Friday, December 20, 2013

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!



"Snowfinity ..."
@2012 Copyrighted Photograph.  All Rights Reserved: Isabelle Black Smith.



“Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”


To put to rest a sleepless night
Mother Nature sends our way
A blanket glowing pristine white:
Shimmering fractals interweave
The world about in innocence anew;
Whilst weeping hearts eagerly
Greet a thoughtless reclination,
A sleep, at last, lost to hibernation.
So yield the weary, drinking willfully
From nature’s over-brimming chalice
Of sweetest icy, silver-thorned libation.
And with a single sip the world resigns,
With awe-inspiring, albeit silent
Resignation, to peacefully renew:
Awaiting the robin’s timely return,
With Kiss of Life to sleeping trance undo.


@2013 December, Copyrighted Poem. All Rights Reserved:  Isabelle Black Smith.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Atheist Billboard in Times Square ...

Regarding the atheist billboard in Times Square and other displays of a similar nature I have only this to say: "What man is a man who does make the world around him a better place?" ~"Kingdom of Heaven" ... and corollary "What is a man who must tear others or their beliefs down in order to find his peace?" ~Isabelle Black Smith



I have always held that if 'they' can take Christmas away from you, then perhaps you never really had it your heart to begin with.  That being said, I have to wonder why everyone in America --well, from a national media perspective at least-- seems to be so intently focused on "equality" when it comes to celebrating our holidays ... Maybe it's just me, but everyone complaining about the way other people choose to celebrate their holiday is beginning to sound like one big (and very annoying!) chorus of whining children whimpering "what about, me?" 

Celebrate any way you want --if you want-- but by the same token don't begrudge others their celebration ... If you want a Black Santa, Hispanic or whatever, have one ... Same goes for Jesus and if you don't want to focus on Jesus as being 'the reason for the season', well that's fine as well.  The point is this:  The Winter Holidays --of which Christmas IS a BIG part for many-- are not about 'equality' by any stretch of the imagination!  They are about diversity and our freedom to choose what to celebrate and HOW or even IF we will celebrate.  Ultimately the holidays are about CELEBRATING, and quite frankly all of this silly bickering just diminishes the underlying element of CELEBRATION!  And honestly, how hard is it to just smile and share in the joy of the season in whatever color or form it happens to take?  So can we move on now, please? 

P.S. Regarding the "Santa Claus" controversy, with Megyn Kelly of Fox News:   My daughter informs me that Santa Claus --to her way of thinking-- is in fact a shape-shifter.  Just like in the movie "The Santa Claus", with Tim Allen, where when Santa Claus encounters a home without a chimney (and accompanying fireplace): he just creates one ... likewise, Santa Claus assumes the ethnicity of the family in whatever home he happens to be in at any given point in time.  Problem solved, right?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

150th Anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Historic "Gettysburg Address"

President Abraham Lincoln


Quite a monumental day in our American History, I would have to say.  So what have we learned as individuals, as a nation, since this historic day?  I wonder what Abraham Lincoln would honestly have to say, with respect racial equality, about where we are as a nation today? Definitely something worthy of thinking further on, would you not agree?

It was interesting to me to be reminded on this day, the 150th Anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s historical “Gettysburg Address”, that it was the Republican party, led by a Republican President who tirelessly and fearlessly led the charge that ultimately put an end to slavery in our nation. Lincoln's words remind us that those who fought to end slavery were willing to pay the highest price, laying their very lives on the line in a self-less sacrifice with both white and black –in fact, many different races-- fighting side by side in order to achieve the final victory of an end to slavery in our nation.  President Lincoln continues on to make his most important point: that to lose sight of the high cost which was paid, in order to achieve freedom for all, is to dishonor those who have given their own lives in order to achieve this noble end:  "That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." ~Abraham Lincoln

Upon reflection, I think this 150th Anniversary should serve as a reminder for all us to revisit the truth of our history*, as a nation, as well as a call to recognize that it is ultimately actions which produce results, speaking louder than any mere rhetoric in a war of perception fueled by unsubstantiated words. Perhaps instead of making blanket statements, such as those recently made by Oprah Winfrey to the British media, those in a position with the ‘pulpit’ to do so would do better to address specific incidents –on a case by case basis, starting with the highest profile-- of abuse and disrespect toward President Obama, calling the perpetrators out by name with actual facts/statements to back up their claims. Perhaps then we could truly begin to make some meaningful progress toward the legitimate end of addressing the many problems currently plaguing our nation and its citizenry.


For more interesting reading on this historic day in our American History please visit: 

http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/sites/gettysburg.htm

and  a special documentary put together by Ken Burns at "Learn the Address.org"
http://www.learntheaddress.org/

[* Among those truths, we find the following rather interesting facts:
1) The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which abolished slavery passed by a vote of 100% Republicans in favor, but only 22% Democrats were in favor of this amendment.

2) The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which proclaimed that free-slaves (African-Americans) were now full-fledged citizens of the United States of America passed by a vote of 100% Republicans in favor, but with 0% (not a single one!) of Democrats in support of this amendment.

3) The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which unequivocally gave African-Americans the right to vote in our U.S. elections passed by a vote of 100% Republicans in favor, but again with 0% (not a single one!) of Democrats in support of this amendment. 

... And just in case you were wondering: Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.]  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day 2013!!

I was speaking with a veteran today as he reminisced about his time of military service.  Somewhere along the way, he reflected --comparing his life then to now—“You know, most people will never fully understand what the men and women who sign up to serve in our military give up … The freedoms they have to temporarily surrender, the sacrifices they are willing to make in order to protect the freedoms everyone in our nation enjoys today … Freedoms most people flat-out take for granted.” 

And you know, this veteran is probably right; sad but true are his words.  I for my part, however, having grown-up in a military family do happen to know firsthand what life in a military family is like, the sacrifices that the men and women in our military make … the sacrifices the families of military members make.  I remember most of all the year my father was sent to work overseas for a full year, without leave.  I distinctly remember how hard my father’s absence was on my mother, having to be a single parent while worrying about the safety of her husband.  My father’s year of overseas duty was hard on all of us in different ways.  I remember wondering sometimes, myself, if he would in truth ever come back home to us again.  But my father did eventually come back home, walking on two legs, with open arms to hug and hold.  That was a surreal day for me.  I can still see my father’s homecoming vividly in my mind, as if it had happened only yesterday.  I suppose that is why I am always seem to find gentle tears seeping from my eyes when I witness a father, or mother for that matter, being reunited with his/her children and family on television, or in person --we have gone to a few of the welcome our troops home rallies at airports.  So God Bless them, one and all:  the men and women who serve today, those who have served in the past and especially the families --children, wives, spouses and all-- that love and support our service men and women.  As a nation, we are ever grateful not only for your service, but for your many sacrifices.  You are the biggest part of what keeps our nation strong and allows our hard-won freedoms and American way of life to endure.  God Bless our veterans and God Bless the U.S.A!!


