I’d like an order of football, hold the politics please

Dear #NFL:

I do not want my football with a side of politics. I don’t even want the side of politics if the particular player has views I agree with. When I spend three hours of my life watching sports, I don’t even want to think about politics. I want to watch my home team beat other teams, period. Encourage your players to make use of the media outside of the playing field. Any one of them could contact a news station, use YouTube, Facebook, or simply stand on a soap box in a public square and reach millions. Remind them that they are wearing uniforms, and while they are wearing uniforms, their behavior should be uniform. There are 165 hours per week when they aren’t on the playing field and can passionately address their issues. Keith Olbermann proved how poorly sports and politics mix. 
Since you are not enforcing uniformity, I will be doing other things with my football time. This week, during football time, I’m going to the gun range with a friend. I will catch the highlights of my beloved #BaltimoreRavens on the news so that I don’t contribute a viewer to your ratings or see a commercial from one of your sponsors. That is my protest. I am your customer. If you continue to ignore me and the millions like me, your ratings will continue to plummet and the very players who choose to force feed politics to sports fans will diminish their audiences until they have none.

Why I Get Black Americans Being Excited About Black American Olympians Winning

I’m a white guy. A lot of my black friends have posted about how happy they are that black American athletes are doing great things in the Olympics. I’ve seen many folks criticize this. Here are my two cents. When I saw Aly Raisman get a gold medal with the other four American women gymnasts, I felt a special sense of pride because in addition to being an American, she is Jewish like me. As Michael Phelps won his 22nd gold medal, I felt that special sense of pride because he is a Baltimore guy and so am I. When I saw American women take gold in air rifle and bronze in trap shooting, I had the same feeling because I’m a shooter.

The bottom line is simple, Americans like seeing Americans win. When there is something about an athlete that we personally identify with beyond their being just American, it means just a little bit more to us. It’s normal.

The Reason that we Celebrate July 4th

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. 

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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.

A “Conservatarian” View of the SCOTUS Same Sex Marriage Decision

I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I’ve invested a good amount of time in this issue. I don’t need to reiterate what others have said about the intricacies of the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Simply started, the Equal Protection clause states that all Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, period.  What bears stating is the legal precedent in referencing the Fourteenth. Prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there were “Jim Crow” laws in the southern states that required the states, under law, to segregate based on race. Facilities were supposed to be “separate but equal.” They rarely were equal. President Woodrow Wilson, an overt racist, practiced gross discrimination. The equally overt racist Democrats of the late 1800s through the mid 1960s did everything possible to undermine the anti-segregationist policies of the Republicans. The southern states felt their state sovereignty allowed them to discriminate within the borders of their states. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth was the constitutional basis for the federal government to overrule state sovereignty because the federal government is responsible for ensuring all citizens get equal protection under the law. Given the preponderance of states that have marital equality laws, it was not, in my mind, a far stretch to apply the same principles that shot down Jim Crow. What the Fourteenth does not touch is the right of people that are not agents of the state from discriminating except in areas such as housing and employment. This ties into the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. By law and practice, churches are not agents of the state. Congress cannot force a non-agent to act. I am an ordained minister. I cannot be compelled to perform any service for anyone. I don’t know the individual laws of every state where marital equality is the law, but I can tell you that Maryland’s law is well-crafted and explicitly protects the clergy. Here is the text of Question 6, the public referendum for marital equality in Maryland,

“Establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, provided they are not otherwise prohibited from marrying; protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.”

I am a libertarian. I voted for Question 6 even though I will not personally perform a same-sex ceremony. I am not discounting what I believe to be the biblical truth on the topic. I am standing behind the right of two people to enter into a legally binding contract, which in the eyes of the state, is what marriage is.

The reason we have this mess is that our bloated government stuck its nose into marriage, a thing formerly under the scope of religious bodies. It chose to grant legal privileges to married couples. Once it did that and the individual states began to legalize same sex marriage, it was inevitable that it would have to respond.

Before we are too quick to respond to this ruling, think of where America would be if Jim Crow was still in existence.

Why God Gave Us Pets

I look at my 12-year-old rescue dog, shaggy as ever, having had another accident as dogs are known to do (especially after having just moved), and I wonder what was God’s purpose in giving us pets.  I cleaned up the accident, put the mop away, and patted her on the head as if nothing happened.  Then it hit me, God gave us pets to provide us with endless opportunities to show kindness and grace.

