I Have a Gripe

December 8, 2013

Religious Music and Public Schools

When I was in elementary school, I loved how festive things were as we inched closer and closer to Christmas. Every class participated in decorating the school. I remember making “stained glass windows” in art class using black paper and brightly colored tissue paper. There were always two trees on either side of the stage. Each year one grade would put on a play of some sort and of course the concert.

Wow, have things changed…

Fast forward a few decades (not saying how many) and most auditoriums are bare. No trees or decorations. There was one principal I know of that would purchase poinsettia plants (using his own money, mind you) so there was something around the stage. After he retired? The stage was completely bare. Oh, and they are no longer called “Christmas concerts.” They are “holiday” or “winter” concerts.

To me, all these changes pale in comparison to the biggest issue in my opinion – the attempt to eliminate any religious music whatsoever from the concert.

When I went to high school, we ended every concert with the singing of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Once you graduated, you would be invited to join the chorus for the singing of the piece with the current students. I can’t imagine not having that experience either as a student or after I graduated.

More and more schools are asking music teachers to submit their program for review and approval. There is great concern by some that the concept of separation of church and state should include the elimination of all music with a reference to some type of religious reference. As I see it, there are two major issues related to this entire situation.

First, the separation of church and state today has been taken completely out of context. The original reason for this separation was to ensure the government does not endorse any specific religion. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Children playing and singing music with a religious tone does not count as an endorsement of a specific religion.

Second, just as religion is part of history, religious music is an important part of music history and education. Just like Handel’s Messiah and O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, these pieces have significant places in music and children should not just learn their words and music, but their histories.

As a result of the over-zealous attempt to eliminate this important genre of music from music programs across the country, organizations such as The American Center for Law and Justice have provided various documentation to help protect music teachers when planning their lessons and their concerts. Most music teachers I know keep a letter similar to the one linked here to protect their music programs. I also know of some districts where a letter like this is on file in their board office.

The fact that this needs to happen at all is amazing to me. When I first heard of issues such as these, it was in the South Orange/Maplewood, NJ School District. Since then, other towns have attempted to follow suit. Most have thankfully have lost. I remember a number of years ago when my husband was at doctor’s office he was asking him about his upcoming concert. He began to explain the situation just as many other teachers do, that he needs to produce his planned concert repertoire for approval. The doctor’s response? “That’s ridiculous. I was the little drummer boy for years in school and I wasn’t scarred for life.” This was in reference to his Jewish heritage. It made me laugh considering I had just recently read an article about how a Jewish man now in his 30’s said as a child he was incredibly uncomfortable with his experience as the little drummer boy as a child.

At the end of the day, all the festivities related to Christmas and Hanukkah should be celebrated as they have for generations. It is not an endorsement of a religion; it is an endorsement of valuing the importance of music education.

September 4, 2013

The Nuances of Syria

Anyone who knows me knows I do not do subtle. I am about as subtle as a truck. I am guessing this is why I am so confused by all the nuances of the Syrian issue that has hit a boiling point this week.

Anyone with a brain knows what al-Assad has done to his own people is reprehensible. And I think as Americans we will always side with those seeking freedom. I once heard the comment “freedom from tyranny is in the DNA of Americans.” I would say that pretty much hits the nail on the head.

I also think after Iraq and Afghanistan, we have learned the importance of avoiding “mission creep” and having an end-game and goals in mind at the beginning of any campaign.

This is where my confusion starts.

If we stick our nose in Syria’s issues – essential a civil war – what is our goal? Is it to take out al-Assad? Is it nation building? If the answer is “yes” than I suggest you take a good look at Egypt and see what that got us. Utter chaos.

In my opinion, this has been handled poorly from the get-go. The moment President Obama went off the teleprompter and made an off-the-cuff comment about crossing a “red line” we as a nation basically dared this guy to go batty. Well, mission accomplished.

Then our President has all kinds of tough talk about “going it alone” and then he once again changes course and asks for Congressional approval. Even the UK isn’t touching this one. Don’t sweat it though – France is going to cover us. Um, what? France??? Seriously?

Again, confusion for me.

Then we have Israel. The one staunch ally we have in that part of the world, which I am honestly stunned they still stand by us. How can Obama continue to treat Israel they way he does while trying to suck up to the rest of the Middle East, which basically wants to blow them off the face of the map? If we strike Syria, does this bug Iran enough to hit Israel? I swear, following this mess is worse than the plot of a daytime soap.