 
 
P.S. And may God Bless those impacted by the powerful typhoon that struck the Philippine Islands over this past weekend!
 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

How's HOPE Working for You Now?




"If you like your health insurance plan, then you can keep
your plan.  If you like your doctor: you'll be able 
to keep your doctor."


That "Hope" thing not working so well for you these days? Lucky for you, your opportunity to enact meaningful change is rapidly up & coming: this Tuesday, Nov. 5th, at your nearby polling station: Your VOTE has the potential to usher in some serious> CHANGE!! Out with the old, ineffective, non-representative, and in with the new.  Time to restore true accountability in government once again, I think.

Personally, I'm hoping to see  a lot of INFORMED voters at U.S. polling stations this upcoming Tuesday!*

==> For me "Change" is going to equal a VOTE FOR MANY REPUBLICANS.<==
(*Unfortunately, the mid-term elections for Congressional seats won't be until Nov. 2014.  That's when REAL CHANGE can occur!)

You know, if nothing else comes out this entire healthcare law fiasco:  I would hope that our lawmakers have learned never again to pass any law without first knowing "what is in the law" (i.e., the important details of the law --like the fact that millions of Americans would likely lose their existing healthcare insurance coverage under a new set of bogus* health insurance standards).  Furthermore, it is my sincerest hope that the voting citizens of this nation will from this point moving forward hold their congressmen (and women) to the latter standard in the future.  That is to say if you don't know the details of what's going to be in a proposed law, then you (members of Congress) have no business whatsoever to move forward with said law's passing.  This has got to be one of most basic, common-sense tenants of elective representation.

It will be interesting to see if the number of people, previously "uninsured", who actually opt to sign up for healthcare plans on the Obama-care exchanges --as opposed to paying the nominal penalty for declining insurance coverage-- actually winds up coming close to the number of people who previously had affordable coverage prior to ACHA and wind up losing their coverage.  Will also be interesting to see how rapidly the quality of healthcare in America declines in response to the large influx into a system ill-equipped to handle this influx. Socialized medicine here we come?
[* Like a 60 year-old woman needs maternity coverage? Or even more outrageous: a 60 year-old man's individual policy  --or any man for that matter-- needs maternity coverage? And people with grown or no children need pediatric coverage? We're not all stupid you know:  these ridiculous standards had to be 'added to the law' via back channels, in 2010, after passage of the initial AHCA healthcare law in order to create (thereby forcing insurance companies which offered policies that did not include the latter types of coverage to cancel said policies for being supposedly 'sub-standard') the large and varied exchange pool needed in order to make this AHCA system capable of having any real chance of working.  The upgrade to these 'new standards' was deemed necessary by the administration so that insurers would be forced to cancel existing policies, thereby forcing more people (i.e., young and healthy individuals, with stream-lined, low-cost existing coverage plans) into the exchanges for Obama-care plans.  The latter would, in theory, work to keep the overall costs down for everyone participating in the exchange pools.  Also keep in mind, if an insurer made any change to an existing plan after the 2010 passage of AHCA (even a change as simple as a $5.00 increase in the required patient co-payment for medical services) then that plan would be required to be cancelled per the CMS directive as well.  The problem is these 'new standards' were not implemented by means of standard congressional channels.  They were written and implemented after the initial law was passed by Congress (late in 2010), by means CMS directives written by the Health and Human Services Secretary.  Furthermore, the information regarding the grounds for health insurance policy terminations was not given directly to most members of Congress or to the general public until now: during the implementation of the actual 'mandated' phase of the law --in October 2013, as the 'individual mandate', with the 'employer mandate' implementation phase to begin in October 2014 due an executive order delay issued by President Obama.  

The above is why we have the present chaos unraveling with respect to 5 million++ (and climbing daily!) Americans losing their individual healthcare plans (and these are just the preliminary numbers for people losing plans in the 'individual' market, some analysts predict these individual numbers will pale in comparison to the number of people losing group plan insurance plan coverage when the employer mandate kicks in next year.  Experts estimate the number of people likely to lose healthcare coverage when group plans are cancelled, next October 2014, may well exceed 50 million people losing coverage.  And we should keep in mind that all of these cancelled plan policy holders were repeatedly promised by the President himself, members of his administration and by Democratic members of Congress that they would be able "to keep their plan if they liked their plan" ... But sadly, now these poor people are scrambling to try to find new coverage --during the holiday season no less-- while having to contend with a ticking clock as this year draws to a close and in many cases trying to find new healthcare providers as many doctors are not participating in the exchange plan networks, and bonus: the federal healthcare exchange website is still not yet fully functional or secure. I guess, it's up to you to decide, for yourself, whether such a glaring omission of fact constitutes an outright lie. 

11/15/2013 Despite the questionable constitutionality of his statement today, it appears as if the President has issued a new CMS directive allowing insurers to re-instate their cancelled policies for an additional year.  Of course most State Insurance Commissioners, if not the actual insurance companies themselves, will likely challenge this directive for obvious logistical, legal and cost reasons.  Thus it would appear as if the President and his administration are likely hoping to merely shift the blame from themselves onto the insurance companies, without providing any real substantive help to people who have had their health insurance policies cancelled (and they can't get new policies because the government-run websites aren't yet fully functional! And bonus, new policies via the exchange with new standards will likely cost more than the policies they will replace in most instances) :  the net result being the exchange pools will likely have a better shot at attaining the large and varied --w.r.t. to age and health (i.e. young and healthy)-- numbers of enrollees necessary to make the exchanges actually work.  In sum, the people who have lost healthcare policies effective Jan. 1, 2014 are simply 'acceptable casualties of war' (an ideological war) in the eyes of the Obama administration. And don't feel too bad for the insurance companies either, who will now likely shoulder the majority of the blame for cancellation of policies: if you read a little further on down into the CMS directive, you will see that the insurance companies will be getting some hefty subsidies which should more than make any up shortfalls in their revenue or perceived damage to their reputations moving forward.]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween 2013!

Goblins, spooks and spirits alight, chasing unprepared away in fright this enchanted Halloween Night.


Our Halloween carvings for Jack-o-lanterns this year ...


That pumpkin on the far left must have weighed over 60 lb.!  The kids were goop-scooping on that one for over an hour at least, but they had a blast carving these.  Pumpkin carving is one Halloween tradition that we will never surrender.

Hope you all had a FUN and safe Halloween!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

First came "Hope", then came "Change" ....

 


This is just too good not to share!  Love Charles Krauthammer's way with words.  The man definitely has a gift:  God Bless him!

http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/24/charles-krauthammer-squares-off-against-jon-stewart-on-the-merits-of-conservatism/

Humor, wisdom and salesmanship: all in under 10 minutes. Most impressive!

Think I'm definitely picking up a copy of his new book:  "Things that matter:  three decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics", By Charles Krauthammer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kaleidoscope Autumn ...

