03/20/17

How We Spent Spring Break

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

My wife and I went to Florida this past week.  We found that travel and lodging during Spring Break involves cashing in a couple of CDs since prices qualify for gouging; but that’s a whole other story.

The purpose of our trip was to scatter my father’s ashes, a gesture of respect which gave us closure, much as having a formal funeral puts a period at the end of a sentence.

The funeral home supplied a TSA approved urn made of nicely polished wood containing dad’s cremated ashes along with an official letter issued by the State of Texas for permission to transport human remains.

We showed up earlier than normal to avoid complications should the urn not pass TSA check point guidelines as advised.  We were told that his urn would be considered ‘carry on luggage’; dwell on that for a moment.  We’d placed the urn in a blue plastic bag from Sketchers shoe store so as not to alarm folks at the airport.

Thinking of dad as ‘carry on luggage’ made me smile, a morbid sense of humor that a retired night shift cop would find amusing.  At least we didn’t have to purchase a ticket and put a seat belt around the urn.

The folks at the TSA check point ran the urn through their X-ray machine twice and then took several swabs with chemically treated patches to make sure it didn’t contain bomb making substances.  Dad passed (actually he ‘passed’ back in October) and we placed him in the overhead luggage compartment without incident.

Dad’s Pastor volunteered the use of his boat as he ferried my sister and her husband along with my wife and me to the same location where mom’s ashes had been scattered last August.  We had an informal burial service and for all practical purposes we’d accomplished our mission.

But that’s not why I’m writing…

TSA flagged my wife’s carry on luggage; something raised suspicion as it went through the X-ray machine.  We were herded over to a steel table where they went though every inch of it.  A coin purse had too many quarters which prevented them from figuring out what it was.

They went through the toiletries and told us we had a tube of liquid material that exceeded the Three and One Half Ounce Rule, a brand new unopened tube of doTerra Deep Blue Rub, essential oils used to ease pain and assist the body in a number of ways.  There are strict rules from the FDA which forbid essential oil retailers from saying essential oils ‘cure’ anything or they come after us for making an unsubstantiated product claim.

Let’s just say some folks find essential oils help and leave it at that.  I use essential oils rather than drugs ‘Big Pharma’ and pill pushing doctors want me to use.

The TSA threw my perfectly good Thirty Dollar tube of Deep Blue Rub in the trash…  It was half an ounce over their arbitrarily determined limit for liquids making it suspect for bomb making material used by terrorists to blow up an airplane.

Neither my wife nor I fit the profile of Islamic Terrorists; but common sense got thrown in the trash can along with profiling individuals.  99 % of terrorism is carried out by followers of Islam; but that other 1%… just might be us.

It’s part of being Politically Correct so as not to antagonize Muslims who’ve already declared war on Western Civilization, promising to either enslave or murder us at their discretion.

I suggested that one solution would be for me to squeeze out half of the tube in the trash thereby saving me fifteen dollars worth of Deep Blue Rub; it would, after all be well under the three and one half ounce arbitrarily arrived at limit.

“We’re not permitted to do that.  You’ll have to throw it all in the trash”.  My wife reminded me that boarding the airplane was a better idea than going to prison so I permitted the veins in my neck to remain swollen until we’d passed by the TSA folks.

Has anyone considered the absurdity of what I’ve pointed out?

The 4th Amendment reads:

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.

The 4th Amendment was written specifically to prevent government officials from conducting searches without probable cause or search warrants.  I felt violated because my right to be secure from an unreasonable search and seizure was ignored…; but it was for my own good and the security of our nation, Spit!

The courts have interpreted the language of our Founders to mean anything they damn well want it to mean as individual rights and the constitution have been thrown into the trash can of obscurity where it lies crumpled and bruised.

I’ve heard Deep Blue Rub is good for bruises…

This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.

03/7/17

Allo and the 4th Amendment

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

There’s a new program available from Google for Messaging, it’s called Alloand the download is free according to their promotion.

“Google will use that data to improve parts of the app, such as its smart replies feature. That will allow the app to read through conversations and try and work out how people talk – it can then use that data to suggest what they might want to say to their friends.”

Wonderful, now your smart phone can figure out what you might say before you’ve come up with the words on your own…But that’s not nearly as important as Google storing everything you’ve said so they can plan a marketing strategy based on your interests.

Unlike other messaging programs, Google will save everything you say… Forever.

