Archive for March, 2016

229 – “The Lid”

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

By Hetty Gray

# 229

“The Lid”

It’s always more comfortable to feel in control. This goes for all aspects of life, but the emphasis here expands far beyond the personal.

Business today, especially for the small businessperson, centers on regulations and how they hamper everyday operations. Not so long ago, I came across the actual number of regulations passed during the past year. The total was staggering.

If you are in business, or help to manage one, and you encounter the EPA or the IRS, you are “SOL.” For those of us over fifty, the letters are clear. I will let the younger crowd explore the explanation independently.

How many of you wish that you could put a lid on government rules and regulations? What about federal spending? Now, there’s a bottomless pit, folks. More often that we realize, many of us tend to relate to sports metaphors. Here I resort to team names.

Some of the NBA team names are logical. Take, for example, the Detroit Pistons. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Miami and Phoenix team names denote climate — the Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns. Then we come to the Washington Wizards….

Well, that opens up a whole new conversation. A wizard depends on illusion. Audience reaction hinges on what the people think they see instead of what is really happening. I don’t know how any illustration could be any better.
Like a wizard, a government insider operates with guile, keeping the average American focused on small things — all the time doing really large things that defy rational thought.

Over twelve years ago, I wrote a column titled, “Ghost Riders in the Pie.” Since I majored in history and political science and wrote my Master’s Thesis on American presidential elections, I claim legitimate background in discussing the inane policy of adding an item or items to a congressional bill that have nothing at all to do with the bill’s actual content.

This is precisely how the pork machine works. To a bill in process, a legislator adds an item that benefits either his constituency or a large donor. In order to pass, congress goes along with the rider. So, now the bill comes not only with “strings,” but also with a very heavy rope. That rope, readers, costs taxpayers real dollars.

Since these riders would never fly on their own, congressmen or senators push them through attached to important legislation. Some of the most egregious defy common sense. True, some end up as public works projects named for high-level politicians. I am reminded of the many locales in West Virginia named for Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. This can be replicated in other states, but considering the longevity of his service, Byrd seems an apt example of such largess. Yet, most are tailored to a specific area or industry holding little interest for the nation at large.

This practice is commonly applied to defense bills or highway bills. After all, how can you stand in the way of national security or safe roads? See how it works? It is disgusting.

Today, we are in the midst of an election where someone from outside the Washington “establishment” threatens to put a lid on a lot of things: the border, federal spending, indiscriminate and business hampering regulations, funneling monies to large corporate donors or private, wealthy individuals, accepting immigrants without fully investigating their background, funding foreign wars with little help from nations directly affected by those wars
and fully capable of contributing both manpower and money….

It is incredibly hard for an outsider to make inroads in politics. Run by a media focused more on the prurient than the factual and populated by hordes of people who see their positions as “privileged,” politics is a nasty cesspool of characters.

Like wizards, professional politicians are big talkers. Speeches sound good, but more often than not are simply well crafted talks. Some of the most junior among the politicians came to office with high ideals and commitment to changing how Washington operates; but, all too often, that enthusiasm soon finds itself shackled by the entrenched older office holders. Committee chairs come with years of “toeing the line,” so newly elected members cannot begin to voice their demands for change with any measure of clout.

Something must change. Nearly twenty trillion dollars of debt will bankrupt this nation and bear down heavily on our young people. The ultimate drug in Washington, D. C. is “OPM” –– Other People’s Money — a drum that this columnist has beaten for decades. Uncontrolled, indiscriminate spending continues, and with little focus on what really matters.

Border security, military readiness and equipment, domestic manufacturing, and less federal control should command the highest response from our federal government, but they do not. Rules are only good if the feds institute them. What’s more, when those rules are “inconvenient” or stand in the way of special interests, leadership just changes them to suit its purposes. How sad….

It’s time for a lid. The person who puts that lid in place must gather together really capable men and women — people of accomplishment, people who have actually have met payrolls, delayed expansion without proper funding, people who know how to prioritize for the best possible result, people who understand foreign leaders and will make sure that America comes out on the long end of the stick for a change. It is abundantly clear that we have not seen that kind of action from either party — or any administration in particular — since Calvin Coolidge, a man who accomplished a great deal with small government.

