Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Menagerie

As most of you are aware by now, The Queen and I are animal lovers. We just can't help it. Their lovable and hugable and squeezable and petable....and, no, we do not call them George. When we first married and merged households, The Menagerie consisted of four cats (down from five cats just before we got married) and two dogs. Since then, we have lost two more cats to unknown causes (we suspect the neighborhood fox and bobcat population) and gained a 1/2 a dog.

Since The Queen and I consider the animals to be our kids in light of the fact that we have not been blessed with the two legged variety, I thought I'd take a moment to introduce you to the rest of the family.

The black cat is J.G.. J.G. is our resident crotchety old man. He doesn't do much anymore other than lie around and try and lick himself which is made more difficult by the fact that he is fat and lazy. He is also the resident loud mouth, alarm clock, foot warmer, dog abuser and all around alpha cat. We can't remember J.G.'s exact age, but he is about 10 or 11. He came to us as a rescue when he was just a wee little tyke of 7 or 8 weeks old. My MIL found him in a grocery store parking lot after some hapless soul discovered him under the hood of their car. One of the little pads on his paws had been burned or cut; and, MIL, knowing The Queen's love of cats, made the offer to take the injured little fuzz ball off the motorist's hands. The Queen made a valiant attempt to pawn J.G. off on my FIL by naming said cute and fluffy after her dad. He is not an animal lover and was having none of that. So, that is how J.G. came to reside with The Queen. Eventually, J.G. came to live with me after the loss of my beloved Sneaker (he was a wonderful cat, but that's a post for another time). J.G. gets along with everyone else...more or less. He doesn't like the 1/2 dog who is a little too energetic for J.G.'s taste. J.G. also goes by Jiggers, Jigs, and a few others not suitable for polite company.

The white fuzz ball, shedding machine is Kiki (say "key-key"). Also, known as Keekernut, Keeks, and...The Yak Master 5000 Projectile Vomit Cannon. The Yak Master is The Queen's favorite. The Yak Master only tolerates me and, even then, only when he wants something. Ungrateful, little.... Kiki is our resident hunter extraordinaire. When he has a mind to, he will take down anything. Bunnies by the basketful. Birds in flight. Lizards. Snakes. He just looks pretty; but, underneath that soft, fluffy exterior, lies a cold hearted killing/puking machine.

Last, but not least, we have the mutts. I say mutts in the most loving way. Not a pure bred among the bunch. Left to Right: Sasha, Tornado/Numbnutts, and Peekaboo.

Sasha is the eldest. She will be 12 in a few months. Not bad for a fat dog. She is a shelter rescue; and, if she weren't the sweetest, loyalest dog on the planet, I'd hunt those lying shelter people down and beat them senseless with a rolled up newspaper whose headline reads "terrier mix who shouldn't get bigger than 45 pounds." Ha. Haha. Ahahahahhhahahahahhhhahaaaaa!!!!! As we now know in all her full grown, 100 pounds +/- glory, Sasha (AKA The Sausage, Sauss, Snausage, Fat Dog, Big Girl, etc.) is a lab/shepherd mix. We call her a splab or a shlab. She is old and lazy, but she still likes to roll around and make funny noises. Seriously, one of these days I will success in getting a recording of her speaking.

Tornado/Numbnutts (aka The 1/2 Dog) is the newest addition to the menagerie. His momma, my other niece Julia's dog Lily, is ugly as sin. Seriously, she ugly. Beat with an ugly stick and left for dead ugly. But, apparently, looks don't matter to dogs 'cause she got her freak on with a bunch of other dogs out in Granbury and HE (and his siblings) was the result. Tornado/Numbnuts (aka 'Nado, Nummers, Nutt, The Nutter, The 1/2 Dog, etc.) has an identity crisis. He really doesn't know what his name is because it's been changed several times, and different parts of the family call him different things. After being born here at The Castle while The Queen and Julia were off having a grand time in St. Kitts without me, The 1/2 Dog went back with Julia for the formative months of his life. My BIL (The Queen's brother) had originally intended The 1/2 Dog to be his truck dog. Well, his momma Lily had other ideas and promptly trained The 1/2 Dog to be a chicken killer. This didn't sit well with the powers that be (my BIL's wife), and The Queen and I took The 1/2 Dog in to prevent dogicide. The 1/2 Dog endeared himself to my inlaws (who have been living with us for several years now), and he sorta kinda became their dog...more or less. The Queen and I like to say we have joint custody. Hence, the moniker The 1/2 Dog. The inlaws gave him the name Tornado because he is hyperactive to an extreme. The Queen and I named him Numbnutts....just because we're weird that way...and we didn't like Tornado. Anyway, the 'Nutt has settled down into a sweet, happy dog who enjoys life and occasionally kills squirrels, rats and bunnies. You'd think the varmints would learn to stay out of the yard.

Finally, there is Peekaboo (aka Boo, Boo Bear, Boozer, etc.). Peekaboo is a Boston Terrier/Pekinese mix. She is the closest thing The Queen and I have to a pure bred animal. Her momma was AKC registered Boston who had a thing with the Peke next door. Hence the name, Peekaboo (Peek -inese/Boo -oston Terrier). Clever, no? Stupid, no? Anyway, Peekaboo came to us through semi-normal channels after a failed experiment to have a playmate for Sasha. For future reference, a Blue Heeler and a Splab do not mix well together. The Heeler went to live with Number 1 Follower and lived a happy life roaming the country side. I grew up with Bostons, and thought a smaller dog might be a better fit (i.e. less of a threat) for Sasha as a playmate. The Queen and I were at Petsmart getting who knows what for whichever species when we spotted what appeared to be a Boston puppy being carried out by a young couple. After the obligatory "Dahhh, Idn't dat coot?", I said "That's the kinda of dog I want." The Queen, being the outgoing personality she is, chased the puppy owners out into the parking lot to pry the secrets of the puppy's parentage out of them. We learned that said puppy was from a breeder in Burleson (not too far from where we were) and that said breeder still had a couple of puppies from the same litter available for adoption. Phone numbers were exchanged and used, and we were able to bring Boo home in short order. Sasha, of course, ignored Boo for several weeks/months...even when Boo was draped over Sasha's neck, but it turned out I was right about Boo being a better fit playmate wise for Sasha.

