Author Archive: libertybelleblog

Where Soldiers Find Peace

It’s a long way from the dusty battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to the crystalline waters of Lake Clark in the mountains of Alaska. But every summer since 2012, hundreds of current and former members of the military and their spouses make their way there through Operation Heal Our Patriots, a ministry of Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse.

Many of these veterans arrive at Samaritan Lodge dealing with the aftermath of their service to our nation—wounded in their bodies, minds and spirits. The stress of learning to adjust to civilian life with their families and dealing with new physical limitations caused by injuries puts a strain on military couples. Many of them don’t make it. The ministry began as a way to reach out to these battle-weary soldiers and their spouses and help them refocus on building and maintaining strong marriages. Some couples, on the verge of divorce, find a new love for each other as they spend a week experiencing the natural beauty of Alaska and attending Bible-based marriage enrichment classes. Retired military chaplains are on staff to encourage and pray with attendees. Operation Heal Our Patriot marriage retreats often end with vow renewals for many of the couples, as well as baptisms for those who are either re-dedicating their lives to Jesus Christ or finding Him for the first time.

One couple who found respite during their time in Alaska is Army Staff Sergeant Juan Montealvo and his wife Tanya. A few days before Christmas in 2004, Montealvo was on a mission to deliver school supplies to Iraqi children in Mosul when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded near his vehicle. He survived that and several other explosions during his three combat tours to Iraq, and when he came home for good in 2010, Tanya noticed he wasn’t quite himself. Montealvo was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and went through physical and speech therapy. Tanya became his care-giver, and the strain of adapting to their new normal was something they never prepared themselves to handle.

When Tanya heard about Operation Heal Our Patriots, she believed it was an answer to their prayers and said, “Our souls, our spirits, our minds needed this to reset…I’m ready for a new beginning with my husband, walking along with Jesus.”

The ministry doesn’t end once these families leave Alaska, however. Ongoing outreach helps them to find a church or military chaplain in their local communities so they can develop a strong network of support. Reunions are also held at the Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in North Carolina so that participants can make new friendships and renew those they made in the Alaskan wilderness. All of this—including travel to Alaska—is free to the couples and is made possible by donations to Samaritan’s Purse/ Operation Heal Our Patriots.

This ministry is open to all current and former veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. Interested couples can go to the Samaritan’s Purse website to fill out an application. If you’d like to help send these brave American heroes to Lake Clark next summer, please consider making a donation on the website. What better way to say “thank you” to them this Veterans Day?

Wedding vow renewal ceremonies are common during Operation Heal Our Patriot's Alaskan retreats.- Courtesy SamaritansPurse.org

Wedding vow renewal ceremonies are common during Operation Heal Our Patriot’s Alaskan retreats.- Courtesy SamaritansPurse.org

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Forgotten Heroes

For many of us, the anniversary of that tragic day 16 years ago is mostly a one-day remembrance when we take time to remind ourselves of all of the lives lost so suddenly at the hands of terrorists.  Even now that there’s no longer a gaping hole in Manhattan, some of those who were first on the scene continue to experience the deadly effects of that day long ago. Just last month, a man who served at Ground Zero passed away from cancer related to his heroic efforts—less than one year after his father, who also had been a 9-11 first responder, lost his own battle with cancer.

The passing of Robert Alexander, 43, in August 2017 and Raymond Alexander, age 76, in November 2016 marks yet another solemn September 11th “first”:  the Alexanders became the first father and son to die years after the Towers fell from cancer linked to the work they did for several weeks afterward as they searched through the ash and rubble.

Ginger Alexander spoke to CNN after the death of her son Robert, and it was with pride that she remembered her son and her husband Raymond.  At the time of the attacks, Raymond was a New York firefighter and Robert was an NYPD officer.  When the two men both came home that night, having survived a day at Ground Zero, she was relieved and figured the worst was behind them.

