The niece and I were watching TV, and we saw two commercials with a Christmas theme. The first was Macy’s with a generic holiday ad that was obviously a Christmas commercial that was too embarrassed to actually say “Christmas.” The second was an IHOP commercial with two nutcrackers asking each other what they were going to wear for Halloween. Later I saw another IHOP commercial with nutcrackers saying how embarrassing and wrong it is to have Christmas commercials before Thanksgiving. So how much more embarrassing is it to do Christmas before November?

So I’m going to write these two companies and express that I will not spend any money in either establishment before Jan. 1st, 2010, and they are both going onto my Holiday List Of Shame:

Holiday List Of Shame
IHOP
Macy’s

Are you a happy or bitter person by nature? The Christmas season is one way to tell. If someone wishes you a “Merry Christmas,” do you respond with a hearty greeting of your own, or do you glare back angrily and state that you don’t celebrate Christmas, or declare that wishing someone a merry Christmas is presumptive and inappropriate?

“Are you saying that all non-Christians are bitter?” Heck, no! One rabbi I know happily accepts holiday well-wishes from everyone and returns them in kind, but he is a happy person by nature. It doesn’t bother him that people often wish him a merry Christmas because he is secure in his religion. Regardless of the winter holiday I am greeted with, I can accept the well-wishes in the happy spirit in which they are offered.

When I have witnessed people who get a grouchy or sharp response to their holiday greeting, I have seen the joy of the season drain from their faces. One grumpy person’s bitter view succeeded in killing the happiness they felt–killjoys, in the full sense of the word.

You can see this same bitter reflex in action when a man holds open a door for a woman as a kind gesture, only to be rewarded with an angry retort of “I can open my own door!” The gesture wasn’t meant to be an insult, but a simple act of kindness. Heck, I hold the door open for anyone who comes up behind me, male or female. But for some people, the first response is to see offense where none was meant.

Or have you ever tried to compliment someone on her appearance or choice of outfit, only to be slapped down for it? (I use “her” because I rarely see this sort of response in men.) Freud said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a “Nice dress” is just a compliment, not a male way of grunting, “You. Me. Sex. Now.”

There are so many ways we complement and wish each other well. And it is our reaction to these complements and well-wishes that shows whether we are basically happy or bitter inside. The good news is that being happy or bitter is a matter of habit and not a fixed characteristic. We can change our attitude, if we choose to, merely by resolving to respond to well-wishes in the same spirit as they were offered. Here’s hoping that your nature is the former and not the latter.

Merry Christmas to you, and a Happy New Year!

I hope you had a very merry Christmas! I sure did.

I prefer to say “Merry Christmas” to the people I meet, rather than “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” But that’s my Christmas-celebrating Christian nature showing through. Some people are quick to point out that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but since a poll found that 96% of Americans celebrate this holiday, I find it difficult to get all that excited over catering to less than 5% of the population.

I guess that makes me one of the horribly oppressive people trying to force my religion on others. At least that’s how anti-religious groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) view it. You can see this sentiment reflected in the way they attack anything Christmas-related displayed on public lands. Bill O’Reilly has been talking about the “War on Christmas,” and John Gibson wrote a book about it. They both cite examples of how companies and stores are dropping “Merry Christmas” in favor of the more generic “Happy Holidays.” Unlike these two gentlemen, I don’t have any problem with companies doing this. A company does business by appealing to as many customers as it can, and the generic greeting is more inclusive. But it appears that growing numbers of people are angered over the blander, non-holiday-specific greeting. I really couldn’t care less. For me, Christmas is primarily about getting together with family and friends, and that’s more important to me than any present I might give or receive, so I don’t care how the stores greet me. They are free to say whatever they think will bring them more customers.