The three dogs get along fine. They even have their own barbershop siren trio. We live fairly close to a major intersection leading to two major highways. As a result, we get sirens all times of the day and night for police, fire and EMS heading out for wrecks and other calls. The dogs, for reasons known only to them, feel the need to howl and bark at the sirens. Sasha always starts the song in typical, wolf-like, fashion craning her muzzle straight up to belt out a long, sustained, bass line "ahhhh-ROOOOO". Nummers joins in with a higher, multi pitched, tenor cry. Boo finishes things up with a syncopated rhythm bark.

Great stuff. Especially when I'm in the middle of a conference call.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Random thought from a tired brain.

Did you know Captain Kirk had a dyslexic brother? He insisted everyone call him Captain Krik. He died after an encounter with Longinks and Normulans when he told weapons to raise phasers and fire shields. Very sad.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Family Photos

After posting my Mother's Day well wishes to mom and complaining about the lack of good and recent photos of mom for posting, I was reminded of a family photo session which took place at the Dallas Arboretum in June 2008. It's a rather long story of how this photo session came to be scheduled, but suffice it to say you can blame my sister...the devil.

So, being the good son/brother/uncle that I am, I thought I'd take this opportunity to upload a few of my favorite photos from the family photo shoot. They turned out surprisingly well despite the fact that it was the end of Dallas, TX...with the temperature and humidity about equal. Thank you, my dearest sister...the devil.

Above, we have my lovely nieces, the golden children, spawn of my sister...the devil. You have met them before from the March birthday shootout range report. Kyria, the younger, is on the left. Kaitlyn, the older, is on the right. Their birthdays are only a week apart, and my sister...the devil claims she and my BIL did not plan it that way. I'm not sure I'm buying that, and I'm certainly not buying the other part of the story relating to the conception.

Above, we have my side of the family minus The Queen who was unable to make it due to health issues. Left to Right: Niece Kyria, BIL Richard, my older sister...the devil Tiffany, MIMI (aka Mom), Me (aka The Preacher...ignore the's gone now), and niece Kaitlyn. Don't we all look so happy? This was before the heat had sapped the life out of us.

Same group as before, just a different order. Aren't we charming? Don't answer that.

Welcome New Followers

For reasons that escape me, I woke up this morning, well before my alarm was to go off I might add, after last night's Fit o' Writing with an overwhelming desire to fire up the laptop and see what awaited me in Blogger Land. Seriously, I haven't even been to the necessary room for my morning constitutionals yet. I kinda just stumbled into the office looking like a freshly minted zombie letting the dogs out for their morning rounds and mumbling "Blogger"..."brains."

Not really that last part. I don't need GunDiva gettin' all zombie killer up in here.

My early morning, pre-bathroom curiosity was rewarded with something special. What was my reward you ask (or, at least, that's what I imagine my faithful followers are asking right now). I found was a new follower.

OOooooo, shiny.

I know the title kinda gave it away. Oh well.

I haven't done a new follower introduction since Mel made her appearance back in September. It's not that I'm ungrateful or anything. I've just been a bad blogger buddy. Apology accepted??

So, in an effort to redeem myself, I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce everyone to each other. For some reason, you all found your way to the same place and expressed an interest in the thoughts oozing from my "brain...must eat brains". Where did that come from? GunDiva, put it down. I'm fine. Really. Just lack of sleep.

As I was saying, your bold decision to publicly follow Preachers and Horse Thieves gives you entry into a very exclusive club. It also gives you each something in common. Might as well get to know each other.

Number 1 Follower: TxManx (AKA Ken) has been with me since the beginning. This is as it should be. Ken is my best friend, and he was the best man at my wedding to The Queen. I've known Ken almost 20 years now, and our friendship has mellowed as any good friendship is want to do over time. We've helped each other move no less than a dozen times. We have it down to a science. No. We are not available for hire. Unless there is beer and pizza involved. And it's not summer in Texas. One other thing, Ken is working on developing a photography business in case you need such services for whatever reason. Let me know, and I'll see if I can get you the buddy discount.

Number 2 Follower: Mel (actually Melanie) of One Hot Mess. Go give her a whirl and learn all about her from her blog. She was out of the blogging loop for a while as she was confined to blogging from a Blackberry (oh, the horror), but she's back to using a real computer again and promises to be more active. She claims to be a lover of Looney Tunes; and, since she goes by Mel (as in Mel Blanc...the great voice of all Looney Toon characters), I do not doubt her allegiance to Bugs and Daffy.

Number 3 Follower: Tay of ProfoundiTay. I don't know much about Tay beyond her blog as she's never taken the time to comment. She is a college student which makes her posting rather erratic. She is also on the other side of the world in South Africa. At least it's the other side of the world from my perspective. She might have different views. Your experience may vary.