That was, until 2003 when Raymond became ill.  In fact, between 2003 and 2016, he battled no less than 7 different kinds of cancer, but ultimately he died from lung cancer.  By the time of Raymond’s first diagnosis, Robert had followed in his footsteps and became a firefighter. Tragically, he too fell ill in 2014 when he was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer.   His mother fondly recalled a trip they took earlier this year to Germany to visit relatives: “He was starting to stumble a bit while we were there, and when we got home, it started his downhill slide.” Robert ended up in a wheelchair in his final months as the disease took its toll.

Robert had been active in the effort to extend the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act. Named after an NYPD detective who died from a respiratory disease linked to his recovery work at Ground Zero, the act offers compensation and services to those who have suffered from diseases linked to the toxic carcinogens left behind by the attacks.  Robert visited Washington, D.C. in support of the Zadroga Act, even as he was dying from cancer himself.

Ginger Alexander is now left with her other son, Raymond, Jr., to grieve the deaths of these two heroes that were well-loved by family and friends. She hopes people will be inspired by their courage, strength and their big hearts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 7,000 people have been certified in the World Trade Center Health Program as having at least one type of cancer covered by the program.  Of those, the vast majority of them were 9-11 first responders.  Gerald Fitzgerald, President of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said, “The impact of 9/11 is not over, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be over for a long, long time.  I can’t imagine how the Alexander family feels, but I would hope that the entire country will keep them in their prayers and remember what happened on that terrible day and what continues to go on here in New York.”

Raymond and Robert Alexander: Two generations of 9-11 heroes

More Than Just “The Fourth”

Thomas Paine once said, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” Of course, he was speaking of the American Revolution–possibly the only revolution in history to ever end well for the people that initiated it. What came of the sacrifices of so many brings us to this day, 241 years later.

This is our opportunity to thank God for this place called the United States of America.  To thank Him for all He did in raising up the right people at the right points in history that allowed this nation to become the most powerful one on the face of the earth in such a relatively short period of time.  To thank Him for people willing to sacrifice all they had to build this nation, and for those who have died and are continuing to die to secure freedom for future generations.

Unfortunately, many, if not most people won’t think about those generations of patriots as they celebrate what’s now only known as “The Fourth”.  In between their picnics, parades and fireworks displays (all great things to be sure), it would be wise if all of us would take the time to read the Declaration of Independence—especially those who have children.  Do they— do we really understand what it meant when those 56 men put their signatures to that document?  As British subjects, they were committing treason.  They were setting themselves—and their loved ones—up for certain hardship and possibly death.  It’s important that we not forget this and that the youngest among us hear the stories of these people that they are likely being denied in the public schools of today.

Stories like one of the lesser-known of the Declaration’s signers, Francis Lewis. Not long after putting his name on the iconic document, while  he was still away, the British forces were sent to destroy his home in Whiteside, New York.  His beloved wife Elizabeth was living there at the time and tried to remain calm as a warship fired on their home.  All of their belongings were destroyed and pillaged, and Elizabeth was taken captive. The conditions of her life in captivity were extreme–little food, no change of clothing and no bed.  When General George Washington managed to make an exchange of prisoners–it took some time to do so– Elizabeth’s health had deteriorated and she died in 1779 in Philadelphia.

The same fate awaited many of the other signers and their families.  Tragically, if students in today’s public schools hear anything about these people, it’s likely to be negative:  “rich, white, slave-owners”.  It’s possible that if enough young people hear the words of the Founding Fathers—and I’d even go as far back as the pre-founding generation (the Pilgrims)***—they might realize and be humbled at what it took to build the nation.

Younger Millenials and those after them–Generation Z, or Centennials– could be the ones to turn things around again.  Maybe, like King Josiah in the Bible, after hearing the words of God’s long-lost Law for the first time, they’ll be moved to tears when they read these words from our Declaration of Independence:  “…with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

They’ve had their heritage stripped from them, and many aren’t even aware of it.  If or when they ever do look up from their ipads, iphones and video games to realize it, they may be pretty upset at the generations before them for keeping them in the dark.  For keeping them entertained but un-enlightened.