But I do care when the government tries to stifle Christmas. Most often, people who are against the practice of religion in public life will point to the First Amendment as the reason why government shouldn’t have anything to do with religion. And when they say “religion,” what they really mean is “Christianity.” The ACLU has been instrumental in fighting against any public display of Christian symbols. A tiny cross on the Los Angeles County seal had to be removed because it might *gasp* lead to the Inquisition! Well, probably not. But the ACLU campaigned aggressively against it. “No establishment of religion,” they reasoned. Funny that they didn’t mention anything about the much larger image of the goddess Pomona which appeared on the same seal. Apparently symbols of ancient Roman and modern pagan religions are acceptable, but Christianity is strictly verboten to the ACLU. It’s no wonder that the organization is sometimes referred to as the “Anti-Christian Liberal Union.”

What does the First Amendment actually say about religion? It is rather straightforward: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So what part of “Congress shall make no law…” applies to the Los Angeles County seal? If the Ten Commandments are posted in the Alabama State Supreme Court building, how does that violate the First Amendment and its prohibition on Congress passing laws?

The real tragedy is how school districts, scared spitless over the possibility of lawsuits from the ACLU and other anti-Christian groups, banish any mention of Christmas in schools. You can’t call it the Christmas Holiday — it’s now “Winter Break.” Any religious carols are banned out of fear that they might be construed as an establishment of Christianity in the United States. Each Christmastime brings more news reports of kids being told that they can’t say “Merry Christmas” at school, or stories like the one of a 7th grader being kicked out of the school dance because he had the audacity to dress up as Santa Claus. I have to ask again, what part of “Congress shall make no law” applies to sanitizing public schools until no taint of Yuletide spirit remains?

And what about the second phrase in the First Amendment — the one the ACLU always seems to forget? You know, the part that says, “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”? It seems to me, and to a growing number of Americans who don’t like the idea of Christmas being excised from the public square, that the ACLU’s anti-Christmas lawsuits constitute an attempt to get government to prohibit the free, public exercise of one particular religion.

So this was my first Black Friday. Black Friday is the term given to the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, and the mass of frenzied shopping that has come to be associated with it. Most people have the day off from work, and my hat is off to the canny Founding Fathers who decided that a Thursday holiday would mean a four-day weekend, so what else is there to do but eat leftover turkey and go shopping?

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it is officially the Christmas season. If you go by the store displays, the Christmas season started in September, but they didn’t ask for my permission before putting them up, so they weren’t official. Next year when the stores start unpacking the Christmas decorations, remind them that the Captain has forbidden all their Christmas displays, their Christmas muzak, and their culturally inoffensive wishes of “Happy Holidays!” until after Thanksgiving. Offenders are to be keelhauled if I’m feeling piratical, or tossed out the airlock if I’m in a science fiction mood. And yes, the weather is very nice on my planet, thanks for asking.

So the combination of the post-Thanksgiving day off, the official kick-off of the Christmas season, and retailers smart enough to recognize when money is aching to be spent has come together to create what is often the best shopping day for many stores.

There are some anti-capitalist fruitjobs who clamor for this crass commercialism to go away, so they can spend the day hugging a tree in peace, but nobody listens to them except other tree-hugging, dolphin-kissing Liberals like themselves. They can take their tofurkey leftovers and march on Buy Nothing Day for all they want, or I care. It’s not going to affect much when 64% of Americans say they plan on going shopping anyway.

I have never participated in Black Friday before. More than anything I might have an opportunity to buy for cheap, I had always enjoyed sleeping in on my day off. Then my wife made the mistake of pointing out bf2005.com to me. [I've been framed! Framed I tell you! --TPK] (The website seems to be down now.) This site posted the Black Friday specials way before the stores sent ads to the newspapers. Some of the stores *cough* Kmart and Sears *cough* objected to having their bargains posted online before their time, and demanded that their information be pulled. But it takes me a few days to decide to buy a big-ticket item; in the end I decided to get out of the house based on the bf2005.com ads and not the Thursday ad inserts.

I was in the market to upgrade our computer monitors, since our current ones were getting very dark. I did a quick search for “LCD 17″ to see all the 17″ LCD monitor offers. Hot dog! There were some really good deals! Armed with this information, I rose early and visited some stores to do my part for the American economy. Here are the three stores I visited on Black Friday, in the order of Suck, OK, and Nicely Done.

