This is another in a series of musings by Vietnam veteran and patriot, Forrest L. Gomez. Here he recalls the gradual enlightenment that taught him why it is we celebrate Christmas when the world can seem so dark.
MEMORIES OF ANOTHER CHRISTMAS:
The late 1970s. It was a time of malaise, of lost confidence in America and many of the values we hold dear. Saigon had fallen, the Cambodian killing fields were now part of a horrifying history, a president had to resign, and people in the military seemed to be appreciated by no one except their families and each other.
I was a young soldier stationed in Mainz, Germany with the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry, 8th Infantry Division. I was well into my second marriage and had two infant daughters. My wife was a professed Christian, and I was not. (She would leave me after 19 years for another man after back sliding, but that’s another story.) I had chosen the Army as a career, and was pretty cocky and confident after surviving two tours in Vietnam, although the nightmares would come back now and then. I had lost my first love in that war, also another story covered in a previous writing, and I won’t retrace that. During those unhappy years for our nation, I had embarked on a bizarre journey in my mind.
I was constantly approached by Christians who would witness to me, their methods being that of concern and compassion for my well-being. This flew in the face of what other non-believers had told me, that most Christians were mean-spirited and aggressive. Anyway, I decided to study the Bible, Christianity, and the history of both so I could beat them in debates. Things didn’t work out quite as I had planned, however. Several miracles occurred in my life, including meeting the former commander of the two Viet Cong main force battalions that had attacked my base camp in 1968. While in Europe, this former enemy had converted to Christianity (Catholic) and became my brother in Christ. I had learned forgiveness then. I was being drawn in by what I was reading (the two volume “The Bible as History” being predominant), and I was always meeting Christians, who treated me with great kindness.
The clincher came when my first daughter was born, I think, but my life had to bottom-out first. Under the influence of alcohol, I did something that almost ruined my married life and career. But then a Christian sergeant in the combat engineers had befriended me, and was witnessing to me tactfully, carefully, and with obvious great concern for my soul. Well, I went and dug him out of his barracks on the night of November 4 1979, and I told him I wanted what he had. I gave my life to Jesus Christ that night, and besides being a soldier for this nation, I became a soldier for Christ. I realized that we are in a lost and dying world, a world still screaming for Barabas, and God sent His Son to give us another chance. Christmas of 1979 was the most important Christmas of my life. I finally realized that, although I was born in the most free nation on earth, and I had fought for that nation and for freedom, that now I was at last truly free. I wanted to liberate others!
Jesus is the reason for the season, and no government or contentious secularist can take that from us. Merry Christmas, my wonderful brothers, sisters, and children everywhere! May our Lord God Jesus Christ be with you all the days of your lives, and beyond!
Among the patients were a man with “writer’s cramp” dystonia, and a woman with torticollus, a dystonia that freezes the neck muscles into a painful twisted position.
The campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the size of a small town with buildings that are cities within themselves. The Mark O. Hatfield Research Clinic is one such structure. I got lost once in the basement level and felt the same anxiety as when lost in a canyon in the Utah desert (which I have also experienced). The functioning of NIH depends on a complex shuttle system that, in my experience, is always spot on time, that brings patients, researchers, students and others to and from the various buildings in its vast complex. I’ve been a patient since 2009.
Spasmodic Dysphonia or SD, (an ugly name which I hate to utter) is the diagnosis I received several years ago when breaks, hoarseness and a strangled quality in my voice became nearly disabling. It’s a neurological dystonia that has a mysterious genesis and no known cure. My combined curiosity and fighting spirit spurred me to sign up as a research subject in a years-long study of the enigmatic condition. So, I travel regularly to NIH for all manner of medical tests, most of which are MRIs, PET and CAT scans and occasional procedures which require electrode wires to be inserted into my voice box. Yeah, I’m stoic with a relatively high tolerance for discomfort so I make a good lab rat.
I last visited NIH a week ago, and at the end of a grueling day of testing boarded a trusty shuttle along with other suffers of conditions which are sufficiently obscure or intractable to merit ongoing studies. Among the patients were a man with “writer’s cramp” dystonia, and a woman with torticollus, a dystonia that freezes the neck muscles into a painful twisted position. The last man to board the shuttle was delivered in a wheelchair. His bearded face was young, and he looked to be my age or a little younger, but his back was bent in an impossible curve, and his arms and legs were flexed and nearly immobile. He wore a yarmulke and spoke with a thick, Jewish accent. The shuttle was full and the winter day was growing dark. The driver, a rotund black man wearing a Santa cap, took the bent man by one hand and slipped his other hand under the man’s armpit to support his weight as he shuffled shakily to the passenger’s side door. Other shuttles were waiting in line behind us and people were visibly anxious. Those of us aboard the van watched tensely, waiting to spring to the man’s aid if the driver failed to support his full weight. But patiently, the driver helped the man inch his way to the door then braced his frame as he exerted all the force he had to climb into the front seat, huffing and grunting with the strain. The driver gently positioned him in the seat and secured his seat belt while the man panted with exhaustion.
It’s unlike the trusty shuttles at NIH to be late, but we headed out to our various hotel drop-off points a full 10 minutes behind schedule. The driver was silent as he took a circuitous and unfamiliar route to a hotel that was far from the other nearby hotels in Bethesda. He pulled the shuttle as close to the entrance as possible and walked inside to get a wheelchair from the lobby. This was the hotel of the disabled Jewish man. The driver opened the passenger’s side door and, once again, began the arduous process of helping the man’s bent and frozen body out of the shuttle and into the wheelchair. This took another 10 minutes, but I and the other passengers watched silently as both men maintained great dignity through their struggle. Once in the wheelchair a hotel valet took over and started toward the entrance. Then the man in the chair spoke, “Wait, stop please!” and with his rigid hand beckoned the driver back to him. He then reached into his coat and fumblingly took a $20 bill out of his wallet, grasped the driver’s hand and pulled him close. “I know you will want to enjoy Christmas with your family. This is for you. God bless you.” And the two men shared a silent embrace before parting.
Christmas music played on the radio as the driver finished his rounds through the bustling commercial streets of Bethesda. Those of us on the shuttle were quiet but a few wiped tears as we made our way back to our hotels. My eyes were moist, and the tears quivering on my eyelids were like lenses, magnifying and refracting the colored Christmas lights in windows and trailing up light poles. Gratitude, well-being, safety, peace, all the good feelings that should accompany Christmas time were present in that shuttle at that moment.
America does not have a racial divide nor a class divide nor a privilege divide. If there is a divide, it is in the hearts of humans. No measure of protesting nor indignation nor destruction will bridge the heart divide. But simple acts of patience, love, compassion and the appreciation of individual dignity become powerful spans that bring together hearts and hands of all colors and origins. This is Christmas’ universal theme.
…But today my burden is light and sweetly scented. It is Joseph’s wife, Mary, young and gentle, and her words in my ears are like music compared to the clanging and pounding of the builder’s craft. Joseph has put away his tools and seated Mary upon my back, and we have set out for a far city. This is my first journey away from home.
I am Lazaro. My master, Joseph the carpenter, gave me the name “Lazaro” when I was a colt and he was not very old himself. It means “God has helped.” Perhaps he knew that I would need a little help from God each day, to pull the sledges stacked with timbers, and the baskets on my back heavy with carpenter’s tools and nails. But today my burden is light and sweetly scented. It is Joseph’s wife, Mary, young and gentle, and her words in my ears are like music compared to the clanging and pounding of the builder’s craft. Joseph has put away his tools and seated Mary upon my back, and we have set out for a far city. This is my first journey away from home.
From my birth I have lived in Nazareth. When not in Joseph’s service, I like to roll in the dirt and bray at the crows that patrol my feeding trough. I watched as Joseph and his pretty wife, Mary, became friends, and grew in love. Now, with child, she pats my neck and encourages me on while singing a nursery song. The paths out of Nazareth are worn, but rocky. My feet, unaccustomed to long travel, are already sore as Joseph searches for a grassy place to spend the night. On a verdant hillside we make our camp. It is spring and shepherds lead their flocks to folds beyond the hills, carrying the new lambs across their shoulders, silhouetted against the squinting sun. Mary and Joseph are quiet as he sits next to her under a tree. His hand traces the shape of her round belly before the kisses her good night.