“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10 (NIV)

Writing sincere letters to our elected officials

Many of us have received requests from a variety of groups to write to our elected officials about one issue or another.  I think that is a great thing.  It is hard to represent your constituents if they don’t tell you what they are thinking.  What I’m not fond of is when these groups supply you a with a form letter to send.  I was approached by a group trying to get people to write to their Maryland state senators and delegates as an appeal to oppose Senate Bill 281, Governor O’Malley’s “Firearms Safety Act of 2013.”   The group gave you the choice to write your own letter or send a pre-written one.  In my opinion, sending a pre-written letter to appeal for a cause is like buying your Mom a birthday card and just signing the bottom.  I believe when a person asks a senator, representative, or delegate to do something hard, like stand against their party line on a bill that strongly mitigates against our Second Amendment rights, that person should write from the heart.

Although I am a Libertarian, I usually vote for Republicans.  Senator Kathy Klausmeier, a Democrat, is the state senator for my district, District 8.  I didn’t know her stance on the Second Amendment so I wrote the following to her:

_________________________________________________________________________

Senator Klausmeier:

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.  This is not a form letter.  I’m not a member of the NRA.  I don’t own any firearms that would be banned by this legislation.  I’m not a Republican or Democrat.  I just want to share in my own words why I would like you to consider voting against SB 281, The Firearm Safety Act of 2013. 

I am a systems analyst.  In my field, there is a practice called Lean Software Development.  It is a no-nonsense way to get quality software delivered on time, on budget, and according to specifications.  The second principle of Lean Software Development is any activity that does not add value to the customer is waste.  I had a hard time finding the stated objective of SB 281 in the 500+ words of the first sentence of the bill, but I think it is safe to say that the purpose is to make Maryland a safer place to live by placing certain regulations on firearms deemed to detract from public safety.  If SB 281 helps to make Maryland safer, it adds value to people like you and me.  If it doesn’t, it’s waste.  I’m not going to insult your intelligence with clichés like the “guns don’t kill, people kill” argument.  I’m not an attorney or constitutional scholar so I’m not going to burden you with my line-by-line opinion of SB 281.  I’m sure that plenty of other well-intended people have gone on ad infinitum over this to you.  I would like to make one point.

My point: SB 281 and the flood of firearm legislation across the nation are actually making the problem worse, not better. 

The Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the sale, manufacture,  and transportation of most alcoholic beverages.  The 13 years that followed its ratification gave birth to organized crime as we know it.  The business model of organized crime is simple: (a) produce, distribute, or provide a good or service that is illegal with a low cost and a high rate of return, and (b) charge a higher price in proportion to the risk of capture and loss.  Alcohol fit that model to a “T.”  Even better, many people did not see anything morally unethical about alcohol so its use was socially acceptable.  By the time the Twenty-First Amendment was ratified, organized crime had become so strong and well-financed that it was able to smoothly transition from bootleg gin to bootleg pharmaceuticals.  Alcohol consumption increased after Prohibition began and did not drop until after its repeal (see http://www.albany.edu/~wm731882/future1_final.html).  While I don’t have numbers to back this, I think it is safe to say that in the year between ratification and enforcement of Prohibition, sales skyrocketed.  Today, in light of all of the legislation at the state and federal levels, people are buying firearms and ammunition at a pace without par.  If you go to websites for companies like Cabela’s (http://www.cabelas.com) or Bass Pro Shops (http://www.basspro.com) and try to buy something as mundane as .22 caliber long rifle ammunition, the sort of ammunition kids are trained with, you’ll find it is either completely out of stock or is on a long back order.  Go to Dick’s Sporting Goods off of Campbell Blvd. and try to find any sort of ammunition.  For the most part, it is gone.  Go to Harford Rd. and check in with the people at Christian Soldier or Just Guns.  They cannot keep anything in stock.  The rate of gun purchase is so high that it takes over 30 days for someone like me that legally purchased a non-assault pistol to be able to take possession of it because of the massive backlog created by law-abiding citizens.  By reasonable projections, it will be as much as 60 days before I can take possession of my gun.

The skyrocketing legal purchase of guns is a serious problem on two fronts.  The first is that many good people that would not have owned firearms are now purchasing them.  Even though Marylanders have to either be veterans (like me) or take a firearms safety course to purchase a firearm, that doesn’t make them safe firearms owners.  My firearms are individually locked up, unloaded, and well-maintained.  The ammunition is stored separately.  I even made sure that the ammunition I purchased is designed to not penetrate walls so if I am legally protecting my home, I am not putting my neighbors at risk if I happen to miss.  When they were little, I personally trained my kids in safe firearm use, just like my grandfather, a first-generation American taught me.  They grew up knowing the rule that a firearm is to always be treated as loaded, even if you know it isn’t.  When my grandchildren get older, I hope to be able to teach them the same lesson.  However, not every household will follow those rules.  Kids will accidentally get shot.  More kids will accidentally get shot because more households will have firearms. 