On the way home from work yesterday I listened to the debate between Senator Rand Paul and Secretary John Kerry and was thankful that the Senator was hitting on a lot of the questions that have been rolling around in my head. After all that, however, I still had no idea what the right answer should be for this cluster. And while I love that our issues are debated for our citizens  in public, I am sure our enemies are watching us and laughing. We are basically giving them the playbook before we hit the launch button. I’m sorry, but if you have to really define “declaration of war” versus “military action,” versus “isolated strike,” I feel like we are going down the road of Korea again. Remember, that was a “police action.”

While I am pleased he decided to seek Congressional approval, as I thought he kind of needed approval, I have learned since he has Constitutional authority to take action. He seems to take action on plenty of things that he shouldn’t, so why the hesitancy now? I believe it gives him an easy out to not act and blame Congress for something else. I mean, right now Congressional approval and likeability is somewhere around the same level as used car salesmen and lawyers, so it makes a nay vote makes it easy for him personally to back down. But there’s more to it than that.

Again, more nuances.

To my understanding, we can’t actually bomb chemical weapons because all it will do is disperse them into the air potentially killing even more people. If we provide weapons to “the resistance,” who are they exactly? Anyone remember the Afghan “freedom fighters” of the 1980’s? Fast forward a few decades and you will quickly remember.

The President also keeps saying that Syria won’t be another Iraq or Afghanistan. How do we know? Again, what will a “strike” get us? We are being told there won’t be any “boots on the ground.” Wait, weren’t we told that about Pakistan? Oh yeah, that was never made official. This whole thing screams powder keg. Do we really want to put more of our military into situations where they can’t tell who the enemy really is?

According to Einstein the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. After looking at Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more, this definitely seems like the textbook definition of insanity to me.

So now we sit and watch the political theater that is Washington. See why I’m confused?

Welcome to a nation of nuances.

August 25, 2013

My Gripe is with… Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — alvb1227 @ 3:19 pm

OK, my gripe today is simply with me. I haven’t kept up with my blog as I should have. So my promise is to get back on track with my blog. So stay tuned to see my latest gripes.

August 11, 2012

Doesn’t Smell Like Team Spirit

Filed under: Uncategorized — alvb1227 @ 10:30 pm

Unlike towns like Paterson during last year’s flooding, Denville didn’t receive a lot of press coverage. Well, Denville fought back hard. And with the re-opening of Sergio’s, their rebuilding is complete. Denville is back and I congratulate their hard work.

I often encourage my fellow Jerseyans to shop in Denville. If you have never been, it is an adorable little town with great shopping in their main town center that are almost exclusively independently owned and operated. From Nonna’s Yarn Cafe to Denville Dairy to Mara’s – these are great small businesses that provide wonderful goods and services.

What helped to bring Denville back? A sense of team spirit. The true meaning of the word community. Those business owners worked hard to claim back their businesses and many of us were ready to spend in their businesses to help support them and get that local taste we all missed.

Well, it is safe to say it doesn’t smell like team spirit in Denville anymore.

Today, I went to run a few errands and do some shopping in Denville – mainly to pick up lunch at Sergio’s – and decided to make a quick stop in Restyle Renew to see what was new when I encountered this:

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This is the parking lot behind 5 East Main Street, next to the building that houses Mara’s and Restyle and Renew. Of course, I had to know what was up. The parking lot bouncer informed me she was there to make sure only people who were going to the businesses in 5 East Main Street parked in those spaces. When I attempted to gain more information about who hired her to stand back there, all she would say is that it is “private parking for the businesses in that building.” As you can see, they are really bringing in the customers:

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Private parking? Yes, technically. I have heard off and on that the businesses in the 5 East Main Street building are mad that Mara’s is so popular, so this is how they have decided to fight back. Well, I would remind those businesses that it is rare someone goes to a town center to visit one store alone. I went down the street to the lot and parked my car to walk to Restyle and Renew. I also visited That Bead Place before walking over to Sergio’s to pick up lunch.

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Sign you see as you enter the parking lot behind 5 East Main Street, Denville.

So, I made a note of the businesses in that building, which include The Second Half, Herb Tealight, Yama Sushi, Dance for Life, Family Eyecare, Plaza Cleaners, King’s Palace, Serene, Asian Island, and Ce Ci Nails, to name a few. I plan on NOT patronizing those businesses. If they learn to play well with others, then my dollars will return to those businesses.

I urge those of you who shop in Denville to do the same.