The cookie jar has been far too available for politicians. It’s time for a lid. Will we demand it? If not, as the old saying goes, (and excuse the grammatical error of ending with a preposition) “you get what you ask for.”

Hard working men and women built this country. They asked little and did for themselves. Today, we see another scenario. We see nearly half of our population on government assistance. Why work when federal, state and local programs can equal a healthy salary? This is a recipe for disaster, and the promises during a presidential campaign should be in sharp contrast to what we have seen since FDR. No more free lunch. It’s time to get to work.

Forget the recent personal attacks on presidential candidates’ wives. Such attacks are not new. Consider Rachel Jackson. Andrew Jackson’s wife died in the wake the personal abuse heaped on her when her husband ran for president. I don’t think anything you have read recently rises that level. Bear in mind that, in the 1820s, the press was far less powerful that it is today. Reporting came in time-delayed newspaper reports, not 24-hour, nonstop coverage bordering on the bizarre. Unfortunately, most of today’s news reports resemble tabloids rather than real news. More’s the pity, both for the nation and our international image.

We were promised hope and change eight years ago. Well, many Americans had hope. They got change, too, but not the change expected. There was no close working relationship between the parties. Regulations ran amok, and we slid into an abyss even deeper than the one that we wallowed in before 2008. Real change is more than talk. Real change requires action that makes America better and more secure. What’s more, moving for that change may not come in soaring rhetoric and polished speeches. Change may come in crusty, forthright, down to earth words. Basics. We are in a mess and it’s high time we did something about it. It’s our decision.

The question is, will the old boys network win and derail the votes of the people? The answer will determine the future of what has been a really great nation. I, for one, am tired of highly placed elected officials acting like spoiled children. If they don’t get their own way, they throw tantrums. That is precisely what we see right now. If the rules don’t fit the outcome, change the rules. Their message is clear.

“Threaten to take away our goodies, and we will destroy you.” If that doesn’t remind you of today’s campaign, take a breath.

Perhaps the answer will not come in a familiar package, but that’s not so bad. Traditional packaging has failed us. Don’t just think about it, vote about it.

227 – “Good”

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

By Hetty Gray

# 227

March 24, 2016


One day remains until Good Friday. Given the tenor of the times, it is hard for us to label much as “good.” Whether the countless Americans who dropped out of the workforce after trying month after month to land a job or the incipient, constant terrorist attacks worldwide, good is not the word that comes to mind.

However, even given current circumstances, we must focus on the good. We have become accustomed to evil. It gets the headlines. Sad as it is, bad news always commands attention — serving as much as a warning as a dissemination of important facts.

Tomorrow, when Christian worldwide turns their hearts and minds upon the Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, take time to internalize the important lessons of his life. He faced down evil. He did not flee in the face of danger. He encouraged all who listened to his message to approach life with energy, putting their lives in the hands of God.

Difficult? You bet. Few of us have equated modern life with that of Biblical times, yet stark parallels exist. The evil we face has a different name, different faces, and different weapons. Yet both share ugly similarities — forcible takeover of territory and peoples, constant threats, cruel and inhuman treatment, and public executions — making examples of innocents in order to terrorize to quell any form of retaliation.

The Bible is replete with battles between good and evil. We are in the midst of one today. As you take time to reflect on this series of three Holy Days, give thanks for your country and the protection it affords you. Do not ignore the specter of terrorism, but pray for divine guidance to those in charge. I remember the image of George Washington kneeling in prayer at Valley Forge. Those of you with computers can search for the image. It will hold you spellbound, as well it should.
We need leaders of that same mindset. We are not in this alone.

As you take time to reflect on this series of three Holy Days, give thanks for your country and the protection it affords you. Do not ignore the specter of terrorism, but pray for divine guidance to those in charge.

226 – “Playing with Fire…”

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

By Hetty Gray

# 226

March 10, 2016

“Playing with fire…”

Rules we learn as children…. Among them is “don’t play with matches. Fire is dangerous!”

