Friday, December 3, 2010

Welcome to the Family

Today our little Dent family grew from three to four as we decided to adopt a one year old yellow lab.

Here's the story: Wednesday I got two calls from both my aunt and uncle, neither knowing the other had called at the time, asking if we might want a dog. Earlier that day, my uncle had gone to Cafe Brazil which was located next to Petland and decided to go in. There he found a very sweet, very large, one year old lab puppy who had been in and out of not one, not two, but THREE homes. This sounds like a red flag, but each of the previous owners knew little about labs and had either not enough space or some sort of other condition that made keeping the dog too difficult. He has all his shots and is fixed and only cost $30. They were also throwing in some free, at-home-training just to make sure he didn't have to leave yet another home. So, with peaked interest we loaded up the car with Reilly and went to meet Max. Reilly was a little skittish (and in other news the sky is blue... this dog is frequently afraid of his own shadow) and Max was bigger than I expected, so we took the night to think... as well as the next day.... and all day Friday. I decided to go visit him after work again on Thursday and slowly I began to realize I had, without knowing how, become attached to the guy. Jonny and I discussed and discussed and then discussed some more. I didn't want to take him just because we felt sorry for him. Ultimately we decided to go get him tonight after dinner. As my uncle said, this addition to our family was probably thought out much longer and harder than some children who have entered this world, but when he and Reilly met I could tell they were instant brothers.

Here's to no buyers remorse, doggie brothers and a new lab friend!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How big of a stick is too big?

I'm not a university professor, or any sort of acknowledged expert in the area of foreign affairs or defense spending, but I still would gladly have added my signature to the open letter below that the real experts recently sent to Obama's deficit commission:

"Dear Co-chairman Bowles and Co-chairman Simpson:

We are writing to you as experts in national security and defense economics to convey our views on the national security implications of the Commission's work and especially the need for achieving responsible reductions in military spending. In this regard, we appreciate the initiative you have taken in your 10 November 2010 draft proposal to the Commission. It begins a necessary process of serious reflection, debate, and action.

The vitality of our economy is the cornerstone of our nation's strength. We share the Commission's desire to bring our financial house into order. Doing so is not merely a question of economics. Reducing the national debt is also a national security imperative.

To date, the Obama administration has exempted the Defense Department from any budget reductions. This is short-sighted: It makes it more difficult to accomplish the task of restoring our economic strength, which is the underpinning of our military power.

As the rest of the nation labors to reduce its debt burden, the current plan is to boost the base DOD budget by 10 percent in real terms over the next decade. This would come on top of the nearly 52 percent real increase in base military spending since 1998. (When war costs are included the increase has been much greater: 95 percent.)

We appreciate Secretary Gates' efforts to reform the Pentagon's business and acquisition practices. However, even if his reforms fulfill their promise, the current plan does not translate them into budgetary savings that contribute to solving our deficit problem. Their explicit aim is to free funds for other uses inside the Pentagon. This is not good enough.

Granting defense a special dispensation puts at risk the entire deficit reduction effort. Defense spending today constitutes over 55 percent of discretionary spending and 23 percent of the federal budget. An exemption for defense not only undermines the broader call for fiscal responsibility, but also makes overall budget restraint much harder as a practical economic and political matter.

We need not put our economic power at risk in this way. Today the United States possesses a wide margin of global military superiority. The defense budget can bear significant reduction without compromising our essential security.

We recognize that larger military adversaries may rise to face us in the future. But the best hedge against this possibility is vigilance and a vibrant economy supporting a military able to adapt to new challenges as they emerge.

We can achieve greater defense economy today in several ways, all of which we urge you to consider seriously. We need to be more realistic in the goals we set for our armed forces and more selective in our choices regarding their use abroad. We should focus our military on core security goals and on those current and emerging threats that most directly affect us.

We also need to be more judicious in our choice of security instruments when dealing with international challenges. Our armed forces are a uniquely expensive asset and for some tasks no other instrument will do. For many challenges, however, the military is not the most cost-effective choice. We can achieve greater efficiency today without diminishing our security by better discriminating between vital, desirable, and unnecessary military missions and capabilities.

There is a variety of specific options that would produce savings, some of which we describe below. The important point, however, is a firm commitment to seek savings through a reassessment of our defense strategy, our global posture, and our means of producing and managing military power.

Since the end of the Cold War, we have required our military to prepare for and conduct more types of missions in more places around the world. The Pentagon's task list now includes not only preventive war, regime change, and nation building, but also vague efforts to "shape the strategic environment" and stem the emergence of threats. It is time to prune some of these missions and restore an emphasis on defense and deterrence.

U.S. combat power dramatically exceeds that of any plausible combination of conventional adversaries. To cite just one example, Secretary Gates has observed that the U.S. Navy is today as capable as the next 13 navies combined, most of which are operated by our allies. We can safely save by trimming our current margin of superiority.