There is something else that makes a novice gun owner very dangerous; the inability to kill an intruder.  If someone asks me if I think they should buy a firearm, my first question is, “do you have the ability, without hesitation, to kill another human being?”  While being threatened can make a person stronger due to the flood of adrenaline, it does not improve that person’s resolve to use a firearm properly.  Imagine the scenario of an unarmed burglar entering a house to steal something.  That person does not have any intention of killing the residents of the home.  Enter the scared novice gun owner holding a legally purchased .38 caliber pistol.  He hesitates for several seconds, squeezes off a poorly aimed round, and misses.  The burglar, out of self-preservation, rushes the gun-owner who is afraid and is doubting his ability to kill someone to the point of not even trying to take a second shot.  The burglar takes the pistol, kills the resident, and runs.  What should have been a burglary with no victims at best and a dead burglar at worst has now become the homicide of an innocent Marylander.
 
The second front is worse.  Go back to the organized crime business model.  An illegal market gains value from the ability to produce and provide illegal goods and services cheaply with minimal risk.  Increased risk results in increased prices.  Smuggling guns into the country is very risky.  However, when millions of non-gun owners become gun owners and gun owners stock up on guns, there is more “product” to be gotten through simple burglary.  An amateur thief cannot smuggle a case of firearms into the country.  However, an amateur thief can easily figure out who the gun owners are in the neighborhood and rob them.  The result is more illegal guns on the street where no law in the land can touch them.

We in the 8th District are proudly purple, not just because of our Ravens, but because we have many people from both parties.  As our voice in Annapolis, dedicated public servants like you take care of our needs and desires.  I don’t know the polling numbers, but I suspect there are a lot of people in our neighborhood who would like to see SB 281 fail.

Sincerely yours,
Andrew Knaster
Nottingham

____________________________________________

I found out after having sent the letter that Senator Klausmeier has been a consistent advocate of Second Amendment rights.  So not due to my letter alone, our Senator voted against SB 281.  She also took part in the filibuster against it. She responded to my letter on the day after the vote and failed filibuster and detailed her actions.  For the first time in a while, I felt good about being part of the process, even though my cause failed.  I also felt good that I kept the tone of my letter civil and personal.  Those who know me, know I can get pretty agitated over things political.  Late last year, when I was writing posts about our President, I referred to him as Mr. Obama.  I thought I was being respectful, but someone kindly pointed out that the protocol for referring to the President in the third person is “President __________________.”  I checked and she was absolutely right.  That discussion caused me to re-examine myself in this regard.  I try to follow the direction of the Bible as much as I can.  For over 20 years, I have been well-acquainted with Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  In light of that, it didn’t seem right to do anything short of following protocol out of respect for the office, even though I highly dislike the bulk of the policies that come from it.  I also have grandchildren and people that I mentor to set an example for.  I have called him “President Obama” or “the President” since then.  I would have felt awful if I took a combative tone with Senator Klausmeier.

True success in a fight is measured not only by the result, but also by the way the fight was fought.  We should always seek to fight hard.  We should also fight cleanly.

The Joebberwacky

The Joebberwacky

‘Twas thrillig, and the slimy joves
 Did grint and gibble on the stage;
 All dumbsy were the politcoves,
 And the dume bydns outrabe.

“Beware the Joebberwack, my son!
The lips that sneer, the teeth that flash!
 Beware the Barrybarry bird, and shun
 The debious Wassersnatch!”

He shone his shiny pate by hand:
 Long time the moxiny joe he sought—
So rested he by the Dumdum tree,
And stood awhile without a thought.

And as in matthyooish thought he stood,
 The Joebberwack, with eyes of blame,
 Came overcombing through the oogley wood,
 And sneerkled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
 The lolling tongue went blabber-back!
He left it dead, and with his empty head
 He went amphtraking back.

“And hast thou slain the Joebberwack?
 Come to my arms, my gopish boy!
 O barriless day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas thrillig, and the slimy joves
 Did grint and gibble on the stage;
 All dumbsy were the politcoves,
 And the dume bydns outrabe.

A kosher Elvis sandwich

Elvis Presley was known for many things including a peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich. I just made a kosher version of it. Take two slices of challah, a healthy schmear of peanut butter, three strips of bacon, cut off the tip of the banana, and feel guilty for eating it.

Messiness

Our 22-month-old granddaughter lives with us and as little ones are known to do, she made a total mess of the living room. My wife and I were going out one evening and she lamented over the mess. Wanting to alleviate her stress over the mess, I told her, “that’s not a mess, it’s camouflage for a clean home.”