Sunday, December 29, 2013

Do you follow the recipe or do you freelance your own concoction?

There seems to be two camps — two schools of thought about making things in life.  there is the recreate the exact formula that has been used before to perfection. Not a bad idea.  Many great recipes are worth following down to the very pinch of salt required right after braising the lamb.  On the other hand there are those who will whip up a gourmet meal with little more in from of them than a TV and a glass of wine. Everything comes from their heads. All creative— all made up on the spot.

Neither camp is all right or all wrong. But it tells a lot about one's view of life. Which are you. Forget the kitchen. Think about how you move through the world on your daily walk. What is your life? Is it a series of forks in the road you negotiate by formula? Or is it one creative moment after the next with trial by fire at every turn?

I have creative friends whose lives are prescribed by a set of rules they follow closely as if by law. Others I know live life from one moment to the next as if there were no laws of nature at all. I even have scientist and engineer friends who live on the edge in their personal life, while taking extraordinary steps to stay with the plan in their work.

Think about your life and how you live it.during the new year, regardless of which side you find yourself, venture to the other side for a few hours each day. the change will do you good.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tis the season...

It is that time of year again. Time to wrap gifts, drink eggnog and pretend we love our neighbors as ourselves.  But let's be truthful...a lot of the love, joy and wonder of this Christmas season has been lost due to the factions that fight constantly and bicker about very subject that comes up.

A few of my friends are angry over a man killing his stepdaughter as she entered the house.  (They, of course see this as more gun violence.)  Still others are aghast that A&E fired some duck caller guy for being a stupid, ignorant racists and homophobe. There are those who live around me who wish the Obama's dead. Others want them anointed for life as rulers of America.  We try not to have these groups over at the same time, especially if alcohol is being served.

Friends of mine in Utah support gay rights and the rights of LGBT to marry as they see fit.  Others we know in that wonderfully snowy state think it is the beginning of the end.

My vegan friends still think I am going to hell for eating the curds and whey, as well as the Whataburger and medium rare Ruth's Chris steak. My Ford friends won't speak to my Chevy friends and neither of those two groups will even acknowledge that my wife and I drive cars made by the Third Reich. (Heaven forbid if they knew I used to work for a car company from the land of the rising sun!)

But hey, it's Christmas.  A holiday designed to sell a great deal of retail merchandise to celebrate the birth of a man who preached giving your coat and alms to the poor.

Giving to the poor is a great idea.  But there are friends of mine on the right that think any handout is an act of communism. So you see, there is no pleasing anyone at this season. Which is why I am giving all my conservative friends a special gift this season. I am donating to Planned Parenthood in their names.

God bless you one and all.  And may you have a great holiday filled with beautifully wrapped gifts, loads of eggnog (splashed liberally with good Kentucky Bourbon) and relatives out the wazoo.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Open Letter to the White House.

Mr. President, it is time that the spying on Americans stop.

How’s that for being straight forward?  No more wishy-washy news conferences. No more subtle innuendos about what might be or could be done.  Just stop the spying. Period. Now.

You dropped the ball on Guantanamo, do not drop this ball.  Your support for Obamacare comes from a broad base, but a lot of it comes from progressives like me.  And I for one am fed up with the NSA and their tactics: even more, their lies and denials, which we know to be misleading and not factual.  The government of the United States is conducting surveillance on a broad scale against its citizens.  And that is unconstitutional.

So, Mr. President, bring it to a screeching halt.  Now.

Everyday our freedom of privacy is eroded.  Everyday the new right wing Supreme Court gives corporations and power brokers more and more control of our lives and it goes on unabated.  The men in black robes could care less about the freedoms of Americans. They only care about the rich and the powerful.  We need someone who will stand up for the citizens of the United States. We need a champion for the constitution. And we were hopping that would be you, Mr. Obama. You can do something about the NSA. You can shut it down. You can make a difference.

Stop the spying.  Today.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Freedom of speech is between you and the government, not you and an employer.

This is a reprint from an earlier Facebook posting I did, but I thought it needed more circulation for a wider audience.

“I am going to weigh in on this duck dynasty fiasco sweeping the political discussions across our nation. There are two huge points that one needs to take into consideration when looking at Phil’s remarks.

One: In the free enterprise system of capitalism, if you work for a company you do not have freedom of speech in all cases. They can fire you for things you say, write and even repeat. It happens all the time. A&E has the right to let go anyone for any reason that they believe speaks against the basic values to which the network adheres.

On the other hand, point two is that Phil has the right in America to say whatever is on his mind. He is free to espouse his OPINIONS when asked a question by a reporter. You and I my not agree with him. (I know I don’t.) but he is guaranteed under the constitution the right to say whatever is on his mind, short of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. He can make as big a fool of himself as he wishes. Our constitution guarantees him that freedom.

