Whitney Houston was talented, but she also was a fool

Friday, March 23, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — In the “No-Surprise Department,” we learn that Whitney Houston had illegal drugs in her system when she died in a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel room on Feb. 11.

An autopsy report released Thursday (March 22) by the Los Angeles County coroner stated that the singer-actress had used cocaine just before collapsing in the hotel room’s bathroom and apparently drowning in the bathtub.

A “cardiac event complicated by the cocaine use” led to Houston’s slipping under the water, the coroner’s report stated, adding that the autopsy revealed a 60 percent narrowing of her arteries.

According to the toxocology report, these drugs also were found in Houston’s system: Marijuana; Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug; Flexeril, a muscle-relaxing drug; and Benadryl, an allergy medication. However, according to the coroner, these drugs did not contribute to her death.

Sadly, what the postmortem investigatation has failed so far to find in Houston’s system is any ounce of common sense or self-respect.

The talented and beautiful Houston had so much going for her, but she was a fool to start using and then get addicted to drugs. The “fool” tag applies to anyone else who engages in the same illicit behavior. As in Houston’s case, the result will be a miserable life and likely an early demise, and what right-thinking person wants that?

This image, taken from a video provided by the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (www.dvidshub.com), shows Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, left, the U.S. Army soldier suspected of gunning down 16 Afghan civilians on the weekend of March 10.

War zone or not, murders of civilians is a capital offense

Saturday, March 17, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — I was very distressed to learn this week that a U.S. Army soldier was suspected of making his way into a Afghan village and killing 16 civilians the weekend of March 10.

I was distressed for the U.S. military and how it would be viewed by the government and people it is trying to help and protect in Afghanistan. I was distressed about the adverse effects the killings would have on the U.S. mission over there. I was distressed that the honor of our military was being impuned by the senseless act of one individual. I was distressed for our own nation. And I was distressed for the suspected shooter and his family.

I was hoping against hope that the report was a mistake, that perhaps a Taliban fighter dressed in U.S. Army clothing did the shootings in a bold propaganda ploy to portray the U.S. military in the worst possible light. But that apparently isn’t the case.

On Friday (March 16), the identity of the soldier allegedly responsible for the massacre was revealed. He’s U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 38, a husband, father of two young children and a once-injured veteran of four tours of war duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As much as I love the U.S. military and respect those who serve, and as much as I can imagine the stresses that wars can have on a soldier (without having experienced war, I can’t possibly know the stresses first hand), I have to support the military death penalty in this case. That would be, of course, if the soldier suspected of the killings is found mentally fit to stand trial.

My view about the death penalty in these war-related killings — the apparent slaughter of 16 civilians — would have to be consistent with my overall support of capital punishment. In my book, premeditated murder is a capital offense, whether the crime happens in a war zone at the hands of someone wearing the uniform of the U.S. military or whether some punk in street clothes guns down someone on an American city block.

I see the death penalty not so much as a deterrent to crime — though it can be — but as a punishment befitting the crime of murder and, in this case, mass murder. And while the stresses of war might drive a soldier to murder innocents in an act of rage, revenge for a buddy’s death or temporary insanity, the law basically deals with the fact or “what” of murder and not necessary with the psychology or “why” of murder.

May God be with everyone in this case. And may God be with our fighting men and women, wherever they might be.

AN ASIDE: A little research ahead of this column confirmed that the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice still retains the death penalty among its possible punishments for personnel convicted of murder. In fact, six men are on U.S. military death row right now.

The last execution carried out by U.S. military justice came on April 13, 1961. U.S. Army Pvt. John A. Bennett was hanged at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., after being convicted of rape and attempted murder. Note that this wasn’t even a murder case.

The source for this is a website operated by the Death Penalty Information Center.

ANOTHER ASIDE: As a result of the shooting spree that left 16 civilians dead, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has asked that U.S. troops stop patrolling Afghan villages and pull back to U.S. bases.

That’s OK. Let’s pull our troops back to the relative safety of their bases and see if the crack Afghan security forces can handle the fight against the more-determined Taliban enemy.

My guess is that after the first big wave of Taliban attacks and after a threat against his own life, the tough-talking Karzai will quickly have a change of heart and beg U.S. commanders to get their men back into the field.

As noted in the commentary below, my preference is for the withdrawal of all U.S. ground forces from Afghanistan. It’s time for Afghan government leaders and security forces to carry their own water.

MARCH 23 UPDATE: KABUL: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was expected to be charged with not 16 but 17 counts of murder today over the killings of mostly women and children in a shooting rampage in southern Afghanistan.

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel climb a ravine in Afghanistan's Helmand province during a mid-February joint patrol with Afghan soldiers. (U.S. Defense Department photo)

Let’s get our
ground troops out
of Afghanistan

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — I’m with Cal Thomas and an increasing number of conservatives who think this way:

It’s high time for our government to pull U.S. ground troops out of that God-forsaken land called Afghanistan.

In his nationally syndicated column, Thomas commented on Afghanistan in the wake of the ridiculous controversy over the recent burning of several copies of the Quran, the Muslims’ holy book, at a U.S. military base near Kabul.

Because Taliban prisoners, our enemies over there, apparently were using the Qurans to exchange messages, I’d say that U.S. personnel were fully justified in getting rid of the books, but the crazy Islamists see it differently — as an affront to them, to their culture, to their “bible” and to their religion.

And, as usual, our leaders — both civilian and military — have apologized profusely for the incident. The apologies have been sickening to watch, hear and read about.