America's permanent peacetime military presence abroad is largely a legacy of the Cold War. It can be reduced without undermining the essential security of the United States or its allies.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed the limits of military power. Avoiding these types of operation globally would allow us to roll back the recent increase in the size of our Army and Marine Corps.

The Pentagon's acquisition process has repeatedly failed, routinely delivering weapons and equipment late, over cost, and less capable than promised. Some of the most expensive systems correspond to threats that are least prominent today and unlikely to regain prominence soon. In these cases, savings can be safely realized by cancelling, delaying, or reducing procurement or by seeking less costly alternatives.

Recent efforts to reform Defense Department financial management and acquisition practices must be strengthened. And we must impose budget discipline to trim service redundancies and streamline command, support systems, and infrastructure.

Change along these lines is bound to be controversial. Budget reductions are never easy - no less for defense than in any area of government. However, fiscal realities call on us to strike a new balance between investing in military power and attending to the fundamentals of national strength on which our true power rests. We can achieve safe savings in defense if we are willing to rethink how we produce military power and how, why, and where we put it to use.


Gordon Adams, American University
Robert Art, Brandeis University
Deborah Avant, UC Irvine
Andrew Bacevich, Boston University
Richard Betts, Columbia University
Linda Bilmes, Kennedy School, Harvard University
Steven Clemons, New America Foundation
Joshua Cohen, Stanford University and Boston Review
Carl Conetta, Project on Defense Alternatives
Owen R. Cote Jr., Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michael Desch, University of Notre Dame
Matthew Evangelista, Cornell University
Benjamin H. Friedman, Cato Institute
Lt. Gen. (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard, Jr., Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
David Gold, Graduate Program in International Affairs, The New School
William Hartung, Arms and Security Initiative, New America Foundation
David Hendrickson, Colorado College
Michael Intriligator, UCLA and Milken Institute
Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Sean Kay, Ohio Wesleyan University
Elizabeth Kier, University of Washington
Charles Knight, Project on Defense Alternatives
Lawrence Korb, Center for American Progress
Peter Krogh, Georgetown University
Walter LaFeber, Cornell University
Richard Ned Lebow, Dartmouth College
Col. (USA, Ret.) Douglas Macgregor
Scott McConnell, The American Conservative
John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Steven Metz, national security analyst and writer
Janne Nolan, American Security Project
Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College and Harvard University
Paul Pillar, Georgetown University
Barry Posen, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Christopher Preble, Cato Institute"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Details Details

You may have notice, via facebook, that a minor change has occurred for the Dent's last night.


So for all you inquiring minds out there who want to know the details here they are:

Where? The Turning Point You can click HERE check out the website, but it is a local non-profit, rape crisis center that offers counseling, legal advocacy and prevention education to Collin County.

When do you start? My first day will begin at 9:00 am on Monday, November 29th.

What will you be doing? My official title is Primary Prevention Coordinator. I will responsible for organizing and providing prevention-education to the community. This will include presentations, leading groups, working with volunteers, collecting and organizing data/research and a whole bunch of other things. Basically, I'm gonna get paid to build relationships and talk with/help people! AWESOME!

Any perks? Of course getting paid. There are benefits (I'm still waiting for the paperwork for all the details on this) I'm also pretty excited that I get PTO for holidays and the week between Christmas and New Years, as well as two additional weeks throughout the year.

All in all I am pretty excited about it. I feel really affirmed not only because of what I will be getting to do but also how it happened. It was very serendipitous. One day I have never heard of the Turning Point, the next day I am volunteering, and now I WORK there. I found a job that will pay me to help people and be helpful with my additional pursuit to obtain my counseling license. Very happy indeed!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas....

....All around the Dent home. Despite my LOVE for all things Christmas, I am normally VERY adamant that no Christmas music or decoration make an appearance until the day after Thanksgiving. Not a day earlier or later. But this year, I felt... different. I was ready to embrace the Christmas spirit. I needed it. So on Friday, I decided it was time and the Dent home went from this :

No Christmas AND messy. BOO!!! To ....

I love Christmas! I love the family time, the memories, the reverence, the music, the beauty, the joy, the peace on earth and good will towards men that seems to fill everyone's spirit, even if it is just for one month a year. I love Christmas so much for so many reasons, but most of all because of this last picture because that is what it is all about. I can't help but think the love and peace and hope experienced each December represents a small fraction of what it will be like when there is no more suffering. I am thankful, every year for this little bit of what I feel is "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven". So, can you blame me for wanting to celebrate early?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who's Next?

So normally, if I get my political undies in a wad over something I read, I give a little synopsis of whatever I read, maybe because I expect the American attention span is all of 30 seconds long these days. This time, I'm not doing it. Click the link and read it. I'm personally asking you a favor, please. Click this and read the whole thing.