They need to know that the United States of America is still the last best hope for freedom for people from all over the world, even in our current circumstances, which admittedly aren’t good.  It would do us all good to keep in mind the words of people like Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian evangelical minister and author who spent 14 years in a Romanian prison for his faith.  In 1967, he called America the hope of every enslaved man, and reminded Americans of a truth that may be even truer now:  that freedom-loving people all over the world are counting on us not to let the flame of liberty burn out.  Wurmbrand said:  “I have seen fellow prisoners in communist prisons beaten, tortured, with 50 pounds of chains on their legs—praying for America…that the dike will not crumble; that it will remain free.”

With that said enjoy the festivities—but take time to remember.  Happy Independence Day!

***Read “Of Plymouth Plantation” by William Bradford

The Day of the Son

Every year since 1997, people in North Korea have celebrated April 15th as “The Day of the Sun”. It’s apparently the most important holiday the nation has where they celebrate the anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birthday.  He was the founder of North Korea and its former president, who—were he still alive and kicking—would be 105 years old.

The citizens of North Korea go all out for The Day of the Sun with a big parade where children get candy. But don’t look for floats made of paper flowers or clowns from the Shriner’s Club trying to get some laughs out of spectators by driving around in tiny cars.  This parade is highlighted by showing off its weapons of war.  Lots of them. Current president Kim Jong Un was there and he’s all about the fire power.

As all this took place yesterday, Christians here and around the world prepared to celebrate a different kind of power—the resurrection power of Jesus Christ—on this day, Easter Sunday.  After remembering his suffering and violent death on Good Friday, we wait through the silence of Saturday to get to the joy of Sunday morning.

What a striking contrast of two celebrations.  One that remembers a man who started a communist nation and celebrates by flaunting its military might that could wipe out millions of lives in mere moments.  The other, held in gratitude and remembrance for a man who was God in the flesh—Jesus, the Son of God.  Believers all over the world celebrate not so much the death of Jesus, but His life.  What makes it so different is the empty tomb.

The man celebrated by North Koreans this weekend died and he stayed dead.  His bones are still lying in his grave. But, with the power of God His Father, Jesus the Son rose again on the third day, and the Good News is—He’s alive and His Spirit lives in anyone who puts their faith in Him to forgive their sins.  Jesus, the One Who Saves, beat death once and for all…and because of Him, so can we.

Now that’s real power—and that’s something to celebrate.

Happy Easter!

Fruits ‘N Nuts: Journalists Charged with Practicing Journalism in California

In 2015, pro-life organization The Center for Medical Progress began exposing via undercover videos the shocking practices of Planned Parenthood clinics that have been involved in the harvesting and selling of tissue and organs from unborn children.  Several videos—one more disturbing than the next—showed high-level PP executives admitting to CMP undercover journalists that they often alter their procedures in order to preserve vital organs of these unborn babies in order to sell them to various companies who sell them for scientific research. (Check out the original postings here and here).

Just last week, with the release of another video, two CMP journalists, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, were charged with 15 felonies by California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra.  Becerra’s charges center on “invasion of privacy” issues, saying that recording someone without their knowledge is against California law.

It should be noted that Beccerra is a former Democrat member of Congress, and his predecessor, Kamala Harris has a long and friendly relationship with the nation’s largest abortion provider.  Harris ran successfully for  the U.S. Senate due in part to help from her friends at PP, that were undoubtedly paying her back for not going after them 2 years ago when the first videos were being released.  Like Becerra, she too went after the whistleblowers at the Center for Medical Progress, but all those charges were eventually dropped as having no validity.

In this newest video, Dr. DeShawn Taylor, Medical Director Emerita of Planned Parenthood Arizona, is captured on tape making some pretty callous comments about her work, and how she profits off the destruction of the unborn.  At one point, she talks about the strength that it takes in her upper arms to perform abortions where “disarticulation”—a fancy word for dismemberment—is done with the forceps. Remembering her glory days as a young Fellow training to kill innocent children, Dr. Taylor recalls having to “hit the gym for this. [laughs]. I need to hit the gym.”