After more than 10 years of U.S. fighting and nation-building in Afghanistan (the U.S. invasion, the result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, began on Oct. 1, 2001), I’d say we’ve done quite enough over there and have sacrificed more than enough U.S. blood and treasure (at least 1,780 U.S. military personnel dead, thousands more wounded and billions of U.S. dollars spent on military operations and foreign aid).

The anti-American terrorist leaders, including al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who used Afghanistan has a staging ground have essentially been eliminated; the Islamic and brutal Taliban who ruled Afghanistan and sheltered al-Qaida and bin Laden, were tossed out and dismantled, though not totally vanquished; and the people of Afghanistan were given an opportunity for a better life and better nation, courtesy mostly of the United States and its too-charitable citizens.

After all of that, there’s really no reason to keep a huge U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. The purpose of our military is to kill people and break things — not to serve in an international Meals on Wheels role, not to build schools and water projects, not to fight with one hand tied behind its back, not to support a corrupt Afghan government and certainly not to protect and bow down to an Islamic culture and Quran at all costs.

Even with the ruthless Taliban still active and infrastructure still a mess, it’s time to let the ungrateful leaders, police, military, institutions and people of Afghanistan fly on their own. If we, as in U.S. forces, still need to conduct military operations against the Taliban and terrorists still harbored in Afghanistan, we can do it with bombers and fighter jets, with missile-carrying drone aircraft, with special forces and with the assets of the CIA.

Restrained even by their own government, our U.S. military personnel — God bless them all — have done a wonderful and an incredible job in Afghanistan and have sacrificed so much in the process. It’s time now to bring them home, and from this little corner of America, I will say to them and to those who previously served there: “Thank you.”

This “Dead End” sign appeared recently as an addition to the street sign that marks the entrance to the writer’s street. Part of the sign has been blurred to protect the innocent — and perhaps not-so-innocent. (Joe Braddy photo)

Cul de sac street
sign addition makes
us ‘dead-enders’

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — By act of our county’s streets and signs departments, I, my wife and my immediate neighbors are official “dead-enders.”

Whether that is in the literal or figurative sense remains to be determined.

How is this “dead-ender” status possible? Well, suddenly and without warning, a “Dead End” sign appeared recently on the street sign that introduces the cul de sac that I and about 14 other people live on in unincorporated Winter Haven, Fla.

The powers that be in Polk County apparently decided that motorists should know that if they enter our cul de sac, the only way out is the way they have to come in. (Maybe it will keep out people who really don’t belong here or have no clue where they’re going.)

The first time I noticed the bright yellow “Dead End” sign, on a Sunday morning while heading off to church, I thought of the term “dead-ender,” which is used to describe people without a purpose or path, a person without a future, a person just subsisting and not really living. It’s not a term, at least in the negative sense, that I would use to describe myself or, fortunately, anyone else in my little neighborhood.

So, in that sense, “dead-ender” doesn’t really apply to us, but in another sense, because I, my wife and my neighbors live on an officially and newly proclaimed “Dead End” street, we could be, literally, “dead-enders.”

Does that make sense? Probably not. Now, I’m just rambling.

After noticing our street’s “Dead End” sign for the first time, driving through part of our subdivision and part of an adjacent one, I noticed other “Dead End” signs that I don’t recall ever seeing. Either someone with the county decided that it’s about time all dead-end streets are officially marked or decided finally to follow an obscure county sign ordinance to the letter, or the signs departments got a really good eBay deal on a bunch of “Dead End” signs.

But, in seeing all the newly posted “Dead End” signs, I also noticed that they were posted among other signs — new or old, I don’t know — that marked streets as having “No Outlet.”

That begs the following question of great philosophical importance: Just what’s the difference between a “Dead End” street and one with “No Outlet”?

Maybe one day, when I have absolutely nothing better to do, I'll put on my journalist’s hat once again, call someone with the county and find out.

Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart died suddenly Thursday morning (March 1) in Los Angeles. He was 43.

Funny, I didn’t know anything about Andrew Breitbart

Friday, March 2, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Just who was Andrew Breitbart and why, as a conservative, hadn’t I heard about this “thorn in the side of the U.S. left” until his death early Thursday (March 1)?

Breitbart, 43, died suddenly of natural causes (perhaps related to heart problems mentioned in the media) while walking near his house in Los Angeles.

Had he not died, I likely would not know now that he was a conservative blogger, journalist, website publisher and pundit. And, apparently, he was well known and influential in conservative or “right-wing” circles.

The Financial Times, a London-based newspaper with U.S. editions, attached the “thorn” label to Breitbart. It said he spoke last week of waging “war” on the “institutional left.”

According to news reports, Breitbart helped start the now-left-leaning Huffington Post website and then moved to the more conservative Drudge Report. He is credited with being the first to reveal that Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner was sending lewd pictures of himself to women, resulting in Weiner’s resignation in June 2011.

Breitbart also started his own website, Big Hollywood, “with the aim of causing a stir in liberal-dominated Hollywood,” according to the Financial Times.

Breitbart was hailed by Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Romney called him a “fearless conservative,” while Gingrich described him as the “most innovative pioneer in conservative activist social media in America.”

Hmmm ... Perhaps the legacy of his work might be worth checking out.

So, back to the original question: Why haven’t I heard about Breitbart until now? Probably, it’s because I’ve tuned out a lot of the news media, particulary the electronic variety, since I left daily newspaper work almost 13 months ago. It’s rare that I watch television or listen to the radio.