I awake when a lark hops around in the grass close to my muzzle, plucking up grubs. I bray loudly to startle the lark. Joseph cries, “Lazaro, you foolish beast. Be quiet!” But Mary has awoken and she says, behind a soft giggle, “silly donkey.”
How long we must walk, I do not know. How many days, we can only guess. The food and water in my packs has already grown lighter, but Mary, sitting upon my back with one leg folded in front of her large belly feels heavier than the day before. I plod a narrow trail up the rim of a high plateau. I’m not a mountain donkey, I am of the plains and fields and village roads. Joseph grows impatient. “Get along Lazaro! Mary cannot wait forever!” Suddenly, Mary leaps down and tells Joseph, “I will walk. He’s a small donkey, and my legs need to move and the child needs to stretch. He’s growing as impatient as you!” In Mary’s voice there is life–a mastery of enjoyment–rare to one so young as she. Her sweet voice impels me to pick up my pace. My legs ache, my rib cage heaves with great breaths, but up I go, for many hours and many miles.
“Lazaro, stop!” Joseph’s voice jars me to a halt. I look back and see that Mary is kneeling, one hand on her belly, and the other hand cupping her forehead. “Lazaro, come back. Mary can walk no farther.” I hear Mary’s voice, so tired and worried, “My time is growing near.”
Joseph heaves her upon my withers and looks back in the direction of Nazareth. “I shouldn’t have brought you…” Mary stops him with, “Shhhh. I will not be without you, nor will the child.” We trundle to the top of the rim, and there on the other side of the hill is the largest valley I have ever seen. I see smoke from a few distant fires, wadis and copses of trees, but mostly space. There is water, I smell a spring that runs down the hill to the valley below. I snort and bray to tell Joseph that here, there is refreshment for Mary.
We go on. Another day, another sunset. My flanks quiver with the exertion as I kneel down to lie on my side when finally we rest. Joseph leaves Mary to find wood for a fire, and while he is gone, Mary begins to weep. She puts her arms around my neck and buries her face behind my ears and through her stuttering sobs I hear. “Oh Lazaro, you are only a beast, but I cannot let Joseph know how afraid I am. I feel a great burden. My child is coming very soon, and here we are on the plains. Bethlehem is so far away. Oh, donkey, I feel alone with such a great task. What will happen should I fail?” She holds me fast, stroking my neck and weaving her fingers through my short mane. I take her robe in my teeth and tug gently. I want to tell her that my name, Lazaro, will be my promise that God will help us get to Bethlehem. Otherwise, she may forever call me ,” foolish beast.” She calms, and wipes her face and straightens her robes when Joseph returns with some sticks for a fire. I nuzzle her belly as she stands, and she laughs gently and goes to Joseph and holds him as if she will never let go.
The morning light reveals Mary’s face, serene but tired. Joseph looks worn, his hands calloused and cracked, and his back stooped. The spring from the hills has grown into a rushing stream. The water is cool and sweet and I crop the watercress and grasses along its edge. Mary washes the sleep from her eyes, and Joseph fills the water bags and drinks his fill before we continue on toward Bethlehem, the early sun warming us. We pass the great city, Jerusalem, and travelers pour onto the roads. Some are young like Joseph and Mary, others old, some walking, some riding asses, and a few Roman soldiers patrol the peopled trails. Two Roman horses, their masters stoic, pass me, they snort, then they pause. They look at me with disdain, but their eyes soften and heads lower when they look upon Mary. A soldier commands his horse onward. The horse goes on, reluctantly. A walking man, old, lame, his eyes pale with blue clouds of blindness, traveling with his son, nears my side. His face turns to Mary, his sightless eyes lock on her form. The old man feels for my mane and grabs it so that I may guide his way for awhile. Mary speaks gently to him. “Sir, are you going to Bethlehem?” “Woman,” he answers sheepishly, “you would speak to me?” “Of course. We are but travelers on the way to Bethlehem. You may walk with us if you like, but we must make haste for I am with child and my time is nearing.”
The old man grabs my halter and yanks at it to stop me. “Woman,” says he, “the child you carry…He is a king.” Crazy old man, I think. Mary is the wife of Joseph, the carpenter, and the blind old man thinks she is a queen! But the old man persists. “Woman, God be with you. God bless you. The child in your womb…He…is the chosen one…the Messiah.” Mary does not rebuke the man, though she should because he appears to be drunken or mad. The Messiah! I am a carpenter’s beast, and to think that I could carry the mother of the Messiah on my back. Who would believe such a thing? “Good sir,” says Mary, “God be with you as well. We must hurry on, apace.”
Another day. The noise of the roads troubles my ears, the strange smells from the travelers fill my nostrils, and the flies make saltlicks of my eyes. Mary is silent. Joseph is silent except when he asks for directions from passing strangers. Dust gets into our eyes and throats, and my body is breaking down with weariness; a weariness I have never before felt.
I hear it before I see it, a viper in the road, sunning itself. But my brain is slow and I react before I think about where I am and the burden on my back. I begin to rear up at the sight of the snake, but then I remember Mary. I stop myself, but my back hoof catches on a rock, and my weight falls up on my fetlock. I stand quickly, but the pain is great. Mary grabs my mane as Joseph runs to her to help her down. I fall heavily on my rump as pain blazes up my leg. No! I think to myself. No!
“Joseph, He is hurt! Did the snake bite him? Will he die?” Joseph calms her, “No, he is not bitten, but he is lamed. He cannot walk.” There is fire in my leg. I bray for the pain, and I bray for the dark thought that I have failed Mary and Joseph, and my promise that God will help us get to Bethlehem has been broken. I am a foolish donkey. I am a broken donkey. If Mary was a queen of the Romans or of the Jews, I would probably be a dead donkey!
Joseph paces back and forth along the trail. He finds the viper and lifts it with a stick, flinging it far off into the brush. Mary looks at him strangely. “I shall not kill the snake, it is not guilty of a thing. And I shall not kill Lazaro, though he is no good to us. I must find a place to stall him, and a family to keep you, Mary, until I can meet you upon my return from Bethlehem.” Her words shake me with their power as she reproves her love. “No! No, you shall not leave me. We shall not leave this beast. There is a promise in his very name, there is a promise in the Name of the Child, Emmanuel, that God will be with us, God will help us.” Mary speaks through hard tears, “I believe the promise, Joseph. We shall ask God to heal his leg. Lazaro can be made whole. I know it. Please Joseph, pray with me in faith to heal this beast.”
My donkey brain, convulsing in pain and fear, is calmed as Joseph takes Mary’s hand, and they kneel beside me, Joseph’s hand on my tortured leg, their heads bowed in quiet prayer. I stop braying and close my eyes to listen. There are pleas, there are tears, and Mary and Joseph are talking to God as if He is beside them, like a Father come to their aid. Everything is peace and dark. I awake, for I have fallen asleep. There is an aching in my rear leg, but the fire of pain is quenched. Mary gives me a handful of sweet dates, and I am revived.
I stand, and now, acquainted with sorrow and pain myself, I recognize the same in Mary’s eyes. I walk a few steps. Soreness, yes, but I can walk. Can I bear the weight of Mary and the packs? I stop and look back at her, and grunt, “Get on, let’s go.” Joseph once more lifts her upon my back, and my mind is cleared of all thoughts of snakes and pain and stinking travelers and Romans on arrogant steeds, for the lights of Bethlehem begin to appear as we round the crest of the final hill.
The hills outside of Bethlehem are watched by shepherds with many sheep. They fold their sheep, but some stand dumb, looking to the East. Joseph looks to trace their gaze, and a strange smile comes to his face. We hurry on. Mary is quiet in her thoughts, her breaths fewer and deep. Many people are upon the roads. Some have set up camp along the paths. There are makeshift shops, coopers, potters, farmers and others have set up a bazaar for the travelers coming to Bethlehem from all directions. The smells are strange to me, there is filth on the roads, strange languages, and grumblings about “Herod,” and “Caesar,” and the hated “publicans.” When we enter the city the noise crowds upon my donkey ears and both Mary and Joseph gasp at the sight of so many people, many who are strange and dangerous looking. “Where will we stay?” Joseph answers Mary with, “I will try to find an inn. I didn’t expect…I didn’t know there could be so many people in the whole world, let alone Bethlehem.” I bow my head and watch my feet as Joseph leads us on. I must trust him, for my urge to bolt is strong. Dogs nip at my legs, cats, chickens and little children run along the streets. And it seems that every house, every inn, every space within the little town of Bethlehem is filled with travelers. Some of them stop for a moment to gaze, like the Shepherds, at the Eastern sky. Mary cries out, and we move.
