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REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

7/28/2007

Justice Served: The Joe Arpaio Model

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There is a region near our southwest border … that the wisest traficantes de la droga tend to avoid.

Why?

Because Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is there—and he’s bound and determined by oath to uphold the law.

Maricopa County is the fourth most populated county in the nation (3,768,123 U.S. citizens), with Phoenix as its county seat. In 1992, the good citizens of Maricopa County saw fit to elect an Army veteran and career federal drug-enforcement agent as their sheriff, on the promise that he would treat those convicted of crimes like criminals, rather than a social-welfare constituency. Since then, Sheriff Arpaio has been re-elected every time he faced the voters, because he and his 3,000 employees are keeping that promise.

Here is a sample of justice served at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)—a good model for the rest of the nation.

Criminals in Maricopa County Jail can no longer smoke or drink coffee. “This isn’t the Ritz-Carlton,” Sheriff Joe informed his indignant inmates. “If you don’t like it, don’t come back.” The Sheriff also discontinued inmate subscriptions for pornography. He revised the jail menu offerings, reducing the cost of meals to 40 cents per serving—and requires that the inmates pay for them. When they complained that he feeds his police dogs better, Sheriff Arpaio responded with characteristic compassion: “The dogs never committed a crime and they are working for a living.”

The jailhouse weight rooms are gone, too, but there’s plenty of exercise to be had on one of Sheriff Joe’s chain gangs. These include chain gangs for women, so Arpaio can’t be called a chauvinist or sued for discrimination. “Crime knows no gender,” he says, “and neither should punishment.” MCSO chain gangs clean streets, remove graffiti and bury the indigent.

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He also started juvenile chain gangs for youthful gang bangers and launched rehab programs like “Hard Knocks High,” the only accredited high school run by a Sheriff in an American jail, and “ALPHA,” an anti-substance-abuse program that has greatly reduced recidivism—the rate of reconvictions.

The Sheriff disconnected the MCSO jail’s cable TVs until criminal lawyers pointed out that he might be in violation of a federal-court order. So he hooked the cable up again, but piped in only the Disney and Weather channels. Asked by a reporter why he chose the Weather Channel, he replied, “So they will know how hot it’s gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.”

Sheriff Arpaio also used canteen funds to purchase former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich’s history lecture series on DVD, which he shows in the jail. Asked by a reporter if he provided equal time to Democrats, Sheriff Arpaio said, “Some might say these guys already got enough of those ideas.”

Additionally, on Friday nights, inmates are treated to classic “G”-rated movies, and recently, the Sheriff launched KJOE radio, an in-house broadcast station, which plays classical and patriotic music, as well as educational programs.

Sheriff Joe has even posted a “Hall of Shame” Web page dedicated to deadbeat parents, which lists photos and descriptions of parents who owe back child support, etc.

But Arpaio is probably best known by convicts, and most loathed by them, for establishing a “tent-city jail.” When he first took office, non-violent offenders were routinely released in order to alleviate prison overcrowding, but the new Sheriff put a stop to that, which swelled the ranks of inmates. On behalf of taxpayers, Arpaio opened a tent-city jail in order to avoid building an expensive jail annex.

The tent city, surrounded by razor wire, houses thousands of inmates, most of whom get a bit uncomfortable in the 115-degree summer heat. Arpaio gave the inmates permission to dress down to their boxer shorts—shorts which, like socks and towels, are dyed pink so as not to be stolen. Of course, some of the longer-term inmates complained, but Sheriff Arpaio responded, “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents, too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths!”

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(Prisoners without funds are required use these postcards to contact loved ones.)

In 2005, responding to limited federal enforcement resources to secure our borders, Arizona passed a law making it a felony (punishable by up to two years in prison) to smuggle anyone across the border. In addition, the Maricopa County Attorney issued a legal opinion that anyone being smuggled can be charged under the same law as a co-conspirator. (At last count, 14 other states are revising state legislation and stepping up their prosecution of illegal aliens.)