“… By keeping track of all messages, Allo conversations will be accessible by law enforcement with warrants…”

The courts have ignored the intent of our Founders when they wrote down the Bill of Rights to be added to our Constitution.  These black robed jurists somehow think that electronic conversations aren’t covered the same way as other forms of communication.  After all, Thomas Jefferson didn’t have a Smart Phone so those aren’t the same as letters mailed or hand delivered during correspondence.

4th Amendment

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.

Government agencies have been ignoring the 4th Amendment for so long now as to make it obsolete.

Go to any airport and watch as passengers awaiting boarding are randomly pulled out of line for invasive body searches.  There is no probable cause for searches, no warrant from a judge…but it’s for the safety of everyone… so we ‘voluntarily’ abandon the 4th Amendment because it might stop an Islamic Terrorist from taking out the Empire State Building while murdering hundreds of innocent citizens.

Under the same pretense of protecting us from Islamic Terrorists, substitute ‘other dangers’ if that term makes you uncomfortable, the NSA listens in on just about every conversation that hits the air.  Supposedly they only listen in on folks considered terrorists;  but… that opens the door to listening in on just about anyone for just about any reason.

According to Edward Snowden, famous for leaking more information than was thought possible, government agencies listen in, with or without warrants and keep everything they come across, doesn’t matter what it is, it gets filed away.  Someday they might use that information to embarrass or humiliate someone running for high office… Nah, that would never happen.

Then there’s the idea that the 4th Amendment isn’t in play if you are within a hundred miles of the border or point of entry into the country.  That must have been part of the digital recording that Thomas Jefferson had deleted when he and the other Founders were formulating the best ways to protect individual God given inalienable rights.

As a police officer it was part of my job to inform you that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, it’s part of the Miranda Warning given to suspects upon their arrest.

In our day you had better understand that anything you say can and will be used…for what ever Google, its advertisers or the government wants to do with it.  You have no rights in a totalitarian state.

This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.

03/1/17

Fractured Gospel Tales

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

It should be noted that the first airing of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, at the time called, Rocky and Friends, happened back in 1959. I was only nine at the time while enjoying the characters and stories, looking forward with eagerness for each new show. The light hearted style had humor which could be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

One of my favorite parts was the Fractured Fairy Tale portion in which short morality plays were offered; a little twisted perhaps, but entertaining none the less.  These skits were narrated by Edward Everett Horton, a master of elocution with just the right amount of sarcasm in his presentation to make me appreciate the English language.

Perhaps my upbringing under such influences has something to do with last week’s Primary lesson to the seven year old children.  We were talking about the powers which created the Earth, that being the priesthood power of Jesus Christ, who is also referred to as the Creator at times.

One of the children began telling from memory, the miracle of the fishes and loaves when the Lord fed the multitude as found in Matthew 14:17-20.

And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.

He said, Bring them hither to me.

And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

I asked if they were aware that there were leftovers and there was enough of a pause for me to add, “You did know that Jesus is responsible for inventing Tupperware?  How else would he keep from having to throw away so much food?”

My team teaching partner for the day, Brother Reid, shook his head and wondered what other curious information had been shared with these young people.

It helps if you know how to smile and wink at the appropriate moment when telling children stories; they know when you’re pulling their legs, yes, they really do know.

This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.

12/21/16

Family Christmas Traditions

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

Christmas is just around the corner and having little children around reminded me of how special this time of year is.  A child can express awe, excitement and joy so much easier than grown ups.

William had taken James, our ‘almost two year old’ grandson, out for the afternoon this past week to enjoy the cool weather and have some one on one time.  While they were out we decided it was time to bring the Christmas tree in from the garage where it’s been stored all year.

It’s an artificial tree with the lights already in place making things so much easier, except there’s a row in the middle that no longer works.  I’ll get around to replacing it some day; at least that’s what I said last year, or was it the year before?

James came in from the cold all bundled up with a hood covering his Astros’ ball cap.  As he turned from the entry way he noticed the tree situated in the middle of the living room directly in front of the window, most of the tiny lights sparkling brightly.

He walked over to it, eyes wide open and took it all in, floor to ceiling.  The magic of Christmas landed on him as he gazed and then gazed some more.

“Wow”, he breathed out a hushed reverence for the singularly majestic tree which wasn’t there when he’d left; but somehow appeared in the room as if sent by angels.  “Wow!”

I had my cell phone/camera in my pocket but it didn’t dawn on me to capture the moment; guess that one will have to be stored in my mind along with so many other magic moments.

When I was a young boy one of our family Christmas traditions had to do with writing a letter to Santa around the first week of December.  We’d use our best penmanship skills while making sure to list each item on our bucket list that Santa needed to know about prior to his visit on Christmas Eve.