Joseph goes to an inn, it is filled. Another, and there is no room, even the stalls along the streets are crowed with people bedding down for the night. We reach the far side of Bethlehem, and there is a last inn. Mary whispers to Joseph, ” We must stop. The child is coming whether we have a bed or not.” Joseph steps away from us and knocks hard upon the door. A tired man answers, a cacophony of sound and smell come from behind the open door. “Sir, my wife is with child, and we need a bed. We cannot wait. There is no other place. Please!” The man ponders Joseph, steps out from the door and looks at Mary. His face grows pale. He runs back into inn, then returns with a woman and a boy. “I am Avda, this is my wife Hasna,” a boy of the age of Joseph when I first worked for him joins them, “and my son, Nahor. There is no room in the inn.” Hasna speaks to Mary, “This is no place for you…” Mary moans and a look of stern anger tightens Joseph’s face, but the woman continues, “… The travelers are filthy…” Nahor chirps, “…and stinky!” Joseph looks to the plains outside Bethlehem, “But where shall we go? Our child will be born this night! Can’t you help us? Just one bed, PLEASE?” Hasna, goes to Joseph. “There is a better place for you, a quiet place, without the dirt and noise of the strangers. Nahor, lead the beast to the stall. Avda, get a broom, I will fetch some robes.”
The woman orders us and we obey. On the edge of the city, within its rocky cliffs is fixed a cave filled with straw and feeding boxes for animals. Chickens roost along the mud shelves, a few ewes with new lambs rest in a corner, and an aged ox stares curiously as we enter. Avda sweeps and gathers out the old straw as Joseph helps Mary off my back. Nahor brings fresh straw and piles it up for a bed in the corner, Hasna lays some robes upon the straw and takes Mary by the hand and helps her to lie down. She again commands her husband and son, “Avda, bring water, Nahor, get more straw and meal for the beast, and put it in the manger. This young woman will bear a child within the hour.”
With sweet straw in the manger, I munch happily, save for the cries coming from Mary. The innkeeper’s wife lingers near Mary, and calms Joseph with words of instruction which I do not understand. But Mary’s cries are hard to bear. They are cries of deep distress, her body is erupting in agony, and I ache with her, I mourn the hardship with her. My burdens have been heavy to bear, but the coming forth of Mary’s child is a new and fearsome things to me. I wander out of the cave and stand on the path outside. The sun is a thin strand across the Western plains, but it is light, such as mid-day. Such a long day, I think, in my simple way, and the hours drag on so. But the day is night and a star in the East, so bright that it casts shadows, is defying the sleeping sun! Strange, very strange. I bray at the star, and see that I’m not alone in my wonderment. The people of the village have gathered outside their homes to gaze up. They murmur, some fearfully, some in reverence, and some kneel, whispering something about a “sign.” Mary’s cries grow quiet, and there is soft speaking in the cave, and then, the keening cry of a newborn babe! My masters’ son cries and Mary laughs in her soft fashion, thanking God that her hour of extremity is finished. “Praise God! Glory to God!” cries Hasna. Joseph is weeping softly, Mary and the baby wrapped tightly in his arms as he rocks them gently.
Avda and Nehor appear again. They bring food that smells delicious. “Here I have some bread for you Joseph, and a bowl of warm pulse for you, Mary. Eat and be strong,” says Avda. Joseph thanks them and wolfs his bread. “Would that we could do more for this child. Hosanna! Glory to God.” Avda and Nehor try to linger but Hasna urges them back to the inn.
I think to myself, so many strange things; a strange light, a village girl mistaken for a queen, an innkeeper’s wife crying out as if the Messiah himself has appeared! I am weary, and the aches of the day creep into my muscles. I lie down by the opening of the cave. The chickens, sheep, and old ox are strangely quiet, peace and darkness overtake my donkey brain and I sleep.
“He is here! Wake up, wake up! The angel of the Lord has told us, He has been born.” I awake as lads run up and down the village roads, banging on doors and calling to the people. “The King has been born. The star! Come see the star, for it is the sign.” The villagers are restless, for the strange star, brighter far than a full moon, has disturbed their sleep. And now these lads are using their shepherds’ crooks to knock upon doors and call out strange words. The lads begin to gather near me by the cave. They whisper, “Can you see him? Is the mother pretty? Does the baby look like a king?” Patient Mary sits up on her bed of straw and lifts the tiny babe so the shepherd boys may gaze upon him. They are nearly silent, but for some deep sobs and whispers of, “Praise be to God! Hosanna in the highest!”
What of this king? The babe is a carpenter’s son. Mary is an ordinary girl. What is this all about? But as I, Lazaro, ponder upon these strange things in my simple way, I remember the old man upon the road, the blind man who talked of a king carried in Mary’s belly. He talked of a Messiah. Could it be true? A healing prayer that took away my lameness. Is Mary the mother of the promised Messiah? Is Joseph the chosen father of the Son of God? As I think about these things a great warmth enters my heart. The desire to worship God consumes me, and with irresistible joy I step onto the road and bray, in my own language, “Praise God! The chosen Messiah is born! I am His beast! I carried the mother of the King of Kings on my back! Glory to God in the highest. Hosanna to His name.” A cock fluffs his neck feathers and joins me in praise, crowing loudly. My braying wakes the sheep and ox. The chickens begin to cluck, and from the stable cave there arises a joyous noise as the world of animals joins in worship of the Newborn King!
“Lazaro! You mad beast! Quiet now, Mary must rest,” comes Joseph’s voice from the cave. “It’s alright, Joseph. He knows. Lazaro and the other animals know, just as the shepherd boys know. This is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
I hear Mary and Joseph talking and so, hush my braying. The cock settles down and the hens return to their nests. Mary calls to me and I step softly toward the manger from which I had earlier eaten sweet straw. The babe, wrapped in swaddling robes, opens his eyes and makes a strange sound. I snort, and he smiles. “Lazaro, you silly beast,” Mary speaks to me in the same gentle tone which has always pleased my ears, but now with utter certainty and consummate love, “you kept your promise to me and my little family. You carried us here, to Bethlehem. Thank you Lazaro. I know that God chose you, you silly donkey, to help bring His Son into the world. Never again shall you be called ‘foolish beast.” I watch, my head bowed, a sweet peace warming me through, as Mary and the babe fall asleep. Joseph leaves the cave to do the business which brought him to Bethlehem. He rubs my neck vigorously and says, “Lazaro, you have proven yourself. Wait and watch here until I return in a little while. You are a beast with great heart. Now keep Mary and my son safe.” I will, Joseph, I will, I think in my simple donkey way, I will because God is with me.
All the pretty gifts under the tree are mere stuff. They gain their meaning only as representations of that which we freely give to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is but one gift we can give of ourselves which too big to fit under a tree. What shall it be?
“In the bleak mid-winter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter Long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him Nor earth sustain; Heaven and earth shall flee away When He comes to reign: In the bleak mid-winter A stable-place sufficed The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
What can I give Him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb, If I were a wise man I would do my part, Yet what I can I give Him, Give my heart.”
Christina Rosetti captured the essence of Christmas gift-giving in her 1872 poem. The “bleak midwinter” is not a season of the year, or a particularly bad spate of winter weather. It refers to the grim and frozen state of mankind without a Savior to snatch them from the coldness of sin and the grave. The Savior Jesus Christ is central to the Plan of Salvation, and without Him, His sacrificial blood and Example, the whole of creation would have been plunged into entropy, fragmented and collapsed as element and spirit alike would vanish into the oblivion of futility. Bleak, hopeless, lost, and without purpose or end.
But the Son of God came to Earth, and found a stable-place sufficient for His majestic birth. Through His condescension to the children of men, He made the humble and meek sublime, and ventured below all things to lift us up on His kingly shoulders.
What can I give the King of Kings? The traditional reciprocity of gift-giving falls pathetically short of what I owe to The Lord for what He has given to me. He has given me a second chance, indeed thousands of second chances, to learn and correct my errors and evils. He has given me a second birth. He has given me His name. He has given me the promise of immortality and the hope of Eternal Life. I have nothing of worldly value to offer the One who has snatched me from the doom of death and eternal darkness. Nothing I can hold in my hands can express my gratitude, my love, and my complete dependence upon Him.