My Autumn needed some electrifying.  Late night painting ... playing with photographs.  Color your world, right?  Happy Autumn:  Love this time of year =)




"Kaleidoscope Autumn"
 
@2013 Copyrighted Image.  All Rights Reserved:  Isabelle Black Smith.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Pinnacle of Hypocrisy!


The nation is in the final hours leading up to the United States officially hitting the debt ceiling and where do we stand?  What have we learned?  What have we gained during these 15+ days of government shutdown?  Is perception really our new truth in the United States of America?  The best media campaign wins out over empirical truth?  I suppose, it helps immensely to have the media bias in covering recent events on your side.

How’s this for perception:  President Obama has said that he will veto any bill which includes the Vitter Amendment (previously passed in the Senate, but yet to be voted on by the House).  The Vitter amendment would require that all members of Congress, the Vice President, the President and members of the Cabinet be bound by the new healthcare law and enter into the exchanges without the 72% subsidies the Obama Administration unilaterally (without a legitimate vote of Congress) added to the healthcare law after it had been passed into law. 


The above has got to be the pinnacle of hypocrisy!  President Obama and Democratic members of Congress absolutely refuse to be bound by a law which you and I, the ordinary citizens of this nation, are being forced to comply with.  What does that say about the quality of the product being delivered by Obama-care????


In my humble opinion, if members of Congress are willing to sign-off on this hypocrisy then America is as good as gone.  We will no longer be a true democratic republic.  Quite frankly, I’d rather flirt with default on the national debt –which will not happen for at least another month according to leading economists— than capitulate to the demands of a would be group of tyrants (i.e., who will not negotiate, period and furthermore have repeatedly demonstrated --with aide of a blatantly biased liberal media-- that the current administration thinks they are above any accountability to the American people*).  Obama-care is at best “taxation without equal representation” and at its worst it is the crossing of a line which will forever-more fundamentally transform our nation, as the momentum of this unruly behemoth drags our nation further on the down the road toward socialism and control of the individual for the “greater good.” 

To Democratic voters who repeatedly (mindlessly) state “We won the election and Obama-care is the law of the land”, I have only this to say.  Winning the Presidency of the United States does not establish the President as the supreme monarch.   Furthermore we are not a true democracy, we are in fact a Democratic Republic.  That is to say that “we the people” elect representatives to act on our behalf in government, via the Congress (House of Representatives and the Senate).  The latter provides a layer of insulation to prevent the uniformed masses destroying our nation.  The latter being said, it is readily apparent that way too many members of Congress these days are seriously neglecting to listen to  'the voice' of the constituents who put them in office.   Furthermore, as for this “law of the land”:  if you truly understood government in any meaningful way, shape or form you would readily acknowledge the fact that there is a distinct difference between a law that is “passed by Congress”, “signed by the President” and “upheld by the Supreme Court” and the healthcare law that has been subsequently modified by President Obama and his administration – thereby subverting a legitimate vote of Congress— in order to exempt the President, Vice President, the Cabinet, members of Congress, Big Business and Unions from being legally bound to participate in the new healthcare law in the manner which you and I –ordinary citizens—will henceforth be required to partake.
 

It should be noted --since the mainstream media didn't do its job in relaying the entire story to the American people-- that in the early days of the government shutdown Republicans passed numerous concurrent resolutions to fund critical parts of government, sending them over to the Senate for a vote --in hopes of implementation-- but these concurrent  resolutions never saw the light of day on the Senate floor thanks to the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, acting on order from the White House/President.  So in essence it was the Democrats who were choosing to maximize the hurt inflicted upon the American people by keeping government shutdown (in particular the denial of death benefits to be paid to military families of U.S. soldiers killed recently in Afghanistan) ... though in truth, the shutdown was only a partial shutdown as 83% of government remained operational during the course of the "shutdown."

It should also be noted, regarding the denial of death benefits for surviving family members of soldiers killed in Afghanistan:  The President could have immediately rectified the Pentagon’s error in denying death benefits to these grieving family members with a simple stroke of his pen via an executive order. The latter case of death benefits being denied to surviving military family members is a perfect example of a situation where the use of the president’s power to use the executive order is entirely appropriate. The President, however, chose not to use his power of executive order, opting instead to wait for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass additional legislation that would clarify the intent of the previously passed “Pay Our Military Act” --which the House had passed in the early days of the initial partial government shutdown.


11/10/2013 Found another great petition ... LiveByYourLaws.com

Friday, October 11, 2013

United You Stand: Divided You FALL ...

If you're going to inflict a "pin-prick", guess it helps to know which parts of the body bleed the most profusely?

Is it just me, or do the Republicans lose all credibility moving forward if they cave yet again?  Can you say 'lame-duck' Congress?  In a game of chicken, the Democrats will always win? 

To my way of thinking, Republicans folding now (being divided yet again) forfeits any future bargaining power, because this was the BIG test, the last stand and Republicans capitulating to a lesser set of token compromises doesn't equate to any sort of meaningful victory for the American people.  If you, Republicans, weren't willing to see this fight for the American people through to its end, then perhaps you should have never started the fight?

The Democrats will now run the entire show from here on out --not that they haven't done so all along during the course of the Obama Administration thus far.  At least history will show a few fearless Republicans were willing make a stand -- that is, if our history isn't rewritten.  Wonder if the American people will remember this final stand looking back on the long lost days of our democratic republic? 

Well, aside from contacting your elected government officials, in order to voice your concerns, maybe signing a petition can be your final stand?

http://dontfundobamacare.com  (this petition has over 2 million signatures thus far)*

*Note: I haven't verified the legitimacy of this campaign yet (saw an ad on TV), so I am not certain that I would be confident in making any financial donation at this time., but you can still sign the petition.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Lightening Strikes Twice ....

Photo art render of a recent photograph taken while visiting home.  While it was nice to visit with family, the parched North Texas landscape really tugged at my heartstrings.  So much loss due to drought.  I had told my family that I'd bring the rain, so prevalent here in the Pacific Northwest, with me when I visited and I'm happy to say that I delivered ; )


"Lightening Strikes Twice"
 
@2013 Copyrighted Photograph.  All Rights Reserved:  Isabelle Black Smith.
 


Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Current Government Shutdown is But a Pin-Prick ....

... compared to what will follow if Big Government is allowed to continue along its intended trajectory un-checked.  I am usually about peace, love, respect and compromise ... So perhaps what follows may surprise you?  What can I say ... Big Government has been acting in a void of respect and compromise for quite some time now and this void has now hit critical mass.  Therefore I say "No more Mister Nice Guy!"  It's time to take the gloves off and get down to business.


How do you negotiate with someone who has shown time and again that he and his party will not negotiate, period?  With someone who announces to the press in advance, via his press secretary, that the President has no intention of negotiating w.r.t. Obama-care even though the President himself had staged a 'meeting' with Republicans … A meeting to what end?  Another PR-stunt?   To my way of thinking it seems apparent that the only way to get this administration’s attention, with the ultimate goal of bringing them to the negotiating table in good faith, is to shut them down.  The shock just hasn’t worn off yet; give it time:  it will.

