Friday, July 3, 2009

DEAR OCCUPANT: An Open Letter to the White House

I was watching the news and thinking of what an incredibly difficult time the White House has had. They walked into a financial crisis of unbelievable proportions. They had the entire Iraq War/Guantanamo Bay/Torture/etc. issue left on their plate as well. And in both cases, I believe that the situation was much worse in reality than they believed it was during the campaign. They discover that much of the legal work of the previous administration's Justice Department looks like it came from first year law students homework papers. Causing the new Justice Department to drop several very important criminal cases.

They have dealt with constant right wing attacks and more media attention than any President other than Bush 43. (Don't forget to call block Rep. Cantor & the rest of the Republicans. Because you obviously haven't spent enough time and energy coming to a middle ground with the Right. Then don't forget answering to the Left when you take time to talk to the Right and come away empty handed.)

Take time to initiate legislation on Health Care, Energy and put together a budget. Don't forget those damned press dinners that you're supposed to be funny at...without stepping on anybody's sensibilities.

Add in North Korea, Iran, Flu, Flood and a few other miscellaneous disasters and you have a very tired and worn administration.

And we're ONLY six months into the Obama administration!!!! (And you're surprised they haven't been perfect? Let's be greatful for what HAS been accomplished!)

There is lots of room to disagree with the President on any number of issues, but it is important to realize that they have accomplished a great deal with a staff that is only half confirmed and the other half appointed by Bush 43. It is also important that they realize that we support them in general even when we disagree on specifics.

Please feel free to copy this letter and e-mail to the White House to show your support for their efforts.


Dear Occupant:

I don't know who you are. You may be a steward with one too many events today. You may be a Secret Service agent tired of the steady stream of visitors. You may be a First Lady who wants to walk around her back yard garden without a press commentary on her fashion sense! Maybe you're a line cook who's tired of the many events the White House seems to host. You could be a tired assistant to the Press Secretary who secretly dreams that the next time a reporter asks a question concerning the President's smoking habits you look at them and say, "Are you high????" You could be the gardener who's sick of people trampling your lawn. Maybe you are one of the many White House children who would really like an extra hour with their mommy or daddy. Maybe you're the Mommy or Daddy wanting that extra hour with your child! You could be anyone.

You are an occupant of the White House. A White House, whose head of household is undertaking a historic revision of our society at a time of great peril to our nation. (No wonder you're under constant attack.) But more important than the current head of household historic nature, is the fact that you are the physical representation of our great nation. We as a nation embody great diversity in color, religion and philosophy. And you are part of the public face of America.

Thank you for your service. And always remember, we will disagree often with your current head of household. We will voice our opinion with certainty and understanding that even if we disagree with his actions, he has the best interests of our country at heart. And always remember that we recognize both his effort and your service.

Keep this note. Pull it out as needed to remind yourself why you do this...because it's important! Pass this along to some other White House occupant in need of a smile. (Rumor has it that this message is best received when crumbled in a ball and thrown at the head of the recipient!)


A grateful American

Saturday, June 20, 2009


It's midnight in America as I write this. It's 9:30 in the morning in Tehran. The world waits in desperate hope that the streets of Tehran do not run with the blood of it's people before the sun sets. The rooftops have echoed all night with the sounds of the people shouting "Allah Akbar" or "God is Great". This was the cry of the 1979 Revolution in Iran. A warning to the secular ruler of Iran that God is greater than even the leaders of the country. And now it is a cry of warning to the religious leadership to remember the same warning. God is greater than even the religious leaders of the nation.

For the past week, we have watched the events in Iran unfold. We have heard stories of beatings, riots, marches and protest. We have read the words of the people on Twitter and somehow have suddenly found ourselves bonded to the people of Iran. But there is little we can do in practical terms.

We stare at the photos that have surfaced on the web. The women who stand defiant before the police in their hajib imploring the police to remember that they are all Iranians. The old men who march silently in protest of an election they feel was stolen. The young ones who fight back when the police try to make them disperse.