July 15, 2011

The National Debt and Common Sense Solutions

OK, it is time for all the boys in D.C. to put their big boy pants on and use the common sense God gave them to resolve this budget issue. I have some suggestions; some are easy, some may take a bit of a spine, but they ultimately make sense.

First the easy ones…

The politicians keep talking about not being able to “cut checks.” I realized that they aren’t just using this figuratively. They are LITERALLY cutting checks! Who still does this? Transition over payments like Social Security and the like over to direct deposit.  How much could that save just in paper, printing and postage? If someone insists on getting a physical check, charge a $10 fee.

I mentioned previously about using technologies like secure Sharepoint instead of (again) wasteful spending, such as printing out the budget.

Now some tougher, but still common sense solutions…

First, MOVE TO THE FLAT TAX. Approximately 45% of the American population do not pay any taxes. That same 45% also utilize the largest majority of government resources. Everyone should pay something in taxes. While we are a very compassionate country, we need to switch from giving a handout to giving a hand up. By simply handing out money and/or services without actually helping to acquire something, those individuals are doomed to staying on the bread line. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Social Security needs help…a LOT of help. If you are under the age of 40, you should have the opportunity to opt out. Additionally, if you are under the age of 40, raise the retirement age to 67. When you reach your retirement age, you should get only what you pay into Social Security. If you didn’t work or pay into the system, then you get nothing. Period.

Take a hard look at “pet projects” to see which are working and which are not. Every project has its own set of fans, so some will be tougher to cut than others, but again, people must start to use the common sense God gave them.

Again, these are just a few places to start. Look at some of my other national debt common sense solutions to learn more.

What would you do?

January 2, 2011

2010 WordPress in review

Filed under: Uncategorized — alvb1227 @ 3:53 pm

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 70 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 78 posts. There were 2 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 74kb.

The busiest day of the year was September 12th with 168 views. The most popular post that day was My Thoughts Today on 9/11.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, en.wordpress.com, newjerseyhunter.com, and mail.yahoo.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for health care bill cliff notes, ihaveagripe.wordpress.com, 1600 new irs agents, dream act, and healthcare bill 1600 new irs employees.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

My Thoughts Today on 9/11 September 2010
8 comments

2

A Cliff-Notes Version of the Healthcare Bill March 2010
2 comments

3

I’m Sorry Mr. Cavuto, You’re Wrong May 2010

4

Princeton’s Immigration Policy May 2010
1 comment

5

About Me and My Gripes November 2009

September 8, 2010

The New Delta Commercial – Maybe I’m Just too Sensitive?

Filed under: New York,Security,Terrorism,Uncategorized — alvb1227 @ 11:46 am
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So, we are just days away from the ninth anniversary of the worst attack on American soil. Maybe it is because I grew up in North Jersey and could see the World Trade Center from my town and could smell the smoke that horrible day the towers fell, but I tend to get my back up when I see or hear things that I consider “insensitive” and “related” to that horrible day.

This week I saw a new Delta commercial. Now I will admit, I didn’t like the beginning of the commercial, but I will shrug that off as overly-sensitive. Then they sort of (again, in my opinion), soft of poke fun of “this crazy world of no liquids, take your shoes off…stuff.”

Now, let’s think about this for a minute. I don’t think taking your shoes off or not being allowed to carry on liquids is something to make fun of. These rules have directly come from lunatics trying to blow planes up and kill Americans.

Like I said, maybe I’m being overly-sensitive. Maybe it is because they launched this commercial the week of 9-11. I just don’t know. You watch it and let me know what you think.

April 29, 2010

When is the Federal Government too Big to Fail?

So this week we’ve seen the Congress pull Goldman Sachs in for a public spanking. A Californian government body is trying to outlaw the toy in the McDonald’s Happy Meal in an effort to avoid childhood obesity. Last year the federal government “purchased” controlling interests in GM and Chrysler. Last month, they passed sweeping “healthcare reform.” It seems that the federal government has figured out to involve themselves into every corner of our personal lives. However, I ask you this…when is the federal government “too big to fail?”

The more the government attempts to control our lives in an effort to “help” us, the more they do is limit our options and opportunities to only what the government feels we should have. When do we as American citizens have the right to say to the government “enough?”

I would like to know what has happened to personal responsibility? You want to eat McDonald’s everyday and turn into a heart attack waiting to happen? Fine. However, don’t expect me to feel sorry for you and cover your healthcare expenses and have the government attempt to legislate to protect people from themselves.