I used to be a talk-radio “junkie,” but no more. At least not at this time. Perhaps one day I’ll tune in again, and my main man will be, as before, THE main man in conservative talk, Rush Limbaugh.

There might be hope yet for Cuban people

Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — I saw an article in a Euro-centric newspaper that Cuba, with the Marxist Castro brothers Fidel and Raúl getting older, more mellow and less influential, appears to be on a path to political liberalization, opening a way to the return of many Cuban exiles in this country and in others.

(The article was complete with a photo of Cubans in and around some 1950s-model U.S.-made cars that thy somehow keep running.)

I’m not fond of the U.S. concept of liberalism, but in the case of Cuba and its poor, oppressed and downtrodden people, liberalization away from Marxism and communism would be a very good thing.

Perhaps soon the United States will lift the now-silly economic and trade embargo that has been in effect as a form of punishment and political statement against Cuba since the Kennedy administration. I’ve advocated dropping the embargo for at least 15 years.

The embargo actually has lost its teeth through the years with the passage of several pieces of U.S. legislation that ease elements of the sanctions and create trade opportunities in Cuba for a variety of American businesses and industries.

On a related topic, and at the risk of sounding a bit colonial, I’ve always thought that Cuba would’ve made a nice additional pickup for these United States. After all, we did occupy it at one time (Guantanamo Bay is still ours), and the naturally beautiful island nation is only about 90 miles off the coast of Florida — certainly a lot closer to contiguous states than Hawaii.

But hold on there, folks. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I’m not advocating giving up Hawaii for Cuba. Who says we couldn’t have had both?

In a year of great change, God provides

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Today, Feb. 8, marks a year since I worked my last day at the News Chief newspaper, my employer for many years, and effectively retired from daily newspaper work.

It has been a year of great change. And it has been, without a doubt, the fastest-passing year of my life.

God is good.

God has provided.

God has blessed.

For that and for so much more, I am grateful.

Is the News Chief still with The NYT Co.? The signage says so

With a new post, let’s get some more mileage out of the NYT-Halifax artwork (above), shall we?

If they didn’t know better, anyone passing by The Ledger’s Winter Haven newspaper bureau, the one that serves as the new home of the News Chief newspaper (my former longtime employer), will think that the two sister papers still are owned by The New York Times Co.

That's because the big brown sign outside the building at 455 Sixth St., N.W. (U.S. Highway 17) still includes type that says the papers are “A Part of The New York Times Co.”

Of course, they’re not, and they haven been since early January, when a company called Halifax Media Group closed on the purchase of several NYT newspapers stretching from Florida to California.

The old signage — in front of the office and at another side entrance — should’ve been changed or at least covered up shortly, if not immediately, after the sale was closed, because what it includes now is old information, not the facts as we know them today. And that’s what a newspaper is supposed to deal in — the facts. My thinking is that that should include any office signage presented to the public. Joe Braddy (March 11, 2012)

There’s nothing good about smoking

I was pleased to read about the youth-oriented Polk County SWAT Kicking Butts event, scheduled for March 17 in Winter Haven.

SWAT stands for Students Working Against Tobacco. I applaud these students and their efforts to make Florida tobacco free.

I grew up with all parents and most stepparents smoking, but since I’ve been away from that kind of environment (for more than 31 years now), I’ve come to absolutely loathe cigarettes and all things tobacco.

I detest the annoying smell and smoke of cigarettes, the way it makes me smell when I’m around it, and the yellowish and stinking mess that nicotine makes of anything it touches.

I shake my head about the gazillions of dollars spent on cigarettes and other tobacco products. It’s a complete waste of an important and limited resource, money that could be better used for more sensible things.

And I get both angry and sad when I think about those sickened and killed as a result of smoking. My mother died of cancer brought on by a lifetime of smoking, and I’m sure that cigarettes played a role in my father’s fatal heart attack.

I can understand and forgive to an extent older people who continue to smoke, those who came up in a time when smoking was culturally acceptable and when the adverse health effects of the habit weren’t as fully understood or publicized. (Though doesn’t common sense suggest that inhaling smoke and nasty byproducts might be bad for you?)

However, when I see a young person smoke, a piece of me wants to run up to them, get in his or her face like an Army drill sergeant and scream: “You idiot, are you nuts? Don’t you know that smoking is bad for you?”

Maybe I’ll do that sometime. Who knows, maybe it’ll save a life. — JB (March 17, 2012)

This Dolphins, Tebow fan is a bit unsettled

Tim Tebow a New York Jet? Please, say it isn’t so!

Apparently, it is so, after the Denver Broncos and New York Jets announced a Wednesday (March 21) trade for Tebow (shown above).

When big-time, free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning (most recently of the Indianapolis Colts) agreed to sign with the Broncos, Tebow immediately became expendable, despite leading Denver to the second round of the NFL playoffs last season.

It was easy for me, a huge fan of the Florida Gators, to pull for ex-Gator Tebow as an orange-and-blue Bronco, but my now-favorite NFL quarterback as a Jet? For this longtime fan of the Miami Dolphins, who share a division with the Jets, Tebow playing in and for New York will be tough to stomach.

Of all the NFL teams and locales, why did Tebow, the fine young Christian, have to land with the Jets in New York City?

Oh well, maybe he'll be a good influence on the city and its people. — JB (March 22, 2012)

POSTSCRIPT: One of the worst things about the trade involving Tim Tebow is that is has made him sports headline news again, giving hateful commentators yet another opportunity to spew their venom against him.

Here’s just one appalling quote that showed up in a “crawl” on ESPN at midday on Thursday (March 22): “Tim Tebow isn’t bad. He’s God-awful.”