Circuit City

It’s official: this store is teh suxx0r! If you plan on going to Circuit City for Black Friday 2006, don’t! There’s a long wait at the Circuit City checkout counter even on normal days, but this was terrible. The store was crawling with people at 5:30am, and it was painfully obvious that not all of them got up early enough to shower that morning. I recognize that Circuit City is not responsible for the hygiene habits of its customers, but the only stinky people I encountered on Black Friday were crammed into this one store. There’s nothing like being stacked cheek by jowl with folks who exude the lovely piquant odor of stale sweat. Eau de Bargain Hunter. Well, more like Eww de Bargain Hunter.

The lines at Circuit City moved with all the pep and vim of an arthritic sloth. While there were plenty of checkout registers open, the computers were maxed out–and the time it took for them to print the yards of receipts and rebate offers reminded me of the old 300 baud modem days. I waited in line for 45 minutes, and moved about 12 feet. When it occurred to me to ask the caffeinated red-shirt to check on the monitor I wanted to pick up, he quickly responded that there were three left in stock. The guy directly in front of me wanted one of those models, too, so I quickly scanned the line in front of me and realized that if even two other people of the 40-50 people in line before me wanted that same monitor, I’d be out of luck. The odds against me were very bad, and my nose was unhappy, so I decided to leave.

All in all, it will have to be a cold day in Hell before I willingly walk into Circuit City again, Black Friday or no Black Friday. All my experiences to date in that store have involved slow service and annoyances, and in my discussions with others who had been to Circuit City’s Black Friday offerings in earlier years, I discovered that my experience was pretty much par for the course.

Purchases: none, and unlikely to be any in the future.

OfficeMax

I went into OfficeMax on a whim at the end of my shopping trip, so I was already tired. However, they had a good advertised deal on a 1 GB USB drive, and I really needed one for work. Since the doors had opened three minutes before, I decided to jump into the fray. There was already a line of customers outside waiting to get in. Rather than dealing with customers madly dashing into the store and trampling others in the process, the OfficeMax managers had clearly thought ahead. Everyone was lined up and organized, and one employee was walking up and down the line handing out copies of the sale flyer and maps of the store. They had spent some time doctoring up the flyer with letters and numbers which corresponded to areas on the store map, making finding those items much easier and faster. The big-ticket items in limited supply were numbered, and as I entered the store, I asked for the number of the item I wanted. I was given a ticket for that item, guaranteeing that I would get the item at the register. So my most important question–”will I get this item?”–was answered as soon as I entered the store.

There were no people rushing through the doors at OfficeMax. This suggests the OfficeMax manager understood how critical it is to maintain order on busy days like this. Any videos you may have seen of mobs pushing their way past newly-opened doors and trampling those who fall demonstrate that not all store managers understand the importance of maintaining discipline and control. The OfficeMax checkout line was orderly, but they missed the possibility of placing some last-minute impulse buy items in displays along the checkout line to tempt shoppers. As I reached the end of my wait, I noticed that several OfficeMax clerks were responsible for collecting the tickets and bringing the items to the waiting customers, and another was directing people to checkout counters as soon as they became available. While I actually had an overall longer wait at OfficeMax than at Circuit City, things were much better handled at OfficeMax, so the wait didn’t feel as long.

Purchases: 1 GB USB drive.

Best Buy

OK, my shopping experience at Best Buy on Black Friday was hands-down the best of the lot. There were no stampedes at the door, and lots of items were available for purchase. The flat-screen monitors I had come to buy were placed in large stacks in the aisles for easy access, rather than locked up as they were at Circuit City. Our local Best Buy opened fairly recently, not far from the Circuit City store, and I believe they will do very well if my experience there is any indication. The store had been carefully arranged so the checkout lines could wind back and forth without blocking the throughways, and there were lots of impulse buy items–batteries and cheap DVDs and games–scattered along the path. I didn’t buy any, but they gave me something to look at since I had forgotten to bring my customary paperback along to pass the time. People waiting outside in the rain for the store to open could get free coffee and donuts from high school volunteers who were soliciting donations for their clubs. I’m not sure whether the high school clubs had proposed this idea to Best Buy or whether Best Buy had instigated the idea, but their presence suggested that the store had considered the comfort of the people waiting in line to get into the store.