America is standing in the sand, staring at The Line.  The line that once we cross over, America will be forever more irrevocably changed.  Up until now it has been a series of little steps, PR-conditioning and media wrangling … smoke and mirrors, while our elected officials chase after a barrage of chaotically dispersed carrots.  Divide and conquer.  Government is in our email, phone conversations, texts, on-line interactions and transactions –and we only know this thanks to someone  our government has labeled as a ‘traitor’.  Government tells us what to eat and how much.  Government tries to tell us which tin-can, green cars to buy and which PC-‘green’ products to use.  Government espouses energy independence, but then shoots America right in the knee-caps when it comes to realizing immediate, large-scale energy independence available in terms of North American natural gas and domestic oil.  Meanwhile, Government sends much needed American jobs overseas with its excessive regulations.   Government even goes so far as to try to discourage political opposition via the government agency responsible for collecting taxes, the IRS … and thus far they seem to have gotten away with it, just like every other scandal perpetrated by this administration (i.e., Fast and Furious, Benghazi).  And now, the final straw:  with the launching of Obama-care, Government will now be in perhaps the most personal and private aspect of our lives:  our personal health (and by extension our sex lives?) and the IRS will be charged with oversight of the insurance portion of the system.  I don’t know about you, but this scares the hell out of me!  Oh, and bonus:  under Obama-care all medical records must now be kept in digital format, opening medical records up to potential NSA spying and other on-line hacking.

Our Government has shown us time and time again that they think they know better than us, that we should just trust them and blindly follow, while they speak with two faces  and string us along on a line of half-truths (e.g., “We have to pass the law before we can find out what’s in it.”, "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor." … drafting, passing, and signing Obama-care into law through constitutional channels, while subsequently unilaterally --bypassing a vote by Congress-- modifying the passed legislation to exempt themselves and their staff from being financially bound by it, and then giving Big Business a one-year waiver from mandatory participation in the new healthcare law).  Of course Big Government is smart enough to sweeten the deal with lots of “free stuff” and predictably the cattle among us have fallen right into line. 

But since the government has been shut-down, Big Government is singing a new tune:  that of an extremely spoiled, unhappy child.   How else can you explain the unnecessary expenditure of manpower and resources in order to close-off outdoor, open National Monuments like the WWII Memorial and the new Martin Luther King Jr. Monument?  Attempting to turn away 90 year-old veterans who have been gifted a once in a life-time opportunity to visit the WWII memorial in person.  Can you say "media circus" at the expense of our veterans?  You can clearly see the frustration in the faces of Big Government, hear the unnerved cackle in their voices when they speak publicly these past few days, since the government has shut-down;  they just can’t understand why, at this point in the conditioning process, everyone won’t just shut-up and get in line. … Get in line?  This when our highest elected officials have unequivocally demonstrated their contempt for accountability, as dictated by the U.S. Constitution, to the American people (e.g.,  NSA large-scale spying on U.S. citizens, Benghazi, and subsequent unilateral modifications to the Obama-care law, in the form of subsidies and waivers) – sorry, I just can’t bring myself to say the laughable phrasing “Affordable Care Act”.  I’m surprised the OMB hasn’t requested that the law’s name be changed, given OMB’s budget/numbers predictions for this unruly behemoth.  Socialized medicine here we come!

Republicans, you drew this line … The Line … in the sand, please don’t give in yet again!!  Too much is at stake!  Big Government is banking that given enough time and media pressure you will fold once again.  This time, I urge you to hold your ground, stand firm and in due time (i.e., as debt ceiling deadline draws nearer) Big Government will own its fair share of the current unrest.  The End, in this instance, does truly justify the means, because once this cumulative mass of “change” crosses The Line and begins its downhill motion, the momentum it will attain will become all but unstoppable.  The current government shutdown is but a pin-prick compared to what will follow if Big Government is allowed to continue along its intended trajectory un-checked.


"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy." ~Martin Luther King Jr.


10/9/2013  With U.S. about to hit its upper limit for credit and borrowing money, you'd think members of Congress and the Obama Administration would be looking for any and every way to reduce costs and save/re-allocate revenue wherever possible, right?  Well that's what logic should dictate.  In the line of looking for ways to save money, here is another reason to delay the individual mandate portion of Obama-care for at least a year:  Doing so could save the U.S. Treasury an estimated $35 Billion (with a "B", 9 zeros!) dollars, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  Definitely a BIG push for delaying the individual mandate, I would say!

http://dailycaller.com/2013/09/09/cbo-obamacare-individual-mandate-delay-would-save-35-billion/


On-line Petition:  We need an on-line petition specifically targeted at delaying the individual mandate portion of the new healthcare law by at least one year.  I did find other petitions on-line that are broader in their scope (e.g., delay and defund), but these may not meet with widespread approval.  That is to say many who would currently be on-board with delaying the individual mandate portion of the law, might not necessarily want to entirely defund Obama-care.  Check out the petition I found for yourself and see what you think?
http://aclj.org/obamacare/delay-defund-defeat-obamacare
http://dontfundobamacare.com  (this one has over 2 million signatures)
 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Irresistable Force Met the Immovable Object ....

A government shutdown is looming here in the United States.  Time to put up or shut up?

When Charles Krauthammer thinks that an objective observer for events currently unfolding in Washington, D.C., is a "Martian", you know that things must be really, really bad in our nation's capitol. Would that the American people were able to make the distinction between the legally passed (by Congress), signed (by President) and upheld (by the Supreme Court) portions of Obama-care and the unilaterally amended (politically motivated) waivers subsequently handed out by President Obama's Administration. But thus far, President Obama's Administration has been adeptly skillful in waging (and winning) the battle of perception, time and time again ... Sadly, perception seems to be the new American truth.

Personally, I have to applaud the Republicans who are willing to stand up in order to speak and act for justice on behalf of their constituents.  Enough of this prevailing double standard!  What's good enough for the goose ought to be good enough for the gander.  If members of Congress, their respective staffs, and Big Business get a one year delay (and/or government subsidies) which exempt them from being bound by Obama-care's legislation (and penalties thereof), then this one year delay should apply across the board to individuals as well -- and it should be noted that all of the latter modifications to the originally legislatively passed healthcare law have been made unilaterally, by the Obama administration, in the absence of a legitimate congressional vote.  Sometimes, in order to be truly heard you have to be willing to have the courage of your convictions --in spite of name-hurling and negative media bias-- and be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to fight the hard fight. 

To my way of thinking, Republicans making this stand against the immediate implementation of the "individual mandate" portion of the Obama-care law are waging a modern-day version of the Boston Tea Party:  "No taxation without equal representation!"



Friday, September 27, 2013

Drive By Shooting ...

Shot with my cell phone that is.  A glorious Texas sunset, as shot from a moving vehicle on the way back from the lake.  Taken the day before an extremely parched North Texas finally received some much needed rain. 


 "Texas Sunset:  Bring on the Rain!"
@2013 Copyrighted Photograph:  Isabelle Black Smith.  Non-profit Public Domain use permitted.
 