These letters were put on a plate on the dining room table along with some cookies and a glass of milk before we went off to bed.  Our parents explained that we’d know Santa had visited during the night to read the letters if all the cookies were gone along with the milk; more importantly, we’d know Santa read our letters because his magic mittens would cause the paper to catch fire, leaving only burnt fragments singed on top of the plate.

The next morning we’d marvel that Santa had come, just as our parents said he would.  The cookies and milk were gone and sure enough, the letters had turned into a pile of ashes leaving a scorch mark on mom’s fine china.  “Oh boy, I’m gonna’ get that bicycle, cowboy boots, the erector set, the Lincoln Logs, the rocket that you have to fill with water and pump it till it shoots off, the submarine that really sinks in the bathtub and comes back to the surface; all the neat stuff that was on that letter…and Santa knows about it now.

There were other family traditions; one in particular wasn’t so great.  Mom and dad loved to make oyster stew on Christmas Eve. How they came up with that is a mystery, or is that a misery?  They actually looked forward to putting a bowl of oyster stew on the table, lighting the candles and having us prepare for the coming of Santa.

I couldn’t even look at a bowl of oyster stew without my stomach turning, much less place a spoonful in my mouth.  Mom and dad decided that children weren’t sophisticated enough so we were served Tomato soup instead.  I wasn’t thrilled with Tomato soup either; but at least I could look at it without barfing.

Last on today’s list of family Christmas traditions has to do with the hanging of stockings for Santa to fill with candy, oranges, apples, nuts and small toys. These were placed on the end of our beds just prior to light out along with a warning, “Go to sleep or Santa won’t come”.

That worked pretty well until we reached our teen years.  By then we’d figured out that Santa needed to put toys together in the living room and didn’t want little children disturbing the process.

One night while contemplating life there in the darkness of my room I heard dad coming down the hall.  As he entered the room, carefully hanging the stocking on my bed and turning to leave, I surprised him, quietly greeting him, “Good night, Santa”.  I’ll never forget the smile and wink my father returned as he realized I’d left a part of childhood behind.

May your family find simple traditions that make Christmas memories, memories that will last a lifetime and beyond is my hope and prayer.  Merry Christmas!

This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.

12/10/16

United Nations Human Rights Day

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

Where to begin, oh where to begin?  The United Nations Council on Human Relations, sometimes referred to as ‘Third World Thugs in Suits’, wants everyone to understand how important human rights are as we go about making the world a better place.

The image of a dove or perhaps the Blue Bird of Happiness popped up on Facebook as we are reminded to support the United Nation’s efforts, truly a worthwhile goal.

Really, human rights for everyone, that’s the goal?

Does that include women under the control of Sharia? Saudi Arabia and Iran spearhead the United Nations Council on Human Relations.  What example are they setting for the entire world to follow?

Under Sharia, (not limited to nation states claiming to be under Islamic control), women are subservient to men and may be beaten to a pulp just for being a woman.

“For example, according to Q 4:34, husbands are allowed to beat their wives if they “fear disobedience” (which implies that actual disobedience need not occur for the beating to be justified)”

What does Islam have to say about murder, rape and enslavement of women?

“The fact is that ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, who are notorious for raping Yazidī women who they capture (sometimes shortly after killing their families and neighbors), are clearly acting within the interpretive parameters of traditional Islam and following the example of the Muhammad of the earliest Islamic sources.”

Ahhh, the joys of universal human rights as set down by those running the United Nations…  May we all embrace the examples we have been shown as we work toward becoming one big world order family.

This article has been cross posted to The Self Educated American, a publication whose banner reads, “Standing Fast By the Judeo-Christian Heritage, Limited Government and the U.S. Constitution”.

12/3/16

Dangers of Requiring a Loyalty Pledge

By: T F Stern | Self-Educated American

donald-trump-loyalty-pledge-t-shirt

While finishing off the day, going over entries on Facebook, there was one particular link which immediately caught my attention.  Someone had established a page imploring folks to ‘Pledge your Loyalty to Donald Trump’ as we enter this new era for America.

There were T-shirts with this logo pledging loyalty to Donald Trump splashed across the front, symbols of our undying devotion to the man who has promised to “Make America Great Again”.  The way they see it Donald Trump is our hope, our one and only hope to save the country.

adolph-hitler-the-fuehererMy thoughts instead turned to a much darker period of time; pre-WWII Germany when Adolph Hitler promised to restore Germany from the brink of bankruptcy into a nation all could be proud of, make the Fatherland great again.  The Hitler Youth saw him as a father figure, god-like and worthy of the title Fuhrer.