Being an advocate for civil liberties isn't very popular. If you're really enthusiastic about the fourth amendment, most people don't really understand why. Why should we care about the unchecked growth of executive power? What a boring topic. Tell me about the latest celebrity hook-up instead.

My line of reasoning when I have to explain why I do care is that its a slippery slope. First, the executive branch goes after "them" over "there". And we don't care. They're not Americans anyway. Then they go after the guy "over there" who may be American, but he's probably a terrorist. And we don't care. He doesn't love his country like us anyway. Then they go after the guy who tried to tell the truth about all the things the executive had to do to continue his fight with "them, over there." And we don't care. He's probably endangering troops anyway. And then they go after the guys who tries to help the guy who tries to tell the truth about what the executive had to do to continue to fight "them over there." Is it starting to sound like the old lady who swallowed a fly yet? Who's next? Your humble blogger perhaps?

Maybe you think wikileaks is an abomination. Maybe you think Bradley Manning is a monster. That's fine by me. I feel the same way about the KKK. But if someone wants to support the KKK, verbally or financially, we'd all agree they have a constitutional right to do so without having their property confiscated and their persons detained and interrogated by Federal armed officers without charges or warrants or the right to a lawyer.

Maybe the Orwellian nightmare where absolutely no dissenting opinion to Federal power is tolerated won't be seen in our lifetime, but I'm not sure sure about our children. They may very well grow up in a country where they can't speak their mind without fear of political intimidation and violence.

When I was a kid, I never really understood why Jesus kept saying in the gospel of Matthew, "let those who have ears hear!" Why did he keep saying that? It seemed so simplistic it was almost meaningless. And now I feel like I know EXACTLY what he meant. Take your head out of the sand, look around you, and use the brain God gave you. Some $&*%^ is going down and if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's Officially Official

A large, white envelope appeared in my mailbox today.....

It's truly official. I am a Master (that's way more fun than saying I have my Masters) I'm not sure what I will be handed when I walk across the graduation stage on Dec. 18th, but hey, I got the goods :) Now if I can just get a job.......which, SPOILER ALERT: I have a phone interview on Monday afternoon so everyone keep your fingers crossed. If all goes well I will post more details later!! Woo Hoo for becoming a big kid...sorta!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Say Hello To My Little Friend

As you may know, I started the Couch 2 5K program back in July. I got pretty far, and then hit a brick wall....HARD, so I took a break. During the break, I realized, dare I say it, I actually enjoyed running. I'm excited about training and eventually running in my first race. I decided to start again and this time get serious, because I can do this! We all know that getting serious means buying gadgets, I mean come on, no one can run with just their person and the road... Sure, I have my Timex watch that hooks up to my iPhone so I can control my music from my watch, and yes, I have my armband, running shorts, knee brace for those sore days and the ever so important Nike-best-sports-bra-I've-ever-owned support (overshare?). However, it has come to my attention that I had not bought a new pair of running shoes in quite some time..... like senior of high school.... which was 2002...... almost ten years ago (I know a little piece of the runner inside of you just died Candace, sorry) I've been reading up and I have come to appreciate how important your feet are to running so I might as well protect them and invest in a good, new pair of running shoes. After receiving a brief, preliminary foot exam last weekend, today Jonny and I went to Run On! - the local running chain that has all your running needs.... seriously, these people know their stuff. One of the staff members meet with us, asked us questions about our running history and current habits. Then she watched us walk, run and sized us and explained every last detail I could possibly think to ask her about. She brought out several shoes and then watched us walk and run all over again. In the end, I bought the Brooks Glycerin 8... which means nothing...other than I now run on little clouds and my feet love me! And I love my new shoes! I never knew shoes could feel so good. I took them out tonight for my re-introduction to the running world (aka our neighborhood) and I am very pleased with my purchase, and maybe, just maybe I ran a little farther and faster than normal tonight thanks to these puppies. So say hello to my little friends...

Did I mention that Jonny got new shoes too? :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Doing the Happy Dance

I am SO doing the happy dance today because at 5:00pm I finished my 100th direct hour with clients!!! All I can say is:

So let, me break down my counseling jargon for everyone so you can properly celebrate with me. I'm in the last leg of my Masters program: my Practicum, which is basically our version of clinicals. To graduate, I have to have 200 hours of indirect hours, these are the easy hours to get because they include the paperwork, research, attending training, meetings, supervision and just about anything related to seeing clients without the actual seeing part. I finished this part several weeks ago. The hard part, the part that takes forever for some people is obtaining the 100 direct hours required, which includes the face-to-face time with clients... nothing else! Despite the ridiculous amount of no-shows and cancellations that happened the last few weeks, I have finally arrived! I've completed the requirements of Practicum and can officially apply for graduation. Now the somewhat sad news is that I'm not totally responsibility free. I'm contracted with my off-site placement through the rest of the term, so I'll keep seeing clients until October 15th, but the good news is, other than keeping my skills fresh and getting extra training, every hour I get after my 100 transfers to the next leg of training... the part where I will have to pay for my supervision of my 3,000 hours. So here's to getting the free extra hours so I don't have to pay for them in the future. Here's to knowing I will graduate in October and being one step closer to a big-girl job (this is were Jonny shouts "Amen!!") and here's to the next phase of life! Now its time to study for my licensing exam.....