 
 
It was nice to completely unplug for an entire week++ and it was good to be 'home'.  Now it's good to be home.  Absence kind of helps with that whole appreciation, growing fonder thing, I think.  Hope it lasts for a little while, at least.  Stranger things have happened.

Saw that the world went mad, again, in my absence ... Praying for all involved in the mall shooting in Nairobi, Kenya.  The world seems to need a lot of prayers these days?
 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Justice Defends Innocence ....


So Pres. Obama and V. Putin meet face to face today. Seems Putin has concerns about destabilization in Syria if U.S. moves forward with its retaliatory strikes?   Hmmm … I am thinking Russia fears another ‘Iraq situation’, where Russia lost beaucoup bucks owed to the Russian government when the Husain government was successfully toppled. Following the almighty dollar usually sheds light on any given situation, doesn’t it? Sad but, true; we are living in a material world.

Given the above, would this not lend credence to the idea of Russia changing it’s security council vote in favor of U.N. sanctions against Assad’s Syrian government? Doesn’t ‘stability’ in Syria  ---and hence protection of Russia’s monetary investments in Syria-- stand a much better chance with global intervention and sanctions as opposed to unilateral action being taken –and dictated by— the U.S. alone (with possible French assistance ... think 8 additional nations support action being taken against Assad's government, but the latter do not want to be directly involved)?

At this point, even other Middle Eastern --specifically Saudi Arabia-- nations have openly acknowledged the need for intervention in order to protect the innocent caught up in the middle of this power struggle. These Middle Eastern nations even draw the line at the use of chemical weapons --other motivations for intervention aside … and I’m still actively pondering these.

 


Sculpture Title:  "Justice Defends Innocence"



On another point, Ban Ki Moon says ”only self-defense is justification for retaliation” in Syria. Defense of innocent people, not to mention children, who were attacked with chemical weapons by their own government and lacking the means to defend themselves meets this criteria in my book. Think the U.N. terminology needs to be reworded in order to account for instances where those under attack are powerless to execute authentic 'self-defense'. And to the end of defense of the innocent, the global community should be ready to act on behalf of the innocent if the evidence supports the fact that the chemical weapons used in the Aug. 21st attack were in fact launched by the Syrian government. Though it is unlikely that the evidence gathered by the U.N. inspection team will actually confirm anything other than the fact chemical weapons were indeed used. Think the U.N. needs to get some physicists, engineers and intelligence analysts on their team of investigators to back up the chemical analysts. I mean what good is collected evidence if it winds up being inconclusive and merely confirms the blatantly obvious (i.e.., that chemical weapons were indeed used)? Then again, perhaps this ineptitude on the part of the U.N. is also politically motivated?

The bottom line is that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! The time for meaningful and decisive action has been too long coming. Something has to be done and time is of the essence. The questions now should be focused on finding the most effective means by which the innocent in Syria can be protected from further harm moving forward. And a U.S. strike only has merit if it can be effective towards this end:   A slap on the wrist serves no meaningful end. To my way of thinking --after much information gathering and many hours of thought— the best way forward would be a targeted global response --even if this response does not come with full U.N. backing-- aimed at degrading, if not completely eliminating, the Assad regime's capability to launch further chemical attacks. That being said, it is my sincere hope that the U.N. will reach a consensus for meaningful action in Syria because a U.N. backed, negotiated peace --even if only temporary-- followed by U.N. inspectors and troops on the ground would be the most effective means for finding and removing chemical weapons from Syria. Given both China and Russia's continued resistance to impose sanctions upon the Assad government, perhaps the criteria for being a voting member on the U.N. Security Council needs to re-evaluated. Although it seems to me that both Russia and China are missing a golden opportunity to gain respect within the global community by demonstrating that they do in fact have respect for basic human rights and dignity --despite past actions on behalf of these governments to the contrary.

Given all that I have contemplated above, I have to wonder if the U.N. has, in this modern day and age, become an ineffective governing body, incapable of carrying out any meaningful global action or even enforcing it's own governing 'international laws' beyond mere rhetoric.


"The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."  ~Edmund Burke


When I hear people state that our getting involved in Syria "does not serve U.S. interests" over and over again  --completely removing the human factor from the equation, mostly on the Republican side of the debate-- I find myself  reminded of the reasons why some of the rest of world might consider our nation, the United States of America, to be nothing better than a bunch of self-serving hypocrites.


[How's that for day 6 of a pounding headache?]


9/6/2013   If we do nothing else, we should exercise every avenue for diplomacy in an effort to persuade Russia to change its U.N. Security Council vote in favor of imposing sanctions against Syria, as well as additional subsequent action for Assad's government having used chemical weapons on civilians. Perhaps if Russia comes around China will follow suit?? Furthermore if U.N. evidence does not support that it was in fact the Assad regime who launched the chemical weapons and the U.S. has evidence to the contrary, then the U.S. needs to be forthcoming with dissemination of their information to the appropriate persons such that other nations would then be willing to join in taking limited action against the Syrian government in an effort to prevent the future use of chemical weapons.

I truly believe that if U.N. is incapable of taking any meaningful action on behalf of the global community in a concerted effort to address the use of chemical weapons upon Syrian civilians that it will, by its failure to act, have signaled end of the United Nations as a viable and effective world governing body moving forward.



9/9/2013  I am extremely glad that a new, and rather unexpected, option has come to light with light with respect to chemical weapons being used in Syria.  Russia surprises the world yet again?  Although, I had hope that Russia would come through all along.  Seems to me Russia's brokering a deal is in their best interests as well.  Think U.S. and other supporting world powers have to keep the credible threat of a military strike on the table in order for Assad to take this offer and its subsequent follow-through seriously.  Let us hope also that the U.N. can actually come through in terms of providing meaningful inspection of delivered chemical weapons to ensure that all weapons are in fact turned over to U.N., as well as a rigid follow-through on over-seeing the destruction of these weapons.  Think what I said a few weeks back --w.r.t. Edward Snowden-- seems to be holding true (new trend in this crazy world of ours?):  "Justice moves in mysterious ways these days."

9/12/2013 Speak softly, and maybe sometimes carry a big stick.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

We are living in a material world ...

We are living in a material world ... Well, most of us are, on multiple levels. 



"We are living in a material world?"



I have to wonder, at some point, don't you have to ask yourself:  what is the illusion and what is truly real?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Everything is Beautiful ....

Everything is Beautiful, in its own way, right?  So says the song.  I always tell my children "God doesn't make anything that is not beautiful in some way."  Maybe man does, but God doesn't.


"Light Play in the Garden"
@2013 Copyrighted Photograph, All Rights Reserved:  Isabelle Black Smith.
 