As if that weren’t enough, this medical professional, when asked about how signs of life are determined during an abortion, Dr. Taylor admits, “the key is you need to pay attention to who’s in the room, right? And like, you know, because the thing is the law states that you’re not supposed to do any maneuvers after the fact to try to cause [fetal] demise. So it’s really tricky. It’s really tricky so, most of the time we do dig [digoxin], and it usually works. And then we don’t have to worry about that because Arizona state law says if any, if there’s signs of life, then we’re supposed to transport them. To the hospital.” Dr. Taylor also expresses her distaste for the word choice of those who do the paperwork once her job is done:  “We have the people who do our paperwork for the fetal death certificates; they email us calling them ‘babies’. Baby this, baby that, baby so-and-so, and I’m like, that’s creepy!”

In Dr. Taylor’s world, calling an unborn human being a “baby” is creepy. No, what’s creepy, doctor, is that you go on to actually find some compassion—for your staff, who according to you, get creeped out when a baby actually comes out looking like—a baby: ““It’s not a matter of how I feel about it coming out intact, but I gotta worry about my staff and people’s feelings about it coming out looking like a baby.”  If you can take watching the entire video, you can watch it here.

CMP journalists Daleiden and Merritt were only doing what journalists used to do as a matter of practice.  Going undercover to break a story goes back a long way in our history as part of our Constitutional Freedom of the Press.  It seems the attorney general’s office in California only cares about the state’s privacy laws when the journalists doing the exposing are those who agree with a particular worldview. As a California Democrat, it would be hard to imagine that Becerra himself hadn’t benefited from Planned Parenthood as he pursued public life.  It’s also very strange that other undercover journalists using the same tactics as CMP had not been charged with breaking privacy laws there in the past few years.  For example, in 2014 and 2015, a California animal rights group, Mercy for Animals, released some videos that showed cruelty against animals at a chicken farm. The organization was never charged with violating privacy laws, but the government did investigate the farm.  This was also the case for incidents with other animal rights groups who exposed similar incidents of cruelty.

If California is going to limit freedom of the press there, they should do so across the board instead of making examples of David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Then they can free themselves from their already sketchy attachment to the U.S. Constitution.  Better yet, maybe that whole succession movement in the Land of Fruits and Nuts will actually take hold.

Mad Women

It was one of those headlines that you know is fake news, or at least extremely-manufactured news.  But, like a train wreck—it’s sometimes hard to look away.  A recent Yahoo News (of course) headline screamed, “Disney Princesses Show the Terrifying Reality Facing Women in Trump’s America”. It was linked to an article in Glamour magazine’s news and politics section. Who knew the magazine that feeds women (and men) unrealistic images of how women should look and act had a political section, much less can be taken seriously on a topic they say is a “War on Women”?

Nevertheless, the article sounded the alarm to the women of America that women’s healthcare in the Trump administration may all but disappear.  Healthcare, by the standards of women like this, is usually defined by two things:  abortion and birth control.  So this article claims that any dismantling of Obamacare will be especially devastating to women.  The author pointed to a couple of women who wanted to use their writing and illustration skills to help combat the supposed “GOP war against women.”

Illustrator Maritza Lugo and writer Danielle Sepulveres joined forces and imagined life for several female Disney characters if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and replaced.  They depict Beauty and the Beast’s Belle (below) as no longer being able to get her birth control; Disney’s first Latina princess, Elena of Avalor, getting turned away from Planned Parenthood (by Cinderella’s evil step-sisters, no less); Pocahontas being denied overage due to a pre-existing condition, and Aladdin and Jasmine are forced to hold a funeral for their miscarried child.

First of all, what kind of a twisted mind do you have that you re-imagine these fictional, innocent ladies as going to a Planned Parenthood clinic or buying birth control?  Who even goes there?

Second, what world are they living in if they believe that women didn’t have access to Planned Parenthood and birth control until the Affordable Care Act became law? Women who wanted these services had wide-open access to them long before Obamacare, and nothing is likely to change that.  That last scenario with Aladdin and Jasmine is just bizarre—has Trump made some proclamation that parents who experience the pain of miscarriage must hold funerals for them?  Where do these women get this stuff?