However, A&E is a private concern that answers to a board of directors and stock holders and has a network standards practice and if it felt that an employee violated what A&E stood for, then they could fire (and did) fire him. Think this is wrong? Imagine a spokesman for the Billy Graham Crusade saying publically that he thinks Jesus was just a neat guy and probably not the savior in his opinion. How long do you think that guy would be getting a check signed by Franklin Graham? Not long, I can tell you. That would be the prerogative of the mission group. They haven’t said that their member couldn’t feel that way, nor even speak that way; but they don’t have to support such views. The same is true for A&E.

I don’t like what Phil said. But he has the right to say it. But A&E doesn’t have the responsibility to be a sounding board for those ideas. And that is where they drew the line.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.”

A good friend of mine penned an excellent argument regarding the loss of our freedoms and the erosion of privacy in America.  For the Friday Blog, I share those thoughts with you. As Michael said to me, “It is time we all start speaking up.”

An essay by Michael Evans

The NSA communication collection programs are not only a violation of every American's right to privacy, they are also putting Americans and the country at risk.

People like (Edward) Snowdon are not the problem. Snowdon's motivation was to inform Americans that the NSA was acting illegally (which is certainly true as the NSA programs have not withstood the light of day). The real risk is from the people in the NSA, who may have been placed there, that will use their access to collect information to use against America, to promote their own agendas or their self-interests. They will stay silent collecting information for themselves or their masters and using it for illegal gains or to threaten and control. They are therefore the real danger America faces due to these NSA programs.

Think of the trove of secrets (J. Edgar) Hoover held and used to threaten American Presidents. Hoover's information was nothing compared to what is available in the NSA data banks and the potential for sabotage, gain or blackmail is only greater. I do not want to live in a police state to be "safe". Like atomic weapons, the genie is likely out of the box, but stop government sanctioned spying on USA citizens and make it explicitly illegal, so when we send an email or make any type of phone call Americans know that their government is not spying on them.

How can any program be so secret that it is illegal to inform ‘We the People’ of the illegal activities? This is certainly a Bush and now Obama Catch 22 program. Snowdon is a whistle blower not a traitor. A traitor betrays the people of the nation, a whistle blower exposes the excesses or over reach of government. There is a difference and it should not be up to the people exposed to pass judgment on him.

Michael Evans
Dallas, Texas

Here is the body of the 4th amendment:  Read it and understand your rights.  They are yours. Not the NSA’s. Not the governments. Yours.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

So the next time you think this is just a lot media hot air, remember, the NSA is listening, collecting and storing your data.  And it is against the law of the United States of America for them to do so.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A nice letter about "Letters"

Thanks to my old So Cal buddy, Robby Gore, for sending me this nice review. It was in Dylan Leach’s blog review.  Posted just after the book came out, probably forwarded to him by my friends at LULU, who have worked tirelessly on my behalf.

“I discovered John Crawley a few short years ago with his novel, Stuff.  I found it to be a rewarding book (albeit a short one) and was one of the first self-published works I reviewed. (At that time it raised eyebrows from my editors, as well as colleagues.) His later works, including The Myth Makers and Fishing Lessons intrigued me, in that he moved from voice to voice and from genre to genre with great ease and aplomb; then along comes Letters from Paris, his latest, and I believe his web site said, 13th book. I have not read them all, but I do think it must be his best.

This work is rich in language, plot and structure.  It flows like a real history and captures a time and a spirited group of people with imagination and grace, although I do wish more time could have been spent with other members of the Lost Generation than just John dos Passos. From the first page to the last, this narrative takes us into the life of a woman who looks at our world in such pure, unabashed honesty as to make me blush with embarrassment at my own social nearsightedness.

I am not going to get into the review of the main character, Clare de Fontroy and her travails at this time, What I wish to address is the level of writing that self-publishing is reaching.  Just find a copy of one of Crawley’s books and you can see that the art form is in excellent hands— even without the aid of a big publishing house (although LULU Press has become one of the largest forces in books today).  The novel is solid and it has a real chance to find and grow a substantial audience.  What intrigues me is that a book of this quality (Letters from Paris) may go unread by millions, when it deserves every eyeball it can get, glued to the riveting story of the remarkable heroine of the story. She is a wonderful model for us all, as is the book crafted around her: a job very well done by this author from the States.”

Letters from Paris. A must read.

Dylan Leach

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Peekaboo...guess who's watching you?

Yesterday a Federal District Judge in Washington ruled that the NSA
Secret surveillance program may be unconstitutional— violating the 4th amendment‑ the one which protects our privacy from undue search and seizures. I couldn’t agree more.

This got me to thinking about the other side who claims it is necessary to fight the “war on terrorism.”  How are people’s conversations to and from lovers, family members and friends any of the government’s business.  The judge called it down right “Orwellian.” He’s right.  The war on terrorism is not like World War II or Vietnam or any other war with specific sides and battle lines.  It is a murky, dark police action against a force that hides and springs to life when we least expect it. I get it.  The same was true with the forces we opposed during the war on drugs days. But even in those days we still had to go to a court of law and show “probably cause” to get search warrants and wire tapping permission before the police could snoop in the dark.  But now, with the secret courts and the behind the scenes workings of the NSA, CIA and other initialized government bodies, we can be spied on at anytime in almost any situation.