Although I disdain dependence upon government, and even excessive dependence on any external force by the able-bodied, I freely admit that I’am totally, yes totally, dependent upon The Lord for all that I have, and all that I want to become. It is through Him, and Him alone, His merits and mercy, that the Children of God have any chance of all at attaining a state of happiness here and in the eternities. We can be perfected through Jesus Christ but we can’t do it ourselves, no matter how “perfectly” we perform. We must fall on our knees and acknowledge our complete dependence on Him, in a partnership which, through yielding our power and will to Him, we are given the power to progress and become like Him.
Helplessness is not a feature of dependence upon Christ. He gives us all we need to do what we are asked to do in service to Him and our fellow men. We have His Gospel, we have the influence of His spirit, and His words. We are all given the Light of Christ in the form of a human conscience. We are not helpless, but we depend upon Jesus Christ to show us the way, and pay, through Grace, the price we can never afford.
The historic Provo Tabernacle, an edifice built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1883, was gutted by a massive blaze on December 18 of 2010. Though it was not a Mormon Temple, the LDS people in Provo, Utah dearly loved this imposing and artful building. The Provo Tabernacle was primarily a place for meetings, adorned with pictures from Bible stories and church history, many of which were portraits of Jesus Christ. The mayor of Provo, accompanied by an investigative crew, surveyed the charred remains of the Tabernacle the next day. They found a portrait of Jesus Christ which depicts His Second Coming to Earth. The portrait is fully charred, except for the area around His image in the painting. Immediately around the head and body of the Savior is a corona of clean canvas. It is an amazing token, taken from the ashes of a physical structure, which, depending upon the heart of the viewer, testifies of Christ’s power to rise again, and to give hope and inspiration to all who will pay attention.
The ash heap is symbolic of the doom of mankind if we did not have a Savior to depend on. All would wither into the fundamental elements, our lives but a brief and tearful smolder, passing into nothing. But we have a Heavenly Father and He has a plan. And a babe in a manger holds the keys of death, hell, exaltation, and eternal life, contingent upon the the use of our moral agency. What can I give the Babe? The treasures of the Earth will be corrupted and decay. The acts of my hands alone are insufficient because I am fundamentally fallen and unworthy, an obdurate sinner. I have only my heart to give. It is all that I am. It is my kindness, my gratitude, my compassion, my acts of charity, the Pure Love of Christ. My heart is my fidelity and integrity, my devotion to be a good citizen, even in the littlest things. It is my temperance and firmness as a parent, it is the leap of faith each time I take the risk of following my heart. My heart is my commitment to try to do better each day, but not to carry with me the burden of perfection, because when I am certain that I can do no thing perfectly, I am less likely to condemn my fellow travelers, whose footsteps stumble along their designed path. My heart, my love, and my testimony that He lives; that is what I can give for Christmas to the Babe in the manger.
With the federal government engaged in a de facto unconstitutional occupation of some two thirds of Utah’s territory, citizens of the state and their elected representatives have had just about enough. So, on December 31, the State of Utah is formally demanding that Washington, D.C., relinquish control over more than 30 million acres of valuable land currently controlled by various federal bureaucracies.
While apparatchiks for an all-powerful U.S. government and far-left activists are fuming over the plan, Utah lawmakers, citizens, and experts say the time has come for the state to manage — and profit from — its own resources. Constitutionally speaking, experts say the lands should have gone to state control generations ago, as the federal government promised when Utah became a state.
The escalating battle now brewing between the feds and Utah formally got underway in in 2012, when Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, riding a wave of public outrage over federal abuses and land grabs, signed the popular Transfer of Public Lands Act. Among other elements, the law calls on the federal government to hand over control of public lands purportedly owned by the U.S. government within Utah’s borders.
The law also commissioned a study, released this month, examining various aspects of the process and finances — including how Utah would manage the land it is calling on the federal government to relinquish. According to the study, contrary to the hysterical claims of pseudo-environmentalists and federal supremacists demanding ever greater federal land grabs, transferring the lands to Utah would likely be “profitable” for the state.
Indeed, if Utah controlled its own lands — as opposed to bureaucrats and politicians in faraway Washington, D.C., who siphon away much of the state’s wealth and mismanage the resources — the state could easily bring in enough revenue to cover the costs of managing the lands, and then some. According to the researchers, the vast swaths of federally owned land represent an overall “drag” on the state’s economy — especially in the 20 out of 29 counties where the feds purport to own more than 40 percent of the land.
The 780-page study, “An Analysis of a Transfer of Federal Lands to the State of Utah,” was performed by economists from three leading Utah universities. It concluded that properly managing the lands by Utah authorities would cost the state government about $250 million annually by 2017. Revenues from those same lands in 2013 were already more than $330 million, with most of that coming from oil and gas royalties.
Depending on oil prices and other factors, a best-case-scenario would see the state’s coffers bulging with over $1 billion in additional revenue annually by 2035. By 2017, with a slight increase in drilling, the state could be earning nearly $400 million per year — more than enough to offset the costs of taking over fire suppression and other management duties from the federal government.
“In conclusion, from a strictly financial perspective, it is likely the state of Utah could take ownership of the lands and cover the costs to manage them,” found the study, which was celebrated by Utahans but blasted by Big Green lobbyists given a megaphone by the establishment press. “Our research also suggests that it could put a strain on the state’s funding priorities in the early years as the state adjusts to the loss of federal dollars, evaluates land resources and conditions, and develops programs to replace those now managed by federal agencies.”
While the potential economic benefits to the people of Utah are clear, many of the officials leading the charge are also concerned about broader issues. As the Western territories were officially becoming states, like in the East, the federal government agreed to eventually transfer those lands to state control. However, as with so many other promises made by the D.C.-based political class, so far, the pledges have not been fulfilled. The 2012 Utah law specifically cited those agreements from when the state joined the Union.
Perhaps the most important issue at play in the whole land issue, though, is the U.S. Constitution. Lawmakers involved in the effort point to, among other key points, Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which outlines what types of property the federal government is authorized to own. The Federalist Papers, too, make clear that the Founding Fathers never meant to have the federal government serve as landlord over half of the Western states, and in some cases, as much as 85 percent of the territory within states such as Nevada.
Despite the 2012 law requiring the feds to get out by December 31 of this year, the controversial federal bureaucracies unconstitutionally occupying and (mis)managing the vast territories — primarily the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service — have refused to cooperate so far, according to news reports. For the state lawmakers and officials behind the effort to restore state sovereignty over the land, however, that is simply not an option.
“We’re going to move forward and use all the resources at our disposal,” explained Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the 2012 law and also leads the American Lands Council, a group seeking to strip the feds of their gargantuan land holdings across the Western United States. Among other possibilities, state leaders are exploring a plan to hire a private law firm to lead the charge in court if Washington, D.C., refuses to surrender the lands by the deadline set in the law.
The first step in the process is to see whether the federal government will voluntarily comply with the Constitution and Utah’s law mandating that it be upheld. “That’s what you do any time you’re negotiating with a partner. You set a date,” explained Rep. Ivory. “Unfortunately, our federal partner has decided they don’t want to negotiate in good faith. So we’ll move forward with the four-step plan that the governor laid out.”
While the governor who signed the 2012 law has not been quite as enthusiastic as state lawmakers, he welcomed the report and vowed to continue considering the state’s options. “I expect that public discussion will be well-served by this report,” Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement about the study. “It is important to make decisions based upon a thorough review of accurate, relevant information.” He also said his office and the legislature would “continue to review” the study and “pose questions for further consideration of the legislature.”
As The New Americanreported earlier this year, Utah and its citizens are hardly alone in seeking to wrest control over the lands and the vast wealth currently claimed by the feds. In April, lawmakers and elected officials from nine Western states even met at the Utah Capitol for the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands. “Legislators from across the West are saying enough is enough,” Washington State Rep. Matt Shea told The New American after the summit. “We are banding together to fight federal overreach wherever it rears its ugly head, not just talk about it.”
“The federal government cannot possibly know how best to manage land in the thousands of different locales like the people of those areas could,” the popular Republican lawmaker explained, echoing the sentiments of countless other policymakers and activists who say the federal government needs to be stripped of its vast, unconstitutional land holdings. “Clearly, the people of Western states would do a better job managing those lands.”
