Terry Jones Political Cartoons

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President Obama And American Flags At Press Conferences

If you are like me you often wonder why God made the ‘reply to all’ function on computers.  What it often allows for is the wildest, most off-base, and scurrilous material on the internet to have an even larger reach.  With an electorate that is often not able to grasp a lot of the needed facts of the world on a good day, these mass email forwards only allow for more incorrect blather to take hold.   Is it any wonder that distortions have a way of becoming ‘fact?’

Marion, a friend and reader, asked that I make note of the problem with a forwarded email that she recently received.  Not only am I glad to respond, but this will take no time to handle.

So…..the thrust of the forwarded email swirls around “What is missing at Barrack Hussein Obama’s press conferences?”  That the email left out the term President, but did include his middle name makes the case for the reason to discard the email at once. 

But for the sake of this blog post I continue.

Picture after picture is shown of both democratic and republican presidents standing at press conferences in the White House with the American flag directly behind or slightly off to the side.  But OMG in a picture of President  Hussein Obama there is no flag!!  See, he is trying to undermine baseball, place Sharia law in place, and remove apple pie from diners across the nation.

But hold on one minute!

What do I see in the lapel of President Obama’s suit jacket?  

Could that be an American flag pin?  You know…..it is! 

Now that starts to unravel the theory of the three-thumb crowd that creates this garbage.  They may know all about the ‘reply all’ function on the computer, but they nothing about Photoshop!  If they are going to create a lie, at least do it all the way.

Then there are those other pictures that the bigots and haters who send out this junk email forget to add.  You know, those pictures of the other Presidents who held press conferences without an American flag. 

SAY WHAT!!    Yup, it is true. 

Other presidents, and WHITE ones at that, stood before the public and made statements without the American flag.   Where were the three-thumbers then to rant and rave?  Or is it only when a black man has been elected President that any of this matters?

First President Nixon.  No flag.

Then President Carter. No flag.

But can you believe…….President Reagan too!  No flag.

What the flag has to do with the press conference is not clear to me.  They are nothing more than a prop in this 24/7  cable news world in which we live.  But to those who create the emails of this type it is ginned up in such a fashion so that it seems to matter.  The three-thumb crowd would prefer to have the flag used as a prop to make a politician look better, than to be reserved for more appropriate uses.   And yet, it is President Obama who is made to look like he is not American enough! 

There is a political perversion among the right-wingers in this country that is truly astonishing, and this type of email proves it.

Jim Wallis from Sojourners: 9/11 And The Test Of Our Character

Above and beyond everything else I have read over the past few days about the anniversary of 9/11 comes this piece by Jim Wallis from Sojourners.  I provide just a few paragraphs of the full read.  Needless to say the mindset of Wallis is where we all need to be.

This Saturday, we commemorate the ninth anniversary of 9/11. It is with pain and sadness that we remember the day the towers fell, the Pentagon was attacked, and another plane full of passengers crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after brave citizens stopped the terrorists from hitting their target. For nine years the anguish of lost loved ones and the feeling of vulnerability we all felt as terrible acts of violence were perpetrated on our soil have stuck with us all.

At this time, it is also appropriate to ask, What have we learned? How have we grown as a country? How have we healed, or how have we, in our hurt, turned around and hurt others? These are not either/or questions. We have, in fact, done both: healed and wounded, learned and regressed, grown and shrunk back from the challenges before us. The challenges before us today lie in our ability to move forward in healing and building the cause of peace while remembering the lessons and lives lost in the past.

But rather than showing that we have grown in understanding, this anniversary has been marred by two events that show how the extremes can still control the discourse, both in America and around the world.