 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mini 'State of the Union': August 9, 2013


“Dichotomy”…  Refers to diametrically opposed traits, ideas or concepts, where the objects being contrasted and compared must be mutually exclusive  (i.e., no overlap exists between the members of each given set).   Dichotomies are useful in science and mathematics (e.g., developing keys to clearly identify species in science or developing mathematical theorems).  While useful in science and mathematics, dichotomies are often incorrectly employed in politics and advertising in order to over-simplify a given idea or problem.  Learning to identify these rhetorical tricks in language communications, particularly with respect to political agendas,  can be extremely useful.  For example, a politician running for office might say “we need better roads, therefore we need to raise taxes.”  This of course leaves out the option of re-allocating existing funds, or of using funds in a more efficient way.  The gross-over simplification of the issues is a trait common to many politicians who want to encourage uninformed and easily swayed people to vote for them and/or to agree with and support their policies and political agendas.

Perhaps, given the political environment in which we find ourselves these days, the terms ‘sophistry’ and ‘hyperbole’ would be useful terms to have familiarity with, as well,when assembling your reasoning arsenal.


[ And it doesn't have to be "them vs. us" ... We can come together, work together, in a bi-partisan effort to solve the many problems which plague our nation, but first and foremost must come recognition of the glaring fact that we must put our fiscal house back in order in order to have any hope of putting America back together again, let alone striving to restore "excellence".  Denial can only carry you so far.  You can't build Utopia with a credit card, no matter how much you believe and desperately try.  When the number of people taking from the system exceeds those who are putting something into the system, the house of cards will collapse.  And somehow, I can't shake the feeling this collapse is looming in our not too distant future.  Seriously, is this --a legacy of collapse and unrecoverable economic chaos-- the legacy you want to stamp your name onto for future generations to bear witness to? ]

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Without Limit ....



"In the Garden"
@2012 Copyright Photograph.  All Rights Reserved:  Isabelle Black Smith.



"The Soul has a canvas which transcends space-time."
~Isabelle Black Smith
 
.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Window Into Unseen Worlds ....

  
 
"Handstand Penguin"
 
@2013 All Rights Reserved:  Isabelle Black Smith


...

Friday, August 02, 2013

Truth in Relgion?



"There are many paths, but only one God."



Have been thinking a lot about lately about divides, division among various religious faiths in particular.  As my thoughts unfold upon this topic I keep coming back to a quote from one of my favorite movies.  This quote comes from the movie "Kingdom of Heaven."  Balean, the blacksmith and son of the Baron of Ibelin, has this wisdom carved into the master beam which supports the roof of his workshop.  The quote reads as follows: 


"What man is a man who does not make the world around him a better place?"~"Kingdom of Heaven"
.
.
.
 

To my way of thinking the above quote sums up rather nicely what should be the true essence of any faithful, spiritual man or woman ... regardless of the specific beliefs of the 'faith' one happens to espouse.  Would you agree?

Given what I've seen from men in the spotlight of religion these days, perhaps a fitting corollary to the above might be ... "What man is a man who must tear others and their beliefs down in order to find his peace?"~Isabelle Black Smith

Perhaps the above notions should serve as a divining rod when seeking 'truth' in religion?  Of course, I will be the first to admit that truth is all a matter of perspective in the end.  Maybe the good news is that by merely changing your perspective you have the ability to change your life?


8/14/2013   Saw, via Google News, that a 10-yr. old little girl was shot in the chest and killed, in Egypt, while on her way home from Bible School.  10 years old?  An innocent little girl, merely practicing her faith, the faith of her family --Coptic Christian, a minority faith in Egypt at less than 10% of population.  Since when is the taking of a LIFE, and an innocent young life at that, ever justified, under any circumstance ... let alone for a mere perceived offense of choosing to practice a different faith in worship of the same God and Creator worshiped and followed by those of the Islamic faith as well.  The wisdom of infinite Justice is not ours to dictate or administer, but it is God's and I cannot help but think that He will find a grievous offense in the actions of those who took the life of this innocent little girl ... of those who have taken and continue to take innocent lives, supposedly in the name of a God who created and loves us ALL.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Edward Snowden: Hero or Traitor?


When the story broke with regards to the NSA’s –our very own government—spying on U.S. citizens in a sweeping --not to mention illegal-- over-stepping of their original mandate as dictated the USA Patriot Act, I wanted to keep the focus on the important issue:  the gross violation of our constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy as U.S. citizens.  While this issue, and more specifically obtaining satisfactory answers and accountability moving forward from our government officials responsible remains foremost in my thoughts: I have since had time to give some thought to the man who broke this story … A man without whom we would not even know that we needed to be having the latter discussion:  Edward Snowden. 

I’ve heard both sides of the arguments for and against Edward Snowden in the days and weeks that have followed the breaking of this historic news story and I can’t help but notice that more often than not people both for and against Snowden seem to have a need to pre-suppose that they understand Snowden’s motivations for violating his security agreement with the U.S. government in the first place. Then based upon these suppositions they draw their conclusion as to whether or not Edward Snowden should be labeled with the title “hero” or “traitor.” 

Personally, I think that the most unbiased, truthful method for evaluating Snowden's actions lies in removing Snowden’s motivations from the equation all-together.  Regardless of his motivations, Edward Snowden was witness to a gross and on-going violation of the constitutionally binding agreement between an agency acting on behalf of the U.S. government and the people of the United States, a violation that went up to the highest levels.  Do you honestly think that a mere analyst voicing his concerns about these violations by following the ‘chain of command’ would ever have successfully resulted in any meaningful correction of the constitutionally flawed NSA policies?  If you do, then you must be living in fantasy-land, happily sipping the widely available Kool-aide these days … proud proponents of maintaining the status quo. 

The way I see it, Edward Snowden put his very way of life on the line when he stepped up to the plate and found the courage to be the lone voice of reason in a world gone (blanking) mad.  Does that make him a hero?  Maybe so, but whatever you choose to call Edward Snowden I will be forever grateful for his courage and it is my sincere hope that he does not lose faith in the merits of his actions, that he remains true to the United States and its citizens, and that the government of a decent country will find the courage to grant him asylum.


8/2/2013  Think in today's crazy world maybe justice moves in mysterious ways?  Strange times call for strange --unexpected-- measures.  Regardless, I am sincerely happy for Edward Snowden ... pleased he was finally granted asylum and by Russia of all countries.  Who would have thought such an outcome would have been possible several weeks back?  The ancient Arabic proverb "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is echoing through my mind as I type here.

10/10/2013  http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/10/the-patriot-acts-author-wants-to-dismantle-the-nsas-phone-and-internet-data-collection/

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dizzying Effect of Natural Remedy: Red Pepper Tea

User beware:  not all natural remedies work the way you think they will.




Case in point, I have been drinking a red pepper tea for seasonal allergies.  Something in the air seems to be really bothering me these past two weeks for some odd reason -- nearby forest fires while on vacation?  So I have been drinking 2 cups of red pepper tea per day instead of just my normal one to none.  Normally, I am fine with this tea blend and I have used it many times before --I always prefer natural remedies to pharmaceutical drugs-- with much success, but the past few days I have found myself becoming incredibly dizzy, to the point of almost passing out, after my second cup of tea. 