Best Buy did a great job of making the wait as painless as possible. A Best Buy employee stood at the end of the line with a huge orange balloon, making it easy to point out the end of the line. Best Buy was able to keep things moving along faster than the other two stores because they had 10-12 checkout counters fully staffed, with clerks directing customers to registers as soon as they came free. And while it looked like they had added some temporary counters, their system was fast enough to handle printing the yards of receipts and rebates without noticeable slowdown of the kind I saw at Circuit City.

If I lose my mind again and decide to do my consumer best to make the economy hum next Black Friday, I will carefully examine the sales at Best Buy. If past results are any indication of future performance, the best shopping experience in 2006 will be at Best Buy.

Purchases: a 19″ LCD monitor for the wife and a 17″ LCD monitor for me.

Merry Christmas to you!

Does that annoy you? It does? Well, let me say this as nicely as I may: if hearing someone wish you a Merry Christmas makes you annoyed, there is something wrong with you. You’ve got issues, my friend. You see, when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas, they are wishing you happiness and joy, and if you take offense because someone wished for your happiness with this expression of good will, what does that say about you?

The latest poll shows that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas. That means only about 4% of U.S. citizens might potentially be offended by Christmas, but this whiney minority has been working for years now to pull every instance of Christmas celebration from public life. Nativity scenes can’t be on public property because someone might be offended. You can’t sing some religious Christmas carols because someone might be offended. Government and business workers are told not to say “Merry Christmas” because someone might be offended. And a 7th grader in a Santa suit was turned away from the Christmas dance because (all together now, folks) someone might be offended.

I am a Christian, and I love the Christmas season. It is a time for remembering and commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Hanukkah often lands very near to Christmas, but while I am not Jewish and I don’t celebrate Hanukkah, I would not be offended in the least if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah. I would smile and thank them graciously.

In Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Podkayne of Mars, the title character learns that saying “thank you” to the people around her means they treat her much better than her brother, who never thanks others. “A small tip is much more savoir-fairish — and gets better, more willing service — when accompanied with ‘thank you’ than a big tip while saying nothing,” she discovers. Because of the polyglot nature of the area she is visiting, she spends time and effort to learn how to say “thank you” phonetically in many different languages:

If you say “tok” instead of “key toss” to a Finn, he will understand it. If you mistake a Japanese for a Cantonese and say “m’goy” instead of “arigato” — well, that is the one word of Cantonese he knows…. However, if you do guess right and pick their home language, they roll out the red carpet and genuflect, all smiles.

Does it really matter what language you use to thank someone? Some people think so. While traveling from Germany to Denmark, we stopped at the border to have our passports stamped. For the last two years, I had spoken either English or German, so after getting my passport I thanked the border guard by saying, “Danke.” His reply was a surly, “I’m not German!”

Was I trying to insult him? Not at all. Was he insulted? Yes. And it was his issue, not mine. I frankly wouldn’t care what language someone thanked me in. I would gladly accept the thoughtful meaning behind the phrase, but I’m not part of the perpetually annoyed class.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin is another of the non-annoyed people. As a Jew, he doesn’t celebrate Christmas in the least, but he certainly does enjoy the holiday time and the way people behave differently during this season — nicer, kinder, more giving. He is pleased when people wish him a Merry Christmas, and he happily wishes them a Merry Christmas back. Though it isn’t his holiday, he recognizes and appreciates the sentiment.

Today is Christmas. If you don’t celebrate this holiday at all and you are one of the perpetually annoyed and whiney minority, have the common decency to let others enjoy this holiday. At the very least, you should appreciate the day off from work.