Already, the federal government alone purports to “own” about a third of the land in the United States — and with ongoing land grabs across the country under various pretexts, those numbers continue to mushroom. “The enabling acts of the Western States make it clear the federal government was meant to be a steward only until such time that the states could manage,” Rep. Shea explained. State and local governments also have vast land holdings.
Eventually, some advocates of reducing the gargantuan federal footprint across the Western states hope some of the land can be sold off and become private property rather than being owned by government. Getting the feds to relinquish control to state governments, though, would at least represent a good starting point.
Well, the year started off a little rough when, on the first day back from Christmas break, little Latrina got kicked out of school for sending her math teacher to the hospital. She says he called her a “stute,” and that’s why she threw the chair at him and walked out of class. I raised my little girl not to be a stute. She is a good girl. I do believe she did the right thing. But not being in school and all, Latrina went to work making about $70 a day standing on the corner by Walmart, holding a sign that said, “I’m not homeless but my mama’s too lazy to get a job so she makes me do this bulls***.” Latrina is an honest girl just like I taught her to be.
Latrina did well making money on the corner by Walmart but unfortunately one week it got real cold and the thermometer dipped below 0* for a few days. Latrina had to go to the hospital to have all her fingers and toes removed since they turned black from the frostbite. But she’s a fast healer and as soon as it warmed up again she went right back to work, and talk about a cash cow! My little Latrina, without fingers or toes, is pulling in twice as much cash as before. Thank God for small miracles! Uncle Sputum came down with an incurable skin disease and so he got an early release from the state prison! He moved in with us but we don’t have a lot of room bein’s Bubo, Boyle and Blain live here with Latrina, me, Aunt Edema, and the 7 dogs. Uncle Sputum don’t mind sleeping in the shed, which is preferable to us because he smells kinda bad, especially on warm days. But he does some cooking for us. The ingredients are a little strange, since he gets most of them from a chemistry catalog, but he’s making it just fine for now and always seems to have a lot of pep!
This was a sad month for us as Uncle Sputum was killed in a shoot-out with cops right outside the trailer on St. Patrick’s Day. I swear, he was just celebrating when he got naked, took my shotgun and started shooting the crows in that tree across the street. He didn’t mean to aim that gun at the cops. He was a good man. We will all miss Uncle Sputum. I put an ad on Craig’s List for to sell his chemistry equipment and weird cookbooks. He spent an awful lot of time cooking, but it weren’t food. But that’s okay cause I lost 100 pounds while Uncle Sputum was living here. God rest his gentle soul.
Well, we like it when the weather warms up this time of year, but the snow melts and the neighbors tell us to clean up all the dog crap the snow has been hiding since October. It’s not a pleasant job, but Bubo, Boyle and Blain do it for me, and it’s easy just to scoop up the dog dirt and toss it over the fence–into the neighbor’s yard. That’s where my brother’s ex-wife’s cousin’s niece lives and she’s not a nice person. Back in 1998 she tricked my brother’s ex-wife’s cousin’s best friend into knocking her up cause he’s a professional cage fighter and she lives off the child support he pays her for that baby. Oh, how I hate these low-life people. They got no class at all. For Easter we all loaded up in the van and went to Pea Ridge to celebrate with Aunt Edema’s daughter, Biopsy, who is also my favorite cousin. She filled up plastic Easter Eggs with things like used cotton balls and twisty ties and such and the kids just had a blast hunting for them. Biopsy don’t have much property though, so she hid them in the cemetery across the highway from her place. But good things can go bad, and apparently somebody called the cops on Boyle, who was havin’ so much fun he forgot himself and took a pee on a tombstone. Easter came to a sad end when I had to post bond for all three of my boys, since Bubo and Blain were arrested along with Boyle for trying to tip over the patrol car. They’re good strong boys. I can’t believe all this happened just because Boyle had to relieve himself. But it’s a great blessing that Latrina had enough money saved up so I could bail my boys out of county lock-up. It’s enough to make you want to kill, skin and cook the danged Easter Bunny.
This was a month to celebrate! Cousin Phlegm’s boy, Ryot, was the only boy in his class of the age of 15 to graduate from 6th grade! We were all so proud. The family, except Latrina ’cause she was working the corner next to Golden Corral downtown that day, met at Phlegm’s place where we had a real big party for Ryot. Phlegm’s wife, Listeria, got some food from the salvage food store and there was music and a wading pool and more beer than you could believe. Aunt Edema wore her favorite tube top and that made her back cyst real obvious. Ryot, a real smart boy, had the great idea that we should drain her cyst so everybody could watch. Then Bubo piped up and said, “hey, let’s film you poppin’ her cyst so we can put it on Youtube!” We spent a good 30 minutes watching Listeria drain Edema’s cyst. Oh, it stunk, and you had to stand back so it didn’t squirt on you, but that kept everybody entertained for the whole afternoon.
Some gifts just keep on givin’. Bubo put the video of Aunt Edema’s cyst drainin’ on Youtube and guess what? We got 2,346,702 views and, you know what that means? We got enough money from the ads that WE WENT TO DISNEY! Latrina stayed home and took care of the trailer and dogs while the rest of us went on vacation. She’s such a good girl. I raised her that way. Plus, without any fingers, I knew it might be hard for Latrina to keep a grip on those adventure rides. And I would feel just awful if anything bad happened to that girl.
We got some real sad news on the 4th of July. Apparently Uncle Phlegm and Aunt Listeria’s boy, Ryot, tried to shoot off some homemade fireworks. He had good intentions and all ’cause he just wanted to relive the wonderful fireworks shows we saw at Disney every night for two weeks. I don’t know why he thought a welding torch would be good to light his homemade fireworks but it didn’t go very well. Poor Ryot, one of the only kids in the family to graduate 6th grade, lost both arms up to the elbows in the explosion. While Phlegm and Listeria were in the hospital with Ryot, their komodo dragon, Marlin, escaped and hasn’t been seen since.
If there is an angel on earth it would be Latrina. That girl is such a sweetheart. She really wanted to cheer Ryot up since he was feeling kinda down, being armless and all. As soon as that boy got out of the hospital she put him to work with her asking for money at the corner by Applebee’s. He learned how to hold an old ice cream bucket with the handle in his teeth and when people would see these two precious children; a girl with no fingers or toes and a boy with no arms up to his elbows, they just load them up with cash. I tell you, sometimes bad things happen, but then it turns out better than winning the lottery. Phlegm and Listeria both quit their jobs at the convenience store and that gives us some real good catchin’ up time. Especially since we all love to play cards.
Boyle, my middle son, is a special boy and I always believed he was star material. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but he spends a lot of time pretending to be a dog. He will play with the dogs, roll around with them in the dirt, chase cars, sniff their butts and such. Well it got really heartwarming when one of our mongrel bitches had a big litter of pups that she couldn’t care for all by herself. Boyle, bless his heart, got in the box with that mama dog just like he was a bitch himself. He cleaned the pups with his tongue. He let them nurse at his nipples–he really seemed relaxed during nursing time–he was just an excellent dog. Well, then we heard that TLC Channel was looking for people to feature in their reality program called “My Strange Attention-Getting Behavior” and we all immediately thought of Boyle. Guess what? He met with the producer of the show and got all set up do his own episode! My boy was set to be a television star! Unfortunately, the filming had to be delayed when Boyle came down with a real bad case of tapeworms.
What a crazy month. I spent a couple of weeks helping Boyle nurse his tapeworm infection. I heard about this real expensive medicine the doctor wanted Boyle to take but instead of spending the money, I just had him swallow his chewing tobacco instead of spitting it out. With poor Boyle sufferin’ and all I completely forgot about my precious angel baby, Latrina. One day Bubo noticed that the housework was behind and piped up and said, Mama, “It looks like Latrina is slacking on her jobs. Where is she anyway?” Then my heart just about stopped when I realized that I hadn’t seen her or Ryot since that TLC Channel producer feller was looking at Boyle to be the next big TV star. Blain, the calm one, just said if we wait long enough Latrina and Ryot would show up. So we sat down on the couch and clicked on the TV to the TLC Channel, and GUESS WHO WE SAW HAD THEIR OWN TV SHOW? You know it! Latrina and Ryot were right there on the TV screen in their own television reality program called, “Amputee Panhandlers.” Poor Boyle was just heartbroken. But for now, Aunt Edema is going back to work at the water plant and I guess the boys will have to pick up the chores.