It finally occurred to me that it was in the red pepper tea that was causing my dizziness, but I couldn't figure out exactly why.  After some reading here on-line today I discovered that the red pepper tea has also been used to lower blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure and when combined with potassium the blood pressure effect is significantly increased --because the potassium takes the place of sodium stored in body cells, which in turn causes a drop in blood pressure.  And here I have been eating a banana after my intense workouts these past few days --to help reduce muscle pain ... lactic acid build-up.  Turns out this post-workout banana has been preceding my second cup of red pepper tea each day.  I have normal to low blood pressure already, being tall and thin, so lowering my blood pressure is not something I need to be doing.  So, now I know:  red pepper tea and bananas do not mix for me!  But maybe if you have high blood pressure and you want to try a natural remedy for lowering blood pressure (have heard blood pressure medications have some nasty side-effects!) the red pepper tea and banana combo just might be the ticket for you.


[Side Note:  I do have to wonder though ... would it be safe to use lowering my blood pressure to the point of dizziness in order to induce sleep?????  I have horrible insomnia and most sleeping pills don't work well for me, but I slept well on the dizzy nights.]

Monday, July 22, 2013

What's The End Goal?

"To want for nothing" ... that's the end goal, right?  Interesting how these words can take on such a diverse meaning, depending upon your unique perspective as you journey through this life ...



materialism, spiritualism or something in the middle?
 


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Jelly Bean Jars

I remember those guessing games we used to play when I was a kid.  A teacher or parent at a party filled a jar with candy --jelly beans, candy corns, butterscotch, M&Ms-- and then the kids would have to guess how many of a given item there were in the jar.  I don't know why, but I always wound up winning those jars?  Guess, I am highly attuned  when it comes to spatial awareness and visualizing objects.  I've always had a thing for numbers too ... often times I have an easier time memorizing someone's license plate or telephone number over their name.  Odd, right?  But that's me in a nutshell.



 


Anyway, I've found it amusing to watch my blog slowly tick its way along to 100,000 page views.  Kind of like those jars full of jelly beans when I was a kid.  About six months ago my blog hit 60,000 page views.  At the time, I thought it would be cool to log in to witness the exact 60,000 page view and as luck would have it -- logging in 1-2 times each day-- I did watch the counter turn to 60,000 right on the money.  I hadn't really thought too much about when my blog would roll over to 100,000 mark. ... too much going on for me these days.  Guess, I was kind of hoping that I'd turn 100,000 before year's end, but never expected it'd be this soon. I'm at  99,862  page views tonight and likely tomorrow or the next day I'll be at 100,000.  What a ride? ; )  Other people must need a place to reflect and clear their heads as well.  So much is going on in our world these days, isn't there?  Sometimes it's hard to find a quiet moment to stop and take it all in.

A special thanks to the Blogger team for providing such awesome, cutting-edge tools for sharing thoughts and ideas in today's technological world.  You all are amazing and truly appreciated!! 

~M

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Over 6,000 attend memorial service for fallen firemen

"The tragedy was the greatest loss of life from a U.S. wildfire in 80 years, and the highest number of American firefighters killed in a single incident since the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York." ~Reuters.com





May God Bless the souls of the nineteen brave firefighters being laid to rest in Arizona today. 
The fallen firefighters were members of the Granite Mountain ("Hotshots") Fire Department, an elite firefighting squad from Prescott, Arizona.  They were overrun by flames on the afternoon of June 30 while battling a lightning-sparked fiery blaze outside the tiny town of Yarnell, in central Arizona.

May God also bless and comfort the families, friends and loved ones of these brave firemen left behind, especially the little children.  The nation mourns with you, with many heartfelt thoughts and prayers being sent your way.


You really have to admire the men and women --such as the fallen firemen being honored today-- who are brave enough to put self momentarily aside ... brave enough not only to look directly into the eye of a fiercely raging storm, but brave enough to step forward and say "Look out storm, cause here I come!" ... Think these men and women represent what is truly great in this U.S. nation of ours.  I had recently written (elsewhere) this Independence Day was not the usual source of inspiration, pride and renewal of my faith & hope for a bright future in the United State of America as a nation that it usually is for me each year.  I think these fallen firemen and their comrades who survived from the Granite Mountain Fire Department ... such brave men and women fearlessly answering the call to serve so that the lives of others would be spared ... have renewed my hope and faith in this nation of ours once again.  The fearlessness of brave men and women, such as these, and their unselfish willingness to put others first exemplifies what makes our nation truly great.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

They Have No Right to Store Our Private Data for Potential "Future Use"!

I still say NO-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO to storing our data.  Even if "future access" requires a court ordered warrant in order to "legally view and use" this data.  Storing our --private U.S. citizen's-- data (phone conversations, emails, on-line media transactions and postings) is a violation of our constitutional right to privacy that goes way beyond the original intent of the Patriot Act.  The Patriot Act (enacted in the aftermath of 9/11) proved to be sufficient in keeping the U.S. and her citizens within the borders of the United States safe under the Bush Administration.  I fail to see the need or justification for this subsequent intrusive and secretive expansion of data collection for intelligence purposes, in not just scope but depth as well, that has taken place under the Obama Administration.  The government has no absolutely NO RIGHT to store my personal data and quite frankly I don't trust them in doing so --that is to say:  I do not trust in the government's ability to keep my private data safe. 

I am all for keeping Americans safe, but I won't willingly surrender my constitutional right to privacy in order for government to do so.  The latter being said, I am okay with the government providing sufficient grounds for probable cause and then legally obtaining a narrow and specifically targeted court-issued warrant to conduct a "targeted search of private citizen's data".  This was the intent of the original Patriot Act.  The current NSA surveillance program still operates under the original "USA Patriot Act", which was renewed in 2006 and again in 2011 (according to the "Seattle Times" newspaper).  Recent revelations about NSA spying on private citizens, secretly accessing and storing our private data --which they have not denied doing!*--  however, clearly demonstrate that the NSA has overstepped their original mandate, as outlined by the Patriot Act.  Now that the truth about the scope and depth of the current NSA surveillance program is thankfully out in the open:  It is up to us, "We the People", to demand some answers, along with a thorough congressional evaluation of the current expanded NSA surveillance program in order to verify that this program is not operating outside the scope of the "USA Patriot Act".  We need to put accountability in government back onto the table in order to ensure the constitutional rights of "We the People" to privacy are not surrendered and trampled upon moving forward, ever mindful of the fact that once we willingly surrender our constitutional rights we will never truly be able to get them back once again.


*In testimony to Congress yesterday NSA director, Gen. Alexander, when asked if the NSA has the ability "to listen to private citizens' phone calls and to read private citizens' emails" responded with an ambiguous ... "No ... No.  We do not have that authority."  We know the NSA does not have the "authority" to access this data without a court-issued warrant, but the question was does the NSA have the ability to access this data and the general clearly skirted the question with his answer.