This is the jolly month of December. It isn’t as cold or nasty as January, and there are several religious holidays that make this month stand out. Originally, I was thinking that Hanukkah, Christmas, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa were all religious holidays in December. While Ramadan is a lunar-calendar-based holiday like Hanukkah, it happens in September/October, and Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday at all. So I’m going to focus mainly on Christmas and Hanukkah, while touching lightly on a few others.

Christmas

December 25 is the Christian celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth, and 80-88% of Americans are self-professed Christians. 1 Fox News reports that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas, but the numbers add up to 103%, so there are some people who admit to celebrating multiple holidays. (And who can blame them for wanting to enjoy the winter holidays as much as possible?) While the account in Luke 2 doesn’t mention the day of Christ’s birth, it has become associated with the 25th of December. Very few scholars believe that Christ was actually born on that day, and most acknowledge that early Christians didn’t celebrate His birth at all. This tradition was started in the fourth century, and the date as well as many currently accepted symbols of the holiday were *ehem* borrowed *ehem* from various pagan celebrations. This basically made it easier for the pagan Romans to convert to Christianity and still keep their winter fun. Well, the orgies went, but you can’t have everything.

Do the pagan origins and symbols distract me from celebrating Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ? Nope. Not at all. I have no problem taking the symbols and traditions from other cultures and times and making them part of my traditions. I’m neither Swedish nor Dutch, but I’ll gladly take part in the smorgasbords and Sinterklaas Days brought into my family by my wife.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah, or “dedication,” is an eight-day Jewish celebration that pre-dates Christmas. Back in the second century B.C., the Greeks controlled the lands of Israel. The Greek ruler outlawed Jewish ceremonies and rituals and demanded that the Jews worship the Greek gods instead. This kicked off a rebellion led by Mattathias, and later his son, Judah Maccabee, that was successful in fighting off and defeating the superior numbers of Greek warriors.

During Greek rule, the Greeks had taken the Temple in Jerusalem and dedicated it to the worship of Zeus. This defiled the temple, and after it was retaken by the Jews in 165 B.C., the Temple would need to be rededicated. Consecrated oil was needed to light the temple menorah, and all that could be found was a small flask with enough oil for a single day’s use. It would take a week to make more consecrated oil. Miraculously, this one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days, and is the reason why Jews today light eight candles to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting until it could be replenished.

While this holiday is the best-known Jewish holiday by non-Jews, it doesn’t have nearly as much significance to the Jewish people as do Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish calendar is lunar-based, which means the holiday of Hanukkah doesn’t fall on the same days each year. While Hanukkah mostly falls in December, it sometimes takes place in November. Probably due to its proximity to the Christian Christmas, Hanukkah has become more and more a gift-giving celebration, often with gifts being given on each of the eight days. The Hanukkah holiday is celebrated by about 5% of the U.S.

Others

And so we reach the catch-up section for festivals that other religions celebrate during December. Kartigai Deepam is the Hindu lunar-based holiday that occurs in November or December. December 8th is Bodhi Day, when Buddhists commemorate the enlightenment (bodhi) of Shakyamuni Buddha. There are about a million each of Hindus and Buddhists in the U.S.

While there are about 3-5 million Muslims in the U.S., there really isn’t a religious Islamic holiday in December. Ramadan is in the fall, and Eid al Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, is another lunar-based holiday that often falls in January or February, although it is scheduled for December 31st, 2005. But since it is based on the sighting of the new moon, it takes place on different days in different places. Finally, many pagans celebrate Yule or Winter’s Solstice on December 21st or 22nd (like today)! If they had any good sense, they’d be celebrating my birthday today.

And what music did I listen to while I typed this up? Why, December, of course, by George Winston.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, let the shopping frenzy begin! After all, isn’t that the essence of the Christmas season?