We hear stories of teens who hunt the Basij (a volunteer militia who has violently attacked the reformers) and kill them in the street.

On Friday, the Supreme Leader of Iran declared the election to be valid. He ordered the people to stop protesting in the streets. He has declared that future marches will be met with violence. The next march is scheduled for today at 6:30 AM our time. A bloodbath seems inevitable.

And we in the West wait in outraged silence. Because there is nothing else we can do. We will not commit troops to protect the citizens. Our cries of outrage are presented to the people as "interference" and the supporters of Ahmadineja (who are numerous) believe it Our words do nothing more than incite them to increase their support of the religious leadership of Iran. Because they still remember that in 1953, the United States overthrew thier government and they have not forgiven us for our meddling.

It is a unique point in the relationship between our countries. Half a world separates us. Language and religion define our differences. We think of them as "the Evil Empire" and they still see us as the "Great Satan". But perhaps we as Americans have finally seen enough to realize that there is there is much that joins us together in the name of humanity.

I do not know what will happen at today's march...but we must never again forget that not every Iraqi or every Muslim is evil. They are humans like us, with beliefs and familys, fears and hopes. Let us pray tonight that God in whatever form he takes remembers the people of Iran.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Poker & Pay-Go: An "All In" Bet

I’m a degenerate! At least, that’s what they tell me.

Why am I a degenerate? I’m a degenerate because I like to play games. Not just any games…but one particular game. A game that is as American as apple pie and cowboys. I’m a poker player. I’m one of an estimated 15 million Americans who regularly play poker online.

People who don’t play will tell you that poker is game of luck played in smoke-filled rooms by old men who curse as they lose their life savings on the turn of a bad card. People who don’t play will tell you tales of children who steal their parent’s credit card to run up enormous charges that cost them the family home. People who don’t play will tell you that it’s a sin to gamble because soldiers threw dice during the Crucifixion. (And any poker player will tell you that it’s one thing to figure odds on making a flush….but only crazy people bet dice!)

But the people I play with on line will tell you other stories. They will tell you how they work in remote locations and online poker is how they relax in the middle of nowhere. They will tell you that they are disabled vets from Iraq & Afghanistan and this is a sport they can still play like a man. They will tell you they live on a fixed income and the lower stakes tables available online (some as low as $0.01/$0.05) are affordable where a live casino is not. They will tell you they are college math majors who buy their books off of their winnings. They will tell you that if I am a degenerate for playing poker….there’s currently 35,980 fellow degenerates online with me on my favorite site as I type this!

There is a difference between games of chance and games of skill. When you walk into a casino you have many opportunities to try your luck. Slot machines, roulette, craps tables and even Blackjack are games that are played against the house. These house games have certain rules that can affect the outcome of the wager. Like the dealer stands on 17 in Blackjack or the slot machine is designed to pay out a certain percentage of the time. Poker is unique in that it is played against other players…not the house. You can win with a bad hand by betting large amounts at a player you know is too scared to call you. You can control your destiny on a poker table with a few good “reads” on your fellow players and rudimentary math knowledge. Because that’s what poker is all about…math and people. As the saying goes, “Play the people, not the cards!”

But in 2006, George Bush signed into law the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) which the government insists prohibits my rights to play a game online that all participants entered willingly into.

The UIGEA was attached to the Safe Ports Act to satisfy the conservative religious base of the GOP. Its’ passage was justified because prohibition of internet gambling would keep minors from playing, prevent problem gamblers from gambling and poker sites could not be used to launder terrorist money! (Seriously that’s what it’s supposed to do!)