And furthermore, does the NSA think that members of Congress and "we the people" are stupid?  If they're not storing our private data (phone conversations, emails, on-line media transactions and postings), then what the heck (feel free to substitute a more feeling expletive!) do they need the new $40 million data storage facility ("Dark Star"), in Salt Lake City UT --capable of storing multiple years worth of the entire internet's traffic in their entirety-- for????????????

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Once we willingly give it up: we're never going to get it back!


In today's high tech, digital world there really is no such thing as true 'privacy'.  I've always known and accepted this on some level.  Forgoing a certain level of privacy is just the price we pay for this technology we all seem to be addicted to.  The latter being said, you can't spend all your time worrying about invasions into your personal privacy, right?  You just have to live a good, relatively clean life, and hope that there is just so-oooooooo much information out there that you and yours will remain forever lost in the echoes.

 
Myself, aside from a lot of pain, I've got nothing to hide.  I would rather some people who hurt me from my past were never able find me again, but I know in my heart that if they truly wanted to they could find me once again.  I guess, for the time being, we should be thankful our own private thoughts (ones inside our head) still remain our very own, right?  After all, the United States is supposed to be one of the greatest nations on the planet and the current U.S. government administration claims that it is ... has been, will remain ... the "most transparent administration in the history of the U.S.", so we U.S. citizens have nothing to worry about?

 
Or so we thought ... In light of recent revelations these past few days regarding "data collecting" of U.S. citizens' private information (i.e., phone records, emails, and other social media messaging and posted digital content) for "future use as needed", a government surveillance program known as PRISM and a new NSA data storage facility, coming on-line in Salt Lake City Utah (Dark Star), capable of storing yottabytes of digital data  (where one yottabyte contains more than an entire year's worth of internet traffic!):  I'd have to say that "transparent" has come to take on a whole new meaning, with transparent being turned onto you and me, private citizens of the U.S. A.  When the author of the original "Patriot Act" comes out saying that the U.S. government has overstepped it's mandate on a grand scale, in this particular instance, you know the world has truly gone mad.  Maybe I'd better not even mention a recent article I read about government funded studies into the science of mind-reading ... "1984", here we come?




I understand that we live in a world where terrorism has literally come to our doorstep and as such the methods our government uses to combat this virulent terrorism have changed.  I was okay with the original Patriot Act, after careful consideration of the facts pertaining to this law ... which came to light in 2004, in the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft (program started in 2001 after 9/11) ... But this current revelation about the depth and scope of our government's spying on and storing our private personal information, in the form of phone records, conversations, emails and other on-line social media content and transactions, clearly shows our government's ability to dip into the lives of its private citizens without due process of law has really gotten out of control!   With this mass storing of our private information "for potential future use" there is no more protection from "unreasonable search and seizure" or any guarantee of "due process of law" because the previous requirements to get a court order before obtaining this type of data have now effectively been eliminated  as the government already has all our data!  And we citizens are just supposed to trust that government or individuals with the security clearance to access our data –perhaps with their own private agendas (e.g., political targeting, black-mail, etc.)-- won't use or abuse our personal data and completely trample on our individual rights to privacy?   


By accepting this type of behavior on the part of our government, without question, we, as Americans, will essentially have effectively given up our right to true privacy, in my humble opinion.  Once we surrender this power to the federal government we will we never truly be able to get it back!  This is an important point to make and consider, so I will repeat the latter:  Once we, as citizens, willingly surrender our right to privacy --and on such a grand scale-- to the federal government we will we never truly be able to get it back!  So now is the time to become informed, think this whole thing through and ACT!  I have to wonder which scares me more:  our government secretly overstepping its original mandate, as dictated by the Patriot Act, or U.S. citizens complacency in responding to this violation of power and privacy?  Is not our right to privacy one of the greatest, hard-won, and globally-speaking relatively unique freedoms we have as citizens of the United States of America?  A freedom that used to make the U.S.A. one of the greatest nations on earth …  And we are now somehow okay with just surrendering this freedom in name of an appearance of enhanced security????!!!!???  Yeah, I don’t think so!  Show me the 'money' (proof) and then maybe we’ll talk.  Keep in mind, this “enhanced security” did absolutely nothing to alert authorities to or to prevent the recent terror attack at the Boston Marathon this past Spring 2013.

Is it just me or are the opportunities for abuse in this blanket PRISM monitoring and subsequent data storage scenario unwieldy and wholly unacceptable?  I mean, if any analyst --even a government contractor, not directly a government employee under direct government oversight-- conceivably has the ability, and not necessarily the legal right or due process directive, to target any individual citizen are we then just supposed to trust that they (or god forbid others using them to gain access to private citizens’ information) will simply choose not do so?  That’s absolutely insane!


Given the facts to date, the important question now becomes:  what will we, as U.S. citizens and elected government officials, do about this egregious violation of our constitutional rights to privacy?  And will this action on our part be decisive and timely (unlike all previous responses to affronts on our civil liberties by this current administration) or will we just wind up letting things s-l-i-d-e, yet again, this time around as well?  Remember, once we let these hard-won constitutional rights go, getting them back once again will be next to impossible, so now is the time to become informed, think this whole thing through and ACT!  The way I see it, timing here is of the essence and letting this one "SLIDE" is simply NOT AN OPTION.  It is time for accountability in U.S. government to be put back onto the table ... We've been on the slippery slope for too long now and the landslide is coming.  The Patriot Act was one thing, PRISM and Dark Star are another matter entirely.  What’s more, given the fact that the latter violations to our privacy did absolutely nothing to stop the recent terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon speaks to the fact that surrendering more of hard-won civil liberties is not the way forward in our efforts to combat terrorists.  You have to draw the line somewhere and I say we draw the line at the Patriot Act, requiring court-issued warrants in order to store and access private citizen’s personal data.


And yes, the fact that this particular contractor to the U.S. government --not even a direct government employee -- had access to the intelligence information he says he did --and therein may lie the key-- does make you scratch your head and wonder why our national security secrets are so widely available and unprotected.  That being said, the lack of security w.r.t. to our national security secrets is another matter entirely:  a matter which sorely needs to be addressed, if true, but addressed in another conversation altogether.   And the fact that our government can't even safeguard information w.r.t. our vital national security secrets does not go a long way toward giving me any further confidence in the government’s ability to safeguard my personal information w.r.t. to phone calls, emails, and other digital transactions.

P.S.  This data-mining revelation kind of paints Microsoft's new "Skydrive: 7GB free cloud-drive storage for everyone", Flickr's photo sharing recent "A FREE terabyte of storage for everyone!", and Google's long running slogan of "With 1GB of free storage who ever needs to delete an email?" ... in a whole new light, doesn't it?  Help populate the database with useful data, you clueless citizens?  Our grandparents' were right:  there truly is no free-lunch, go figure .... And what about possible ramifications for limiting the field of potential candidates to run for political offices with everyone's skeletons now just a click of a few buttons away?  Some scary stuff if you stop for a moment and take a look at the BIG picture.