Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Fat-Free Government

First Lady Michele Obama wants to put every American on a fat-free, salt-free, everything-else-free diet. She’s enlisted the help of restaurant chains such as Red Lobster. She would deprive Red Lobster’s customers of their favorite fare – the restaurant’s famous biscuits.

Well, we at the Tea Party want to put the U.S. government on a diet. Like any dieter, the government balks at the notion of cutting down on its favorite foods, such as pork. They don’t seem to realize how sodium-laden pork is.

We want to trim some of the fat in government programs, too, which are bloated with useless bodies simply circulating the taxpayers’ money without providing any discernible service. Even parks have signs: Do Not Feed the Animals. Wild animals can fend for themselves and so can sentient human beings.

Nuts are another favorite food of the government. They like to fee them to the squirrels. No, not the mentally ill; we mean, colleges and universities teaching false science and inviting terrorist leaders to come speak at their podiums. We mean supporting green energy companies that can’t possibly meet our society’s energy needs. We’d be better off feeding some gerbils to run our turbines than to rely on Green Inc.’s ideas to provide alternative energy.

Finally, the government needs to cut down on its sugar, especially around election time. All that cash they hand out to community organizations and unions to garner the vote is no good for the national wasteline. Protein is the answer to keep our economy going, not sugar. Government needs to get out of the way of business so it can operate free of burdensome regulations, hire more people, and make America once again the powerhouse it once was.

Americans have a job to do, too: exercise your rights as citizens. Don’t just sit there on your Lazy Boy, watching our country fall to pieces. Get up and do something. Get involved. Exercise those citizen muscles. Give your patriotic heart a workout.   If you don’t, one day you’ll find you no longer have the strength or will to get up out of your chair to protest and hold your government accountable.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Attack Watch Warning

At the height of the Cold War, during the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, my parents warned this day would come, when government censors would lay down the political speech law and neighbors would snitch on neighbors and teachers would encourage gullible students to betray their parents’ conversations, searching for any signs of subversion.

As our Freedom of Speech rights erode before our very eyes, we are returning to the anti-sedition atmosphere of 15th Century England and her American colonies.  On mere hearsay – one neighbor snitching on another – anyone overheard expressing criticism of the King, Parliament, a colonial governor, or one of the colonial assemblies, could be immediately arrested, put in the stocks, have their ears lopped off, fined, imprisoned, and even summarily executed.

In the Soviet Union, children were encouraged to snitch on their parents.  Millions were arrested and sent to Stalin’s labor camps, never to be seen again.  Dissidents were declared mentally ill and forced to undergo psychological treatment for their “delusions” of freedom.  In the 20th Century, businesses and advertisers were easily intimidated.  Liberal control of the news media in the Sixties made it easy for them to peddle their propaganda, most notoriously when CBS’ Walter Cronkite lied to the American public and declared that we’d lost the Vietnam War.

With social media, political correctness has been taken to a whole new level.  No one should be fooled by the Internet’s seeming anonymity.  If someone wants to find you and intimidate you, they can and will.

CNN just reported on a man and woman living near the Mexican border who were hung from a border crossing bridge by a notorious drug cartel.  The pair, in their twenties, were part of a social media watch group reporting on and posting messages criticizing the cartel’s activities.  Even though their identities were supposed to be safe and anonymous, the cartel managed to learn who they were and execute them for daring the challenge the cartel.

According to CNN, the two mangled bodies hung “like cuts of meat from a pedestrian bridge.
[The] woman was hogtied and disemboweled, her intestines protruding from three deep cuts on her abdomen. Attackers left her topless, dangling by her feet and hands from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo.  A bloodied man next to her was hanging by his hands, his right shoulder severed so deeply the bone was visible.  Signs left near the bodies declared the pair, both apparently in their early 20s, were killed for posting denouncements of drug cartel activities on a social network.”  In addition, their ears and fingers were mutilated.

“’This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the Internet,’ one sign said. ‘You better (expletive) pay attention. I'm about to get you.’