…an issue that many people are much more mixed about: Will building an Islamic community center within two blocks of Ground Zero help bring healing? Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who had the vision for the center, is a good friend I have known for many years. I’ve had the pleasure of working beside him in building bridges between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. His heart and commitment to the work of reconciliation between people of different faiths and backgrounds has always shone through in everything that Feisal and his wife, Daisy Khan, do. They are genuine peacemakers, and I know this controversy about their dream of a community center pains them deeply. I do not doubt for a second that every action they have taken toward building this Islamic community center has been with peace and reconciliation in mind.

When the story first broke in The New York Times this past December, it was met with little interest. The fact that a moderate Muslim leader, who had lived and worked in the community of lower Manhattan for 25 years, was planning to build a community center was not considered controversial. Unfortunately, there were those who saw this as a political opportunity to create conflict and division and stir up ideological passions by distorting Imam Feisal’s mission and purpose. He told the nation last night that if he had ever imagined that his plans would cause this much hurt and distress, he never would have proposed building the center at that location.

I do not believe the center of the debate is merely the community center’s proximity to Ground Zero. Across the country, the building (and even existence) of mosques is being protested, others mosques are being vandalized, alarming attacks on individual Muslims are occurring, and now, an obscure and marginal group in Florida is planning to burn the Quran in the name of their extreme brand of Christianity — getting the pastor’s face on the front page of USA Today.

This conflict is really about the role that faith will play in America. It is about whether or not we will accept Muslim Americans as true Americans or second-class citizens. It is about whether we will blame millions of American Muslims and 1 billion Muslims worldwide for the actions of a small number of Muslims who try to use their brand of faith to murder innocent people. It is about whether or not the country will embrace a Muslim who seeks peace and wants to help rebuild lower Manhattan or reject him because of his religious beliefs.

This is a test of our character; and we dare not fail it.

Chapter One: “A Year in the South: 1865, The True Story of Four Ordinary People Who Lived Through the Most Tumultuous Twelve Months in American History” by Stephen Ash

This is what I would pen if asked to write a sentence as to why this book should be read.

” Stephen Ash writes a tight, insightful narrative that allows the reader to feel the brown and gray of a landscape that has been destroyed by war.”

The south comes alive in war-ravaged weariness as the Civil War continues on January 1, 1865.  Lincoln has been elected for a second term ‘up North’, many Confederate soldiers are leaving the ranks and heading  back home,  shortages abound,  and a general fatigue is felt by all.

A Year in the South: 1865, The True Story of Four Ordinary People Who Lived Through the Most Tumultuous Twelve Months in American History by Stephen Ash takes a look into the lives of four ordinary people living in various parts of the south as 1865 begins.  While the four lives that are examined represent what many in the South experienced, the lives in the book are also very personal and unique.  There is no way not to feel for them. 

A slave determined to gain freedom, a widow battling poverty and despair, a man of God grappling with spiritual and worldly troubles, and a former Confederate soldier seeking a new life.  There is no way not to be drawn to each of the main characters, and feel their unease about what awaits them. 

This is a one of those books where the reader, I think, needs to stop and be reminded that we know how history turns out.   The real people in this book do not.  That may seem obvious, but often I think when we read history we not appreciate that essential ingredient to the story.

Cornelia McDonald did not have that luxury of knowing her future with seven children and the rats in the house she moved to in Lexington, Virginia after the Union soldiers took over her hometown.   Her husband had died in 1864. 

Louis Hughes, a slave, had no way of knowing how much further he could be taken by his owners into the deep confederacy so to be sure he would not to be freed by Union troops.  

John Robertson, a young man, can not know how his desire for higher ideals will play out in the rough and tumble days of the death of the Confederacy.  He is torn by a religous conversion, but also filled with strong views and emotions that makes him perhaps the most complicated of the four stories in the book.

Samuel Agnew, a minister, and a man who did not have to fight in the war, is very much interested in the news.  Sitting at his window and writing in detail about the conflict, he watches for anyone who passes his place and engages them in conversation about the fate of his world.

So we have the 20/20 hindsight view of history.  The four real people in Stephen Ash’s book did not. 