Add to that brush your teeth, look both ways when you cross the street, and mind your manners and our recall becomes humorous. We can almost hear the voices of our parents and grandparents teaching us valuable life lessons.

We probably don’t play with fire, but our society definitely doesn’t hold to that rule. Forget the matches, America is busy with a blowtorch.

Far from what detractors deem a “Bible thumper,” I do hold true to the teachings that have guided untold millions over millennia. Ten of them are very familiar. Constantly under attack as “offensive,” The Ten Commandments have been moved from public spaces with no thought to the value of adhering to them.

At a writers’ conference held at Ball State University, I attended a panel discussion of mystery writers. One woman was especially “pushy,” and lived up to my assessment in short order. A younger writer brought up a plot for a novel, including the fact that it centered on a pastor and his struggle to lead his flock in the wake of what he viewed moral decay. Her main point was holding to the rules Moses had on tablets given him by God.

After polite criticism and guidance from a few other panel members, Pushy began to squirm. The moderator gave her the floor and she took off like a rocket. She demanded to know why one earth anyone would want those rues posted in public. Her viewpoint was that religion was a private matter and Christians had no right to impose their beliefs on others.

This went on and on. Finally, in an effort to quash the ranting and raving, the moderator asked if anyone in the audience had a comment. Far from shy, I rose and spoke directly to Pushy. I remember those words as if I uttered them seconds ago.

“I concede your point if you can answer one question.” She puffed up as if she had just been given a major award. “Fine,” she shot back with a smirk.

I spoke slowly, emphasizing every word. “Can you name me one person that any one of those rules has hurt?”

The room erupted in laughter and her face went red. She pushed her briefcase off the table and stormed out of the room in what my grandmother would have called “a huff.”

After the moderator had given her the floor, I guess my question gave her the door! In any event, she skirted me the rest of the day and gave me a look that would wilt crisp lettuce.

Yes, this is a small story, but it links to one that looms large within a much more serious context.

Those of us in our “golden years,” witness a lot of brass in our society. Sunday shines for sporting events and even youth coaches schedule games that interfere with going to church. Media embraces aberrant behavior and victimization is a virtual industry.

Drug use slowly gains legal ground, and gender lines blur to the extent that teenagers have a very warped view of what it means to be a man or a woman. Government aid over generations eroded work ethic and benefits encourage cheating. Who pays? We do, folks.

The other day I heard someone describe how a young man found out that if he didn’t marry his girlfriend, moved her into public housing, listed his home address as that of his parents and took advantage of every possible federal and state program, the two of them would have more than $70K a year.

Not only is that a travesty, it amounts to intentional deception and theft. What can we expect when we trap lower income folks in a system that provides no safety net as they move from assistance to standing on their own two feet?

There is no easy answer after fifty to sixty years of this. Once, decades before the turbulent 1960s, the church held forth as the bastion of hope and aid for those needing temporary help. What was once temporary has morphed into an unsustainable lifestyle funded by people reared in households with parents who taught “PR” — no not, public relations —
Personal Responsibility.

Religion in America is in upheaval. The fastest growing churches are those who stand alone, isolated from the dictates of a national church. Many of us attend a church with a national affiliation, holding out hope that those in charge will refuse to bend to the demands of a growing secular movement.

History gives us stark and brutal examples of what happens to nations that turn against God, nations that put forth self above God, nations that ignore decency and embrace indecency. Governments fall, populations divide and brothers turn against brothers. These are not pretty pictures. I remember a well-known comment, “The wages of sin are death.” Odd syntax, but powerful nonetheless. … The “ME” generations are chipping away at the America that has led the world for hundreds of years.

America’s future hinges on the upcoming election. It is wise for us to listen to more than talking points. We need someone who defends the Christians being mistreated here and beheaded abroad. We need someone to speak for the working person, man or woman. We need someone who understands that debt will crush generations to come. Words can be empty. We need action. What’s more, this may be the last chance we have to save our country.

If America continues to abandon Judeo-Christian teachings and ethics, she deserves what she gets. The question today is this. Is she getting it now? Think about it.

225 – “Whose War?”

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

By Hetty Gray

# 225

March 1,2016

“Whose War?”