“The gruesome scene sent a chilling message at a time when online posts have become some of the loudest voices reporting violence in Mexico. In some parts of the country, threats from cartels have silenced traditional media. Sometimes even local authorities fear speaking out.
Mexico's notoriously ruthless drug gangs regularly hang victims from bridges and highway overpasses.”
“The placards threatened those who report violent incidents through social media networks.  It listed two blogs by name, Al Rojo Vivo and Blog del Narco.  They were signed ‘Z,’ a possible reference for the Zetas cartel, which operates in the area.  Blog del Narco is a website that deals exclusively with news related to drug violence in Mexico. Its creator remains anonymous.  On the Al Rojo Vivo forum, where citizens can make anonymous tips, one person wrote: "Don't be afraid to denounce. It's very difficult for them to find out who denounced. They only want to scare society.”

One blogger retorted, “Enough! If we shut up today, we will have lost the ground that we have gained. This is the time to show what we are made of!”  Blog del Narco told CNN its site is not dedicated to denouncing crime, as are other sites.

“In addition, we are not in favor or against any criminal group, we only inform as things happen," the statement said.

On Attack, the content seems more geared towards attacking Republican opponents than reporting any attacks on Democrats.  The Liberals are worried because the new social media gives a forum to their opponents that didn’t exist before.  They’re not as in control of “the message” as they once were and must adapt and create new methods of attack and counterattack.

It’s politics as usual, and yet it’s not.  While you would expect candidates to argue back and forth, debating the issues – it’s the American way – it’s quite another thing to start taking names and issuing vague threats that insinuate legal repercussions for expressing your opinion might be forthcoming from someone who doesn’t agree with you, therefore, making you a liar and culpable for libel and slander.  Fear of criminal charges is what froze free speech and dissent in Colonial America, eventually bringing about our First Amendment.

Criminal gangs believe in the more direct approach:  summarily executing people who denounce them.  Making an example of anti-drug bloggers is a handy way for legislatures to pass drug legalization laws:  look what happens if you don’t.  Just legalize these soul-killing, judgment-warping drugs and you won’t see any more horrible pictures like the graphic photo on, for which they have posted a serious warning to anyone about to view the photo.

This has been the way of tyranny since Ancient Times, when Caesar Augustus passed the first, official sedition law:  Thou shalt not criticize the Lord, thy Government, nor its bureaucrats, nor its scribes, nor its laborers, nor its drug-runners.  So sayeth the Marxists, the Liberals, the Islamists, and the U.S. government.  Amen.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Social Issues Do Matter

Brooklyn and Queens residents, unhappy with Democrat President Obama’s stewardship of the economy and , state assemblyman David Weprin, the Democrat running for disgraced Congressman Weiner’s vacant seat, an orthodox Jew who voted for gay marriage and supported the Ground Zero mosque, sent a message to legislators:  don’t ignore us.

Republicans scored an upset victory in the special election on Tuesday when the district voted for retired media executive and political novice, Bob Turner.  At reporting time, with over 80 percent of precincts reporting, Turner won 54 percent of the vote to Weprin’s 46 percent.

According to Fox News, “The heavily Democratic district, which spans parts of Queens and Brooklyn, had never sent a Republican to the House. The race was supposed to be an easy win for Democrats, who have a 3-1 ratio registration advantage in the district.  But frustration with the continued weak national economy gave Republicans the edge. 

“We've been asked by the people of this district to send a message to Washington,” Turner told supporters after the landmark victory. “I hope they hear it loud and clear. We've been told this is a referendum. Mr. President, we are on the wrong track. We have had it with an irresponsible fiscal policy which endangers the entire economy.”

Turner promised to push back on Obama's policies if elected.  Prominent Republicans including former Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch supported him.  Orthodox Jews, who tend to be conservative on social issues, expressed anger over Weprin's vote in the Assembly to legalize gay marriage. In July, New York became one of six states to recognize same-sex nuptials.
Weprin was also challenged on his support of a proposed Islamic center and mosque near the World Trade Center site, in lower Manhattan. 