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Good, The Sad and The Grad School Experience: A Dent Family Update

Ok so I’ve fallen off the wagon for a while, but I have a good excuse: Grad School! But more on that in a bit. The truth is there were several events which I wanted to blog about but never got the time. In order to remedy this, I figured I would offer some highlights to catch you all up to the events that I would have blogged about. Here it goes:


1. Beach Trip: For the week of July 24 - 31st we enjoyed the company of eight of our closest friends, rented a beach house and traveled to Tybee Island in Georgia. Savannah was just about 20-30 minutes away so we made a few day trips, but mostly we enjoyed waking whenever we wanted, catching up with our friends and spending plenty of time enjoying the ocean and the sand. It was the vacation Jonny and I both needed desperately!

2. Multiple Weekends in Shreveport: We may have moved our stuff to live with us in Dallas, but are hearts are still in Shreveport. I think it took moving away for us to really value our hometown. With trips to Shreveport for Mudbug Madness, Father’s Day, birthdays, meeting Baby Asher, the Chaney/Montgomery wedding, KK’s baby shower, singing at Grace and fantasy football, we have spend A LOT of time back in the Port City and have loved EVERY minute of it. We have yet to establish our Dallas friends and church family so, sometimes it’s a challenge, not having a local outlet to share our lives with others. That’s one of the many reasons it is so good for both of our hearts and spirits to be home surrounded by friends and family.

3. Bachlorette Party: Speaking of friend and trips to Shreveport, our friends Michael and Lesley will be getting married in Shreveport in October. We all know what weddings mean… lots of parties. On August 20-22nd I got to spend the weekend with the bride-to-be and other friends in Dallas enjoying some girl time. Word to wise, if you are in the area and are jonesing for a sweet treat, hit up Sprinkles, a cup-cakery.... SO. STINKING. GOOD!

4. One Year Anniversary: This probably should have been first on the good list because it is my favorite of all. On July 18th Jonny and I celebrated one wonderful year of marriage. We were lucky to be able to attend the Chaney/Montgomery wedding the Saturday before our anniversary and as we watch them profess their love for each other before God and everyone, it was a nice reminder of our own union and vows to each other and how God has blessed us so much since then. Many couples struggle in their first year, and while every moment wasn't rainbows and jellybeans, Jonny is SO good for me and being married to him is even better. I am so in love with that man and I look forward to a lifetime of years together.


Not to be a Debbie-Downer, but we have a very tragic and some what traumatic event strike the Dent household with the death of sweet Tucker about a month ago. I don’t really want to rehash all the details, but let me tell you, it is not an easy thing to watch a dear friend loose his strength and then to find him gone from this world, once you return home. Jonny and I have shed many tears over this loss and our hearts still hurt to realize our sweet old friend is gone. Even with the sweet supportive, gestures we received from family and friends, one thing I know for sure is grief sucks and I don’t think I want it to be one of my counseling specialties AT ALL.


I began my Practicum experience the week of April 12th, saw my very first client ever April 20th and have been rocking and rolling ever since then. It has been a challenging and fulfilling experiences for sure. I began in our clinic at school in Plano and am currently at my off-site placement which is located in Uptown - about a 30-40 minute commute. I have a steady caseload of about 8-9 clients a week, each for one hour sessions, plus whatever Intake Interviews I am schedule, plus all the lovely paperwork that goes along with seeing people. Graduation is in sight and the date on my diploma will be October 15,2010 Lord willing! Some days I don’t know if I am doing any good and I really doubt my skill level, but even in the midst of the doubt, I know I am exactly where I am suppose to be, helping hurting people. I’ll get some awesome moments, when a client has a breakthrough and they are able to have a victory with self-awareness or new behaviors and its so rewarding. I think one of my favorite moments thus far was when a client said in session “You know, I’ve been thinking about something you said last week all week”. There was a moment of utter fear, wondering what I could have said and if I really even said what he heard, and then he told me “You said relationships are important aspect of life” and I sighed my sigh of relief and sat back and enjoyed the processing going on in this client’s life. It feels good to know that my God-given desire to be with people and to encourage them, is being developed and used. So in the middle of the good, the sad, and the grad school experience I am constantly reminded that I am so blessed and I would not change this busy time for anything in the world!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Credit Where Credit is Due

To those of you still residing in Louisiana, I believe Kudos are in order for LA Senator David Vitter. His personal failings notwithstanding, he did the right thing Tuesday when he introduced an amendment to the finance reform bill that mirrored Ron Paul's bill to audit the Federal Reserve System. It's not often I can say "did the right thing" and "senator" in the same sentence, so when it happens, I feel we should publicize it.