I’m guessing it comes from people like those who planned and spoke at the rabid rally of women held right after Trump’s inauguration. When you get women like Ashley Judd and Madonna pouring out venomous rants in front of largely left-wing women who take the time to march for rights they already have, you’re bound to inspire other mad women to take something good and pure and turn it into something absurd.

If only they would open their eyes from their fantasy War on Women and fight against some real-world problems that are going on while they whine.  Things like the women who leave Planned Parenthood every single day, no longer pregnant, but wounded emotionally and –very often—physically. Or why don’t they cry out for all of the Black and Hispanic babies who make up the vast majority of the innocent victims of Choice inside the walls of Planned Parenthood?  How about shedding some real tears for the real women, girls and boys that are lost inside the dark underworld of human trafficking and slavery?  Will they be planning any marches on their behalf?

No, but they are planning to continue their “fight” sometime soon (see update below).  The planners of the Inauguration weekend women’s march are said to be planning more forms of resistance, like a strike to be held sometime in the near future. No one really knows what they’re striking against or when it will be.  It could possibly be held on May 1st.  That’s the day that many labor groups like the SEIU will be holding a strike to “resist fascism and autocratic leadership.”  Or maybe tomorrow, International Women’s Day, will inspire them to go on strike against whatever it is they’re angered over–which seems to be just about anything.

Incidentally, these women really should be thanking the GOP this week.  It seems that Paul Ryan’s new replacement for Obamacare keeps all the things that make it so horrible, and ignores the free market altogether.  According to the Washington Examiner, “…the GOP bill preserves much of the regulatory structure of Obamacare; leaves the bias in favor of employer healthcare largely intact, replaces Obamacare’s subsidies with a different subsidy scheme, and still supports higher spending for Medicaid relative to what was the case before Obamacare.”

Nice going, GOP.  Now you can own the healthcare mess.  What was that some nice lady once said about putting lipstick on a pig?

UPDATE 3/8/17 5:14 CST:  They did it! Today, International Women’s Day was “A Day Without Women” where women were supposed to forgo working in an effort to protest “inequality”. Nothing like protesting the supposed pay gap and glass ceiling by not showing up to the job you have—makes sense only to progressives.

Twisted fairy tales: What’s the world coming to when fictional women have to pay out-of-pocket for their birth control?

All Unborn Lives Matter

power-of-one-2017

The annual gathering of pro-life advocates took place today in Washington, where just one week ago, Donald Trump was sworn in as our 45th president. As so often happens, those who march come from all over the country, braving the typical January gloom and cold weather in order to take their stand for the most innocent of human lives with this year’s theme being “The Power of One”.

Since the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade in January 1973, more than 58 million innocent lives have been snuffed out—many for a profit—as was exposed by the horrific videos from an investigation done by the Center for Medical Progress in 2015.  Hundreds of thousands showed up to hear speakers ranging from Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) and Baltimore Ravens team member Benjamin Watson.  Watson issued a challenge to men to be leaders in the pro-life movement, telling the cheering crowd, “It is past time that we be the leaders, caretakers and providers that we were meant to be… even if it wasn’t demonstrated for you by a father, you can be different, you can change the course of [a] generation.”

Vice President Pence brought renewed energy that the new administration will be more open to the pro-life cause than the preceding one was.  He is the first vice president (or president) to address the March for Life crowd in person.  Before the march this morning, Pence encouraged participants by telling them, “Life is winning in America because of you…let this movement be known for love, not anger. For compassion. Not confrontation.”

That may have been a thinly-veiled jab at the lunacy, bitterness, and filth that came from the likes of Madonna and Ashley Judd, who led profanity-laced rantings at the Women’s March held last weekend after Trump’s inauguration. Of course, pro-life women were excluded from that one.

The March for Life comes just after a newly-released undercover video from the organization Live Action exposing the continual lie of Planned Parenthood that they are all about prenatal healthcare for women.  Watch the video and you’ll see that they called and visited PP offices across the country—and found only 5 that actually offered it.