Consequently, Sheriff Arpaio issued instructions to his deputies and civilian posse to round up illegal aliens. “My message is clear: If you come here and I catch you, you’re going straight to jail... I’m not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico. I’ll give them a free ride to my jail. I’m going to put them on chain gangs, in tents and feed them bologna sandwiches.”

The Sheriff also gives his inmates, who do not speak English, a two-week basic language course built around American history. He explains, “These inmates happen to be incarcerated in the United States of America. In Maricopa County where I run the jails, we speak English.” At the end of the course, they are required to sing “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Lately, Sheriff Arpaio’s detractors have been turning up the heat on him.

Last week, Arpaio set up a hotline that allows citizens to report suspected illegal aliens to the sheriff’s office. Predictably, Latino leaders voiced their displeasure: “What right does he have,” inquired Phoenix attorney Antonio Bustamante, “to investigate people based on the color of their skin, or their accent or the way they look?” Added Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor, “We feel the chances of being racially profiled just went up dramatically.”

Of course, Arpaio is opening investigations only on the basis of a suspected felony violation, not race or ethnicity. “There’s nothing unconstitutional about putting up a hotline,” Arpaio said, pointing out that U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have similar hotlines.

There are other legal challenges to the Sheriff’s “unorthodox” methods for dealing with criminals—challenges that emanate from the Left’s preference to view criminals as victims. Not one to shy away from a fight, Arpaio has said he will go “all the way to the Supreme Court” to fight those challenges. “I’m going to keep locking them up,” he says.

“Justice,” in the words of James Madison, “is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.” Thank God that there are still men among us like Joe Arpaio—those still willing to dispense justice and defend civil society.

(Sheriff Arpaio and his wife of 48 years, Ava, have two children and four grandchildren—all residents of Phoenix. Earlier this year, he accepted an appointment as honorary state chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Through it all, Sheriff Arpaio has retained his sense of humor. In May, after Hollywonk Paris Hilton’s conviction, he contacted Los Angeles authorities and asked if they would like to transfer her to Maricopa County jail to serve out her sentence. They “respectfully declined,” he notes.)

Patriot Post, 7/27/07

7/20/2007

Hmmmm ...

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News from the desiccated, dusty world of Egyptology:

A mummy from a tomb discovered over a century ago in Upper Egypt has been identified as that of Hatshepsut, one of the earliest female rulers known to history.

Hatshepsut’s regnal dates were 1479 to 1458 B.C.

Born a princess, she married her half-brother, who subsequently became pharaoh as Thutmose II. When that monarch died, leaving only an infant son, Hatshepsut took power as regent.

Six years later she was sufficiently confident to have herself crowned as pharaoh, wearing a false beard for the purpose.

She ran a vigorous administration, though there has been some scandalized muttering in Egyptological circles about her relationship with Senenmut, the royal steward.

Plainly this was a formidable lady.

Some papyrus scrolls covered with hieroglyphics found near Hatshepsut’s sarcophagus have not yet been fully deciphered, but appear to be the billing records of a law firm …

(National Review, 7/30/07)

7/16/2007

Dealing With Death

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It comes to all of us eventually. We all get the opportunity to mark the line of departure as it rubs uncomfortably close to us. And once that Rubicon is crossed, there is no going back.

I’m not speaking of any particular personal loss, although such a loss can serve as an earmark of the change. And I certainly don’t mean to imply our own personal extinction marks the road sign of the change. Once that happens, well . . . once that happens, such concerns about mortality get reduced to triviality.

What I’m referring to is that indelible moment when death, gently or not, knocks on the door of our lives and introduces himself as a tangible force with definable features, permanently ensconced in our sensibilities, never to depart, only to grow closer.

“Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste.”

Something like that. Just a wakeup call to let us know he’s moving in as something of an unwelcome, albeit permanent houseguest.

If we live long enough, it will undoubtedly come to us. The moment arrives – however fleeting, but with undeniable clarity – when we realize we’re not going to live forever. We mourn the lost years. We lament the wasted time. We wonder how we could have been so facile, so arrogant, and so short-sighted as to believe we had blank check, filled with infinite second chances that would go on forever.