Of course, the commentator (I wish I had the name so I could report it here) was mocking Tebow and his Christian faith. At the same time, though, the commentator was mocking Tebow’s savior — but Christians know what the Bible says about that. — JB

Group promotes core American values

Promoting the U.S. Constitution and America’s core traditional values.

What’s not to love about that?

That’s the general purpose behind the Winter Haven 9/12 Project Group and others like it across the nation.

These project groups had their genesis with conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck three years ago. (See the website here.) The name comes from the premise that on 9/12/2001, the day following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans of all faiths, views, walks of life and political pursuasions were of one accord and united. (Remember the “United We Stand” T-shirts and bumper stickers?)

The Winter Haven group meets each Thursday, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Chain O’ Lakes Complex at Cypress Gardens Boulevard and U.S. Highway 17. Meetings are open to the public and no admission is charged.

The March 22 meeting will feature a presentation by Maureen Seibold of Americans for Prosperity.

For details about the Winter Haven 9/12 Project Group, e-mail member Tom Williams at Williams7098@tampabay.rr.com. — JB (March 18, 2012)

So much to do and so very little time

Here’s a personal prayer that I don’t mind sharing ...

“Dear Lord, there are so many things to do and so little time in which to do them. If, in your wisdom, you deem us unworthy of more hours in each day, please make the hours we do have go further so that we can do more and do more for you. And we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and glory. Amen.” — JB (March 8, 2012)

Who would compose your life’s music?

I had breakfast with a good friend in Lakeland recently and came across the following message on a business sign:

“The trouble with reality is that there’s no background music.”

True. But I thought that if I were to have a contemporary composer write the music to my life — my reality — it would have to be either John Williams (the “Star Wars,” “Superman” and “Indiana Jones” sagas) or James Horner (“Titanic,” “Braveheart,” “Field of Dreams”).

That reminded me — it’s interesting how one thought leads to another — of a high school yearbook entry made by an older friend and mentor way back in the spring of 1978. He wrote that when the movie of his life is made (“starring Al Pacino, of course”), my character would sure to have a leading role.

Who would play me in the movie of my life? Probably some confused and goofy-looking “B” actor. No actor in the class of Pacino would bother with the script. — Joe Braddy (Feb. 23, 2012)

Drug commercials
on TV are amusing

I wasn’t watching TV tonight, but from the kitchen I could hear the commercial for a new drug that was developed to offset the symptoms of depression.

It amused me that while the first half of the commercial voiceover was spent extolling all the benefits of the drug, the second half was spent warning potential users about how the drug can make them sick, make them go blind and even kill them.

The second half of the commercial is called the legal disclaimer, and it’s the drug manufacturer’s way — at least one way — of staving off potential lawsuits over unintended side effects.

“The drug made your big toe fall off? Well, we warned you,” the lawyers for the pharmaceutical company can now say.

The way the ad text is written is altogether funny, sad and absolutely necessary in an age of instant lawsuits. JB (Jan. 7, 2012)

Be responsible: Pay back what you owe

Here’s an important message for anyone who owes anybody any money:

Do the responsible thing, meet your obligations and pay it back! JB (March 22, 2012)

A great book from a former Winter Haven newspaper editor (and good friend): http://tinyurl.com/77aje5e

An excellent resource for conservatives and conservative ideas: http://www.heritage.org/

Another good source of news from, for and about the right: http://www.1776coalition.com/

For fine portraits and quality commercial photography: http://www.pezzimenti.com/ and http://pezzimentiphotography.com/

An interesting read on our great 16th president, Abraham Lincoln: http://lincolnlaughing.com/

Anyone who loved our 40th president will love this site:

For great, useful and trendy technology:

A great community project: http://ritzoncentral.com/

A good movie: It’s a low-budget film called “Fireproof,” starring Kirk Cameron. You'll cry — if you have any kind of heart at all.

For breakfast out: Fred’s Southern Kitchen, 1551 Third St., S.W. (U.S. Highway 17), Winter Haven. The breakfast buffet is wonderful.

For supper out: Manny’s Original Chophouse, 1100 Third St., S.W. (U.S. Highway 17), Winter Haven. The food is good and the prices are right.

A marquee outside a local personal storage business: “Land of the free because of the brave.” (It’s on bumper stickers, too.)

A local church sign: “Spend less time on Facebook and more time in His book.”

Another church sign: “Questions are in life. Answers are in church.”

Still another area church sign: “God isn’t withholding anything from you. He’s holding it for you.”

An open invitation to attend: http://centralbaptistchurchwh.com/

Stars: For the “Vote 4 Energy” campaign, which was launched Jan. 4 to promote more domestic energy production and sensible energy policy. A “Vote 4 Energy” also would mean, by and large, a vote for conservative candidates, because the liberal version of energy policy — windmills, limited domestic oil drilling, oil pipeline opposition, no new oil refineries, carbon taxes, “global warming” fixes and Chevy Volts — is anything but sensible. “Vote 4 Energy” is being funded by the American Petroleum Institute, the lobbying arm of Big Oil, but that’s OK. Attacked at almost every turn, Big Oil has every right to enter the political fray and ask Americans to “demand smarter energy policy.” On the Web: vote4energy.org

Strikes: To “corporate welfare,” including any received by Big Oil and ethanol producers. Huge companies don’t need subsidies from the taxpayers, and besides, our debt-ridden federal government can’t afford them.