Number 4 Follower: GunDiva of Just Another Perfect Day, Tales From The Trail, and Girls With Guns. GunDiva, as you might expect, likes guns. She is a prolific blogger, and I envy her ability to post almost daily. Given the fact that she runs 3 blogs, is married, with 3 teenagers, a teaching job with uncountable students, a horse, a dog, a cat, a get the picture, I am amazed at her ability to crank out content. To top it off, when she's not working her own stuff, she's my most active commenter. Seriously, some of y'all need to give her a run for her money.

From here on out, don't get offended if I don't get you put down in the proper order. I may have lost track there for a while of who came into the fold when.

Number 5 Follower: Viking. I know absolutely nothing about Viking. From his profile (and I am assuming male gender here since there is no profile photo), he appears to be a blog reader but not a blog writer. He's not commented on any of the posts that I can recall. Get off the sidelines, dude. Throw a mental hand grenade into the party. I need all the help I can get.

Number 6 Follower: Earl of Noydbyah. GunDiva introduced me to Earl's blog back in February. He's been quiet lately. I hope everything is alright.

Number 7 Follower: Sean of I Aim To Misbehave. I love it that Sean is a fan of Firefly/Serenity. I mean a serious fan. From his blog title, to the quotes from the show on his site, I like it. He's also diverse in his postings which I like as well. He's another follower lurking in the shadows who needs to come out into the light of day and comment once in a while.

Number 8 Follower: Jennifer of How Did This Happen. I think she found her way to me via GunDiva, but I'm not positive. She's big into horses. Shhh. Don't tell The Queen.

Number 9 Follower: Thankful Anthony of Jesus And The Athiest, Transformation Of A Loser, and Let's Make A Deal. Anthony, welcome to P&H. We have cookies. Actually, we don't at the moment, but The Queen did bake a cake for The Preacher yesterday. Hallelujah! Can I get an Amen? Anthony, you are special because you are the last of the single digit followers. Since I know you are Biblically inclined, you will know that the last shall be first. You have also made it possible for me to hit my first milestone (double digit followers) with my next follower. Yay.

Anyway, I must go forth and get ready for work. I actually get to leave the house today and go out in public...(hooray)...which means I must shave and shower...(booo). Y'all play nice.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cat Puke and Relationship Advice

Okay, so this is my fourth post of the day. It’s a record for me in that it’s the most I’ve ever posted in one day, and it also makes nine posts for the month which beats my previous personal best. I didn’t set out to break records this morning. It just seems like I’ve got a lot of stuff trying to make a prison break from my brain today.

This post isn’t so much about a personal experience of mine as it is about an impression I have relating to something The Queen told me about an interaction she had with someone else today.

The Queen informed me that the cats needed food. I use the term cats loosely here. These animals are actually little pigs, wrapped in cat suits who think they are humans. One of the “cats” will eat just about anything. In large quantities. He’s the GOOD “cat”. The other one will eat just about anything…quickly and in large quantities. Unfortunately, he hurls it right back up. Finicky little turd. He’s The Queen’s “cat”. Or, as I like to call him, The Yak Master 5000 projectile vomit cannon.

Anyway, we’ve tried several versions of cat food in an effort to avoid cleaning up cat puke. Daily. At one time, we thought the cats weren’t getting enough protein since they kept bringing home mice, bunny rabbits, snakes, lizards…small children. Daily. So, we looked for cat food with the most protein. That cut down on the prey animals winding up in the house. It seems to have worked. But that may just be because they are now too old and fat to hunt effectively.

Next, we thought that all the grains in the food might be causing allergies for The Yak Master 5000. We tried the so called “wilderness” diet of a certain brand which is just “meat” and veggies ground up and dried into kibble. The projectile vomiting has slowed but not stopped.

Then, Yak Master 5000 spewed forth more than normal one day. Off to the vet he went. He was poked and prodded in the normal manner, and he was not amused. I wouldn’t be either. You’re just not supposed to be “inserting coin here”. Although, to be fair, he doesn’t use that end very often as it seems his pie hole is a revolving door.

Anyway, the vet carries a brand of pet food offering a raw diet as well as a version of the “wilderness” diet. Since the cats needed food, The Queen offered to have her dad run her to the vet to give the vet’s brand a try.

While at the vet’s office, The Queen, as she is want to do, struck up a conversation with the girl behind the counter who was waxing eloquent about her relationship woes. Apparently, she had just broken up with her live in boyfriend of 12 years.

The Queen, in turn, raved about me to her new found friend. The Queen really builds me up way more than I deserve. This is truly flattering and humbling to me as I really don’t feel like I deserve it. I know my faults, and I am far from perfect. Needless to say, I had a word with The Queen about shamelessly lying to strangers about me. But I digress.

The girl at the vet’s office asked The Queen if I had a brother; and, when she was informed that I’m the lone Y chromosome equipped spawn from my parents’ brood of two, this lovesick puppy asked The Queen to bring me by so she could meet “just one perfect guy.” I told you The Queen oversold it with her raving.

The thought struck me, after hearing the rest of the story about the vet girl’s relationship woes, that, no matter how good the relationship between The Queen and I is or how good we are together, there is no way that what we have together could be replicated with anyone else. What is perfect for me and The Queen would probably be hell on earth for someone else.

The way I see it: if you’re married and you’ve got it good, be thankful and put in the work it takes to keep it that way. If you’re not married, don’t try and copy what someone else has. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but chances are good you won’t like the results if you don’t have a willing and able partner.

A Chink In The Armor

Looking back on my previous posts, I note that I have not discussed my work in much detail. I’m not avoiding discussing my work. It’s just that, most of the time, there are much more interesting and amusing topics I’d rather write about. At least to me anyway. And my work is depressing sometimes. Like today.