When we read the obituaries, it is more with a personal stake than passing interest. We half expect to find names and faces we know personally. And more often than we would like, we find them.

It often comes during the decade of the incipient health problem – our 50s. Suddenly, our ailments get more severe, more complicated, more involved than maladies that can be fixed with a fifteen minute visit to our friendly, neighborhood internist and a prescription for antibiotics. Then it happens. We lose someone, either someone very close, or casually distant. But the point is made: If it can happen to them, it can happen to us.

“To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

It’s been that kind of year in my small circle of acquaintances. I’ve been to eight funerals this year. And the year is barely half over.

Most of them, I must admit, have been card-carrying members of the greatest generation, completing long lives, well-lived. And while such events are sad, they are not particularly tragic. For those of us who attended the services to bid farewell – particularly people at mid-life – such gatherings had all the trappings of losing a parent.

We remembered them when we were children. They were larger than life – our authority figures, teachers, mentors and protectors. By all indications, the WWII generation is meeting its end with the same grace, dignity and courage with which they defended the country over half a century ago. And while their departure leaves a void, it is part of the natural order of things. For all the tears, there is joy as well, and the celebration of lives of singular meaning, significance and purpose. “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Enter into the joy of your Lord.”, the Bible tells us. Sad? Yes. Tragic? No.

Then there were the tragedies.

The first was a close personal friend I had known for ten years. He was a poster child for healthy living. He didn’t smoke or drink. He was a walking advertisement for a healthy diet. He was thin as a rail. And every weekend during our endless, year-round California summer, he could be found cycling his way from his home in Lake Forest to Del Mar along Pacific Coast Highway.

He had it all. A loving wife of twenty-two years, two daughters who adored him, aged 11 and 8. He died of complications from Merkel Cell carcinoma in February after fighting it for a year and a half. Now his wife will get to spend the second half of her life without him. And his daughters will get to navigate the minefield of their teen years without their father.

Then there was the 16-year-old high school girl at our church who was killed in a truck rollover in March. Law enforcement did not indicate the presence of alcohol in this accident. By all accounts, the driver just drifted off the shoulder of the road coming home from some late-night function, and drove the truck down an embankment. It rolled over several times. He was belted in. She was not. He survived. She was killed.

And then a few weeks ago, another teen in our church was killed in a head-on collision coming home southbound on U.S. 395. There were eleven people in a van coming home from a church retreat in Northern California. They were hit head-on by a pickup truck. Five people were killed, including this 15-year-old boy.

This one was perhaps the hardest one to take, because the family is so well-known and beloved in the community. The boy’s father is in the Wednesday night Bible study I attend. He is a district superior court judge, a strong Christian, and has the values and sensibilities that every member of the legal profession should have, but often does not.

These families did everything right. They are active members of the community, made the right decisions at the right time, have been richly blessed with strong, loving families, and live lives of significance, meaning and prosperity. And in an instant, their beloved children were gone. Just that quick.
It’s very tempting to lionize those who die young and tragically.

“They were so kind, so good, so full of life. Everybody loved them. What will become of us now that they’re gone?”

It’s such a canned response, it gets to be a cliché. And yet, we always seem to hear it. Regardless of the failings of the young person in question, they are unquestionably elevated to the status of sainthood in death, often by rote. It’s axiomatic.

Only in the case of these two young people, it was true. These two children bore the indelible stamp of good values, marked by solid upbringing. They were, and would have been, points of light in an ever-darkening world had they grown into adulthood. And now they’re gone. In an instant. The funerals may be over and done with, but the void remains.

It’s interesting the effect such losses have had on those left behind. People at church are more somber, less certain, more courteous (go figure!) and definitely more introspective. There’s a collective vulnerability that has covered the congregation like a gentle shroud. Because, if it can happen to families who do everything right, then . . . dare I say it? . . . It can happen to us.

How we deal with death speaks to our character. It reveals what we carry around inside us. It exposes what we value. The survivors of those loved ones so recently lost are now coping according to what they value.