So let’s examine these claims of the benefits of prohibition. (Remember prohibition has such a wonderful track record of success in America.) Even with the passage of UIGEA, the U.S. still represents the largest percentage of Internet poker players world wide. And since the UIGEA offers no enforcement on mandatory age limits or limits players with gambling addictions, its’ usefulness is highly questionable. Its’ success relies on keeping people from participating. (Good luck with that!) Even Department of Justice attorneys will admit that the law they are trying to enforce is so poorly written that it creates more problems than it solves. For instance, while it differentiates between games of “skill” and games of “chance”, it doesn’t define either term. The lack of definition leaves poker in a legal limbo. But the religious right wants to make sure that I (and millions of Americans like myself) follow their personal religious beliefs in lockstep! And they don’t believe in Poker!

Now the only real issue that should be of concern to Americans as a whole (as opposed to issues of concern to those of us who actually play poker) is the aspect of money laundering for terrorists. This was actually what got the UIGEA passed originally. What politician up for re-election wants to vote against a law that keeps terrorists from getting funding? It never matters during a heated election that the law was a bad law, what matters is you are on the record as supporting Muslim terrorists if you vote against UIGEA. But again, success depends upon people not playing poker online….and millions do every day! (Sadly, the poker sites themselves can easily monitor games for discrepancies that would indicate money laundering, but UIGEA doesn’t require them to do that.)

During his confirmation hearing, Attorney General Holder was asked if he would enforce the UIGEA. His reply was that he would because it was the law of the land. And last week, the Justice Department seized an estimated $34-36 million dollars in online poker payouts.

Now I’m not complaining about that. It was to be expected. A court battle will help clear up the issue. Poker sites have replaced the money in the accounts of the recipients and alternate ways to distribute winnings will be made available. But this does bring to light one very important aspect of online poker that could have an impact on ALL Americans. That $36 million dollars was only one week of payouts. It is estimated that over $16 billion dollars is held in the accounts of online poker sites. That’s a lot of money being taxed overseas and not here at home. In fact, it is estimated that over $3 billion dollars a year in tax revenues could be gained by legalizing online poker. (And that’s a conservative estimate!) With our country running record deficits, it only seems prudent to make use of this additional source of federal and state revenue.

Currently there is legislation pending in the House that would establish clear guidelines for internet poker. The Internet Gambling Regulation Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2267) would:
“establish a federal regulatory and enforcement framework under which Internet gambling operators could obtain licenses authorizing them to accept bets and wagers from individuals in the U.S., on the condition that they maintain effective protections against underage gambling, compulsive gambling, money laundering and fraud, and enforce prohibitions or restrictions on types of gambling prohibited by states, and Indian Tribes.”

Basically, this proposed law would not only provide protection to internet gamblers, it would also tax and regulate the industry providing much needed revenue for the Obama administrations many new programs. With the current push to “pay as you go” on all new programs, legalizing poker could be a definite win/win for all concerned.

So even if you are not a poker player, pick your favorite proposed program requiring funding. Then call your Congressman and tell them that you want your favorite program funded with poker money. All they need to do is to support H.R. 2267!

Monday, June 1, 2009


On Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 10:00 AM, a man (allegedly from Merriam, KS) walked into the Reformation Lutheran Church of Wichita Kansas. He shot and killed an usher; turned and walked out, threatening two other people as he was leaving.

It is a sad story. It is even sadder when you realize that many “Christians” are rejoicing in the death of this usher who was shot in God’s house. The usher was Dr. George Tiller. He ran an abortion clinic in Wichita and was one of the few providers of “late-term” abortions in this country.

Comments on one conservative website include these:

A-hole vs a-hole, no humans involved. Maggot doc done for and maggot killer headed to prison forever...a 2-fer.
dusty @ 3:01 PM CDT, May 31, 2009

We have removed consequences for thought and action from the equation, from not keeping score at kids sporting events to people being able to make racist comments and still be recommended to the Supreme Court. Hopefully, there will be more "culling of the herd".
Craig Knapp @ 3:00 PM CDT, May 31, 2009

Oh well! A little more life will go on without his life.
toby hill @ 2:59 PM CDT, May 31, 2009