In case I haven’t mentioned it previously, I am gainfully employed as a commercial liability claims adjuster for a top 10 property and casualty insurance company. My work involves handling complex, high exposure and litigated cases. I’ve been in the insurance business for almost 20 years now of which I’ve spent the last 15 years handling claims. The majority of that time has been spent in the commercial liability world; however, I’ve also handled what is called “non-standard personal auto”.

There’s not much difference between a commercial insured and a personal insured when it comes to claims. Businesses find creative ways to screw up and have accidents just like normal folks mainly because businesses employ normal folks like you and me. The main difference is in the amount of money involved. A typical personal auto policy in Texas has $25,000/$50,000 limits while a commercial policy generally has at least $500,000 and usually $1,000,000 in limits.

When people ask what an adjuster does, I usually tell them we are professional janitors who clean up other peoples’ messes. We are somewhat akin to police officers, fire fighters and EMS personnel in that we see the aftermath of a whole lot of disaster, and we tend to develop a jaded outlook on things to keep from going slightly mad. It takes a special kind of insanity to come back from lunch, open up your mail to find gruesome photos of someone’s head crushed, and then chat with your wife about what’s for dinner. We also tend to have a different reaction than most people to seeing accidents on the side of the road. Instead of feeling sorry for the accident victims…adjusters wonder who they’re insured with and whether we’re going to have to handle the claim. As you might imagine, adjusters tend to be a warped bunch of individuals generally speaking.

That’s not to say we are completely without feelings and sympathy. We see so much pain, suffering, heartache, lying, cheating and outright fraud, that it’s hard to get through the armor.

Today, something found a small chink in my armor.

I was reviewing a file involving a 4 year old drowning victim. A young girl whose life was cut short before it really even got started. The file contains a copy of her autopsy report. Autopsies are, in some ways, the final snapshot of a life (and death) in cold, hard, clinical detail.

This young girl’s autopsy tells a story like many others I’ve seen, but this story included chapters that struck me for reasons I’m still puzzling over.

“Evidence of Treatment” reads one such chapter. This young girl was underwater for an unknown amount of time but long enough to drown, stop breathing and cause irreparable brain damage. That’s not to say that efforts were not made to save her. She was revived for a time following her rescue from the shallow pool in which she met her fate. She was cared for in a hospital for a short time until it was clear that her brain had ceased being able to function without assistance. The medical examiner carefully noted the paraphernalia of treatment: the catheter, the tracheotomy tube, etc.

“Evidence of Organ Harvesting” reads another chapter. As gruesome as it sounds for the organs of a young girl to be harvested like a field of grain, this to me is actually the part of the story with hope. This young girl will be able to live on, at least in some small part, by helping others to live through the gift of her heart, kidneys and part of her spleen. She may not have been old enough to consciously make the decision to donate her organs and probably wasn’t even old enough to understand what it meant, but those who received her gifts will have the chance to know her generosity.

Autopsies do not accompany every death. They are normally reserved for unnatural deaths which are the only ones I generally see in my work. The medical examiners are thorough, professional and dryly clinical in their reporting, but no detail escapes notice or report. I have read mention of one accident fatality whose penis was tattooed to resemble a candy cane with alternating red and white strips. To this day, I am convinced he was a child molester although I have no way to prove it for sure.

Your every body part (internal and external), personal grooming habits, tattoos, piercings, body modifications, surgeries, breast augmentation, face lifts, tummy tucks, and more are all measured, commented and recorded for posterity to tell a story to someone or several someones investigating an untimely demise.

None of the stories are particularly pleasant given their subject matter.

All of them represent a once living and breathing human being who loved and/or was loved.

It’s sometimes hard for me to remember that simple fact given the amount of garbage I wade through day in and day out, but this little girl managed to find a way through her autopsy to remind me. Perhaps it was her final gift to a stranger she never met in life.

Whole Foods Employment Requirements

Tonight was a shopping night. The Queen and I needed a few items to tide us over the weekend until payday Monday. Technically, because of the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, my paycheck will actually hit the bank tomorrow; but, for planning purposes, I budget against the 15TH and 31ST.

When you are as sensitive, chemically and otherwise, as The Queen, you tend to gravitate to foods that have been adulterated as little as possible. As a side benefit, most of Whole Foods suppliers are either local or American meaning my money stays in the US economy instead of going to Mexico or China. Given The Queen's nutritional needs, we shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods Market because of their greater selection of organic produce and grass fed meats. As a result, I am at the Whole Foods near The Queen's castle at least once a week.

In the course of my adventures to Whole Foods, I've noticed something about the personnel hired by Whole Foods. Most notably, they are all strange in one form or another.

Now, I know I am probably one of the least strange people (let's not bring up the high school/college mullet) on the planet you are likely to meet. Not to mention the fact that I am unabashedly conservative in my outlook . So, it's quite possible that my view is slightly skewed; but, having properly disclosed my potential bias, I still think Whole Foods has an unusual set of criteria for hiring prospective employees.

1) First and foremost, it does not appear that you will be considered for employment at Whole Foods unless you have one or more tattoos and/or piercings. I have seen some pretty interesting ink at the local Whole Foods including a sleeve on one girl that includes a classic hot rod Rat Fink tat. Having seen her on several occasions in varying modes of dress, I can safely say she has the one or more requirement satisfied in both categories.