The children of the WWII generation are mourning the loss of their parents and grandparents. The spouses and parents of young people who died tragically are coping – with difficulty I would assume – with losses so catastrophic as to defy description. But they are coping. Most are strong Christians, and that helps. But who can say what goes on when the last well-wisher departs, the doors are closed, the locks are turned and the lights are out?

There is, however, one common denominator I have observed in all recent survivors – the children of the greatest generation, and the parents of the young who died before their time. And that is the shock and horror of dealing with the inherent unfairness and cruelty of losing family members so beloved in such an arbitrary way.

The baby boom generation is currently in the full flower of its leadership phase of the country in the early 21st century. The nation is in the middle of the administration of its second baby boomer president. Boomers hold positions of leadership in every element of American society – government, business, industry, education, science, medicine, you name it.

There are a lot of things the boom generation does well. Coping with the unfairness of life is not one of them. Dealing with death is another.

During these past few months, I have been reminded of Budd Primrose. I think of him often. It doesn’t take a funeral to bring him to mind. But in recent circumstances, I have had occasion to reflect on the remarkable strength of character of one of the finest men I have ever known.

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Budd Primrose was a U.S. paratrooper – B Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He is pictured here with his wife Mary at the Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgarten. He fought in the crusade in Europe from 1944-45, and I met him while we were on tour together during the 60th anniversary of the Normandy invasion in 2004.

Budd Primrose is typical of his generation. He is strong, stoic, but possessed of sense of fun and whimsy. He is man defined by his commitments. In 1944, it was to the war effort. Since that time, it has been to his wife and family.

One would have to appreciate the intensity of those days three short years ago to fully comprehend the deep bond that was formed between the combatants of WWII and their sons and daughters who were along for the ride. There was a timeless quality to an experience defined by walking the battlefields where Americans fought with such skill, courage and commitment, mixed with the poignancy of sharing the last long look back of a generation of men who knew their time was short. It was a surreal experience. An experience so sweet, it was painful, so meaningful, it hurt. But it was a good kind of hurt.

People gravitated to Budd and Mary Primrose. He was a page out of history. She was sweet, cordial and engaging. Mary Primrose was a British war bride. Personally, I will always remember walking the streets of Portsmouth, England (Mary’s home town) listening to her descriptions of what it was like to go to school during the Blitz; how streets that were clear one morning were bombed out the next; and how students attended classes to candlelight in bomb shelters. As much as was possible in those extraordinary circumstances, and during that short time span, we all came to love them. Not the least of which was yours truly.

I don’t know about anyone else, but elderly couples who are demonstrably affectionate with each other can either be sublime or strange. I can’t explain why that is, I just know that it is.

Budd and Mary’s love for each other was sublime. It was readily apparent for all to see. I even went so far as to tell Budd that if I could have chosen a father in my pre-incarnate days – if such things were possible – he would have been my choice. He was embarrassed by that declaration, and we never spoke of it again. But the point was made. I believed it had to be.

I often told him that as much as I admired the 2½ years of service to his country, I much more admired him for his 59 years as a husband and father. He just evoked that level of respect. Always did and always will.

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Our final night together as a group was Budd and Mary’s 59th wedding anniversary. It seemed fitting. During our time together, all of us had bonded in a unique and indescribable way. In our own fashion, we had become a band of brothers. If nothing else, we all came to appreciate how the veterans of that war are, in many ways bonded closer to each other than they have ever been to their own families.

Well, all good things must come to an end, and for every summit-of-Everest experience, there is the inevitable descent to base camp. And so it was with us. Some, like me, were going on. But most were going home. I spent another week in Europe – traveling to Krakow Poland to visit the Auschwitz death camp – then on to Israel for another week. I made it home after a month on the road.

Many of us stayed in contact with each other. But, as so often happens, many of us drifted apart. Until the day in December 2004 when Budd Primrose sent out a group email to those of us who exchanged such addresses that his beloved Mary – wife, lover, friend and companion – died in her sleep.

Personally, I was devastated. I felt like I’d lost my own mother, again. I called, and we talked. Budd exhibited the characteristics of his generation under great duress and in the face of great loss – stoic, dignified, burdened, but coping.