For too long we Christians have been held down by the godless liberals! We need to arise and establish Jesus Christ as the leader of this country. Catholics, Jews and Muslims must convert or leave!
Christians Fight Back @ 2:42 PM CDT, May 31, 2009

Why is everyone upset over one more "late term abortion"? He lived 64 more years than his victims!
Fred @ 2:42 PM CDT, May 31, 2009

Thank God I hope Tiller rots in hell
Tom Mahlum @ 2:41 PM CDT, May 31, 2009

TILLER DEAD, I AM SO HAPPY @ 5:47 PM CDT, May 31, 2009

BABIES CAN LIVE @ 5:43 PM CDT, May 31, 2009

This is what the most vocal Christians are saying! And I simply can’t (or won’t allow myself) to believe that this is what most Christians think about violent attacks in the name of Jesus. But all too often, Christians (like Muslims) refuse to call out their own for terrorist acts that reflect poorly on their real beliefs. And that is what the murder of Dr. Tiller is….domestic terrorism. You do not have to agree with his profession, you can question his morals, but the act of his murder is a separate issue from his occupation and should be addressed as such.

Many years ago, when I still attended a fundamentalist church, I was taught that God viewed all sin equally. Man might think one “sin” ranked as more evil than another, but God sees all sin as wrong….without degree!

As I thought about the doctor’s death, I remembered a story I had read many years ago. About another sinner who “deserved death” and the response given by the “man” asked to comment on her sin!

John Chapter 8
1Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

I wonder, what would Jesus think of Dr. Tiller and his murderer? Would he be proud of the comments of his followers? Would he rejoice in the actions done in his name today? If Jesus really does someday return in the “blink of an eye”, what do you want him to read on your last blog? Or are you so “without sin” that you’re not really worried?

Now is the time for all Christians regardless of your positon on abortion, to raise your voice in protest to those who would kill others in YOUR name!

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Raining....

It's raining today. I've heard a lot of complaints about the weather. It's ruined our weekend at the lake, it's too cold to use the pool, I wanted to grill outdoors today, so forth and so on.

We have reached a point in our culture, where today is the "SUMMER KICKOFF" weekend and not the day of remembrance it should be. Today is the day that we should all take time to remember those that have given their life in the service of their country. Four thousand, nine hundred and sixty two so far in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are those who have blogged today about the innocent who die in war. The so-called "collateral damage" that accompanies any war. And make no mistake...those deaths are not to be minimalized. Every Iraqi child killed during the "liberation" of Iraq had someone who mourned their loss as bitterly as the mother of any soldier. A great deal of time could be spent in discussing whether those deaths were justified. BUT NOT TODAY!

Today is the day when we as a nation should honor the memory of our fallen sons and daughters. Whether we agreed with their mission, today is a day that we collectively take responsibility for thier blood. We as a people elected the officials that set the missions and authorize the funds. We as a people offered the lives of our children up as a testament to our collective ideals. And they go! And they die! And (for better or worse) they change the world on our behalf. For that service and sacrifice on this day we honor their memory.

Today we do not debate the merits of the job they do at our behest, but honor the blood they shed at our request. Because even when the mission itself is questionable or not well thought out....American Armed Services are on the ground doing thier job! We owe them respect for that.

It's a somber and gloomy day. It's raining...and perhaps that is appropriate. Even the heavens should weep for the loss of our soldiers.

And after we have reflected upon the blood that we have spilled, perhaps we as a nation will remember how precious that blood is. Tomorrow we will think about the loss before we commit the troops. Perhaps we will be certain that the loss is justified by the mission. Perhaps we will remember that war is a reality and not a B-movie! The extras don't get up after the filming and have coffee. In the real world we bury our children in war!