Stars: To Catholic and other church leaders for taking on the Obama administration over its plan to require require church-run hospitals and universities to give their employees free contraception. The plan, since modified by the administration following mounting opposition, was a frontal attack on religious freedom in this country.

Stars: To the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its approval of the first new nuclear power project since 1978. Nuclear power sure beats windmills as a source of alternative energy.

Strikes: To the immorality of the U.S. entertainment industry and most of the people involved in it. The drug culture embraced by the industry no doubt contributed in large part to the early death of singer/actress Whitney Houston, 48. These comments in no way absolve Houston of her responsibility for the self-destructive decisions she made in her life after rising to the top of the pop music world. They include her inconceivable decision to hook up with and marry that loser of a drug user, singer Bobby Brown.


The Quran of Islam
is a dangerous book

Saturday, March 17, 2012


FROSTPROOF, Fla. — I originally wrote this in response to an article that listed only positive statements from the Quran (or Koran), the guiding book of Islam. The article described 10 positive statements made by Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Those statements, according to the writer, show the commonalities among Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The writer avoided the Quran’s contrary instructions.

The Quran, quite frankly, is a very dangerous book. Despite many positive religious instructions, it contains many that validate the actions of terrorists around the world, and it degrades women.

Since the Quran uses the same chapter-and-verse format as the Bible, I will include the same style to support my statements. Readers can verify them in the Qurans found in any library. Or, you can download your own copy free of charge. There are many free sources on the Internet. I downloaded my first copy from the Gutenberg site that has thousands of free books for downloading. The translator of my copy was J.M. Rodwell, a minister as I recall.

In the Quran: “We send not a prophet with miracles, but to strike terror” 17:59; defines infidels: “who say Jesus is a messiah” 5:17; slay infidels: “strike off their heads …” 47:4-6.

The Quran teaches male superiority, 4:34 and 2:228; women have only a half vote before a jury, 2:282; instructions for scourging one’s wife, 4:34; wives may only inherit half of what males may inherit; authorizes polygamy, 4:3; validates slavery, 33:50; permission given for sex with any owned slaves, 4:24.

The Quran teaches religious intolerance: Only Muslims enter Heaven, 3:85; Muslims forbidden from taking Jews or Christians as friends, 5:51; lying is permissible to one’s enemies, 24:11.

Many “perpetual” virgins (They will become “freshened” to virginity continually) await Muslims in Heaven; 56:35; wine, forbidden on Earth, will be abundant in Heaven, 47:16 and 82:25; and it will never make one drunk, 37:45. The story of 72 virgins is not true precisely. The number was added by Muhammad’s followers later. The Quran does describe “wide-eyed” maidens for their pleasure. If boys are preferred, they will be provided. I swear, this is true.

These things are not in my Bible. Are they in yours?

Jack Murphy of Maine is a winter resident of Frostproof, Fla. He can be reached by e-mail at jackmurphy27@gmail.com.

Targeting oil ‘speculators’ an energy policy sideshow

Monday, March 5, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Bill Nelson is the perfect example of the politician who will attempt to score some quick and easy election-year points by pushing frivolous and gimmicky “solutions” to very real and very serious national problems.

In a recent e-mail blast, Florida’s senior U.S. senator reminded us of the painful reality of rising fuel prices and news reports that a gallon of gasoline could cost motorists $5 or more by summertime.

“That’s outrageous — and unjustified,” Nelson the Democrat wrote in dramatic fashion.

But in the balance of his message, Nelson didn’t direct his fury against an abominable U.S. energy policy that stifles domestic oil production. He didn’t rant against national leaders who scorn “Big Oil” and hold oil companies up to public ridicule. He didn’t boldly take on the environmentalists and “global-warming” alarmists and truthfully tell about their role in making America a nation too dependent on foreign energy sources and weak in the process.

We wouldn’t really expect that of a senator with liberal leanings, would we? That’s not in their playbook.

No, Nelson’s “fix” for high fuel prices is proposed legislation that targets the new energy bogeyman: The oil “speculator.”


It will take more than a mop and bucket to clease the White House of the sordid policies, programs and ideology that emanate from there in the current administration.

How do you cleanse
a soiled White House?

Friday, March 2 , 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Registered voters, and all others of mysterious heritages, will be faced with difficult choices come Nov. 6, 2012. Will communism be fully embraced? Or, will Armageddon represent the proverbial and decisive battle between the forces of good and evil?

Whatever. The choices seem more a conundrum than a cleansing of ideologies. In either event, the White House will stand embarrassed, soiled by the recent rape of constitutional tenets.

Will Time ever present itself, demanding that the White House be cleansed from the stench of irreverence, from the debauchery of hallowed halls and the desecration of everything the Oval Office represents?

We are burdened with a White House resident who utilizes a treasured desk, where the Emancipation Proclamation came to life, in a manner obscene to all, all save those without respect for historical and constitutional grandeur.

How can a divided nation apologize to the president who freed our enslaved citizens for the behavior of a beneficiary of that proclamation?

These are stains that never can be washed away. Words and actions, laws and regulations eventually might be erased from the books, but Nov. 2, 2008, will remain, for the second time in America’s history, as a day that will live in infamy.

James W. MacMeekin III, of Winter Haven, Fla., is an author with five books to his credit. They include “Lincoln Laughing.” (lincolnlaughing.com). A Korean War-era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, MacMeekin is a former investment manager and educator. He can be reached by e-mail at jameswmacmeekin @yahoo.com.

Following recent events, will Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood be forever linked in our minds?