In the following months, I called periodically to inquire about his well-being. Oftentimes, couples who are so deeply bonded die within months of each other. But, as the winter wore into spring, I found Budd to be getting on with things nicely. He was planning to go skiing at Lake Tahoe before the spring snow pack disappeared. He had a hunting trip planned with his sons, when the season opened. He was planning to shoot the rapids on the Rogue River that summer (in his mid-80s, imagine!).

In short, he was dealing with death, coping with the loss, and living life. And he was doing it with the strength of character that, by God’s grace was given to the greatest generation. There is much to conclude from the dignity with which Budd bore the burden of his loss. But perhaps the most significant fact to be gleaned is that he had a genuine awareness of the inherent unfairness and arbitrary cruelty of life. He knew that very well.

And that was true of his generation. If the Depression wasn’t sufficient in the hard-knocks education of life, WWII certainly was. The young people of that time became fully aware that whatever joy they might experience in life was capricious and could be swept away at a moment’s notice. It may explain why the prosperity of the years that followed the war was never enough to alleviate a general sense of disconnect that many veterans endured coming home.

Many, if not most households, bore the mark of an aloof, distant husband and father, grimly determined to provide for his family, often sacrificing everything else. Good times were something foreign to them, something in which many of them never rested easily. Unlike their baby boomer children, for whom prosperity and success was taken as a rock-ribbed article of faith, their WWII fathers knew the truth of the basic hardships of life. It paid dividends for them in the wake of catastrophic loss, but it often cost them the closeness of those closest to them.

So what does it say about us when all our options are cut to zero? How does such extreme circumstances affect our relationships with our friends, neighbors, our standing as Americans, our connection to God? How do we carry ourselves when the loss is so final that there is no act we can perform, no check we can write, no bargain we can strike to bring back the loved and lost – all irrevocably, irretrievably, irredeemably gone.

Well, for one thing, it hammers home the point, in no uncertain terms, that our reach definitely exceeds our grasp. And such is one of the unpleasant truths of life. For another, it should give us the acute knowledge that we don’t have a blank check. The clock is ticking and will eventually run out. And it’s time to love our spouses, children, whoever, and make sure they know it, and in general kiss the joy as it flies.

Because there are worse things than being the first one to die. There’s being the last one left, with the grim knowledge that we were shallow enough to make mistakes and old enough to have regrets. And now there is no way to remedy such things.

What does this have to do with the state of the country? Nothing that I haven’t commented on in previous articles.

Past generations of Americans knew who they were. They had a solid grounding in their community. They knew their place in the world as Americans. And above all, they knew that life was unfair, arbitrary and cruel. It gave them a sense of immediacy, urgency, and a conviction to enjoy life as it came, because it could be swept away in an instant.

Future generations lost this sense of purpose, and the understanding of the hardships of life. Their paradigm became faith in the good life, which became a gilt-edged entitlement. And if such things became the priority, everything else, including the sense of identity as citizens of their country, and the obligations that went along with it, was sacrificed on its altar.

What does that leave for the rest of us, in light of the unpleasant truth that what we place our faith in will often be burnt to ashes? Well, for one thing, make the most of the time we’ve got left, however lengthy or brief that span may be. We can make every moment count. We can even be citizens of our country, whatever is left of it, and for however long it lasts. Because. . .

“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” – Psalms 19:9

And that little bit of truth is not negotiable.

by Euro-American Scum
(contributing team member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)

7/13/2007

Seal the Borders!
(The Ongoing Refrain of the Realists Among Us)

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one of the few well-patrolled areas of Iraq's border with Iran

I was not necessarily in favor of our invading Iraq back in 2003 – thought there were other, more treacherous, regimes that needed our ‘attention’. But, once there, we needed to fight this war as if we wanted to win it. Instead, we are pulling another (one hand tied behind our backs) Vietnam – and allowing the political/media/academic leftists to turn it into such on the home front as well. A country cannot afford a series of Vietnams. It saps the strength, siphons respect, contorts the public reality, and causes irreparable chinks in the armor.