2) If you are female, your name must sound like you are next up on the main stage at the local strip club. I have yet to see a Barbara, Jane or something mundane, but there is a Cheyenne, Destiny, Bambi and Thumper. Just kidding about half of those. The other half are for real. My guess is they recruit at the topless clubs or vice versa. Maybe. I was never much of a fan of "gentleman's entertainment" establishments. So, I can't really say for sure.

3) If you are male, you must be gay. Flamingly and flamboyantly so. I haven't seen that many three dollar Bills in one place since the Oak Lawn Gay Pride Halloween parade I was talked into going to several years ago (I'm still trying to repress some of those memories). If you are straight, you can still work there, but you'll be hidden behind the meat counter. No exceptions.

4) You must be under the age of 40. Apparently, 40 is the new 30. Or 80. Or something like that. Whole Foods appears to think that anyone past age 40 doesn't need to be employed.

I hear Whole Foods is a pretty good company to work for with good benefits. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I am qualified for employment despite my high school and college retail experience. I refuse to get a tattoo or a piercing. If God had wanted me to have either, He would have decorated my hide prior to delivery. I am not female; and, even if I were, I wouldn't have a good stripper name. I am definitely not gay, and I just turned 40.

Guess that means I'll have to look elsewhere for employment if my current gig takes a dirt nap.

Hunting Season

Die, corporate seagulls, die. I dare you to fly in and crap all over my work again. I'll be ready for you with my trusty 870 loaded with slugs and buckshot. Expect no mercy you ungrateful, soulless, disconnected, corporate cube monkeys. Get a clue about how things really work before messing around with something that's not broken.

There, I feel a little better now.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Not Feeling The Love

I just checked on things to be certain; and, sure enough, four out of my last five posts have gone commentless. I work all day and slave over a hot laptop to bring you the very best in brain drippings, and this is the thanks I get. It's enough to give a guy a complex or something. Seriously, if you can't be bothered to comment, what's the point? If you don't like what I wrote, tell me. I can take it. I might even be pursuaded to try harder to please you, my ungrateful followers.

(bottom lip stuck out, sniff...sniff)

I'm gonna take my keyboard and go runaway somewhere where people will appreciate me. And you know what...I'm gonna do it, too. And then, then, you'll be really sorry that you don't have me to push around and wait on you hand and foot....

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wing Nut Alert

As an avid spectator of the American society in general and the political landscape in particular, I’ve really come to appreciate the diversity of stupidity I see every day in the news, in my work, and in life in general. I’ve learned that there is no such thing “foolproof”, “idiot-proof” or “responsible government spending”. We are Americans. We have the technology and the lack of will power necessary to make bigger and better idiots. We crank them out of schools like .22 long rifle ammunition….cheap and marginally effective. For those who are not gun enthusiasts, you can pick up a box of .22LR ammo 500 rounds to a box for less than $20 with at least 5 duds per box.

No, to answer the question forming in your brain, I have no faith in humanity as a whole. I had a sociology professor in college who used to pontificate that the only animal in existence with 100s of stomachs and no brain was an angry mob. Or Congress. Individually, there are several bright and shining examples of peoplehood that give me a small grain of comfort that all is not lost for the species; but, as a group (and especially when gathered together in groups…or mobs…or governments), people are dumber than a bag of hammers.

At least a bag of hammers is useful.

Anyway, I mention my views on humanity as a whole because of an email I received from mom. Mom is an unapologetic and unrepentant email forwarder. I don’t mind because, usually, the stuff she sends is interesting, cute, funny or otherwise entertaining. I do, however, frequently do a Snopes check on some of the stuff she sends when it sounds too farfetched to pass the smell test.

Mom has learned to accept and even embrace my skepticism. It’s her fault. She raised me. So, she can’t complain too loudly.

So, yesterday I open up the email account and find an email from mom:

You are always the one that can sort out fact from fiction. Here is one for you.


See, I told you she had embraced her calling as MIMI. And you didn’t believe me did you? I digress. It’s a habit.

The email she forwarded to me yesterday was a rather polemic diatribe about how Hillary Clinton signing a UN Small Arms Trade Treaty means that the Obama administration is going to circumvent the Second Amendment by confiscating guns from law abiding Americans by executive fiat to comply with the UN Treaty in violation of the constitution…run for it!...shiny black helicopters…SOCIALISM!!! (seriously…in bright red, all capped, 32 point type)

Trust me. That one sentence sums up the content and thought process of whoever wrote that mess. I really wish there was a way to link to my email account so you could get the full effect. Copying and pasting into Blogger just won’t do it justice. Not that I won’t try.

On a side note, do you notice that you can never really tell who originated an email like that? Somehow, the original email header detail always winds up getting deleted in the forwarding. There should be some internet etiquette class to teach people how to forward things so the origination information does not get lost. It’d probably only trace back to a generic hotmail account; but, just once, I’d like to see the original header with the date sent and an email account name like BillyJoeBob(at) It’d be nice to put a name with the mental image I have of some guy in a trailer park with militia flags all over his 1960s vintage single wide and a rabbit ear TV antennae sticking out the bathroom/kitchen window.

I digress again. That’s two in one post. Maybe I’ll try for the hat trick and a new personal best.

