start telling it like it is. No one has given me any credit at all for being tactful, or courteous, or any such thing. In fact, no matter how much I have tried to be professional and civil, most of the people who support the worst of the bad actors in today’s world treat me with contempt. They screech on about tolerance and understanding and demand that they be shown both while offering neither.

Well, I’m done being civil to people who don’t know the meaning of the word. And I’m done being silent regarding those who spew out lies about me and mine. Today was about prepping for battle and I’m going in…

Tales from the Usher File: Reminders about the etiquette of attending Mass

Long-time readers and those who know me offline know that I’m a Catholic. As a member of the very active Knights of Columbus council at our parish, I’ve been blessed to become involved in a number of our church functions, one of the primary being that I’m a team captain of our parish Ushers. You know: the guys who direct folks to open seating (when needed), who pass around the collection baskets, regulate the line-up for people going up for Communion (or other special observances, such as ashes on Ash Wednesday or the blessings of throats on St. Blaze’s feast day), and generally respond to the parish’s overall needs during the Mass. I’ve been doing this for several years, now, and there’s something that’s been on my mind to write about: some of the generally unwritten and unspoken rules regard the etiquette of attending Mass.

There is no doubt we want people to come to Mass. It’s an obligation for we Catholics and, honestly, if the Mass is understood as it’s intended to be, it’s something Catholics will want to attend. They don’t need to be forced to come or threated in order to make them show up. That goes for the whole family, by the way, all the way from aged grandparents to newborns. Over the years, however, there’s been a gradual degradation of peoples’ behavior as they attend the Mass. I’m sure that’s not a surprise for Catholics who attend regularly but today I’m feeling the need to both call that out and to suggest what the proper behavior should be. This is just me talking, not an Encyclical, so take it for what it’s worth.