An enormous percentage of the ‘insurgent’ violence occurring in Iraq today is the result of constant infiltration over the roughly 1,100 mile border between Iraq and Iran, and Iraq and Syria. Yet on this front (as well as the U.S./Mexico one with which we are all too familiar), the president appears to be border-security-impaired.

In early 2004, the venerable Donald Rumsfeld observed:

My impression is that the border with Kuwait is very secure, and the border with Jordan and Turkey is secure, while the borders with Syria and Iran are not secure … we need more border patrol – Iraqi border patrol – to help do that job.

It’s three years later, and I would venture to guess that the border situation has not changed at all. And the most likely explanation for this lack of border control is lack of manpower. I suggest adding more manpower, rather than placing the manpower we already have on the ground at increasing risk by not doing so … and using advanced technology (such as remotely controlled aircraft, strategically placed monitoring equipment and the like) to pick up the slack.

The man at the helm doesn’t seem to comprehend how to keep a leaking boat afloat.

Domestically, as regards the U.S./Mexico border, he seems bound and determined to convince us that, rather than sealing the leak, it’s much more desirable to concoct hair-brained methods to design a boat that will float while continually taking on water.

In Iraq, he is convinced that ever more feverish bailing (unfortunately, accompanied by increasing loss of innocent life) will keep the boat afloat, while the leak remains forever unattended.

Meanwhile, the media have been playing up the anti-war sentiment as evidenced by recent polls, and interpreting it as meaning that the public wants us out of Iraq.

I don’t believe that. I believe that the anti-war numbers are much the same as the Bush disapproval numbers. There are, as always, leftists and useful idiots who would have no use for a Republican (even if it’s in name only) president’s policies, no matter what they are. But Presidnet Bush's anti-war/disapproval numbers are historically unique in that they also include people like many of us, who support the military, and maybe even support remaining in Iraq, but do not approve of the way in which the war is being prosecuted. We want our proud and courageous military unleashed to do what they were trained, and want, to do.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if 15-20% of those who are labeled as ‘anti-war’ fall under that category for the reason above, and the media certainly would not be of a mind to make that portion of the 'anti-war sentiment' known.

So the president is taking it on the chin from the usual suspects on the left, as well as from a new contingent on the right that wants him to govern like a conservative should (as regards much more than his handling of the war). With both forces working against him, I doubt that his approval rating will ever again rise above forty percent, and justifiably so.

What America, and the free world, needs now – perhaps more than ever before – is leadership that doesn’t pander, waver, or relent to political correctness. President Bush, and all but one of the current declared candidates who are seeking to replace him next year, represent none of the above. This is not the stuff of which optimism is borne.

~ joanie

7/05/2007

- Tale of the Phoebes -
A Diversionary Break from
Examining the Woes of the World

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As those of you who have been reading here for the past year know, I occasionally decide to write about somewhat personal, non-political subjects – just to provide a form of superficial relief from the genuine headline (as opposed to mainstream media ‘headline’) stories of the day. Today, feeling somewhat discouraged by the most recent mountain of evidence as to the non-representative nature of modern American government, the increasing threat represented by Islamic terrorism, and the myriad of other less-than-uplifting considerations that depress the conservative mindset, I decided to resort to composing a more superficial essay. If you’re just here for political commentary, you may want to skip this one. :)

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About a month ago, my husband and I were sitting out on our front porch and noticed a small bird (an Eastern Phoebe, it turns out) carrying something to place atop the shutter located in the most sheltered area at the far end of the porch [behind the center column in the photo above]. Mesmerized by her industry and determination, we spent much of the next two days watching her flit from the woods that surround our house to that sheltered shutter-top. She must have made fifty or more trips to her nest-under-construction, carrying all manner of mud, dried grass, moss and dog hair (courtesy of Bert, our four-year-old flat-coated retriever) in her tiny beak on each return trip.

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It took her about a day and a half to build a beautiful, sculpted, symmetric nest above our shutter – at which point she then began sitting in her beautiful creation in order to lay her eggs.

She sat for close to a week, with her ‘husband’ (Phoebes generally mate for life) faithfully assuming the job of feeding her as she sat. He would bring all manner of bugs, beetles, and ugly things with many legs to her, transferring them from his tiny beak to hers, as she dutifully kept their eggs warm.