Paul's bill failed obviously because he doesn't "play the game" as it were. Any idea coming from his camp must be nuts of course. Likewise, Vitter's amendment failed, but a watered-down version did pass that would audit just the emergency lending the Fed did since December 2008. Its obviously better than nothing, but we deserve better.

Let me take a moment to dismiss notions that I'm simply a Paul parrot or a conspiracy theorist. I like Paul, but I don't line up with him 100%. I'm not sold on the notion the Fed should be abolished entirely or other big issues for Paul like total free-trade. Likewise, I'm not pro-Fed audits because I subscribe to some massive bankers-controlling-the-world conspiracy notion either. But what I do know is a tons (literally) of our money gets funneled through this institution and no one is allowed to see its books. Obama loved to talk about "transparency" and "accountability" in government during his campaign, so where are those buzzwords now? Nowhere to be found. We expect the Fed and Wall Street to be the main opponents of this legislation, but it's abhorent the White House is an equally vocal critic. This is one of the clearest instances yet Mr. Obama does not practice what he preaches, and I'm afraid it shows where his true priorities are. Forget the socialist label, between this issue and his healthcare bill, he's far more of a corporatist than a socialist.

At my job, every task I do ends up somewhere on the audit log that Coke eventually sees. We're doling out their money on a daily basis and we're therefore responsible for providing the information about where it went, when, how much, and to whom. Likewise, the American Public is the Fed's client, and we should be screaming to know what the hell it's doing, not sitting back idly while the wall of federal secrecy is drawn deeper and deeper.

So I urge you send an e-mail or give a call to Mr. Vitter's office letting him know that you appreciate his bold stand for us. If we don't make our appreciation known when they do something right, they'll be less likely to do it next time. (Needless to say Landrieu voted against it, but both TX senators voted for it.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Is Europe Ashamed of its Heritage?

Amber and I went to see one of those obscure foreign artsy films you can only see if it just so happens into a theater in your city this past weekend. The one in question was entitled, “The Secret of Kells,” an Oscar-nominated animated film about the famous illuminated manuscript the Book of Kells set in pre-medieval Ireland. So, an indie film about history and religion? If that’s not straight up Jonny and Amber’s collective wheelhouse, I don’t know what is. Needless to say we mostly enjoyed the film. It had a very unique artistic style, which was obviously the impetus for the movie in the first place. The entire animation was deliberately made as flat and void of perspective as possible in order to be a modern reflection of the Medieval artistic style.

The story is set in the ancient Kells. Like most other Northern European communities of the time, it’s a simple agricultural community centered around an abbey. The populace and especially their leader the abbot fear the likely impending raid of Norse and are attempting to build fortifications to defend themselves. The abbot’s boy nephew is the protagonist who struggles between obeying his uncle’s commands and his passion to help the newly arrived illuminator complete his already famous manuscript. It’s the struggle between the different priorities of the abbot and his friend the famous illuminator that drives the plot.

While the film is certainly very imaginative and has a good bit of mystery and fantastical elements to it, it’s overall setting fares quite well as a historical snapshot. The producers clearly intended to make a historically accurate depiction of the cultural climate of the period. And I can say this with confidence in all respects save one.

Much is made by the characters and by the film itself about the worth of the book and illuminating in general. It’s a supreme work which can “turn darkness into light” and is “a vision of heaven here on Earth.” It’s high praise to be sure and rightly so. Yet despite the fact that the vast majority of characters are monks and it’s all set in an abbey, there’s not a single Christian reference in the entirety of their discourse. Two hours of monks talking in a European abbey in Ireland about a religious work and not a single reference to Christ? What gives? This book is the gospel after all, but you may not even know that after watching the film.

Now, I understand where the postmodern European filmmaker is coming from. He or she is not looking to make a “religious” film. Its point is not to be evangelical or proselytize, and I can fully appreciate that. But it seems the filmmakers swung the pendulum as far as they possibly could in the opposite direction, much to the film’s detriment. The monks were calligraphy enthusiasts to be sure, but only in part. To a much greater degree, they were Christ enthusiasts. The gospels were the whole reason for the endeavor to begin with. It’s almost as if the filmmakers projected Renaissance-like humanism onto these monks in 800 A.D. Ireland in a bastion of Catholic piety. The film holds their veneration of the human artistic creation higher than its original inspiration, which no one can honestly argue was the case. Thus we have a clear case of an imposed historical omission in the film, yet another example of what I call a “cultural anachronism” in contemporary popular culture where we impose our cultural values and zeitgeist onto previous historical periods in our literature.