Turner’s victory serves as a repudiation of moderate pundits’ contention that a candidate can’t win on the “social issues” (unless the candidate is a Liberal).  As always, the economy is the first issue in any campaign.  But obviously, social issues – gay marriage, the Ground Zero mosque – were a factor, and in heavily-Democrat Queens and Brooklyn, no less.

If Conservative values can weather the storm in such a Democrat stronghold, imagine what Conservative voters in New Jersey could do?  Or out in the Bay Area of San Francisco, even?  Out there, east of the Bay Bridge, in the Shire-like suburbs of San Francisco, are some very brave Tea Partiers, probably the bravest in the country.

The residents of Brooklyn and Queens wouldn’t claim membership to the Tea Party.  But they still let go of the old party-line mentality and voted with their individual consciences, not their collective consciences.  Now it’s up to newly-minted Congressman Turner to keep his promises to those who have entrusted him with their votes.

There’s hope yet for Queens.  Maybe they’ll even give the Triboro Bridge back its original name.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Winning Minds and Hearts

In the summer leading up to the 9/11 attacks, a threat was growing in the minds and hearts of Americans.  The constant pulse of threats from Al-Qaeda suggesting something dire was in the offing.  The World Trade Center was the first, logical target in everyone’s minds.

When Osama Bin Laden declared his War on America in the late 1990s, no one mistook his meaning.  He made himself quite clear.  During the first Gulf War, Saudi Arabia was next on Saddam Hussein’s itinerary, after Kuwait.  Osama Bin Laden offered his considerable Muslim forces to Saudi Arabia, but the Kingdom chose America’s help, instead.  Bin Laden was mortally offended.

According to Michael Scheuer’s new book, Osama Bin Laden,  Bin Laden had no military training, but joined up with the Afghan mujhadin to learn the craft.  He lent considerable money and construction supplies from his father’s company to build roads, tunnels, hospitals, and fortresses.  He was always a hands-on kind of guy, according to Scheuer, piloting construction equipment right along with his crews and fighting alongside the Afghans.

The Afghans weren’t happy with their Arab allies, who were only anxious to commit suicide missions and go straight to Allah instead of consolidating their forces and winning the war against the Soviet Union.  Eventually, the war ended when the Soviet Union ran out of money and support.  Thus, the victory for the Afghans was a default victory.  For Bin Laden, though, he gained much fame and honor for his courage in battle.  He’d made a name for himself.

His father, Muhammed, was a wealthy businessman who made his money in construction.  He was the primary contractor for the Saudi government and used his own money to build the gold dome on the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, believing that the appearance of the Mahdi would occur in his lifetime.

It did not.  But he passed his yearning for an umma – a worldwide caliphate – to his son, Osama.  Osama believed the West could be defeated by bleeding it dry economically through constant, on-going wars.  He wanted Western forces out of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.  He resented their presence and all the problems Westerners brought with them – bare-headed women who drive, nightclubs, theaters, alcohol, and what he regarded as impiety.

Scheurer wrote his frankly cheerleading tome out of a sense that other writers have been unjust in their portrayal of Bin Laden.  Scheurer contends, for instance, the Ayman al-Zawahiri needed Bin Laden (and his money) more than Bin Laden needed him, and that Bin Laden didn’t share al-Zawahiri’s religious zealotry.  Moreover, he writes than Bin Laden was very well-versed in Islamic ideology and went right to the source – Mohammed, the Prophet – for his inspiration.  He didn’t need the inculcations of authors like Sayid Qutb, an Egyptian. 

Scheurer is also incensed at the way Western authorities have demeaned Bin Laden’s reputation, taking as their sources Bin Laden’s enemies and alienated relatives, like his daughter-in-law.  He does admit, though, that Osama was a puritanical Wahhabist who, like George Washington, enjoyed farming and gardening.  Bin Laden, he says, disliked living in cities where people were more likely to be corrupted.

Bin Laden, he goes on, wasn’t interested in any one particular Muslim groups plight, like the Palestinians, but the plight of all Muslims around the world, whose religion he believed, like others before him, was “under attack.”  Therein lies the problem.  The city of Jerusalem, for instance, existed long before the 7th Century A.D.  Once the Muslims claim a territory, they feel it’s theirs for all time, and any city they take from some enemy that that enemy reclaims, they believe is “stolen” from them.