The year 1865 was pivotal in so many ways, and Ash lets us know how it felt from a southern point of view.  As the historian notes few Americans can relate to these stories.  That is even more reason to pick the book up and step back in time.T

The book deals with four personal stories yet captures the epic nature of the Civil War.  Great research and writing make this book a gem.

Chapter One

Louis Hughes

South Alabamians sometimes call it simply the bigbee. It is a short name for a long river that rolls lazily, with many twists and turns, southward from the heart of the state to Mobile on the Gulf coast. In early 1865 the Tombigbee was high and busy with steamboats. They chugged up and down the river between Deinopohs and Mobile, stopping at landings here and there to load or unload. Bales of cotton and piles of Osnaburg sacks crowded the decks of many of the hosts. The sacks held the more precious cargo: they were filled with salt.

Many of the sacks were marked “Alabama.” These were loaded aboard as a stop on the east bank of the river in Clarke County, some sixty miles north of Mobile. A road led inland from the landing there, and a short distance up that road lay the Alabama state saltworks. It was a sprawling little settlement centered around a large wooden building with a veranda. This building was the headquarters, in which Louis Hughes lived and worked.

Lou, as he was used to being called, had stepped easily into his new situation when he came to the works in 1863. A well-trained butler was a prized and useful servant, and thus Lou was immediately singled out from the other leased slaves and set to work in that role. He did a good job and became a favorite of the state salt commissioner, Benjamin Wooleey, whose office was in the headquarters. Moulds, Lou’s wife, was pus to work as a cook. She, too, woo the comnaissiooer’s approval; her bread and rolls, he said, were as good as any he had ever tasted. Woolsey, a lawyer and planter by profession, had at one none offered to buy Lou and Mafilda for three thousand dollars, but Boss had turned him down.

Boss was dead now, of course. January 1, 1865, was the first anniversary of his death. His sudden passing had shocked has family and slaves but suited in no immediate changes for Lou and Matilda. They and the other MeGehee slaves stayed on at the saltworks by order of Madam, Boss’s widow, who remained at her father’s plantation in Mississippi.

There were many slaves at the works in early 1865, perhaps 200 or more. Their muscle and swear and skills powered an extensive manufacturing operation. It was a scene of almost constant activity, for there were all sorts of tasks to be done and the Confederacy’s salt famine generated a sense of urgency. Slave men slid most of the heavy labor — boring wells, rending pumps and furnaces, chopping and hauling wood, making bricks, building levee sacking and weighing and loading the salt. The slave women cooked and did laundry and other chores with the help of the older children. Whites did the other jobs: among the two dozen or so employed at the works, besides the salt commissioner, were a superintendent, a clerk, a bookkeeper, a commissary manager, a doctor, a wagon master, two steam-engine operators, several artisans, and a number of overseers.

The saltworks was not just a manufacturing operation but a community, and a largely self-sustaining one. All the people who worked there lived on the site. Most of the slaves resided in barracks or cabins that were space ready along a sneer. The whites had separate residences or took rooms up stairs at the headquarters. Like any respectable Southern village, the works had a smithy, a cooperage, a a shoemaking shop, a carpentry shop, a sawmill, gristmill, and a cemetery. It also boasted a hospital, a commissary, a sac making shop, a storehouse, and at least one kitchen. The works produced no gram or meat (these were purchased from outside sources), but it had a a dairy and a seven-acre vegetable garden that helped feed the whole community.

Like any village, too, the works had its own economy, an informal system of borrowing and bartering, swapping and selling. Slaves as well as whites engaged in this casual commerce and Lou Hughes was one of those clever enough to make money from it. The story he tells about this in his memoir illustrates one of the curious things about the Old South: how the rigid laws and protocols of slavery and race relations were sometimes ignored in the intimacy of communal life.