All this makes me wonder about Europe today. Why did these filmmakers go out of their way to excise every possible reference to Christ? If you’re agnostic or even militantly atheist, this is still your cultural and historical legacy as a Northern European. Why would you seek to hide or change it? As my title asks, is Europe ashamed of its heritage? I’m sure the barbarities and transgressions by European theocracies throughout the ages loom large in their minds, but do these cause Christianity as a whole to be as great a shame to them as say, slavery is to us as American Southerners? To make such a conclusion seems as near-sighted to me as those who make snap judgments of Islam today. Had the story been told from the opposite point of view of the Norse, would they have excised all references to Woden, Freyja, or Thor? Surely not.

I think this illustrates an important point, that rightly or not, people will judge a God by its follower’s actions, even hundreds of years later. Consider this an exhortation then to you fellow professed Christians to live your life in a manner to convince others of the goodness of your God. Argument, polarization, and confrontationalism will not avail us in this endeavor. Love, kindness, and charity will.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Just Because You're Paranoid......

No surprises here, but I don't easy fall into a ready-made political designation. Oftentimes, my views seem completely foreign to "mainstream" folks or at least the level of my concern baffles them. I've given a lot of thought to why that is recently. How can I explain to folks why its important to be concerned about the growth of executive power (no matter what party may currently occupy it)and the protection of constitutional freedoms? Well I saw a story that might help me.

Perusing I happened upon this headline: "Confirmed: Obama Authorizes Assassination of U.S. Citizen" You can read the story at the link if you're so inclined.

I balked at this headline. Even for me, this had to be sheer sensationalism. No way was the headline to be taken literally. Wrong.

To give you the cliffnotes version of the article, there's a suspected terrorist who is a U.S. citizen. Obama officials have confirmed the administration wants to put the hit on this guy. No arrest, no indictment, no trial, no firefight necessary. Just put a slug in his head while he sleeps if you can.

Now, if you want to argue the administration can do whatever they want with anybody that's not an American citizen, I wouldn't fault you. I personally believe the good guys should act like good guys, but constitutionally speaking, I can see how you can argue that. But this guy's an American citizen.

Think about that for a second. You know what the next step is right? I don't even have to say it do I? We had domestic terrorists first after all didn't we? Once this precedent is set, it will be used again, and it will be expanded. You can't put a genie like this back in the bottle easily. It doesn't matter what location and period of history you look at, you'll see this same pattern. History repeats because human nature is immutable.

So how did we get here? By not being vigilant, that's how. Take off the partisan glasses for a second. Even if you're a die-hard republican and are jubilant at having this new weapon to level at your hated Obama, we didn't get to this point just yesterday. Obama ran as the anti-bush: no more war, no more civil liberty incursions, no more executive unaccountability. Read some of his pre-campaign stuff, and I think its pretty hard to say he didn't mean it at the time. Likewise, Bush ran on a platform of a non-interventionist foreign policy initially. Opposite political affiliations, same progression towards executive hegemony.

As disappointed as I am, I'm not surprised, nor would I expect these guys to act otherwise. I've said it before, but it bears repeating, it is utterly FOOLISH to expect any individual, group, or entity to act in any way other than its own perceived self-interest. Such is the case with the past 10 presidents. However much they might believe in checks and balances before-hand, their agenda immediately becomes the expansion of the power of their new position. This will include the use of this new-found tool on those they see as threats.

As Gandalf said, "I would use this ring from a desire to do good... But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine." It is the grand nature of the position itself driving us down this well-tread path. Few of us have the capability to resist its seductions for long. Folks like Cincinnatus, Washington, and Eisenhower who were willing to advise against their own power are exceedingly rare.

So that's why we need to care about this stuff. Do you want your children to grow up in a nation where they can be marked for death by the executive on a blind accusation? So quit believing the lie that we only have 2 choices, a guy with a D or an R before their name. Because I don't see a whole lot of difference. The lesser of two evils is still evil. Doing what is right is more important than being on the winning campaign's team. Even if all elections were 100% rigged, the right thing to do is vote for the person you believe is right. If we don't vote and act in a way to restrict the power of the executive, we're willingly submitting ourselves and our progeny to tyranny. And shame be upon us if that's what continues.

Monday, March 1, 2010

In Washington, Carts Pull Horses

I happened upon an article about America’s total debt burden on CCN’s website. And I found the following portion of it intriguing:

“Everybody loves tax breaks. And there's more than a trillion dollars of them to love.

That's the amount of money the Treasury foregoes in annual revenue as a result of the many breaks in the tax code. And that effectively increases the government's need to borrow.

But that trillion-plus isn't really up for consideration during annual budget discussions. "Tax expenditures are basically hidden," Burman said.

No one advocates abolishing tax breaks altogether. But Burman and others believe tax breaks should be treated as discretionary spending. The idea is to bring them into the open so lawmakers can make a conscious decision annually about what they spend on tax breaks and recognize the costs associated with that decision.”