In these perilous times, reflecting on history, many of us conclude that far too little of it comes to our students. Like warning signs, the events of our history often can predict what may be just around the corner. Would that we heeded such important messages.

Uniformed, easily identified soldiers scatter across continents among many wars in world history. Whenever possible, since the 1949 revision of The Geneva Conventions, civilian populations gained protection in time of war.

The First Geneva Convention was instituted in 1864 provided for the
amelioration of the wounded and sick in Armed Forces” in the field. The Second Geneva Convention for “The Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea.” The Third Geneva Convention for “relative to the treatment of prisoners of war” in 1949 (first adopted in 1929). The Fourth, critical to today’s conflicts, is “relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War” (First adopted in 1949, it is based on parts of the 1907 Hague Convention of 1907.)

Civilians…. We are to afford them protection. Signatory nations number nearly 200 — all pledged to comply. In today’s headlines, more and more stories arise of innocent civilians murdered, slaughtered, pushed out of their homelands — many banished unless they convert to Islam. Sound familiar?

For centuries, wars were fought among and between nations. ISIS claims to be a nation state, but other than their black flag, they operate in street clothing — often within targeted countries. This one tactic makes them lethal in what we would like to call “polite society.”

Once upon a time, Hollywood studios ran under the firm hands of men whose families came to the United States seeking freedom. Founding a new industry, their love of that freedom fueled their zeal to produce films that supported American ideals and infuse deeper patriotism in their audiences.

Oh, there are a few films today that fit that description. “American Sniper” and “Thirteen Hours” come to mind. But, most of the films portray America and Americans as villains. I am appalled to see Ian Fleming’s James Bond films slide into a chasm where the classic villain is replaced with a warped view of capitalism. Business is the villain. Yet, no other form of government has assured freedom to more people than capitalism.

It is hard to patronize films that laud casual sex, drug use, and gratuitous violence. Finding a good film is akin to finding a needle in a haystack — and since I’ve dropped more than one needle on a simple floor never to find it, that fits perfectly into my assessment.

Herald back to 1942. Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, and Dame May Whitty led a cast one of my very favorite films. Read now www.’s entry.
One of the most moving scenes in MRS. MINIVER is its finale– the speech made by the vicar (Henry Wilcoxon) to the local community assembled in their war -ravaged church, the walls held up by braces and the summer sky clearly visible through the rafters overhead. This scene had such an impact on American president Franklin D. Roosevelt that, at his request, the text was broadcast over the Voice of America in Europe and was printed on millions of leaflets dropped over German-occupied territory. The Wilcoxon speech is frequently cited in books about Hollywood’s World War II films as exemplary of the kind of filmmaking that helped mobilize the United States to war in defense of its English allies.
The Vicar:
“We, in this quiet corner of England, have suffered the loss of friends very dear to us– some close to this church: George West, choir boy; James Bellard, station master and bell ringer and a proud winner, only one hour before his death, of the Belding Cup for his beautiful Miniver rose; and our hearts go out in sympathy to the two families who share the cruel loss of a young girl who was married at this altar only two weeks ago.
“The homes of many of us have been destroyed, and the lives of young and old have been taken. There is scarcely a household that hasn’t been struck to the heart.
“And why? Surely you must have asked yourself this question. Why in all conscience should these be the ones to suffer? Children, old people, a young girl at the height of her loveliness…. Why these? Are these our soldiers? Are these our fighters? Why should they be sacrificed?
“I shall tell you why.
“Because this is not only a war of soldiers in uniform. It is a war of the people, of all the people, and it must be fought not only on the battlefield, but in the cities and in the villages, in the factories and on the farms, in the home, and in the heart of every man, woman, and child who loves freedom!
“Well, we have buried our dead, but we shall not forget them. Instead they will inspire us with an unbreakable determination to free ourselves and those who come after us from the tyranny and terror that threaten to strike us down. This is the people’s war! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it then! Fight it with all that is in us, and may God defend the right.”
More and more American churches are falling under the spell of “political correctness.” Perhaps never was there a more important time than now to awaken our own version of that brave, patriotic British Vicar.
He is among us. Pray that a 21st century clergyman rises to speak to our nation. Think about it.