Well, sometimes you think things can’t get any worse then your own kid turns on you. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I had to go get Bubo, Boyle and Blain out of jail on Halloween night for nothing more than borrowing a police patrol car and collecting jack ‘o’ lanterns off folks’ porches and donating them to the poor folks here in the trailer park. Those boys were just doing charity. You’d think the cops would give them credit for being kind to people. Well, while I was still trying to recover, the day after Halloween I got a letter from Latrina. Only, it wasn’t from Latrina. It was from some fancy lawyer representing her and Ryot. It said my baby girl and her cousin Ryot got legally emancipated and are now in charge of all the money they make on their TV reality program. Here, this is what it said; “Heretofore wherewith Ryot Sluge and Latrina Carbuncle, having been found to be self-sufficient with adequate means for support, will herewith put their forthcoming funds in a trust to be held forever for their personal benefit into perpetuity, having severed all ties forthwith and from this day forward and shall have no contact with members of either the Sluge or Carbuncle families.” Don’t that just break your heart. I was so good to them kids. I just saw on the TMZ website that “Amputee Panhandlers” was the biggest new thing since Jersey Shore. I bet those kids are millionaires. S***!
Trying to take my mind off Latrina and the way she did us wrong, the boys and I spent the time making Christmas ornaments out of stuff we found around the house since we’re poor because Latrina cheated us out of our happy life. It’s amazing what you can make from used paper plates and Copenhagen cans. We have a lot of Copenhagen cans around as Boyle still struggles with his tapeworms. Aunt Edema isn’t here to help me with the house cleaning since she went back to work at the water plant then moved in with Cousin Biopsy. Uncle Phlegm and Aunt Latrina were so broken up over what Ryot and Latrina did that they moved to Oregon in their 5th-wheel. Their komodo dragon, Marlin, got his pictures all over town in the post office and police station and dog pound. Apparently Marlin had a habit of eating litters of new puppies. Good thing Boyle still sleeps with our dogs and keeps them safe from that damn lizard. Well, as you can tell, we’re feeling kind of down and we don’t expect this Christmas to have much cheer. But if you would like to help us out we sure would appreciate it. Cash is really what this little family needs. After all, Christmas is about givin’.
Happy Christmas from Mama Candida Carbuncle and sons (’cause I don’t got a daughter anymore)
DENVER — Zachary Curtis Oliver, the youth charged with attempted murder in the bludgeoning of a detention staffer with a rock-filled pillowcase at Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center, was arrested or investigated three times in 2012, records obtained by Watchdog.org show.
The arrests include suspicion of assault, drug possession and slapping an inmate at Mount View.
Another Lookout inmate, Richard Anthony Romero, charged with assault after he was accused of hitting a staffer in the head while trying to stab him with a sharp pencil at Lookout, had three alleged assaults on fellow inmates — including a court witness in an assault case against him, records show. Police also arrested him on suspicion of an assault of a staff member at Mount View in 2012, records show.
A Watchdog.org investigation found a group of inmates who “liked” to attack staff and had opportunities to repeatedly do so, leaving guards scared, considering new careers and saying the state doesn’t give them the resources to handle violent inmates.
Lookout Mountain security officer Brad Nestel was attacked Jan. 19 by an unnamed 16-year-old boy who jumped off a toilet and punched Nestel in the face, Golden Police reports say. The boy assaulted many staff members — adjudicated seven times for assault mostly on staff — in his time at the facility, but “only a handful have pursued criminal charges,” report said.
PENCIL PROBLEM: Richard Anthony Romero is charged with trying to stab a juvenile detention staffer with a pencil, and records show he has several previous assault arrests.
The boy “is an extremely dangerous individual,” Nestel told the investigating officer, according to the police report. He “has no empathy, has no affect in his eyes and is completely aware of what he is doing every time he assaults someone.
“If something different isn’t done with (the unidentified boy), he will continue to assault and injure people,” Nestel said in the report.
The suspect “should be committed with YOS where the staff members have more resources to deal with his behavior … at LMYSC the only tools they have is their loud voice, handcuffs and hands.”
Youthful Offender System is a Colorado Department of Corrections program for youthful violent offenders convicted as adults.
Nestel, through a woman who answered his phone, directed Watchdog.org’s questions to LMYSC supervisors, but in the police reports he raised a key issue as to why inmates with histories of assaulting staff and fellow inmates are given the chance to attack again.
Robert Werthwein, acting director of Colorado Department of Human Services Division of Youth Corrections, said he wasn’t familiar with the cases Watchdog.org brought up, but it was worth considering a change in policies and practices.
“I don’t know the specifics of this case,” he said. “But we don’t want staff injured. We don’t want youth being injured.”
CDHS spokesman Dan Drayer, also without addressing specific cases despite Watchdog.org providing examples, followed up on the repeat offenders question. He wrote that “ensuring the safety and security for youth, staff and community without violating a youth’s civil rights is of the highest priority for the Department.”
When an assault happens police are called for possible charges, Special Management Programs are used to control behavior and violent youths are separated from potential victims, Drayer said in his email.
CHARGES PENDING: Zachary Oliver is charged with attempted murder, accused of nearly killing a detention worker; records show he has a history of assault arrests.
But using police and court records, Watchdog.org identified at least a half-dozen inmates who repeatedly attacked staff and fellow inmates. A few had juvenile charges filed extending their time in detention centers, but often they continued the pattern as their alleged crimes became more violent.
Oliver, born May 26, 1997 and now 17, was charged with attempted murder in adult court in September, but criminal justice records show he was investigated in January 2012 at Mount View after staff said he was caught with possessing two pills of anti-anxiety drug Lorazepam. A month later he was arrested on suspicion of hitting another inmate is the face that Oliver claimed spit on him, a misdemeanor. And in October of that year, police again were called when staff said Oliver slapped a fellow inmate at Mount View after taunting him with a gay slur, also a misdemeanor, records show.
Romero, born Sept. 8, 1996 and now 18, was arrested four times in 2012 — two on suspicion of misdemeanor assaults, once on a felony assault and once on a felony of intimidating a witness, records show. On Jan. 5, 2012, Romero was arrested after allegedly hitting another inmate in the face in a recreation line, records show. He had just received up to two years for another assault on the same inmate who pressed charges against Romero, court records say. Yet, apparently, CDHS did not separate the two. Jefferson County, on the other hand, declined to drive both in the same van to court when deputies learned of the circumstances regarding the case.
Six weeks later, Romero was arrested after he was accused of repeatedly punching a fellow inmate because the victim allegedly said something about Romero’s mother, reports say. Two months later, staff said Romero ran toward another inmate and assaulted him with closed fists because of an apparent gang rivalry. Finally, on Aug. 21, 2012, Romero was arrested after staff said he grabbed a detention security guard around the waist and, when she told him to stop, hit her in the back of the neck, records show.
The records do not detail whether there were charges or adjudications in the 2012 cases for the inmates.
Reports show that even when a juvenile is arrested by police, the officer drives him to a booking station and returns him to the juvenile facility in which the incidents happened.
After he was transferred at some point to Lookout Mountain, Romero was charged with three felonies in a Sept. 21 incident in which he allegedly threw pencil shavings at staffer and tried to stab him with the pencil, hitting him in the head and finally grabbing a sharp piece of plastic and wielding it as weapon, court records show. Authorities also found a sharp piece of metal on Romero during a strip search, police reports say.
Prosecutors said the 2014 cases against Romero and Oliver are pending. Romero’s attorney declined comment, and Oliver’s public defender failed to return a call or respond to an email.
Police records also show other inmates had repeated violent histories.
On Sept. 13, 2013, Alexander Galvan, born Jan. 18, 1995 and now 19, hit and punched a staff member repeatedly in the neck and head and hit him with a chair, according to police reports. Galvan was angry because staff disrespected other members of his gang, police records say. The report notes that Galvan had a history of “multiple” staff assaults, but details were not in the report.
On May 30, an unnamed 16-year-old who had been adjudicated nine times with assault in the past year, started punching a staff member because he was told he couldn’t play volleyball, police records show. His volleyball privileges were suspended because he was on a safety intervention program, a report says.