Probably cause is not owning a cell phone. Probably cause is not texting.  Probably cause is not communicating with family and friends.  Probable cause is real and should be shown to a court in the open for the proper paperwork to spy on the country’s citizens.

Many condemned Edward Snowden as a traitor for revealing the workings of the NSA.  Not me.  I think he is a national hero. We need more like him.  Patriots who will take a stand and say that this type of action is wrong and it goes against what our constitution sets forth as the law of the land.

If we are the land of the free, we should have our government act like it. It should be held accountable for our freedoms, not just defending them with a standing army, but propping them up with courts and jurisdictions that can survive the light of day. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

The beginning of the end.

This blog today is for Longhorn fans.  Sorry all you other sports nuts.  But here goes.

Mack Brown resigned the other night and although it doesn't take affect until after the Alamo Bowl game against Oregon, the die was cast many months ago. Some say when Texas lost Will Muschamp to Florida the beginning started there. I don't think so.  I think it happened in the Rose Bowl National Championship game between Alabama and Texas.

Here's my point of view. McCoy was out at QB.  Garrett Gilbert, a freshman was in.  The clock was winding down at half with the Longhorns trialing 17 to 6.  Not insurmountable, but certainly worthy of getting back to the dressing rooms and discussing their strategy for defeating the Crimson Tide.

With just seconds to play in the first half, Texas calls time out.  What?  Why?  Let the clock run out and get to the dressing rooms and regroup.  You are still in this game.  Why call time out?

Next play...the infamous shovel pass interception by 'Bama. Suddenly, game over. Emotions drained.  It was a stupid mistake by a coaching staff that never recovered.  Not that night. Not the nest year or the year after that or this year either.

That shovel pass interception and the time out that lead up to it was the bonehead beginning of the end for Mack Brown at UT. Texas has not recruited at nationally ranked first round QB since.  God love David Ash and Chase McCoy, but nope.  Texas even passed on Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, the kid from Florida State who just won this year's Heisman. Texas has been recruiting A- to B+ players for the last few years.  Stars who once sought to wear the orange and white are now going elsewhere to more exciting philosophies. Brown’s return to the ground game is good, but it doesn’t win championships anymore nor does it win the hearts and minds of young men with dreams of playing big time on Sunday.
And it all started with a stupid time out and an even dumber shovel pass call. Many blamed Gilbert.  Not me.  It was all Mack’s doing.  I love the guy.  He is a great man, but his career became unhinged after those two acts in Pasadena.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What does the future hold for bigotry?

So yesterday I wrote of tolerance.  And apparently it was on President Obama’s mind when he spoke to the United Nations.  And yet, the right gets so exercised because of one sentence he uttered.  The future does not belong to practicing Christians.” He goes on to add nor does it belong to the intolerance of any other religious group. The true meaning of his speech is that on this tiny rock, we’ve got to start learning to get along together.  I may not believe everything the Christians, Jews, Islamics and Buddhists say and think, but they are my neighbors and I must allow them their beliefs.

Without this kind of tolerance and open mindless we will be nothing more than herds of scavenging animals in the post apocalyptic period. My way of the highway attitude has to disappear. The belligerent I am right and you are wrong is a deadly sin for all of mankind to suffer.

It is time for earth to bury the hatred, the ignorance and the bigotry. It is time for us to become one again.  Humans.

Way to go Mr. President. Tell it like it is.  The future doesn’t belong to any one sect.  It belongs to free-thinking people, who recognize that for us to survive as a species we must live as a village.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm back

I've been away from the keyboard for a few months, getting my new novel, Letters from Paris, is shape for publishing (It is out now, so go buy a copy and enjoy.)

While I have been away, I've been watching our wonderful world and marveling at some things. There are a lot of religious people in the world who feel as though they are personally being persecuted by the media and by society in general. Many are Christians. Many more are Islamic. A few are Jewish and even a few more are sun-worshiping surfers, but we'll skip them for the moment.

What each of these groups have in common is the belief that theirs is the only way and the only god and the only wisdom on Earth.  Key word, as you have noticed is only. And they think the world is out to get them. Out to silence their TRUTHS from being uttered. Much the same can be said for the two political parties in Washington. Or is it really three parties…I feel the Tea Party is moving so far to the extreme right, it is leaving the rest of the Republican gaggle behind.

The real message in the dysfunction of religion and the dysfunction in politics is to think that you have the only way to god and truth and to a balanced budget.  There are many ways to achieve nirvana, both in spiritual needs and in running a government. No one group of people...have all the answers all the time.

So in this season of brotherly love and corporate greed, let’s try and remember that we all have points of view.  No matter whom we choose to shake hands with and no matter what direction we kneel to pray. None of us are right all the time. And believe me, none of us are out to suffocate your religious beliefs…no matter how pedestrian they seem.