Speaking of Christmas, I really dislike seeing stores and towns put out their Christmas merchandise and decorations earlier and earlier each year. This year I noticed that Wal-Mart had several aisles of Christmas decorations out two weeks before Halloween. Yes, I recognize that Christmas is the major money-making season for businesses, but pushing the season earlier and earlier really doesn’t help them as most people don’t shop any earlier for presents. I wish stores and people would enjoy each season and holiday as they come, rather than trying to rush into the next one.

OK, rant over. Now back to the leftover turkey. Mmmm…….

On Christmas Day 2003, famed singer and song-writer Willie Nelson penned a protest song. According to his wife, Annie, Willie complained that there were “a lot of babies dying and mothers crying” on the TV news. She replied, “That sounds like a song.” And so he penned the song “What Ever Happened To Peace On Earth.”

I first heard these lyrics while driving to lunch one day. The host of the radio show read the lyrics of Willie Nelson’s song aloud in all seriousness. Not being the long-haired liberal type myself, I recognized the sentiment, but not the facts behind the holiday lyrics. And since this is my place to do so, I’m going to spend a bit of time hashing out his words. You can read them in full, and a brief article about the song here at CommonDreams.org.

Before I jump into the actual lyrics, here is the last paragraph from the website above: “Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in March saying that Saddam Hussein threatened U.S. security by possessing weapons of mass destruction, but no such weapons were found.” Nice ending line, Anonymous Reuters News Person, but you missed a word. It should read “no such weapons were found yet.” That would be more honest, but to fully cross the line from biased news spinner to a factual reporter of the news, it should have said that the U.S., Britain, Russia, Iraq, Iran, and the U.N. claimed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. In fact, the Danes are reported to be investigating several mortar shells found in Iraq for a liquid blister agent. People often say that Saddam didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but the Kurds and Iranians would disagree. They experienced Saddam’s chemical weapons firsthand, and it is believed that these mortars date from the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.

Anyway, what about Willie’s protest song? In the very first stanza, we get the tried and trite phrase “How much oil is one human life worth?” Earth to Willie! This war is not about oil. If oil were our only goal, why have we not already annexed Kuwait as the 51st State of the Union? That would have been so much easier. But rather than a grab for oil, the war to liberate Iraq from Saddam’s control is very much a part of the United States’ war against terror. I already posted about how Mohammed Atta was trained in Iraq for the September 11th attacks. But Willie says this war is about oil. And as a singer, he has really kept himself abreast of current events. That’s why he can state this with such authority.

“They’re gonna’ kill us / So we gotta’ kill them first” Since Willie has obviously forgotten, the United States was attacked on September 11th, 2001. Atta was trained to do this in Iraq. Are we trying to kill them first? No. We toppled Saddam from power and routed al Qaeda from Afghanistan so they could not hit us again. “But I remember a commandment / Thou shall not kill” This commandment does not make sense if you read it that way. Is it against this commandment to defend yourself by killing your attacker? This commandment is often translated from the Hebrew as “Thou shalt not murder.” A ban on murder is different from a ban on all killing, and Willie should be smart enough to know the difference.

“Hell they won’t lie to me / Not on my own damn TV / But how much is a liar’s word worth” This is a common attack on President Bush — “He lied to us!” Really? Where? Contrary to what many people say, President Bush did not claim that Saddam was an imminent threat. He said, “Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.” But this does not stop people from changing President Bush’s words and then claiming that he lied.

“So I guess it’s just / Do unto others before they do it to you” Here’s a short list for you, Mr. Nelson: the World Trade Center attack of September 11th, 2001; the World Trade Center bombing of 1993; the attack on the USS Cole; the 1998 American Embassy bombing in Nairobi; the 1998 American Embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam; the attack on Pan American Flight 103. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should indicate the type and number of attacks leveled against the United States by terrorists. Since we kept shrugging these attacks off, al Qaeda decided to launch an attack that we could no longer ignore — the attacks of September 11th.

“But don’t confuse caring for weakness / You can’t put that label on me” Do you care, Willie? Really care? I guess this caring is what prompted you to put on those USO shows for the troops overseas serving to rid the world of terrorism. Or are you so caring that you feel you have done your part by writing a song filled with mistaken ideas and twisted words?