Komen group came so close to doing the right thing

Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — I had plans Friday to write a piece about the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and how pleased I was to learn that the nation’s leading breast cancer charity had severed financial ties with Planned Parenthood.

I’m glad I didn’t. A follow-up would’ve been necessary.

This morning I read that the Komen foundation leaders, under intense criticism and pressure from social media and other corners, had reversed course. The foundation will continue to provide grant money to the abortion-providing Planned Parenthood, supposedly for its breast cancer-screening services.

Not only has my pleasure with the Komen foundation turned to displeasure, I am truly disappointed and disheartened that its leaders, fearing loss of the almighty funding dollar, succumbed under Planned Parenthood-led pressure to retain the foundation’s original grant rules. Those rules flow allow the flow of foundation money to Planned Parenthood, while the grant rule changes announced earlier in the week would’ve cut off that flow.

In essence, the Komen foundation leaders took what amounted to be a highly moral stance toward its relationship with Planned Parenthood and then retreated, coming down squarely on the side of mammon — the pursuit and love of money.


Tax season and presidential politics combine to fire up the debate about the U.S. tax code and options for replacing it.

Scrap the tax code; ponder move to national sales tax

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Reducing the federal budget to meaningful programs is only one of the many chores required of a U.S House and a Senate that, conservatives hope, both will be controlled by Republicans following the Nov. 6 election.

Confronting the Internal Revenue Service — and its 40,000-plus pages of rules and regulations — will test the political fortitude of the newly elected. But, it must be done.

The U.S Department of the Treasury employs about 150,000 individuals, including the new 16,000-member IRS audit force, which will cling to their leader’s economically disastrous tax agenda to the ruination of any return to full employment.

The IRS must be virtually eliminated. The income tax must be completely eliminated.


“The Guardian Angel” was painted by Pietro da Cortona in 1656.

Let me tell you about my guardian angel, Andrew

Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012


FROSTPROOF, Fla. — One of the things enjoyed by children is being told that each of us has a guardian angel watching over us. When young, we have fun thinking of something like that, and it stimulates our imagination. As adults, though, I think many people would be embarrassed to admit to believing in a guardian angel. The world of adults has hardened us to focus on the toughness of realities, causing many of us to relegate such ideas to the shadows and privacy of our minds.

For a large part of my life, I rarely spoke of religious matters. I am not sure how long I was outside the church of my youth, but it had to be 30 years or more. Still, the roots of my childhood training stood waiting patiently for the chance to come to life. Sometime in my early senior years, I found my way back with help from my late wife. The time was right. The roots sprang to life.

It was a while, though, before I developed a relationship with my guardian angel. That happened in my 70s. What made me more aware of my angel was those little memory events we seniors are prone to — forgetting car keys or the grocery list when leaving to go shopping, for example. Forgetting why I entered a room is another one. It doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to the bathroom for some reason; just other rooms.

I found myself saying “Thank you” each time I would be reminded where these things were, or why I entered the room. It seemed as though my childhood angel was letting me know he was still hanging around. He had not forgotten me even if I seemed to have forgotten him. As a retired guidance counselor, I had enough psychology courses to expect folks to give scientific explanations for the memory prompting.

When I think of memory prompting, I think of all the cartoons depicting a little angel on the right shoulder and a little devil in the red suit with his pitchfork on the left. Freud would say that his Superego (conscience), Ego and the Id (“it” in German) were at work. These would be forces from within a person. I prefer the more spiritual explanation.

At one point, I asked my angel what his name was. I told him I didn't want to say “Hey, you” when speaking to him. After a few weeks with no answer, I grew impatient. I said I would give him a name. I remembered reading a story told by Joan Wester Anderson about Mother Angelica, the television nun. She was said to have chosen her religious name because of having had an angel-contact experience. I decided that I would call my angel Angelo. I told him that I hoped he was Italian.

Several weeks passed with me using that name, until one day when I received a memory prompt that what I wanted was in my trailer. As I moved from my Florida room up the steps into the trailer, I said “Thank you, Angelo” as usual. This time, however, the name “Andrew” popped out of my mouth. I was stunned. I had not used that name for so many years, I could not remember.

I said, “OK. I get it. Andrew it is. I guess you’re not Italian.”

Some would classify me as crazy. It doesn't bother me. I have developed a thick skin when it comes to criticism. I know I am right. That is what matters. I think that God’s grace has strengthened me in these recent years. Not only have I been a regular church-goer, but for five years, I have even served as a eucharistic minister, helping to serve the blessed sacrement at mass most weekends.

When I was in college, I had an inflated opinion of teachers and professors. I felt that they were all “brains” who got nothing but A's for marks. Well, one day my professor, a man with a doctorate degree, admitted that he was terrible at math and had failed it. This fact impacted me. It helped change my life. I have since recognized the value of personal honesty as a means of helping people to acquire realistic perceptions. Hence, this article.

I encourage all of you reading this to fight the tendancy to conceal any relationship you might feel toward your guardian angel. You might never get a message coming from your own lips as to what his — or her — name is, but please acknowledge your angel’s presence and willingness to help you.

Jesus might have given you a get-into-heaven-free card by accepting Him as your Savior, but remember that we can blow it all by acting in an irresponsible and sinful manner. I think it pays to have someone on the inside to keep reminding us of things. Angels don’t just remind us of car keys. They also remind us of the good things that our Lord expects of us.

Jack Murphy of Maine is a winter resident of Frostproof, Fla. He can be reached by e-mail at jackmurphy27@gmail.com.

This is an image from the website of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who on Tuesday (Jan. 31, 2012) won the Florida Republican presidential primary by a wide margin.