God Speed to our fallen countrymen! Our prayers go to your families. And thank you!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

NOTRE DAME: An American Experience

On Sunday, President Obama gave the Commencement Address to approximately 3,000 graduates at Notre Dame and was given an honorary law degree. It was controversial because the President has supported a women’s right to choose. It was controversial because Catholic Universities have been asked not to bestow honors on pro-choice speakers, yet Notre Dame has given many past presidents an honorary degree. Their decision to give the President that honor has cost them an estimated $13 million dollars in alumni funding. Many students wore cards on the top of their graduation caps that showed a cross with two baby foot prints to the on looking cameras. Approximately 30 students skipped the ceremony to participate in a prayer vigil during the ceremony.

The ceremony had the potential of being a political nightmare for the President and a disastrous memory for graduates and their parents. Instead it was a beautiful reminder of what is best about our country!

What happened? Thirty-seven protestors outside were arrested for trespassing. The President of the University spoke on why he felt it important to listen to opposing views. He also gave strong voice to the fact that Catholics strongly oppose Obama’s stance on stem cell research and abortion. President Obama’s speech was interrupted three times by protesters yelling from inside the stadium. Each time they were shouted down by students. No graduates walked out in protest. And a graduating class was urged to “find a way to live together as one human family”.

During his speech, President Obama looked at one of the great questions of modern political discourse:

“The question, then, is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?”

And that was the beauty of last Sunday afternoon…an honest discussion was held on abortion without either side “demonizing” the other. Yes, there was protest! But that is part of being an American. Yes, there were people attempting to disrupt the ceremony…but they left quietly after their moment of civil disobedience. (And as someone who once disrupted a Chancellor’s inauguration…who am I to complain about that?) There were students who chose to boycott the ceremony, but that was their right as an American. (And while I do not agree with their viewpoint, I respect their integrity.) The students who wore the cross on their caps silently & respectfully stood up to one of the most popular Presidents of modern times. It became a unique opportunity to put into action the principals that they had spent the last four years learning at this Jesuit institution.

And in the face of this opposition, President Obama spoke of the importance of avoiding “caricature” when debating policy in America. He did not duck the issue but talked of finding common ground that we can agree on. Instead of laying claim to a battleground of differences, he asked us to consider issues with “Open hearts, open minds, fair words.”

He correctly assessed that we will never all agree on the abortion debate. But what we CAN agree on is the idea that we can actively work to decrease abortions. We must not make Doctors who are pro-life to perform abortions to keep their jobs. We must help to make adoption easier and to provide health care to expectant mothers who choose to keep their child. Common ground found through “fair words”. If only we could do the same all the time with the issues that divide us as Americans.

It was a great AMERICAN day filled with voices of opposition raised not in anger but in hope of making tomorrow a better day. Fifty years from now those graduating seniors will remember fondly last Sunday. It gave me hope and made me proud to be an American!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Next week the Republican National Committee will be holding a special meeting. By "special", I mean that it took 16 RNC members from 16 different states and a little used procedual rule to override the objection to this meeting by Committee Chairman Steele.

The reason for this auspicious meeting? To vote on three resolutions for the party.

Resolution 1: To urge Republican lawmakers to reject earmarks. (A noteworthy purpose...are you listening Sen. Bond?)

Resolution 2: To commend Republican legislators for opposing "bailouts and reckless spending bills". (Wording that denounced Republicans Spectre, Snowe & Collins was dropped after Arlen Spectre joined the Democratic Party.)

But the main reason for calling the meeting is Resolution 3: Which "renames" the Democratic Party as the DEMOCRAT SOCIALIST PARTY.

You have to marvel at the arrogance of any group of grown men (and a few women) coming together to vote on changing the name of a rival organization. (Most people older than Junior High do not have to have a group vote to resort to name calling.) This is somewhat like Exxon-Mobile voting to refer to Greenpeace as "THE TREEHUGGERS". Or Planned Parenthood voting to refer to NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE as "NATIONAL RIGHT OF BREEDERS TO LIFE".


The ever-shrinking GOP needs to realize that Americans want them to offer solutions to real problems. Formal voting for name-calling isn't going to advance their cause.

Be watching next week when Eric Cantor threatens to hold his breath until he turns blue if Obama doesn't resign from office immediately!