“The truth is my weapon of mass protection / And I believe truth sets you free” Mr. Nelson, if you had been at the top of One World Trade Center or Two World Trade Center on that clear morning in September, the truth would not have protected you from death. Nor did the truth protect 3,000 innocent people from the hate-inspired actions of terrorists. The truth, Mr. Nelson, is that little of what you say makes a difference in this world. It is what you do, or choose not to do, that will have a greater impact. President Bush decided that we could no longer turn a blind eye to terrorists, and he has laid out a plan to make the world safer. While these actions are painful to us as a nation generally, and to the families of our brave men and women in the armed services specifically, these actions are reaping benefits.

“And whatever happened to peace on earth” Peace — long-lasting and enduring peace — comes from complete victory, not appeasement and token resistance. President Clinton spent eight years tossing a few cruise missiles at empty camps and aspirin factories, or completely ignoring the actions of terrorists. The country of Sudan offered up Osama bin Laden to President Clinton, but he turned the offer down. How well did these actions bring peace on Earth? A few years later, the repercussions from these acts of weakness were played on TVs around the earth as scenes of death and destruction were broadcast to a horrified world.

What happened to peace on Earth? It is being earned day by day by servicemen and -women who are putting their lives on the line fighting terrorists while you, Willie Nelson, sit comfortably at home penning songs about things you don’t understand. Peace will come when those brave men and women finish their jobs despite, and not because of, what you do.

There is a reason why I don’t listen to the opinions of actors and singers. Willie Nelson typifies this reason. In the words of the song, “How much is one picker’s word worth”? Not too much.

Since this is Thanksgiving week, I will only post this one short Captain’s Comment.

Thanksgiving Day — the day we sit down and gorge like pigs on turkey, stuffing, potatoes, veggies, rolls and pie. This is the day America unbuttons its collective pants and sits around watching football, while complaining about how we overate again after we promised ourselves last year we would not do it. But hidden in this day of gluttony is the idea of actually giving thanks for what we have.

I am first and foremost thankful for my family. I have two wonderful parents who raised me well and taught me many invaluable principles that have served me well in life. The more I model my life around their teachings and the gospel of Christ, the better my life becomes. I am thankful for two brothers whom I love but do not see often enough. I am thankful for a loving wife. As my father says, we three boys all married above us, and I can see how this is true in my wife. I am thankful for her family. Her mother has welcomed me into her family with open arms. I am so glad that we do not have a stilted in-law relationship. I call her “Mom,” and I love her.

I am thankful for this country. The United States is not perfect, but it is by far the best country in the world. I have spent about a third of my life living outside the U.S., and while I have loved living in many countries, I remain an American. As de Tocqueville said, “America is great because it is good. When it ceases being good, it will no longer be great.” I am thankful for a President who understands that we first need to be good to be a nation that is great. I am thankful that we are free, and I am thankful for the brave men and women who bear arms to keep this nation free.

As you sit down at your table and get ready to feast, spend a few minutes and thank God for your many blessings.


And now for a rant. I love the holidays. I love the food and the family get-togethers that come with them. But I really dislike the way people try to rush holidays. Specifically, I am talking about Christmas. One of my pet peeves is the way some stores and cities will put out Christmas decorations waaaaaaay before December. I believe this year’s winner of the dubious honor of being first was Rite Aid. I noticed two aisles of Christmas decorations were in place near the end of August. Yes, I understand that Christmas is a prime money-maker for stores and businesses, but this is not helped in any way by putting out the Christmas stuff early in the year. I have made a personal decision not to patronize a store that pushes Christmas items too early.

It’s very simple. Halloween decorations should not appear before the first of October. Thanksgiving themes apply to the month of November. Christmas and all its associated trappings should not start appearing in stores or on TV until the Friday after Thanksgiving at the earliest. Learn to savor each holiday as it comes, but please do not rush headlong into the next holiday before the first has passed.

OK, I feel better now. Time to get things ready for Thanksgiving.