More good news for the unborn came earlier in the week when Congress voted for a permanent ban on taxpayer-funded abortions.  The law also bans the federal government from subsidizing elective abortions.  For his part, President Trump re-instated a ban that had begun with President Reagan against U.S. government funding and promotion of overseas abortions.

This isn’t a bad start for the new president, especially where life issues are concerned…unless you’re Madonna, Ashley Judd or one of the thousands of women who marched last weekend.  They seem to be obsessed with their own bodies (and body parts), and their message does nothing but set women back decades, making us all look bad.  (More on this next time)

2016: The Year of the Snowflake

As the New Year begins, and 2016 takes its place in history books, there’s no better time to look forward with hope that 2017 might perhaps be a little bit better than its predecessor.  It’s also a time to look back at a year that was often exasperating, wildly entertaining, nerve-wracking, inspiring and sad.  But that’s how life should be—from the presidential election that ended with a surprise (for Hillary Clinton), to tragedies from terrorists (Orlando) and nature (floods and wildfires); to the success of the American Women’s Gymnastics Team bringing home the gold in the Olympics, 2016 has been a wild ride.

Though the election of 2016 was the biggest story of the year, it will be the gift that keeps on giving to the 24-hour news cycle if these weeks since Donald Trump’s victory are any indication.  Calls for the dumping of the Electoral College were resurrected from media, political and academic elites who seem to be clueless as to what it is and why the Founders of our nation were so genius as to come up with it in the first place.

Meanwhile, a new term for the college students who have had their minds completely twisted by said elites has come into our American lexicon:  snowflake.  This doesn’t refer to all the white things that may now be collecting outside in your yard, but to privileged, white college students who are taught to feel guilty for being privileged white college students.  These millennials and post-millennials have been the main people protesting the outcome of our presidential election.  Their antics have ranged from the dangerous damage of property to the absurd need many have had to find their “safe space” where they can be free from perceived “micro-aggressions”.

Right after the election, college campuses across the country provided their students with outlets to cope with post-election stress disorder.  At Yale—one of our most elite schools—professors allowed students to skip their mid-term exams if they were too upset by the election results to take them.  Then there was the University of Michigan that gave its snowflakes Play-Doh and coloring books to help them process the election results. At Cornell University—another supposedly Ivy League campus—stressed collegians could attend a “cry-in” where they found sympathetic staff members who would give them tissues and hot chocolate.

We should all now stop for a collective shudder at the future of the country if these are the ones who will be in charge in 20 years or so.

In nature, it’s said that no two snowflakes are alike, but the same can’t be said for their human namesakes.  As much as these people like to believe they are so unique, open-minded and “progressive” (don’t get me started on that one), the truth is, they think alike, argue alike and are as hard to reason with as their guilt-ridden college professors.

Snowflakes have really come into their own in 2016 and it should be interesting to see what else they will find in the coming year to be afraid of from day to day.  They have been joined in their post-election malaise by the usual list of celebrities who promised us they would leave the country if Trump won—something that probably gave him at least a few thousand votes…but they also said they’d leave when George W. Bush got elected—and probably said the same when Reagan was president—but still they remain.  America will continue to be stuck with Miley Cyrus, Cher, Rosie O’Donnell and other lame-brains into 2017 and beyond.

And the snowflakes will keep being who they are until—hopefully—time teaches them lessons their professors never would:  life isn’t always fair and you won’t win every time. So…Get. Over. It.

different_viewpoints

For Christmas Geeks Only

It’s almost Christmas and nothing’s more fun than being with family, baking, eating and watching all those old Christmas movies.  In the spirit of the season, here’s some Christmas trivia, mostly from films, to impress/ entertain/ bore your friends and family over the holidays.

It doesn’t get much better than It’s a Wonderful Life (1946):  Proving that even a director with incredible talent can overlook some things, Frank Capra missed this one:  when Clarence is showing George Bailey what life would have been like without him, he takes him to his younger brother’s grave, telling him that Harry fell through the ice and died at the age of nine.  However, on the tombstone, Harry Bailey’s years of life are shown as 1911-1919, which means he could have been no older than eight when he died.