The rest of the world didn’t share Germany’s blind obedience to the Fuhrer; instead they saw him as a threat, something to be dealt with, even if it meant going to war.  Far too many died to stop a nation willing to do the bidding of a narcissistic ego maniac who grabbed the reigns of government and captured the hearts with promises of national pride and greatness.  No, this kind of loyalty must be avoided.

pledge-of-allegianceOur loyalties are to the Constitutional Republic which protects our individual God given rights from power seeking men who achieve high office.  Our Flag is a symbol, a means of displaying all that is good about our country.  It isn’t a banner declaring any particular party or individual as supreme leader; but some folks can’t understand or get their arms around the idea of a nation that relies on self governance, instead looking for a great leader to guide them and rule over them.

Sorry; but my allegiance is limited to the concept of individual liberty and is given to no man.


t-f-stern-1Self-Educated American, Senior Edi­tor, T.F. Stern is a retired City of Hous­ton police offi­cer, self-employed lock­smith, and gifted polit­i­cal and social com­men­ta­tor. His pop­u­lar and insight­ful blog, T.F. Sterns Rant­i­ngs, has been up and at it since January of 2005.

11/19/16

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

thankThis morning London, my granddaughter, came over to greet me as I reviewed the latest headlines in the news on the Internet. She pointed to an umbrella which is stored in the corner behind my work-station; a serious look took over her face as she reminded me not to ever open the umbrella in the house. A couple of days ago, London got in trouble playing in the house with the umbrella and she wanted me to know she understood how important it was to follow the rules.

I nodded in agreement as we reviewed how silly it would be to have an open umbrella in the house since its purpose was to keep rain from falling on us. I looked up at the ceiling and explained how blessed we were to have a roof over our heads to protect us from the rain. London looked thoughtfully at the ceiling and smiled.

It’s also nice to have a house for when it gets cold outside; again she smiled and pretended to hug herself as if being warmed by an imaginary heater. And in the summer we have air conditioning to keep us comfortable too.

London may have taken these conveniences for granted up until this moment; but as she considered the light rain falling outside, that she was enjoying the comforts provided by the house which she lived in, gratitude for all these blessings was evident by the look on her face.

May we all have a similar moment of appreciation for whatever blessings have been provided in our lives.

If you watch much television, the advertisements tend to make a mockery of Thanksgiving; a not so subtle way of redirecting our thoughts. Instead of getting down on our knees and thanking the Lord, we’re being desensitized and programmed into accepting this time of year as a spending orgy, a chance to prove we have more money than brains as we go about going into debt for items we really can’t afford.

Black Friday with its door buster sales has, for far too many folks, become more important than sitting around the dinner table with family in quiet thanks for what has been provided and prepared.

This nation was founded under the direction of wise individuals who understood our relationship with God, Creator of all we have, to include Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Our blessings come from above and we are showered with them in great abundance; consider what we have been given, not what you don’t have.

London is correct, you shouldn’t open your umbrella in the house, let God’s blessings fall all around you and be grateful, truly grateful; that’s why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

11/8/16

Thanks for the Memories

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings
thanks

I went to the Spring Creek Village assisted living center where my dad spent his last days to make sure our account was settled up, no loose ends.  We’d been double charged for a ‘one time only’ fee on the second month’s billing which we were told would be subtracted on the following month’s rent; but dad never made it to the next month.

My father died October 25, 2016 and we made it a point to remove all items we’d provided for his comfort the very same day, leaving the room as it was when he first arrived.

Today I looked over at their ‘occupancy availability board’; they had a large white board in the manager’s office showing new move ins and those who’d moved out.  There was dad’s name showing he died October 25th along with his move out date of….Nov 7th…?

I pointed out the discrepancy to the manager and reminded her that we’d made sure to remove dad’s personal items on the same day he died.  Her response was, “That’s in the contract”.

There is a clause in the residency contract which states the assisted living center can charge up to 10 days rent after the death of a renter.  Apparently we could have left dad’s body in the room for another week; not that the health department would have approved.

I reminded the manager that we’d been over charged by $1500.00, expecting a refund for that amount and perhaps a refund for the last five days of October since dad didn’t occupy the room that last week of the month.

Again the manager explained, “That’s in the contract”, as she handed me a due bill for  $186.50, the difference between the $1500.00 we’d been over charged and the ten days which the assisted living center considered an opportunity to extract additional money from the deceased’s bank account.