Anyway…Here’s how the email starts out:

While you were watching the oil spill, the New York failed terrorist bombing and other critical crises, Hillary Clinton signed the small arms treaty with the UN.
On Wednesday Obama Took the First Major Step in a Plan to Ban All Firearms in the United States
On Wednesday the Obama administration took its first major step in a plan to ban all firearms in the United States. The Obama administration intends to force gun control and a complete ban on all weapons for US citizens through the signing of international treaties with foreign nations. By signing international treaties on gun control, the Obama administration can use the US State Department to bypass the normal legislative process in Congress. Once the US Government signs these international treaties, all US citizens will be subject to those gun laws created by foreign governments. These are laws that have been developed and promoted by organizations such as the United Nations and individuals such as George Soros and Michael Bloomberg. The laws are designed and intended to lead to the complete ban and confiscation of all firearms. The Obama administration is attempting to use tactics and methods of gun control that will inflict major damage to our 2nd Amendment before US citizens even understand what has happened.

Again, you really don’t get the full effect without the flaming, multicolored, multisized type. That’s not the point here though. As is my usual SOP, I started researching the email. There was a link to a October 15, 2009 Reuters news article in the email which I dutifully clicked and read. Typical news speak reporting on the activities of the traveling pant suit masquerading as our Secretary of State. The point is that, when you read the Reuters article and then read email, you will notice some glaring holes in the author’s thought process. Not unlike Swiss cheese or a homeless person’s underwear.

First, Hillary Clinton did not sign a UN Small Arms Treaty because no such treaty yet exists. What she did was indicate that the Obama administration is willing to support such a treaty under certain circumstances which is a change from the Bush administration’s opposition to such a treaty. Secondly, this change in position was delivered at a working conference on the development of a small arms treaty. Minor details.

Second, neither the President nor the State department has the authority to bypass the normal legislative process when it comes to treaties. The President and State Department are tasked with negotiating treaties. Any and all treaties negotiated by the executive branch must first be ratified by two thirds of the Senate before having the weight of law. Any such treaty ratified by Congress could then be challenged in court if the aims of the treaty infringed upon the constitutional rights of citizens as is alleged by our mystery writer here. The chances of a treaty limiting firearms ownership in America being ratified by the Senate in any election cycle much less one where there is a very real chance of shift in the balance of power in Washington is almost non-existent. No senator up for reelection wants to be on record as voting to limit firearms ownership and draw the wrath of the NRA and thousands of gun and Bible toting rednecks around the country.

The next part of the email starts wading into conspiracy theory territory:

Obama can appear before the public and tell them that he does not intend to pursue any legislation (in the United States) that will lead to new gun control laws, while cloaked in secrecy, his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is committing the US to international treaties and foreign gun control laws. Does that mean Obama is telling the truth? What it means is that there will be no publicized gun control debates in the media or votes in Congress. We will wake up one morning and find that the United States has signed a treaty that prohibits firearm and ammunition manufacturers from selling to the public. We will wake up another morning and find that the US has signed a treaty that prohibits any transfer of firearm ownership. And then, we will wake up yet another morning and find that the US has signed a treaty that requires US citizens to deliver any firearm they own to the local government collection and destruction center or face imprisonment. This has happened in other countries, past and present! THIS IS NOT A JOKE OR A FALSE WARNING.

What? A politician lying, obfuscating or otherwise saying one thing while having someone else do the dirty work of pursuing his true agenda? No. That would never happen. They’re saints, right?

Seriously though, does President Obama have a desire to limit ownership or transfer of firearms in America? Despite his public statements to the contrary, I would be surprised if the progressive liberal democrat from Chicago (land of the disarmed, besieged, huddled masses) currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. (or the nearest golf course) DIDN’T have a desire to enact stricter gun control.

Before we all go running to the nearest gun store to stock up, let’s take a deep breath and see if there is anything that might shed more light on this alleged small arms treaty. A quick Google search of “UN Small Arms Trade Treaty” will direct you a few short clicks later to the “Report of the Group of Governmental Experts to examine the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”

If you take the time to read the 16 page report, about half of which is a listing of the people involved in the conference to develop the report, you’ll find out that this is about limiting illegal, international small arms trading as a means to limit terrorism, organized crime and human rights violations. All laudable goals. Not one word about confiscation of legal arms from law abiding citizens.

As I mention, in part, in my response to mom:

The problem is that politicians so frequently manage to blur the line between fact and fiction. To make matters worse, extremists on both sides of a given issue blur that line even further. I try, whenever possible, to straight to the source. In this case, it only took a few minutes to find the UN expert report for the working group on the Arms Trade Treaty. There is no specific treaty wording to review and say "Aha!" to yet. The report is about as close as you get for now.

The focus of the proposed treaty is what to do about the international illegal small conventional arms trade to combat terrorism, organized crime, human rights violations, etc. By small arms, they are referring to everything from machine guns and battle rifles to shoulder fired missiles to C4 explosives and hand grenades, etc. Stuff that your average citizen can't get their hands on anyway. Nothing I read in the report suggested an effort to take away lawful weapons from citizen. The key there will be lawful weapons as there is no definition of what the highest standard for internal controls should be.

Could it be used as a means to crack down on individual gun ownership? I suppose everything is possible now that we have "healthcare reform" that the majority of Americans didn't want.


Your Son (head researcher, chief wing nut exposer and BS detector)

There's another section or two to BillyJoeBob's email, but I've got to get to work.

My advice…keep an eye on it. Be an avid spectator of our elected horse thieves.

BillyJoeBob(at)’s advice: Silence will lead us to Socialism!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Was This Really Necessary?

During my morning news crawl, I came across this little tidbit which I now offer with the following comment: After everything Congress has done in the past several years, the American public really didn't need anymore incentive to go get rip roaring drunk.

Although, in fairness, I'd much rather have Congress wasting it's time passing stupid, meaningless resolutions than passing pork bloated, deficit laden, mind numbing, 2000+ page convoluted bills of unknown but far reaching consequence. If it keeps Congresss off the street and out of my pocket, I'm all for it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Well, today is Mother's Day, and I just figured this out late yesterday. Yeah, I'm probably disowned and disinherited right about now.