Did Goldman Sachs do incredibly horrible things? Absolutely. However, who, in my opinion, is really to blame? The federal government. What was the SEC doing while they were supposed to be “protecting us?” Watching porn online! And what about the House Financial Services Committee? The House Financial Services Committee contingency lead by Barney Frank forced Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lend to those who certainly couldn’t afford their own homes. However, how is it every time a company is spanked by the government under the guise of “protecting” us, Fannie and Freddie are nowhere to be found?

I say we should work to take back our nation and live by personal responsibility. A simple solution to many complex problems facing our country.

April 27, 2010

It isn’t an Immigrant Issue…It is an Illegal Immigrant Issue

So in the last few days, the Governor of Arizona signed a new law allowing the police to check on an individual’s immigration status based on suspicious behavior. This has sparked an uproar on both sides of the issue. Well, to steal a line from the President, “let me be perfectly clear” and say I completely agree with this law one hundred percent.

What people fail to realize is that this is not an immigration issue. This is an illegal immigration issue. It is the responsibility of the states and the nation to protect its legal citizens; first and foremost.  The fact that people such as illegals, the ACLU and others feel that we owe the same rights to these illegals as legal, taxpaying citizens I find completely unacceptable. I say absolutely not. Like many others, my family were made up of immigrants at one point and do you know what they did? They assimilated! They learned English, went to work, followed the laws of the land, became legal and worked to be a contributing part of the American society.

Some say this is racial profiling. Well, let’s think about this rationally. There are major issues with drugs, kidnappings, murders and so on coming over the border from Mexico into the United States. Well, I don’t see any Ukrainians coming through the Mexican border with pot strapped to their legs or killing ranchers coming over the border illegally. Who are they? Mexicans! That isn’t a profile, that’s a fact. Others say that because I am white I don’t understand what it is to be pulled over and questioned by police. Well, wrong again. I have been pulled over and questioned in the past for absolutely no reason. One time as recently as a few weeks ago. So, that holds no water with me either.

Still others ask about violating the civil rights of these illegals. I ask back what about my civil rights as an American citizen?

The fact that we are providing these individuals with medical care, jobs, education and so-on is highly offensive to me. I am a legal, law abiding tax payer and should not have to support these people on my dime. Especially considering the current fiscal state of this nation.

This issue has been going on for decades. I didn’t agree with President Reagan when he gave amnesty during his tenure as President, I didn’t agree with the lack of action during Presidents Clinton and Bush and I am certainly concerned with what our current President may do regarding this issue. He’s stayed out of it up until this point, do the country a favor and continue to stay out of it. Respect state’s rights for once and stay out of it President Obama.

I give kudos to Jan Brewer for having the guts to put this bill into law and take into the state’s hands an issue of national security the United States government has failed to handle.

March 23, 2010

Healthcare Passes…God Help Us All

Filed under: Healthcare,Laws,Politics,Uncategorized,United States government — alvb1227 @ 1:11 am

Well, last night the greatest travesty has been perpetuated on the American people. The Democrats in the House passed the so-called healthcare (and don’t forget education loans) reform legislation.

There are multiple issues here. First and foremost, it is completely unconstitutional to force someone to purchase something. I know the Dems are arguing that the federal government has the right to regulate healthcare through the Interstate Commerce Clause. Throughout the last few decades, this has been one of the most frequently-used sources of Congress’ power. However, the Tenth Amendment says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Last time I checked, entitlements, like healthcare, aren’t in the Constitution.

What I really want to know is what has happened to personal responsibility? Are there people who need help that don’t have health insurance? Absolutely. What is happening here is the uber-rich can afford whatever they need, the poor will be taken care of by the government, and as usual, the middle-class will get squeezed.

People need to have a personal investment in their lives. If all people get are entitlements, handouts from the government, they will never take a vested interest in their potential personal success. It is too easy to just accept what is given to you.

On the other hand, if all that happens to the rich is to be penalized and over-taxed by the government, those innovators and small business owners (who create jobs mind you) will loose the want to succeed. Ultimately, this will increase the sea of mediocrity that is overcoming our great country.

By passing this bill, the federal government now has the keys to the front door of all our homes. Healthcare is the key to everything else – what we eat, if we choose to smoke, how much we exercise, and so on. This is the beginning of wide-spread socialization of America.

Right now, 35 Attorneys General are preparing lawsuits in an effort to block the implementation of this unlawful bill. I hope they succeed. The future of our country, our freedom, depends on it.

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