  1. Show up a few minutes early. Seriously, God is not impressed with the fashionably late. Neither is anyone else. And you’re not making a grand entrance when you’re walking in 10 minutes after the priest opened the Mass. At best, you’re being a distraction. But enough of that; get there early for you not for anyone else. Our lives have become far more hectic than our parents’ and it’s important to remember why you are there. You have come to participate in the sacrament of the Mass, to worship our Lord and God. Come a few minutes early and allow your mind to calm, allow yourself to set aside the concerns of the moment and reach to hear His voice. Let yourself live in the moment of the Mass and feel His presence with you.
  2. Stay until the recessional hymn is done. The people who rush to the door as soon as the priest passes their seat – or, worse, who take Communion and walk straight out even before  the closing prayer – are robbing themselves of the experience and the Grace that flows from Mass and our collective worship. It’s indicative of their state of mind during the Mass and that state is one where they’re looking ahead to the end rather than listening with all of their senses. Catholic Mass tends to last about 1 hour. That’s 1 hour out of 168 in the week. Surely God is worth that? I’ll extend this one to say that saying good morning to the priest as you leave Mass and to greeting some of your fellow parishioners are both parts of being members of the parish community that pay wonderful dividends outside of the Mass. Being a part of that community is a very rewarding experience and rushing out only steals that away from you.
  3. Show some effort at dressing for respect. Would you attend a wedding or a funeral wearing gym shorts and a beer t-shirt? Dressing up isn’t something you do just to look good when you attend an event, it shows a level of respect for the event and those attending. If your boss were hosting a dinner for visiting dignitary or corporate office, you might not ear a tux but you’d likely spruce up to at least business casual. That’s to show that you respect the boss or his guests; that you’re taking the event seriously and that you find it important. Well, you’re coming to join in the praise and worship of God. Surely, He is worthy of that extra care. No, no one is going to judge you poorly because you can’t afford nice clothing and, yes, being there is far better than skipping it because you don’t have your suit pressed. It’s the effort that counts and doing what you can is all anyone can ask.
  4. Save the chit-chat until after Mass. The priest is reading from the Word of God and imparting his educated and professional analysis of that word. He’s also commenting on current events. During the Mass, you are part of the prayer and one with the communion of hosts. Paying attention is not just a matter of respect, it’s what’s needed to get out of the Mass all that you should. We all know it is sometimes necessary to communicate with a family member during the Mass, and we expect that, but it should be extremely brief and definitely held to a volume low enough that only the intended recipient can heard it.
  5. Cell phones: Keep them silent! Either silence the cell phone every single time you come to Mass or simply turn them off. I’m a firm believer in being able to make use of advanced communications technology and with the new phones being effectively small computers with the attendant boot-up times lasting into 20-40 seconds before calls can be made, I understand completely the desire to leave the phone on during Mass. I do it myself, most particularly when I’m ushering. It is unacceptable for the thing to make noises during Mass. Period.
  6. Parents, your children’s behavior is your responsibility. Have mercy on your fellow parishioners. It goes without saying that young children lack the control of adults. They do not grasp the concept that there are places where they need to keep still and quiet, to say nothing at all of actually paying attention to the Mass. All of those things come in time and all of us in the parish understand that especially young children won’t have gotten to that point. All of that says nothing at all regarding the obligation parents have in setting the right tone and expectation for those young children and in delivering correction swiftly when needed. Those children won’t understand that when they come to church the rules about when they talk, how loud, and what they get to play with change unless they are told so, repeatedly, by their parents. The speed with which they pick up that understanding is directly connected to the speed at which they are corrected when they do something they’re not supposed to and how consistently they see that correction come. As I said, my fellow ushers and I are well aware that a child under 3 is going to blurt out comments or noises in Mass and they generally do so at a volume well above what people are supposed to use. That happens and it’s fine. The problem comes when the parents do nothing to let the child know that such behavior isn’t accepted in church. We also know that there are times when the child just simply isn’t going to stop. They’ve bumped their heads and start crying, they’re teething and cranky, or they’re just in the willful “assert my independence” mode, are examples. It’s up to you, parents, to pay close attention to this and to stand up with them and walk them into the Narthex or lobby or cry room or whatever space exists at your specific church. Your fellow parishioners are relying on you to help them in their worship by keeping the loud distractions to a minimum.
  7. Addendum to Point 6 for Parents: stepping out of church shouldn’t be stepping out of Mass. Or, more specifically, when your child has crossed the line where simple correction hasn’t been enough and you need to walk out of the main body of the church and into the Lobby, that shouldn’t be considered by your child as a license to engage in playtime. I think we can all see very easily how quickly a child can learn that keeping up the loud talk will get them a free ticket to Romper Room as opposed to having to sit still and quiet in church. Stepping out into the lobby should be an escalation of correction, not a release. I suggest that once you’ve escorted your child out there to the Narthex or the lobby you should take the opportunity to more precisely explain that they’re not to do x, y, or z in church and that you won’t tolerate it. Then, you make them remain roughly still and quiet while you’re out there and tell them you’ll be going back in once they’ve gotten themselves back in order. What you should not be doing is letting them run around the lobby and just plain old have a good time. That’s not the point and it will only make it a longer process to get them to the point where such trips aren’t needed.
  8. Parents, children’s toys should be seen and not heard. Young children should most certainly be allowed to have the occasional toy with them in church. We all know they’re not going to have the attention span to listen to Father’s homily and they don’t know the Mass well enough to participate. Keeping them engaged on something that will hold their attention while also avoiding loud outbursts is perfectly fine and toys and such are the trick. Allow me, please, to pass along the Ushers’ Suitability Test for toys in church.
    • First: NO electronics. Nothing battery operated need be considered. If it’s battery-operated, it’s out.
    • Second: only those art supplies that don’t spill are allowed, and what I really mean, here, are colored pencils and a very small number of crayons. Addendum to this rule is that your vigilance in the use of art supplies so that drawing is done only on paper you bring with you and take with you when you go is an absolute requirement. No drawing or scratching on the seats, in the hymnals, or any other printed material in the pews.
    • Third: “The Audible Drop Test.” When considering a toy for your child in Mass, take the toy into a room with a hard floor. Hold the toy out at your shoulder length and let it go. If someone in the next room heard it when it hit, you need to select another toy. Stuffed animals are superb for this kind of thing!
  9. Be a part of Mass. Participation in Mass is intended be just that: participation. When we speak of the communion of hosts and of the Church, we’re talking about you. We are glad you’re at Mass and we want to join with you in worship of our Lord. Speak the prayers with us and join our voices together in praise. Sing with us. Believe me: I have a singing voice that can crack pavement and kill small animals. Do your best; we all do! You don’t need to sing like an Italian Tenor to raise your voice with us in prayer.

Etiquette isn’t a dirty word and exercising a little of it will only make your attendance at Mass more meaningful and joyous. I look forward to joining you there.