It's not my fault. No, really. I don't use paper calendars anymore with their helpful reminders about national holidays/conspicuous retail shopping days. I don't watch much TV anymore; and, thanks to the wonders of DVR and streaming video, I don't see commercials anymore so I am not bombarded by every jewelry store on the planet guilting me into buying mom a diamond necklace she doesn't need. Seriously, she really doesn't. She has one "diamond necklace". At least, it's the only one I've seen here wear in the past 20 years. It was made from half of my great grandfather's gold nugget wedding ring. It's huge (great granddad had very meaty paws) with a monster diamond set in the middle like a train's headlight.

Here is where I would like to post a picture of mom for the world to see that, yes, I do in fact have a mother despite all rumors to the contrary. Unfortunately, I could not find a recent and good picture of mom suitable for posting on Mother's day. The few I could locate on my hard drive were not exactly glamour shots material. In fact, most of them look like she just sucked on a lemon. I know I have other pictures of her somewhere, but they all predate digital photography which makes them all over 10 years old and not a fair representation of Mimi Erickson.

Mimi is not her real name, of course. When my sister announced she was pregnant, mom announced that she would henceforth be know to said grandchild (spawn of my sister...the you too dear) as "Grandmother". To get the full impact of this scene, picture a woman who stands all of 5 foot 6 inches tall on her best day assuming a regally erect posture, right arm bent upwards at the elbow with a loaded index finger pointed at the sky and stating the term "grandmother" with a distinct emphasis on the "grand" punctuated by a little bounce to her tippytoes and the slightest "uh" in between "grand" and "mother". I wish I had video of that moment.

Needless to say, the golden child (spawn of my sister...the devil) had other ideas. Before she was able to say "GRANDuhMother" properly (or at all for that matter), she learned to say "Mimi". Granduhmother's heart melted and mom wisely embraced her new calling as Mimi for now and forever.

There is so much more to tell about mom. I will leave it at this: she did a pretty good job raising my sister (...the devil) and me under difficult circumstances (none of which I contributed to I'm sure) for which I am grateful. Thanks, mom.

Have a Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Movie Review

I finally got to see Avatar this past week. I had heard so much hype about the movie prior to actually seeing it that seeing it was almost a let down. Maybe if I had seen in IMAX 3D I would have been more impressed. That's not to say that the visuals weren't stunning as it was on my new HD TV hooked up to your basic "old style" DVD player (non-Blue Ray). There were times where you had a hard time distinguishing what was "live action" vs. animated.

As to the story/plot, I have only one thing to say which I am stealing from someone else whose identity I can't recall at the moment: "Dances With Smurfs".

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

National Day of Prayer

As The Preacher here at Preachers and Horse Thieves, a certain news item caught my attention this week as I was out and about in search of evening entertainment options for The Queen and I at the nearest Blockbuster. As is my normal practice while in the car by my lonesome, I had the radio tuned to an AM talk station. At that particular hour, I was expecting to hear Dennis Miller’s radio show (whose talent I have enjoyed since his Saturday Night Live days). He generally has a very balanced, moderate view of things which I find refreshing in the current culture of extremism I see on both sides of the political landscape.

Unfortunately for me, I tuned in to discover that my local station that carries Dennis Miller had recently made the decision to insert an hour of the Jay Sekulow Live show in front of Miller’s show effectively preventing me from hearing my expected Miller fix. For those not familiar, Jay Sekulow is a lawyer with the American Center for Law and Justice (the ACLJ). The ACLJ is sort of like the anti-ACLU. It’s an organization that tries to stand up for religious rights (most notably the rights of Christians) as opposed to attempting to tear them down (which is what you normally see the ACLU attempting to do).

Now, I have nothing against Mr. Sekulow (other than the fact that he’s a lawyer). I’ve listened to him before. I was just expecting something else. You know how it is. You go to the freezer expecting to get the last bowl of Blue Bell cookies and cream only to find that [fill in the blank of the evil, despicable ice cream thief here] beat you to it and left you with the Blue Bunny frozen yogurt. Bleh. I wanted my Dennis Miller, and all I got was Jay Sekulow. Talk about being unfulfilled.

Again, I have nothing against Mr. Sekulow. He is passionate about his work and his beliefs, but it’s hard not to listen to him and not think that the gates of hell (or the ACLU) are prevailing against Christians everywhere. Nevertheless, I think he does a good job of making the legal issues understandable to folks who don’t spend their lives steeped in the esoteric world of litigation.

Anyway, I told you that to tell you this. Mr. Sekulow was on a rant about a court challenge to the National Day of Prayer. Apparently, there is a fight going on right now about whether or not there should be such a thing as a National Day of Prayer. A group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation along with a few individual plaintiffs filed suit in Federal Court in Wisconsin over the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer.

First, a bit of history. I’ve done this to you before. You knew it was coming. Just relax, and I promise not to make it too painful.

The NDP (you’ll have to pardon me if I’m gettin’ a little tired of writin’ National Day of Prayer over and over again) is a law passed by Congress and enacted by Harry S. Truman in 1952 following an evangelical campaign by Billy Graham in Washington including a speech on the steps of the Capital building. For those legal minded individuals, you can find the text of the law by searching 36 U.S.C. 119 (don’t worry…I’ll save you the trouble and give it to you in a minute).

Well, if this isn’t right up the alley of Preachers and Horse Thieves, I don’t know what is. You’ve got your preachers and your horse thieves all wrapped up into one issue. How could I not write on this subject?