A Christmas Story (1983):  One of the most famous scenes from this classic film is when one of Ralphie’s school pals, Flick, is “triple-dog-dared” into putting his tongue against a frosty flag pole to prove that it will stick.  In order to make Flick’s tongue stick to the pole, a hidden suction tube was used to safely create the illusion that his tongue had frozen to the metal.  Another bit of trivia:  director Bob Clark makes an appearance as one of the neighbors who comes out to gawk at The Old Man’s “major award” in the hilarious unveiling of The Leg Lamp.  He’s the guy who says, “Damn, hell- you say you won it?”

…which brings us to Elf (2003) where Peter Billingsley, who played young Ralphie in A Christmas Story makes an uncredited appearance as Ming Ming, the Head Elf.  Also, if you ever thought, while you watched this movie, that certain things looked very familiar, you were onto something.  The design for Santa’s workshop, all of the elf costumes and most of the animals in the North Pole were mirror images of those from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the much-loved Christmas special that has aired every year since its debut in 1964.

But Rudolph’s story had been around since 1939 when it was created for an advertising campaign for Montgomery Ward.  The song about Rudolph was first recorded by Gene Autry and hit #1 on Billboard’s pop chart during the week of Christmas in 1949.

Gene Autry recorded another Christmas classic, “Here Comes Santa Clause” that gets featured toward the end of Christmas Vacation (1989) when the Clark Griswold home is ransacked by the S.W.A.T. Team.  Earlier on, when Clark gets locked in a cold attic while everyone’s out shopping, he passes the time watching old films from family Christmases past.  Look closely and you can see the front of the house from the 1960’s series Bewitched in Clark’s home movie.

Chevy Chase was just one of many actors considered for the part of Kevin McCallister’s (Macauley Culkin) dad in Home Alone (1990).  That part eventually went to John Heard.  In the scene where Kevin grabs his brother’s pet tarantula in order to scare bungling crook Marv (played by Daniel Stern), they were originally using a mechanical spider.  It was decided the fake bug looked too fake, so Stern agreed to do just one take with the real thing, which Kevin drops onto his face, causing him to scream like a girl.  Stern made the wise decision to mimic the scream so as not to spook the spider, and his scream was added in during post-production.

Perhaps no other story of Christmas has been told more often or in more ways than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  His tale of redemption just celebrated its 170th anniversary (it was published on December 19, 1843).  An interesting piece of trivia is that Dickens himself had some things in common with Mr. Scrooge.  Like the famous miser, Dickens lost his favorite sister Fanny, who died, not in childbirth as Scrooge’s sister did, but of tuberculosis.  Her son, Henry was crippled and was Dickens’ inspiration for the character of Tiny Tim.

What better way to close out this stocking full of Christmas trivia than with some tidbits from what many people, myself included, consider to be the most-loved Christmas special ever.  When its director saw a rough cut of A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), he was sure he had a flop on his hands.  There was no laugh track, as was typical of animated specials of the day, and director Bill Melendez had tried to get Peanuts creator Charles M Schultz to take out the Biblical references—particularly Linus’ speech from Luke 2.  Reportedly, Schultz won him over by asking, “If we don’t do it, who will?”   CBS executives were also nervous at the prospect of an animated Christmas special with such a blatant message.  In spite of all this, the message remained, and that scene with Linus has become highly acclaimed, with multiple generations still enjoying this classic year after year.  Only Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer can top it in longevity as far as television Christmas specials go.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

…and as Linus said, “That’s what Christmas is all about.”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

A Charlie Brown Christmas- 1965

A Charlie Brown Christmas- 1965

As The Stomach Turns

election-humorEarlier this year, I posted here about how the presidential primaries were much like a reality show.  That seems like a lifetime ago, and now that the race is down to the two main parties and a few others that may get more votes this time around than ever before, the 2016 presidential election is much more like a soap opera than a reality show.