The rest of the article I was on board with. But this portion stuck out like a sore thumb. Sadly, I think it’s rather indicative of the mindset of a great deal of policy-peddlers.

What particularly do I find so distressing? Well, at the risk of sounding a bit like a woman, it’s not what you said but it’s how you said it. It’s trying to call tax breaks discretionary spending. Since when does not taxing more = spending? It’s like me complaining my employer for my personal debt. “Well, it’s not my fault I have all this debt. I just have to spend this amount of money per month, and if my employer doesn’t pay me that much, it forces me pay for things on credit.” They have it completely backwards. If I give Uncle Sam a dollar, he better be damn grateful for it. Have you ever considered living within your means? If I’m running a little short, I eat Cheerios for dinner a few nights a week or I start taking the train to work. I certainly don’t complain to my boss’ face he’s not paying me enough to meet my predetermined lifestyle which I refuse to even consider amending.

Take a look at this line again:

“That's the amount of money the Treasury foregoes in annual revenue.”

Oh! How noble of Uncle to kindly "forgoe" what he's rightfully due from me. Every cent comes from him. He is my provider and I owe him everything. It is only by his good graces that I'm not required to give him more.

So the Feds are short by how much about a year you say CNN? About a trillion? Well, what a coincidence! That’s just about how much the upkeep of Uncle Sam’s overseas military adventures cost! May I humbly suggest you cut back the number of countries in which you have military installations from ~130 to maybe 5 or so strategic ones?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Legalized Bribery?

Allow me to immediately put you to sleep with just three words. Are you ready? Here goes:

Campaign Finance Reform

Still reading? It just sounds like drudgery doesn't it? I automatically have the image of a stuffy McCain ranting like a senile old man no one is paying attention to. And I daresay the rest of America feels the same way since it frequently ranks the issue near the bottom in every poll of their political priorities. Its not as flashy as say, abortion or war, or as close to home as the economy or taxes. but I think if folks stopped to think about it, they might feel a little differently.

Congress and the rest of the federal government consistently get abysmal approval ratings. I can't remember the last time it was even close to 50%. but why is this constantly the case? The way the system is supposed to work, the Senator would like to stay in office (clearly the safest assumption of the whole process). Therefore, he should legislate in a way pleasing to his constituency. This second assumption is the problem.

What does it really take to stay in office? We all know the answer, cold hard cash. You need a great PR firm. You need good lawyers, campaign workers, buttons, flyers, TV spots, photo-ops, etc. No matter what your platform, voting record, or credentials are, you cannot hope to win a major election without a sizeable warchest. And if you have all these things, the formula for staying in office has pretty well perfected. The fact is we as potential voters never have the time or inclination to stay as informed as we should, and consequently, its easy for the incumbent Senator to squeeze the neccessary votes out with a well-made fear-mongering ad once every few years. In Rome, it was bread and circuses, today its McDonalds and TV.

So where does all the money come from? Well, from people, both as individuals and in groups, whether they're political parties, grass-roots organizations, political action committees, lobbying groups, or even the big bad multinational corporation. Fact of the matter is, most individuals would rather spend their hard-earned money on something with a little more tangible personal effects than give it to a politician. Heck, I refuse to even pay 99 cents for an iPhone app. And the big politicians know this. They don't even really bother targeting the constituency for funds. Instead they go for the biog potential donors only at giant $1000 per plate dinners. (Although one guy I'm known to be fond of has had success with the micro finance fund-drives, hint: his name rhymes with Con Schmall.) Consequently, your senator doesn't really give a damn what you think. He knows its more important for him to maintain his relationship with his big donors to stay in office than his relationship with Joe A. Voter.

Ultimately, this leads to the elected official's vote being for sale to the highest bidder. And your current big donor will often hint your relationship is toast if you vote yea or nay on bill X or Y. I've heard several folks inside and outside our country call this a system of legalized bribery. All of this is allegedly OK since its all out in the open and all your campaign fund sources are public knowledge. The supreme court recently took up this question, and in a 5-4 decision, concluded the system was OK as is. Clarence Thomas reasoned that people have the 2nd amendment right to give money to campaigns regardless of whether they do so as a single individual or in the form of a giant corporation. And I can't really disagree with that. Corporations are made of people after all. Nor do I blame a corporation for donating to a candidate that will serve its interests. One of my big personal rules is that it is foolish to expect any entity to act in any way other than its perceived self-interest afterall.

But we still have a problem. If this is a democracy, my political voice is supposed to be as equally influential as the next guy's, even if he's the CEO of Exxon. But this is clearly not the case. Sure, there's public funding, but its meager, and to even qualify, you have to have a certain amount of, you guessed it, money. The situation remains that those with the most resources remain the most politically influential. This surely is what the founding fathers were trying to avoid. But in their defense, I really don't think they foresaw the arrival of the mass media. Our goal then should be to cut the ties between money and political influence, a difficult task certainly, but equally worthwhile.