Spring Creek Village provided exceptional care while my father was in their facility and I would recommend them to anyone looking for an assisted living facility.  That said, they have an unusual way of interpreting their lease contracts.

I pointed out that this was morally wrong and as a business practice was no different than gouging the dead.  I know, “That’s in the contract”.  But the contract indicated that the assisted living center ‘can’ charge up to 10 days following the ‘move out’ of a resident; it doesn’t say that it ‘must’ charge the full ten days.

I suppose they were only honoring the memory of my dearly departed father as they hit the Enter Key on the cash register, or as Bob Hope used to say, Thanks for the memories.

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.

10/19/16

Scattering of Ashes

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

ashes

While visiting with my dad today I brought up an awkward topic, having to write everything down on a tablet since his hearing is all but non existent.  I wrote down, “Where do you want your ashes scattered”, not a normal question to ask except dad’s in hospice now and heaven only knows how long we’ll get to visit.

Back in August when my mother died she’d left very specific instructions; she wished her ashes to be scattered among the Mangroves that were found along the river and so that’s what we did.  Dad is rapidly getting closer to the ‘dropping off place’.  He hasn’t given such a request, only that he wants to be cremated.  I’ve no intention of placing him on the mantle place in a Biscotti Jar or putting him in the closet on the top shelf next to an old worn out pair of blue jeans.

He took his time reading the question and shrugged his shoulders with the universal answer, “How should I know”.  I wrote some more…“How about on a golf course?  Maybe we can put you on a fairway; or in your case, the rough or in a sand trap?”  Again he read the tablet and smiled back at me while nodding his head.  He hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

So if you read about some fool getting arrested for trespassing on a golf course please remember I would be carrying out my father’s last wishes.  It’s difficult saying goodbye, very difficult, a lot like dad trying to stay on the fairways.

09/17/16

Background Checks and Fingerprints

By: T F Stern | T F Stern’s Rantings

checks1Recently the State of Texas altered the requirements for the renewal process licensed locksmiths must complete in order to continue applying their skills in what used to be a free market system.  The Department of Public Safety/Private Security Bureau, (DPS/PSB) working under their interpretation of HB 4030 passed during the 84th session, has determined that locksmiths must haveyet another set of official fingerprints submitted along with a complete background check in order to maintain a valid locksmith license.

While visiting my father, holding his aging hand as we watched some insignificant golf show on the television, I noticed his fingers were a bit discolored as his circulatory system no longer functioned at peak efficiency. It’s just a guess; but you could bet the farm the fingerprints on his hands would be the same ones he’s had since birth, the same ones he had when he signed up with the Navy in WWII and the same ones he’ll have when he meets St. Peter on the other side of the veil.

Some where in Washington, as the singer Arlo Guthrie would point out in his tune, Alice’s Restaurant, there’s a study in black and white of his fingerprints…

These identifying marks don’t change all that much over time so it’s beyond my thought process as to why the State of Texas considers it necessary, requiring locksmiths to furnish a fresh set of these prints simply to renew a license… a license which has that very same set of fingerprints already tied to it and filed away collecting dust.

About the only thing such a requirement does is add $25.00 to the cost of doing business for each and every locksmith while accomplishing absolutely nothing towards the State of Texas’ goal, “protection of the public through fair and impartial regulation of the Private Investigations and Private Security Industry”

Then there’s the requirement of another complete and thorough background check in order to maintain an already issued locksmith license; that bothers me too.  Actually, the veins in my neck are pulsing and may explode while thinking about this.

checks2The State of Texas conducts a complete and thorough background check of each individual prior to issuing a locksmith license.  If the State wants to find out whether or not a licensed locksmith has committed a noteworthy criminal act since the last time he/she went through the licensing process then all the State’s investigators would have to do would be to bring up a standard criminal check on their computer, not much different than the way police officers are able to find out the same information while on patrol; it takes only a minute, sometimes less.

If someone can explain why the State of Texas considers locksmiths…locksmiths who’ve already been fingerprinted, had their background checked six ways to Sunday and then issued a license…if someone can explain why the State of Texas considers locksmiths a threat or danger to the public…  Could you hand me my blood pressure medicine; those veins are swelling some more.

Yesterday I received an email from the DPS/PSB letting me know my latest renewal efforts were finally accepted and that my pocket sized wallet card would be sent in a timely manner.

Do you see why the updated renewal process bothers me?

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.