Like all good soap operas—if there really is such a thing—certain characters and story lines always show up.  Two adversaries who used to be friends (apparently) are battling it out for the highest office in the nation.  On the one hand, is Hillary Clinton.  From the media’s point of view and her own, she’s the eternal victim. A poor struggling female who, as a young woman, attached herself to a slick but charismatic hillbilly from Arkansas that ended up being the President of the United States.

As she is portrayed in the daily series given by the mainstream media, Hillary is much put-upon and deserves to be president.  The Democrat party owes this to her for sticking by her lecherous husband while he was the Arkansas governor, and then after that when he was the philandering president caught having an improper relationship with a White House intern not much older than his own daughter.  Hillary, always calculating her own political future, blamed her husband’s troubles on a “vast right-wing conspiracy”, and stuck around, enabling him in his philandering and even being the one to personally denigrate the women he used for his personal playgrounds.  In all of this, Hillary championed herself as a defender of women.

After leaving the White House, she and her husband set up residence in New York City in order for her to run for a senate seat there. She chose New York for its ultra-liberal constituents (the city, not the state), and she knew she would need those electoral votes to win the presidency someday.

The soap opera took an unexpected turn as they so often do back in 2008, when Hillary, poised to be the first woman president, lost her opportunity when a young whippersnapper named Obama swooped in and legions of voters who were supposed to vote for her made him the first African-American president. In Obama’s early years as president, he made Hillary his Secretary of State, at least for a time.  That was all she agreed to do, knowing that she would need time to run for president again once 2016 rolled around.

When it finally did, the soap opera continued as Hillary battled it out for her party’s nomination with a full-out admitted socialist played by Bernie Sanders (as opposed to a closet socialist like herself).  In spite of many years of scandals that were more than just tabloid rumors—her mediocre record as a senator, her many severe lapses in judgement as Secretary of State, and her frivolous lack of care of classified emails—she became the Democrat nominee for president.

Her worst fear was to be running against a Republican from a different generation than herself.  Fresh faces with new ideas and more Millennial appeal such as Rand Paul, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio had her campaign shaking in its shoes, as was proven by more October surprises from the now-ever-present WikiLeaks.

Right on cue, however, the Republicans relieved her fears by nominating the candidate she most wanted to go up against:  the boisterous real estate mogul-turned-reality show star named Donald Trump.  Once a strong supporter of Hillary’s previous political campaigns, Trump appealed to those Republican voters in the primaries who have felt ignored by everyone in Washington for years.  Portraying himself as the Every Man Candidate who “tells it like it is”, and helped along by an over-zealous media anxious to see a Clinton-Trump race—millions flocked to his rallies.

The voters, in their understandable anger, turned out in droves for the primaries to vote for the orange guy with weird hair. Others, such as Cruz and Rubio, put up a good fight but were unable—even with some of the most conservative voters—to overcome the adolescent name-calling (“Lyin’ Ted”, “Little Marco”), the media that pushed hard for Trump, and the voters who saw them as Washington insiders and therefore part of the problem.

As was written in that post from months ago, I said that whoever won the Republican nomination would then be taken down by the media when it came to the race against Hillary.  The mainstream media is a major character in this drama because they are like the “bad girl” who does whatever she has to in order to get a man, only to drop him for the man (or in this case, woman) she really wants at the first opportunity.  The guy who got dumped never seems to realize that she never wanted him all along.

Added to the chaos of the story have been Hillary’s health problems (even some rumors of a Healthy Hillary twin–an interesting twist to the soap opera staple of the Evil Twin); and more October surprises for Trump in the form of his alleged bawdy shenanigans with several women who just happened to come forward at this time to talk about his mistreatment of them. (This is where a good soap opera writer would throw ominous background music into the script and leave the audience hanging).

Much of the audience—the American voters—are hanging.  With less than two weeks until Election Day, millions of people have already cast their ballots, and others are just putting off the inevitability of “picking our poison” for as long as possible.  They’re scratching their heads wondering where all those women and convenient videotapes of Trump were during the primary, wondering why Hillary isn’t in jail…wondering how we ended up here.  Out of more than 300 million people, is this the best we could do?

The thing is, whether you pick the poisonous berry over the poisonous mushroom, you’re still going to get very, very sick.