As a modest proposal, why don't we eliminate campaign spending outright? No signs, no buttons, no rallies, no PR and advertising people. Each candidates viability is determined by a set number of signatures on publicly available petitions, digital and hard copy. Each candidate is given equal video exposure in TV spots on public television only in the form of video shot by a public video crew who just puts a camera in front of the candidate for 30 seconds. Uniform websites with the candidates info are viewable on a publicly run internet domain. I'm sure there are a thousand problems with this proposal already, but Americans have begun to realize the system is broken. And unless we start thinking along these lines, we'll continue to head down the well-beaten path from democracy to oligarchy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It doesn't show signs of stopping...

... at least not for today anyway. Jonny left for work this morning at 6:30am and even then there was a solid white covering laying peacefully over the ground. When I woke up a few hours later, the snowflakes were just as large as when Jonny left and this is what I saw:

Since then, IT HAS NOT STOPPED. Sure, some batches have been heavier than others, but there has been a steady pouring of snow over our little yard here in Allen, Texas. We probably have about two inches right now. Although we don't have any corn for popping, I have built a fire that is so delightful. And with my stats class cancelled for tonight and Jonny's office closing early, the Dent's will have no place to go... so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Call me a bluestocking....

... or a nerd, or an egghead if you must, but I have to admit: I LOVE WORDS. Shocking news, I'm sure, being the verbal person that I am. I am very much a lover of English, books and grammar (spelling not so much :) People who, oh-so-effortlessly, work in word origins into casual conversation or act as a walking thesaurus continually amaze me while simultaneously evoking a slight sense of jealous within me; because, while I like all these things, I'm just not the master of words that I wish I was. I'm not sure where this infatuation began... I am sure part of it could be traced back to my Nana. We are the grammar freaks of the family and we share an eerily similar affinity for books and conversation (just ask Jonny).

That being said, I stumbled upon a my new favorite talk-radio show : A Way With Words. Boy, does the word nerd in me have a field day with this one! I found it a few weeks back, when I went to pick up the Hill boys from school and I was listening to 90.1, the local public radio station. It was around 1:45pm and the voices on the radio began discussing the meaning of some common idiom and I was hooked! Needless to say, I was uber sad when the show came to an end a short fifteen minutes later. But today as I was leaving my lunch date with Jonny I was reunited with my word friends Martha and Grant, the hosts of the show. I was on my way to the grocery store and parked my car around 1:30pm and I didn't get out of my car until 2:00pm when the show ended.

So, if you happen to share my fondness for words, I encourage you the check out the website linked above. They have a list of past episodes that you can listen to and get your nerd, I mean word fix for the day :)

* and just in case you were wondering, here is the definition of a bluestocking from : "a woman with considerable scholarly, literary, or intellectual ability or interest." Enjoy :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


So, you may have noticed a small, shall we say, absence from the Dent's in the blogging world. It's not our fault really.... I mean life was EXTREMELY crazy there for a while with all the wedding stuff and moving, then the holidays. However recently, I have thought about the blog and how I need to get back in the habit of posting something every once and a while. So here it is.

Today is Jonny's birthday. This is one of my most favorite days of the year. In part because I love birthdays. I love the celebration and the love. I love hearing from family and doing special things for that special someone. I love remembering that the wonderful gift of life was given to the birthday boy or girl for a special reason. But really, I love today because, 27 years ago it gave me Jonny. On his birthday, I will undoubtedly think about sweet Mrs. Cammie as a pregnant mom, carrying my future husband, unbeknown to us all. I think about his family and that environment that loved and cared for little-kid-Jonny to help shape him into the man he would become. I will also think of the years we spent not knowing each other and I am baffled by that fact, but then I ambrought back to the moment and I am glad that now that I will never have to experience that again. I love this day because it's the day that God brought him here to be love.

This year we celebrated first with a lunch date; I picked Jonny up from work and went to Corner Bakery (he picked that on his own!). Then I went and got his present and made him his favorite: Blueberry Pound Cake. For dinner we met at Fogo de Chao and we ate more meat than I care to admit :) My favorite part was when we got home. Since I was pretty sure Jonny knew what we was getting as his present, I had prepared a scavenger hunt for him to find it so there would be a little mystery. So here are the highlights:

When we came home, Jonny found his birthday card taped to the door. Inside of the birthday card was an envelope which read:

"Roses are red, Violets are blue,
but OH NO! Your birthday present is hiding from you!
So look for the clues and you are sure to find
A gift from me that is truly divine."

After following the clues which lead him from the sub-woofer, to the bookcase (specifically to one of his favorite books The Catcher in the Rye), to the bed, and finally to the drink fridge Jonny found his gift.....

So Happy Birthday my love! And may we be blessed with many, many more to come.