After Florida, GOP nod seems a lock for Romney

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — I didn’t vote for Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s Republican presidential preference primary (my vote was for the no-nonsense Ron Paul as sort of a statement both against the GOP establishment and a very weak field of candidates), but I’m not surprised Romney took Florida convincingly.

In really a four-person race, Romney received 46.4 percent of the Florida GOP vote. His closest rival, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, could muster only 31.9 percent despite a solid victory in the South Carolina primary just 10 days earlier; while former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Paul, a Texas congressman, finished with 13.3 percent and 7 percent of the vote, respectively.

What contributed to Tuesday’s lopsided victory for Romney, the businessman and former Massachusetts governor? Here’s how I see it:


Weight loss possible when exercising some discipline

Saturday Dec. 31, 2011



That’s the message I saw on a sign outside a used sporting goods store I drove by in Winter Haven a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Motorists passing my truck at the time might have seen the wry smile that came to my face.

“Now, that says a lot,” I thought.

It told me that the store likely paid almost nothing for, and probably was asking top dollar for, several treadmills that people wasted their money on and wanted to get out of the house.

It told me that the store was taking advantage of the holiday buying and gift-giving season to help ring up some sales — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It told me that the store also was timing the treadmill sales to the coming new year and the penchant among many people to resolve to lose weight and get fit.

And it told me that at least 17 people in the area likely gave up on their resolution and didn’t want to have a treadmill around the house to remind them about it.

(How many more people are there who gave up on their fitness resolution but still have a treadmill or some other large piece of exercise equipment taking up space in the family room or garage?)

I’m here to say that anybody — anybody — can lose weight and get fit and that nobody — absolutely nobody — needs to waste hard-earned money on expensive exercise equipment to do it. (Sorry, manufacturers and retailers.)

The irony of it all

This piece of art, created in the wake of the recent protests against corporate America and Wall Street, is making the rounds on the Internet. It shows well the irony of the protests and the hypocrisy — idiocy? — of most of those doing the protesting. You can go here for a larger version of this illustration.

True, Barack Hussein Obama is the president of the United States, but can Americans trust this man to keep the nation strong, well defended and free? (U.S. government photos)

On cue, ‘Obamaspeak’ follows failure of budget ‘Super Committee’

Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Recently, President Barack Hussein Obama proposed a “Super Committee” to provide the nation that which Congress could not. Namely, a federal budget that would simultaneously reduce America's $15 trillion indebtedness while continuing the expansion of Barack Hussein’s entitlement programs.

By definition, there could be no budget acceptable to both the Sociocoms (aka “Democrats”) and alleged conservatives (aka “Republicans”). There should be no surprise at this ideological impasse. It came off as planned by the Sociocoms.

How’s that again?


What’s the truth about Social Security? Is it a Ponzi scheme or is it a perpetually viable and dependable financial safety net for older Americans? (Illustration by Joe Braddy)

Social Security (1935-2011): Where is the rage?

Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011


WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Recently, there has been some controversy regarding the administration of Social Security. One Republican presidential candidate had the audacity to suggest it was a Ponzi scheme. Another Republican presidential candidate suggested otherwise.

Let history be your guide. Since 1935, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, the trillions of working-men and women dollars, placed in trust for their eventual retirement have, indeed, been faithfully doled out to retiring workers.

For several decades, more dollars flowed into Social Security than required for disbursement. Naturally, our elected officials (aka “politicians”) couldn’t help but notice the mounting pile of (formerly) silver certificates. They were fast to take advantage. Rather than expose these silver certificates to the vagaries of the (gasp!) stock market, where, from one day to the next, who knew what fate awaited the innocent!


Keep watching this space and see the bird as it takes on new personalities in a series drawn by James W. MacMeekin III. (Exclusive rights are granted to PolkCommentary.com for publication of this cartoon series. No other publication is permitted without written consent of the artist.)


“I believe with all my heart that one cannot be America’s president without a belief in God, without the strength that your faith gives you.” — George H.W. Bush (born 1924), 41st U.S. president

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), American civil rights leader

“I love my freedom. I love my America.” — Jessi Lane Adams (often quoted but, strangely, no bio about this person online)

“Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.” — Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), 40th U.S. president

“Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.” — Doug Firebaugh, author and motivational speaker

“My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on Earth enjoy!” — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), author of the Declaration of Independence and third U.S. president

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” — Mary Ann Evans, aka George Eliot (1819-1880), British novelist

“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” — The final words of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale before he was hanged by the British on Sept. 22, 1776

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” — Edith Lovejoy Pierce (1904-1983), poet

“One has to remember that every failure can be a stepping stone to something better.” — Col. Harland Sanders (1890-1980), founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” — Harry S. Truman (1884-1982), 33rd U.S. president

“If we all did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” — Thomas Edison (1847-1931), American inventor, founder of General Electric

Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift. — 2 Corinthians 9:15 (KJV)

“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” — Lee Greenwood, singer, “Proud to Be an American”

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston Churchill, former prime minister of Great Britain

“Try not to become a man of success but a man of value.” — Albert Einstein, mathematician and physicist

“When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place.” — Unknown

“America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people.” — George W. Bush, 43rd U.S. president (2001-09)

“Every artist was first an amateur.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American essayist, lecturer and poet

“Work spares us from three evils: Boredom, vice and need.” — Voltaire

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” — Henry David Thoreau, American author

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with bricks that others throw at him.” — David Brinkley (1920-2003), American broadcaster