One morning we noticed that there were tiny, barely discernible chirping voices emanating from that little corner nest, with both mom and dad now assuming the duty of feeding four little fuzzy bodies with enormous gaping ‘Feed me!’ mouths.

From dawn till dusk those two parent birds searched the woods for insects -- they were untiring in their constant hunting, and flying home with their prey. At night, the mother would continue to sit atop her babies in order to keep them warm – with the father presumably bedding down in a nearby tree at the edge of the woods. Then, at the crack of dawn the next morning, the entire feeding ritual would begin again.

[These two devoted parents never read a ‘how to’ book, never attended parenting classes, and didn’t hire surrogates to do the leg work for them. We humans could re-learn a lot from these two tiny Phoebes who have been spared the ravages of feminist doctrine. :)]

Those of you who know me well know that I am a ‘night person’ – often not going to bed before 1 or 2 AM. So those of you who know me well will be amazed to know that I became so enamored of this bird couple that I would awaken sometimes as early as 5 AM and quietly make my way out to the front porch bench in order to witness the beginning of each day’s feeding ritual. Mom and dad eventually got used to seeing me there, and behaved as if I were as much of a porch fixture as the bench on which I sat.

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After about a week and a half, and as abruptly as it began, the feeding ritual ended.

Shortly after 5 AM on a Thursday morning I watched mother fly from the nest and into the woods. But this time she did not return with breakfast. Mother had decided that, on this day, her babies themselves would learn to fly. So this morning, she simply sat in a tree on the edge of the woods and called to them … and called … and called ...

At first, they simply sat in their nest, quietly waiting for their first morning bug. But gradually they appeared to realize that mom was not going to be feeding them today.

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About an hour after his mother’s first ‘come to me’ call, the most courageous of the young Phoebes perched himself on the rim of his nest, peered into the woods, and then flew to his mother with the grace of a bird that has been flying for a lifetime. The courage and instinctual agility represented by that singular event was something I’ll never forget.

After that beautiful initial exhibition of nature at its finest, I had to leave my spectator porch-position for about an hour and a half. When I returned, there was only one baby remaining in the nest – two of his brothers/sisters having followed the lead of the most courageous of the siblings during my absence.

Mother was still calling, but her straggler child was apparently suffering from a serious case of fear of the unknown … or stubbornness.

I sat on the bench once again and watched the reluctant straggler-baby. Finally … begrudgingly … he, too, perched himself on the edge of his nest, sat there for a few minutes in order to muster the courage to join his family, flapped his little wings a time or two, and then proceeded to fly head-first into the large beam at the top front edge of the porch. The loud ‘Bonk!’ was enough to make me wince and close my eyes for just a second, for fear of what I would see next.

But that little bird did not fall to the ground. He simply lowered his trajectory by a couple of feet, and flew, somewhat wobbly but still determined, into the woods to his mother.

Completely without warning, my eyes welled up with tears. To this day, I don’t know why. But my best guess is that it must have been a combination of joy at having been privileged to spend several weeks of my life witnessing a beautiful natural event – one that has occurred, without revision, since the dawn of time. And I suppose that a part of me also knew that I was going to miss those little uninvited critters who had shared our house with us. It’s been two weeks since they left, and I still look at their little empty nest with something akin to a sense of loss.

Phoebes will return to the same nest, year after year. So, needless to say, we now have a little mud nest (somewhat the worse for wear, but prepared to be viewed as a ‘fixer upper’ next spring) permanently ensconced in the most sheltered corner of our porch. And we are already looking forward to the return of the phoebes next year. :)

~ joanie

[Apologies for the poor quality of the photos herein. I did not want to ‘interfere’ with the family, so I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible when taking the few pictures that I did, which did not allow for much focus-time or set up.] :)

7/04/2007

Americans Who Risked Everything

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It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall, bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, 15 shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72 and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud, quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stocking was as nothing to them." All discussion was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.

On the wall at the back, facing the president's desk, was a panoply -- consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"

Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. "Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York."

Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole, The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase "by a self-assumed power." "Climb" was replaced by "must read," then "must" was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called "their depredations." "Inherent and inalienable rights" came out "certain unalienable rights," and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.

A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered, "I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.

Much to lose

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the Crown? To each of you the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock, and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56, almost half -- 24 -- were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, 9 were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so "that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward." Ben Franklin wryly noted, "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately." Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone."

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember: a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.

They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft-card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics, yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers (it was he, Francis Hopkinson, not Betsy Ross, who designed the United States flag).

Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks:

Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repose. If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American legislators of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens.

Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.

William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers' faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, "but in no face was he able to discern real fear." Stephen Hopkins, Ellery's colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."

Most glorious service

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

Francis Lewis, New York delegate, saw his home plundered and his estates, in what is now Harlem, completely destroyed by British soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.

William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home, they found a devastated ruin.

Phillips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.

Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.

Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton's parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.

Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington's appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.

George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.

John Morton, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were, "Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it (the signing) to have been the most glorious service that I rendered to my country."

William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.

Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage he and his young bride were drowned at sea.

Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward Jr. the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Fla., where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large land holdings and estates.

Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson's palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, "Why do you spare my home?" They replied, "Sir, out of respect to you." Nelson cried, "Give me the cannon!" and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson's sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson's property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.

Lives, fortunes, honor

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create, is still intact.

And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to the infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York harbor known as the hell ship "Jersey," where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons' lives if he would recant and come out for the king and parliament. The utter despair in this man's heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: "No."

The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

by Rush H. Limbaugh II

7/01/2007

Memorializing Our Fallen Heroes and
Comforting Those They've Left Behind

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Utah artist Kaziah Hancock is so touched by the sacrifices of American soldiers in Iraq that she is determined to pay tribute to each one of those who lost their lives, and to offer a kind of eternal comfort to their grieving families in the process.

Kaziah Hancock lives alone (if you don’t count her hundred goats and handful of chickens) on a ranch at the base of a mountain in Utah.

To understand this independent, middle-aged woman who is devoting her extraordinary gifts to repay our fallen heroes, and to witness the indescribable effect that her love and patriotism have on the families that our heroes leave behind, have a look at this five and a half minutes that you won’t soon forget.

Four years ago, at the request of his family, a tearful Kaziah painted a portrait of Utah’s first fallen soldier in the war in Iraq. Since then, the requests have been pouring in, which has caused Kaziah to create ‘Project Compassion’ – a non-profit artistic organization which provides gallery-quality oil portraits of fallen Americans in uniform to their next of kin at no cost. Because of the overwhelming demand for her portraits, Kaziah has recruited five other renowned professional portraitists to help her keep up with the requests.

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Project Compassion provides one gallery-quality, 18”x 24” original oil portrait of every American in uniform who has passed away on active duty since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, to their families. Kaziah’s organization is now endorsed and in partnership with the Department of Defense and all branches of the armed services.

When each painting is finished, Kaziah Hancock sends them home – beautifully framed, packed and shipped, with a handwritten note in each one, expressing her feelings about the subject she has immortalized on canvas and her undying appreciation for his selfless sacrifice. Her portrait mailings currently number in the hundreds, with no end in sight.

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Kaziah and her organization will accept not one cent from a soldier’s family. And, even when asked, she refuses to discuss the income she has forfeited by painting America’s sons and daughters instead of the landscapes that she normally sells for thousands of dollars. The painting of those landscapes has been put on indefinite hold.

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After stepping back and looking at one of her most recently completed portraits, Kaziah quietly and tearfully reflected, ‘He should have been a daddy. He should have been a husband ‘til he was eighty years old …that would have been good … I would have so loved not to have painted him (as her voice breaks and tears begin to flow).’

Kindness is a virtue. And Kaziah Hancock is combining that virtue with a God-given gift in order to eternally memorialize our modern American heroes, and to comfort the loved ones they have left behind.

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If you would like to contribute to Projection Compassion in order to offset the cost of materials and shipping, please click here.

~ joanie