The 1952 law is not without precedent. Both presidents Washington and Adams issued proclamations setting aside an NDP. Lincoln called for “national humiliation, prayer and fasting” during the Civil War. By 1952, America had been through 2 world wars as well as several more or less major wars, was in the middle of fighting the Korean War, was up to its neck in the Cold War with Russia and was dealing with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s efforts to ferret out Communist influence and espionage in America. Under this back drop, Billy Graham’s speech called for an NDP to avoid the possibility of “national shipwreck and ruin.” Congress wasted no time passing a law requiring the President to proclaim an NDP.

As promised, here is the original language of the law passed in 1952:

The President shall set aside and proclaim a suitable day each year, other than a Sunday, as a National Day of Prayer, on which the people of The United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.
The language of the law underwent a minor revision in 1988 for the purposes of setting aside a specific day to allow people to plan ahead a little easier. Here is the revised language:

The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.

At first blush, the language of the law appears to be fairly benign. However, take a moment to compare the language of section 119 with the language of section 118 which establishes the National Aviation Day. Here is the language for section 118:

The President may issue each year a proclamation—
(1) designating August 19 as National Aviation Day;
(2) calling on United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on National Aviation Day; and
(3) inviting the people of the United States to observe National Aviation Day with appropriate exercises to further stimulate interest in aviation in the United States.

I know this is one of my world famous subtle distinctions, but do you see where it says “may” in section 118 and says “shall” in section 119? If you spend any time in the litigation world, you will quickly discover that there is a world of difference between “may” and “shall”. “May” means something is permitted but not required. There is an element of discretion provided for in the term “may”. “Shall” means you will do this without fail. There is no discretion allowed for in “shall”.

Coming back to our controversy de jour, the Wisconsin Federal Court suit filed by Freedom From Religion Foundation is based on the wording of the NDP statute allegedly violating the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Hold on, hold on. You should know me better than that by now.
Here’s the language of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
First, let’s get a couple of minor quibbles out of the way.

The main plaintiff in this suit is the Freedom From Religion Foundation. When people think of the First Amendment, they generally think that it guarantees freedom OF religion since that’s what a majority of us were taught in school. While the language of the amendment does not say those words exactly, the concept is there in the form of a prohibition on infringing the right to freely exercise one’s religion (or lack thereof). The government cannot establish one particular faith, sect or religion as THE national religion. The government cannot stop you, me or anyone else from practicing our religion or not practicing a religion if that floats your boat. I would like to take this opportunity to point out to the plaintiffs in this suit that the language of the First Amendment in no way states nor can be construed to mean that the Constitution provides for freedom FROM religion. I know those seem like minor points, but they are apparently major ones to some people.

Next, some people (previously myself included) might try to argue that the First Amendment only applies to Congress on not the President or the government as a whole. The opinion written by Federal District Court Judge Barbara Crabb (no, I did not make that up) succinctly sums up the precedent and case law settling the issue that it most certainly does apply to the President and the rest of the gub’ment. Judge Crabb’s opinion is an interesting read if somewhat long at 66 pages. You can read it here if you want to know what she really said instead of what Fox or CNN says she said. In short, she finds the NDP to be unconstitutional.

Now, I suspect that some of my readers might expect me to be vehemently opposed to Judge Crabb’s opinion. Those readers would be wrong.

Yes, you read that right. The Preacher here at Preachers and Horse Thieves agrees with a Federal Court Judge in Wisconsin that the NDP statute violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. What next? Sheep and wolves living together in harmony? Don’t bet on it in this lifetime.

Here’s my reasoning. Prayer is the main means by which most people commune with their god. If you subscribe to the Holy Bible as your spiritual instruction book, you are strongly encouraged (some would say commanded) by God to pray daily. Prayer is a natural and essential part of a religious life. Now we have Congress passing a law requiring the President to set aside a specific day as a day of prayer. Being the President, he represents all Americans, religious and non-religious alike. The President is also, whether we like him or not, an individual with his (or eventually, someday, her) own beliefs or lack thereof. Assume for the moment that Americans elect an atheist. Some would argue that we already have…several times (and, no, I will not engage in a discussion about whether or not President Obama is a Muslim). Congress has passed a law prohibiting said presidential atheist from freely exercising his lack of religious beliefs by requiring (remember, the statute says “shall” not “may”) him (or her) to proclaim a day of prayer.

Secondary to that, I do not need nor do I want my government telling me how or when to practice my religion. That’s why I have a Bible. That’s why I attend a church which teaches what I believe to be The Truth (your experience may vary). I don’t need President Obama, or Congress, or anyone else telling me that the first Thursday in May is a really good day to pray. What’s next? Is the government going to pass a law saying that being Catholic or Mormon is a really good religion (no offense intended towards Catholics or Mormons)?

As a strict constitutionalist and small government conservative, I don’t think the government has any business proclaiming a day of prayer anymore than they have any business declaring National Aviation Day. It’s just not their job. They have more important things to do. The more time they spend on silly proclamations or other non-sense; the less time they have to devote to more important matters like staying the hell out of our healthcare.

Then there’s the non-conformist in me. Telling me it’s a National Day of Prayer makes me want to NOT pray tomorrow out of spite.

The bottom line for me is that my faith is just that: mine. I’ll practice it how and when I please. I’m not here to tell you how to practice yours. I may make the occasional observation to give you something to think about; but, if you disagree with me, that’s fine. You are welcome to your sincerely held beliefs. I only ask the same courtesy in return.