Most Liberals have found it convenient to take up the anti-Western call of the muezzin.  Even some Republican candidates, like Ron Paul, have jumped onto the blame America bandwagon.  We had a lot of nerve trying to “impose” democracy upon the Muslim world, instead of, for instance, blasting it out of existence altogether, thereby eliminating the threat for once and for all, the way the radical Muslims would.  We believed, perhaps foolishly, in trying to change hearts and minds.

Any average American who remembers the summer of 2001 knows that’s a fantasy.  Even Scheurer, cheerleader though he is, contends as much.  He’s right; we’re not going to change their minds or their hearts.  Unfortunately, they’ve managed to change the hearts and minds of some of the very people who would lead our country out of freedom into eternal bondage.

The Muslims believe in a forced piety.  We believe in a voluntary piety.  Last night, Ron Paul stood up for that forced bondage, blaming America’s sins for the Muslim’s world’s faults.  Scheurer paints the now-dead Bin Laden as a beloved, generous, pious figure revered by the Muslim world.  Pres. Bush, a pious, devoted Christian was jeered on his inauguration day, defiled by every sort of adolescent insult his enemies could hurl at him, and banished from Ground Zero on the first anniversary of the attacks, while he was still president.

Most people would say going to war in the Middle East wasn’t so much wrong, but a waste of time, money, and lives on a single-minded, though not necessarily simple-minded people who prefer shacks and shackles to America’s freedom and what they consider the accompanying moral perils.

For all his piety, Bin Laden was not a believer in conversion.  Jihad meant only one thing to him – killing.  The Muslims, to the last are, if not outright violent, belligerent and arrogant, even when they’re peaceful.  If they can’t subdue us one way, through violence, they’ll do it legally, or economically or socially.  Clearly, they’ve seduced some of our most influential leaders into assigning all blame to America and foisting this propaganda off on a young, sheepish American public.  Obama’s administration has carefully removed all references to Islamic terrorism from the 9/11 narrative.  Textbooks teach students how prejudice and ignorance brought about the 9/11 attacks; that America called the horrific day of judgment upon herself.  The Media, up until 9/11 itself, was very careful not to show any of the footage from that day.

Fortunately, reality has a way of making itself known.  While some Americans instinctively want to fight back against Islamic incursion, it is the Muslims who hate and fear us more.  That is why they believe they must exterminate us (if we can’t be converted) as an infectious disease.

America’s “wars” in the Middle East were an attempt – albeit, a misguided one – to free the citizens from slavery both under tyrannical dictators and theocratic clerics.  It seems never have occurred to anyone that the Middle East – especially its men – don’t want to be free.  Both societies – Western and Muslim – regard one another as a threat.  In order to win, the Muslims need their American allies to disarm the West, both militarily and philosophically.

In order to preserve our freedom, America must muster up its courage to face down this threat.  We must elect leaders who believe in, not denounce, America.  We must teach our young that freedom is worth fighting for.  We must teach them that good is not something that can be forced down another person’s throat, chained to them like an anchor-weight, or beaten into them.  Good is something that must be invited into one’s heart freely, with no threats other than banishment from an eternal life of goodness.

Monday, September 12, 2011

News of The Towers of York

I have the pleasure of announcing that my poem, The Towers of York - A Ballad, was accepted by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum’s Artist’s Registry.  Based at the World Trade Center, this is an electronic archive of poems, stories and artwork related to 9/11.  I’m so grateful to them for this honor.  When I showed the poem to my family, which was first published in a local newspaper on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, my brother (the one who always teased me) liked it and thought it would wind up in a September 11th museum someday.  I didn’t believe it (although I submitted just in case he was right).  Some 75,000 poems have been written about September 11th.  But then, today, I just happened to google the poem’s title to see if anyone has noticed it other than here on my blogsite and what do you know?  There it was:

Sisterly thanks to the brother who teased;
With my 9/11 poem he was always well-pleased.
Thanks, too, to Mom, who was with me that day.
In our hearts the Twin Towers always will stay.