As Lou tells it, one day in the early part of 1865 he approached the superintendent of the works, N. S. Brooks, about getting some tobacco. He had a hundred dollars he had borrowed from three other slaves; they had earned it doing extra chores at the works in their free time. Lou wanted this tobacco not to smoke but to resell. Brooks liked Lou and was happy to do him a favor, so he took the money and dispatched an order by boat to a merchant in Mobile. Four days later a package containing thirty-six plugs of tobacco arrived. Brooks turned it over to Lou, who, after finishing his morning duties at headquarters, set out to peddle the plugs among the black laborers at the works. Within an hour he had sold every plug at five dollars apiece, for a profit of eighty dollars. Later, as Lou was serving the noon meal in the headquarters’ dining room, Brooks asked him how he had done with the tobacco.

“I did very well,” Lou replied. “[T]he only trouble was I did not, have enough.”

Brooks questioned him a little more, then drew out pencil and paper at did some figuring. His own salary was a meager $150 a month in rapidly depreciating Confederate money. After the meal, while Lou was clearing the table, Brooks came in from the veransla where he had been smoking with the clerk and made a proposition: he would order all the tobacco Lou could sell if Lou would split the profit with him fifty-fifty. Lou agreed.


John Grisham On Writing

I recall reading my first John Grisham novel on a Sunday many years ago.  I sat in a lawn chair in my parent’s backyard waiting for the family to all arrive for a cookout.  Though Grisham had a few books out at the time, I wanted to start reading his first book.  As such, I had “A Time to Kill”  in my hands, and though I had read where Grisham did not think it a very good book, I  found it a quick legal drama with lots of energy.

This past weekend John Grisham penned a column for the New York Times about writing.  Though a few days late for this blog it still deserves attention.  Here is a part of what he wrote.

I WASN’T always a lawyer or a novelist, and I’ve had my share of hard, dead-end jobs. I earned my first steady paycheck watering rose bushes at a nursery for a dollar an hour. I was in my early teens, but the man who owned the nursery saw potential, and he promoted me to his fence crew. For $1.50 an hour, I labored like a grown man as we laid mile after mile of chain-link fence. There was no future in this, and I shall never mention it again in writing.

Then, during the summer of my 16th year, I found a job with a plumbing contractor. I crawled under houses, into the cramped darkness, with a shovel, to somehow find the buried pipes, to dig until I found the problem, then crawl back out and report what I had found. I vowed to get a desk job. I’ve never drawn inspiration from that miserable work, and I shall never mention it again in writing, either.


Like most small-town lawyers, I dreamed of the big case, and in 1984 it finally arrived. But this time, the case wasn’t mine. As usual, I was loitering around the courtroom, pretending to be busy. But what I was really doing was watching a trial involving a young girl who had been beaten and raped. Her testimony was gut-wrenching, graphic, heartbreaking and riveting. Every juror was crying. I remember staring at the defendant and wishing I had a gun. And like that, a story was born.

Writing was not a childhood dream of mine. I do not recall longing to write as a student. I wasn’t sure how to start. Over the following weeks I refined my plot outline and fleshed out my characters. One night I wrote “Chapter One” at the top of the first page of a legal pad; the novel, “A Time to Kill,” was finished three years later.

Writing was not a childhood dream of mine. I do not recall longing to write as a student. I wasn’t sure how to start. Over the following weeks I refined my plot outline and fleshed out my characters. One night I wrote “Chapter One” at the top of the first page of a legal pad; the novel, “A Time to Kill,” was finished three years later.

The book didn’t sell, and I stuck with my day job, defending criminals, preparing wills and deeds and contracts. Still, something about writing made me spend large hours of my free time at my desk.

I had never worked so hard in my life, nor imagined that writing could be such an effort. It was more difficult than laying asphalt, and at times more frustrating than selling underwear. But it paid off. Eventually, I was able to leave the law and quit politics. Writing’s still the most difficult job I’ve ever had — but it’s worth it.

Saturday Song: Hee Haw Gospel Quartet “We’ll Understand It Better By and By”