At Spring Creek, an unnamed inmate collected five separate second-degree assault charges against staff between March and August of this year, according to a report about a sixth assault charge Aug. 22. The suspect also was charged with assault, interference with school officials and criminal mischief in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, according to the report. In the Aug. 22 incident, the report said, the boy hit a staffer twice in the face because the employee wanted the inmate to remove a blanket from his cell window.
At Spring Creek on Jan. 13, 2013, an inmate struck and tried to stomp a staffer, who fell to the ground and tore his rotator cuff, police reports show. The inmate was upset because he was told to go to his cell and wasn’t allowed to go to his victim empathy class. Another staffer, Heather Krueger, told police the suspect “liked to assault staff,” and the police report bears that out. The unnamed suspect had six assault cases in 2012 and 2013 and three cases outside the facility, including two assaults and one false reporting case.
“While looking through all of the listed reports, the common denominator was (redacted) assaulting staff members of Spring Creek Juvenile Detention Facility,” the investigating officer wrote.
Despite his violent history, seven of the nine cases were wrapped into a Sept. 24 plea agreement that gave the youth just two additional years in juvenile detention, records show.
Police records show that Werthwein’s staff is afraid of some of the inmates.
On Jan. 17, two staffers were breaking up a fight during a dodgeball game at Lookout Mountain, when Gregg Lamire Jones, born Oct. 21, 1995 and now 19, kicked, punched and gouged the right eye of a staff member as other inmates cheered him on to hurt staff, police reports say. Staff member Damon Carver told police he was “terrified” during the incident.
Xavier Lopez, born March 21, 1995 and now 19, attacked staff member Pete Yslava at the Lookout facility on Sept. 10, 2013, police reports say. Yslava, who suffered a concussion, told police he was reconsidering his career choice after the attack by the gang-affiliated inmate.
After banning seclusion as consequence for violence in July, juvenile detention staff primarily use Special Management Programs to control violent inmates. The programs are supposed to keep youths from others with whom they have problems, limit or exclude perks like watching TV and provide additional counseling. But the records obtained by Watchdog.org show SMPs don’t always stop violent behavior.
Lopez was on a SMP when he attacked Yslava, and the 16-year-old who attacked Nestel had just been removed after a year on an SMP, records show.
Drayer wrote that CDHS staff has to deal with youth who “come from troubled and often very violent pasts,” but other states have found alternative methods to control violent inmates.
In 11 states, judges can sentence an offender to youth corrections with the caveat that if he continues inappropriate or violent behavior he’ll be transferred to adult prison after turning 17 or 18.
Nine states also have lowered the age when a juvenile is automatically tried in adult court, according to a study from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Colorado Joint Budget Committee chairman and state Sen. Kent Lambert, a Colorado Springs Republican who has expressed repeated concerns about the facility in the Springs, said he isn’t even allowed to know about repeated offenders or what happens to them.
“They don’t give us the information because of privacy,” he said.
Werthwein said he is willing to look at how other states handle violent inmates, as well as other policy changes.
Editor’s note: This column was originally published Dec. 5. On Dec. 12, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act.
Page 1,163 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) states: “The land conveyed under this subsection shall be used only as a motocross, bicycle, off-highway vehicle, or stock car racing area, or for any other public purpose consistent with uses allowed under the Act of June 14, 1926 (commonly known as the ‘Recreation and Public Purposes Act’)…”
You may ask yourself: What in the world does this have to do with defending America against the numerous threats we face? The answer is: nothing. The NDAA, however, is the last appropriations train leaving Washington before the new Congress, and it is being slathered with all sorts of things that have nothing to do with the single most important job of the federal government—defending America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. This is a job all public officials pledge to carry out, and for Congress, it should begin with taking their responsibility to exercise the power of the purse seriously. Quite simply, that means using the NDAA to fund defense.
[Senator Tom Coburn is one leader who takes that responsibility seriously and has been finishing his service in the Senate strong, opposing the business-as-usual practice of stuffing goodies into the NDAA. Coburn is championing a defense authorization bill that is what it purports to be—a defense bill. Who will stand with him is the question.]
The aptly enumerated Title XXX of the NDAA (Natural Resources and General Related Provisions) contains over 450 pages of things—almost a third of the NDAA—that have nothing to do with ensuring our Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force are the best trained, equipped and cared for military in the world.
Advocates of the provisions that have nothing to do with this most crucial mission will tell you, “That’s the way we have always done it.” This, however, is exactly the problem, and one of the reasons voters replaced many in Congress last month. This is how we just hit $18 trillion in debt and counting. Among the many things inside this section that continue the endless expansion of the federal bureaucracy and federal footprint—more land locked up in restrictive wilderness, more parks, more Wild and Scenic Rivers, more National Heritage Areas and groundwork for a National Women’s History Museum—there may be things worthy of support. That, however, is beside the point. Title XXX does not belong in this legislation. If there are parts of it that merit Americans’ hard earned tax dollars, we should fund them through the right appropriation legislation, rather smuggling them (see examples below) onto the NDAA train.
Hermosa Creek in Colorado
TITLE XXX—NATURAL RESOURCES RELATED GENERALPROVISIONS
Sec. 3030. Addition of Ashland Harbor Breakwater Light to the Apostle Islands National Seashore.
Sec. 3031. Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park.
Sec. 3032. Coltsville National Historical Park.
Sec. 3033. First State National Historical Park.
Sec. 3034. Gettysburg National Military Park.
Sec. 3035. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, Maryland.
Sec. 3036. Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, Auburn, New York.
Sec. 3037. Hinchliffe Stadium addition to Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.
Sec. 3038. Lower East Side Tenement National Historic Site.
Sec. 3039. Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
Sec. 3040. North Cascades National Park and Stephen Mather Wilderness.
Sec. 3041. Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve.
Sec. 3042. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.
Sec. 3043. Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico.
Sec. 3044. Vicksburg National Military Park.
Sec. 3051. Special resource studies.
Sec. 3052. National heritage areas and corridors.
Sec. 3056. Commission to study the potential creation of a National Women’s History Museum.
Sec. 3060. Alpine Lakes Wilderness additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers protection.
Sec. 3061. Columbine-Hondo Wilderness.
Sec. 3062. Hermosa Creek watershed protection.
Sec. 3063. North Fork Federal lands withdrawal area.
Sec. 3064. Pine Forest Range Wilderness.
Sec. 3065. Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Management Area and wilderness additions.
Sec. 3066. Wovoka Wilderness.
Sec. 3067. Withdrawal area related to Wovoka Wilderness.
Sec. 3071. Illabot Creek, Washington, wild and scenic river.
Sec. 3072. Missisquoi and Trout wild and scenic rivers, Vermont.
Sec. 3073. White Clay Creek wild and scenic river expansion.
Sec. 3074. Studies of wild and scenic rivers.
Sec. 3095. Refinancing of Pacific Coast groundfish fishing capacity reduction loan.
Again, some provisions for national parks and battlefields could be good ideas. But good ideas aren’t usually tacked on to completely unrelated bills; that’s reserved for the stuff Congress doesn’t want you to see.
In this case, Congress is hiding a landgrab by the federal government. A quarter of a million acres will be designated “wilderness” and thus off limits for energy production and other industries. This affects Americans everywhere, especially those looking for jobs or praying for lower energy prices. They’ll be thrown under the bus because of this carve-out for radical environmentalists.
The federal government already directly owns nearly a third of American soil. If Congress wants to gobble up more, it should give us a chance for some real public debate; not bury it in unrelated defense bills to pander to special interests.
“The more is given the less the people will work for themselves,
and the less they work the more their poverty will increase.” Leo Tolstoi
To give or not to give, that is the question. If “to give” is the answer, then what should I give, how should I give it, and will it really benefit the recipients? Even God does only for mankind what we cannot do for ourselves. But the giving fever that grips the Western World during the Holidays sometimes makes us blind to the fact that giving too much can harm those who receive.
Most towns have dozens of organizations that provide food, clothes, and toys to families during the month of December. Some are stop-gap emergency providers for the homeless or stricken. But even though the poor will always be among us, the poor should not be a static population of perpetually dependent families and individuals. Most people have the capacity to cycle out of a poverty state.