Joy and Sorrow at Dawn

The danger of not having suffered any terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001, is that new stories about that date take on a tall-story aspect; we’ve heard so many stories in these ten years that our tolerance for the horror has increased.  Instead of being horrified, we listen somewhat incredulously and may even inadvertently laugh at what was then a terrifying moment.

Perhaps it’s just that time has anesthetized us to the pain.

Carey Matthew came to the George Washington Bridge on Sunday morning with his infant daughter, Sabrina.  On 9/11/01, Matthew was a student at Columbia University’s Dental School.  He lived in the apartments just across the river.  That morning, he’d just gotten in from a long journey from his small town in Louisiana.  Having not gotten in until 1:30 in the morning on September 11th, he slept in and missed his first class.

He was surprised to learn that Flight 11 had flown over the bridge and very near to his apartment building at quarter to nine that morning.

“I never heard it,” he says.  “I got up late and turned on CNN.  While I was getting ready for class, I heard them announce that the Twin Towers had been hit.  I looked out my window and then I could see the smoke.”

A classmate later told him that the professor in their early morning class, upon hearing about the attacks, yelled at them, “Get out!  Get out!”  But nothing happened to Columbia University.  He and his wife live in Fort Lee now, a beautiful girl he met at a bar in Manhattan.  She and her friends spoke Spanish; he did not.  The other girls spoke to him.  Finally, his future wife turned around, after her friends poked her, and smiled at him.

“She was so beautiful!”  Carey says.

As we spoke, Sabrina studied the camera and the photographer most seriously.  A breeze was blowing that day, just as it had ten years ago.  Getting a picture of the stars and stripes was just as technically difficult as it was outside our then-office building in Wayne.  The trip to the bridge is as annual event as the day of the week makes it.

The trip there was to remember those who died on 9/11, to thank God for the trip to the bridge ten years and one week earlier, to thank Him for sparing, to pray He’d continue to protect the bridge and those who travel over it, ask forgiveness for weakness.

There was sorrow.  But in the dawning light of September 11, 2011, there was also hope in the voice of a young dentist in the midst of a new career of giving people their smiles and a new life.  There was also a new life itself in a wide-eyed, studious baby girl named Sabrina, named for the character in the film.

Feeling sad and mournful is difficult in the light of a new day and a new life.  Not that we shouldn’t remember – we forget at our peril.  Carey will probably bring Sabrina there every September 11th, as well as possible future siblings, and tell them what happened that day in 2001.  I hope he also tells her what didn’t happen that day.  The bridge did not fall to terrorism on September 11, 2001.  God willing, it never will.  In the light of dawn, every September 11th, we will know that while there’s sorrow, there’s also hope.

At a September 11th ceremony on September 10th on the Morristown Green, a first-responder who worked on the pile after the attacks noticed the rain clouds forming overhead.  He said he was glad; that ever since 9/11, he’s feared blue-sky days.  For those of us who remember 9/11, such a simple thing as a clear blue sky will always give a quick pierce to our hearts, make us cringe for a moment. 

But the morning of 9/11 was also notable for the coolness of the air.  A heat wave had just ended, and although it was still a warm, late summer morning, the change in temperature gave the air an exhilarating freshness.  That first responder, suffering from a number of lung ailments which will eventually claim his life, can no longer enjoy that experience.  The cloud of smoke from Manhattan would soon change all that.  As a photographer, while surrendering the joy of clear blue skies is unthinkable, that joy is now tainted with the memory of that day.  May Sabrina never know that grief, and gaze on clear blue skies all her life in peace and joy.

Watching footage from that day, you can see dust on the cameras photographing the event for posterity.  The videos of the people throwing themselves from the Twin Towers, for some reason, seems more horrifying now, ten years later, than it did then.  We have lived in relative peace for too long.  Since the footage isn’t often shown, it comes as a shock when it is broadcast.

You can feel your heart breaking all over again.  That’s when you thank God for the photo of a baby like Sabrina, and the new memorial at the World Trade Center.  They say the gushing of the waterfalls drowns out the noise and confusion of the city – and the echoes of the past.