About the Bible ... “In regard to this great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to men. All the good Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this Book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to found portrayed in it.” – Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th president of the United States

“There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and laziness.” — Franz Kafka (1883-1924), German-language author of short stories and novels

“Who aims at excellence will be above mediocrity; who aims at mediocrity will be far short of it.” — Burmese saying

“The love of wealth makes bitter men; the love of God, better men.” — W.L. Hudson

“Men fight for freedom, then they begin to accummulate laws to take it away from themselves.” — Unknown

“The reason Christianity is the best friend of government is because Christianity is the only religion that changes the heart.” — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), author of the Declaration of Independence and third U.S. president

“A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan. — Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), U.S. civil rights leader

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” — Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States

“The higher our position, the more modestly we should behave.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C.-43 B.C.), Roman philosopher, statesman

Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. — Proverbs 14:34 (KJV)

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” — John Powell, British statesman

“If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life.” — Billy Graham, American evangelist

“Lost time is never found again.” —
Benjamin Franklin, American patriot, statesman and inventor

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” —
George Washington, first U.S. president

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding. — Proverbs 4:7 (KJV)

I live in my own little world, but it’s OK; they know me here.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Sometimes I wake up grumpy. Other times I let her sleep.

I didn’t fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.

Two peanuts were walking down the road and one was a salted.

Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money. — Anonymous, but contributed by Jack Murphy

“If you had to specify, in one word, why the human race has not, and will never achieve its full potential, that word would be meetings.” — Dave Barry

A retired husband is often a wife’s full-time job.

I’ve got to get in shape. Yesterday my imagination ran wild, and today my arms and legs are sore. — From the collection of Jack Murphy

A boss with no humor is like a job that is no fun.

Ninety-nine percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

Did you hear about the two radio antennas that got married? The wedding was terrible, but the reception was excellent!

IRS might be targeting Tea Party groups

This headline doesn’t give us a warm and fuzzy feeling about our federal government:

“Numerous Tea Party chapters claim IRS attempts to sabotage nonprofit status”

According to the report (read it here) by Perry Chiaramonte of Fox News, “Tea Party chapters around the nation are blasting the Internal Revenue Service after the federal agency sent them letters demanding information about their politics, contributors and even family members.”

Our government, conceived more than 200 years ago on the premise that everyone has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” has gotten to be too big, too intrusive, too overbearing, too coercive and, increasingly, too menacing.

Is it too late to dial back the size and reach of the federal government? I hope not. — Joe Braddy (March 4, 2012)

Post-rapture Earth won’t be pleasant

It seems lately that the words that disturb us the most are found on stickers on vehicle rear windows or back bumpers.

Recently, this space addressed a bumper sticker that said: “Instead of being born again, why not just grow up?”

Here’s what was found Feb. 17 on a car being driven by someone with obvious anti-Christian tendencies:

“Bring on the rapture. The rest of us will have the Earth to ourselves.”

The person with the sticker, and those who find it amusing, have no comprehension of what the rapture is and the terrible events it will trigger.

To be brief and to be clear, post rapture, Earth will not be a pleasant place. No, it will be an awful place.

While the word “rapture” isn’t in the Bible, it conveys the biblical teaching that at some point, perhaps soon, Jesus Christ will call the living Christians — and the dead in Christ — out of this world to meet him in the air and be taken away to Heaven. The Holy Spirit’s influence in the world will be removed as well. And afterward will come seven years of “tribulation,” a word that is found in the Bible. God will judge the world and those who have rejected His offer of salvation.

Really, who would want to be left behind to live in a world void of the evil-restraining influence of Christians and the Holy Spirit?

Apparently, the answer is those who would adorn their vehicles with bumper stickers that mock the rapture and, in essense, mock God. — Joe Braddy (Feb. 19, 2012)

Words on sign bring a smile

On the way to church the other day, I saw at another church a sign that brought a smile to my face:


It’s a cute message, one of gratefulness, but if I could make a suggestion, I would add another “GLORY.” Then you would have:


That, I think, has a nice ring to it.JB (Feb. 21, 2012)

The stars are

Almost by accident tonight, I stumbled across the big, bright and beautiful stars.

Oh, I knew they were up there in the heavens, hung perfectly by God in His glorious creation, but tonight they seemed extra wondrous.

In a change of routine, I went outside around 7:30 p.m. to cool down in the cool night air following a round of exercises, and when I looked out and up, there they were. Those stars.

Likely because the light of the moon wasn’t around to interfere, and the sky was so clear, the stars seemed to be extra bright. And extra big. And extra beautiful.

I am thankful for the stars — and the little time I could spend with them tonight. — JB (Jan. 16, 2012)

The message
is comforting

During the holidays , I heard for the first time a song that hints of a Christmas message but clearly delivers a gospel message.

Sung by two talented ladies at our church, “Immanuel” was made popular by the contemporary Christian trio Point of Grace.

“Immanuel, our God is with us, yes he is with us still. Immanuel, he has not left us, and he never will.”

Of course, Immanuel (or Emmanuel) means “God with us” and is another name for Jesus Christ.

Looking up references to the song, I came across a performance of it by Point of Grace on YouTube. You can find it — and, I hope, enjoy it — here. — JB

“His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. He'll carry us when we can’t carry on.” — From “His Strength Is Perfect,” a song by Steven Curtis Chapman

“He was there all the time ... waiting patiently in line.” – From “He Was There All the Time,” a contemporary Christian song

“In times like these I have a Savior, In times like these I have an anchor; ...” — From “In Times Like These,” a gospel hymn





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