School-based programs have, unfortunately, allowed parents to abdicate the basic responsibility of feeding their kids. Most school districts offer breakfast and lunch. Many offer dinner, summertime lunch programs and weekend meals. Free and reduced lunches are marketed to families because it opens the door to Federal “Title” funds. Schools and social services organizations encourage people to stay enter or linger in poverty because self-sufficiency shrinks the funds available for the impoverished. Think of it as a looping Ponzi scheme, forever growing the problem it was meant to solve.
There is a program in my town which provides food for children to take home on Friday purportedly, so they will not go hungry before they get their next meal at school. The children are not at fault. Some are hungry but most are victims of poor parenting. The schools, churches, and government programs that will kids, are enabling parental neglect on a massive scale. With little or no screening required, many of these freebie programs are rife with fraud and abuse.
The criminal presence of illegal aliens is rewarded big time during the Holidays by churches and other charities. Because of a fawning politically correct ethos of non-discrimination, entire communities of illegal alien families receive goodies far above and beyond the consideration given to needy citizens. Illegals openly defy the laws of this country, tax the social welfare programs they pay nothing into, and send a large percentage of their cash to other countries.
The Christian Spirit of Love must be tempered with wisdom. Those going through a rough spell because of unemployment, illness, divorce, disability, and other challenges outside of an individual’s control, surely are blessed by Holiday giving. But there is a vastly different mindset among those who come to expect, year in and year out, that someone else will be buying their Christmas goodies.
The shame associated with accepting “handouts” is long gone. Many welfare recipients work the system to use government cash payments as supplemental income so a lifestyle above what they should be able to afford can be maintained. How many of us have witnessed people who pay for groceries with EBT cards, load those tax-payer subsidized groceries into an, expensive, late-model vehicle?
So this is the essence of that burning Christmas question; To give, or not to give? Who benefits most from the giving of others? There is a spiritual cost to those who never know the satisfaction of self-reliance or earned success. Can there truly be freedom where there is no independence?
In making our plans for Christmas and the things we want to give, and to whom, it’s good to remember that we have all received the most generous offering of all, at no cost to us, from the open hands of The Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.
I bet you didn’t know how Santa helped win the Revolutionary War! Read on for the #TopFive Most Shocking Moments in the History of Christmas!
The “Green Pants Revolt”
5. Scientist will tell you that penguins are endemic to the Southern Hemisphere, but that’s not the whole truth. In 1827, penguins of all sorts were driven from the Arctic in what has come to be known as the “Green Pants Revolt.” Penguins were once found in dense populations at the North Pole, attributable in-part to Santa Claus’ daily deliveries of smelt, shrimp, and Cracker Jack (a penguin favorite) to the bustling colonies. The sleep-deprived elves, relegated to a scant 3 hours of sleep per night due to a rigorous schedule in the toy factory, complained to Santa that the squawking birds were keeping them up at night. Legend has it that Santa urged the elves to be patient until they could take their annual post-Christmas junket to Cancun, but the irritable elves had other plans. In a midnight raid the elves captured the penguins, boxed them up in chicken crates, and sent them, via slow boat, to Patagonia. And that, kiddies, is why there are no penguins at the North Pole.
No Forgiveness for Mrs. Claus?
4. What is the origin of Santa’s jolly “Ho, ho, ho?” The year was 1950 and a dauntless Arctic frontiersman named Yukon Cornelius passed through Christmas Town while filming a documentary titled, “Finding Bumble.” The ruggedly handsome Yukon Cornelius lodged in the guest house located on the grounds of the Claus manor. Finding the warm hospitality of Mrs. Claus irresistible, he stayed on as a gamekeeper. Tabloids of the day speculated that Santa and Mrs. Claus were experiencing marital problems, and that she found excitement and really great sex in the hairy arms of Yukon Cornelius, thus fomenting a scandal of polar proportions. Overcome by wanderlust following the Christmas rush, Cornelius packed up his video equipment and left in the dead of a January night. Mrs. Claus, heartbroken, and Santa, depressed and beset with eating disorders, sought marital counseling. It is believed that they made amends and renewed their vows in a Las Vegas ceremony, and that Santa’s jolly “Ho, ho, ho!” was heard for the first time in the days following the Claus/Cornelius affair. One must wonder, however, whether Santa’s “Ho, ho, ho” was the exclamation of a happy man, or the rumblings of a bitter old fellow who just couldn’t seem to forgive his wife for errors of the past.
3.The year was zero, and a caravan of nomadic Wise Men were traveling from the Orient, westward to the Mediterranean region then known as Judea. The organizers of the caravan, Hopscotch, Bindlestick, and Flapjacket, all wise kings from Eastern countries, rode patiently atop their dromedary beasts-of-burden for months. Following an exceedingly bright star that appeared night after night, they made their way toward the place where they believed they would find the King of Kings; the prophesied Son of God. Bindlestick’s camel, however, had an odious weekly ritual of announcing that it was Wednesday by repeating, “Guess what day it is…” and carrying on in a most annoying fashion until, near madness, one of the wise men would scream, “It’s Humpday!” Somewhere on the plains of Syria, Bindlestick’s camel met an unfortunate end when Hopscotch, having reached the end of his proverbial rope, choked the poor beast to death precisely at 11:59 p.m. on a Tuesday night. The Wise Men entered the land of Judea minus one camel, but having rescued their sanity.
Santa Psyops over Germany
2. The Allied Forces had invaded Europe and were beating back Hitler’s Army, and freeing millions from the oppression of the Nazis. It was the spring of 1945. But Hitler’s propaganda machine was still going strong and Germans felt confident that Der Fuehrer would win the war for the homeland. The American Office of Special Services (OSS) planned to conduct a massive psychological operation (psyops) in German cities and villages that would cause the people to question Hitler’s ability to lead them to victory. The OSS, the forerunner of today’s CIA, created pamphlets to be dropped from the skies over Germany, but conventional aircraft would be detected and possibly engaged by the enemy. A silent, nighttime drop was required, but there existed no airplane, at that time, sufficiently quiet to go undetected. Clive Weedle, a savvy young OSS agent from Humptulips, Washington, decided to give Santa Claus the call, and assign the dangerous mission to him and his intrepid team of flying reindeer. Santa, being a supporter of the Allied Forces and a freedom-loving patriot, accepted. During the dead of night in mid-April of 1945, in the silent skies over Germany, Santa, his team of flying reindeer, and three elves dropped, from an altitude of 1,500 ft., 20,000 pamphlets, complete with colorful illustrations, which said, “Hitler ist ein Daumenlutschen Transvestit!“ Translated: Hitler is a thumbsucking transvestite! History informs us that the devastating pamphlets dropped by Santa had a profound psychological effect upon the German people, especially those in Hitler’s inner circle. Just days after the Santa psyops pamphlet drop, Hitler killed himself inside a fortified bunker in the heart of Berlin. It is said that when his body was recovered, he was wearing a bra, panties, fishnet stockings, and pumps which belonged to his wife, Eva Braun.
Santa Claus at Valley Forge
1. Valley Forge served as quarters for George Washington’s Continental Army during the brutal winter of 1777. Despite the fact that most of Washington’s troops had been good little boys during the months before that terrible December, they were disqualified from Santa Claus’ delivery route because of age restrictions. But Santa was concerned about the fledgling republic for which the Americans were fighting and he wanted to help without breaking his own rules. George Washington, exhausted and disheartened by the unspeakable conditions at Valley Forge, took to the drink and was spending his hours lolling about, drunk, in the livery stables. Alarmed, Santa Claus took a sabbatical during the peak toy-making season, to fly down with a few trusted reindeer and have a heart to heart with the general. Concerned that the men would give up if their leader lost his hearty optimism and faith, Santa donned Washington’s uniform and sat in his stead for a few days. Santa tended to the men, and dined alongside them, eating their typical fare of cabbage and vinegar soup. The team of reindeer flew George Washington to Mount Vernon for a much needed weekend with Martha. Upon his return, Washington asked Santa Claus in what manner he could repay the kind deed. The story goes that Santa simply asked the sober and reinvigorated leader of the Continental Army to promise that once they had won independence for the colonies that he would establish a nation where people would be free to live their lives and produce lots, and lots of children. Santa then introduced the general to an old friend from Prussia, named Friedeich Von Steuben, who proved instrumental in Washington’s eventual victory over the British. George Washington took the tales of the secret meetings with Santa at Valley Forge to his grave, and the lone witnesses to the events, Martha Washington and General Von Steuben, provided only cryptic indications in their diaries about how Santa helped win the Revolutionary War.