The Ole Seagull

Is lack of traffic on Branson’s Highroad due to a conspiracy or irrelevance?

Posted in Branson,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the November 29th, 2009

A recent column entitled “Seagulestions’ on the Highroad and Branson Landing show things haven’t changed much,” published in this paper and on line at www.OleSeagull.Com” made comparisons to the political environment in which the Ozark Mountain Highroad (Highroad) and Branson Landing were authorized to be built. In the case of the Highroad, then governor Ashcroft used a power that, according to published reports, had never been used before to authorize building the Highroad on a priority basis to relieve traffic congestion in downtown Branson.

The road, named the “Ozark Mountain High Road” is Missouri State Highway 465. It runs seven miles southwest from its northern terminus with Highway 65 north of Branson to its southwestern terminus with Highway 76 just east of Silver Dollar City. Locally the road is referred to under various names including “Pete’s Pike,” out of respect for all the effort Peter Herschend, one of the owners of Silver Dollar City made to get the road built, “Silver Dollar Highway” for obvious reason and “Maytag Repairman Way” because people traveling on it are normally as lonely as the Maytag repair man.

When the column was posted on the Ole Seagull’s Forum on the “1Branson.Com” message board, one of the Posters, Hunters Friend said, “All joking aside, Gary should now be able to at least understand the issue is not the highroad, but rather Branson’s enormous (and successful) attempts to hide its existence”. It’s actually kind of funny, a lot of folks, including The Ole Seagull, believe there was a political conspiracy to get the Highroad built initially and now there’s an allegation of a conspiracy about “Branson’s enormous (and successful) attempts to hide its existence.”

In his initial response The Ole Seagull said, “Is there just the possibility that the low use of the Highroad is more dependent on the fact that most people coming to Branson are staying in Branson proper and that the Highroad doesn’t help get them to their hotels or the majority of the other places they might want to go? How does the Highroad help get someone [those people already in Branson], to Branson Landing, Branson’s Theatre district, Titanic, major shopping malls, downtown, etc.”

Hunters Friend supported his conspiracy theory with a series of maps published by Branson businesses that, for the most part, are intended to be handed out to people already in Branson. These maps either don’t show the Highroad or show it to his satisfaction. Hunter’s Friend kind of summed it up by saying, “All of these are fairly pathetic, but I still maintain that the Best Read Guide’s attempt to bury the highroad is the best I have seen. 5 foldout pages and in the uppermost left-hand corner is a smidgen of a line for 465. Pathetic and comical all at the same time.”

The Ole Seagull responded, “The Ole Seagull doesn’t find the maps either pathetic or comical. He finds them filled with relevant information that most Branson visitors would want to use to get from place to place while they are in Branson. It is his personal opinion that the Highroad doesn’t show on most of the local Branson Maps for the same reason Highway 86 and 13 aren’t shown; it is irrelevant for most Branson visitors.”

Interestingly, although the two threads have garnered over 100 comments and 2065 views since being posted, no one, not one person has answered the Ole Seagulls original questions on the initial rational for building the Highroad, “Precisely how much has the building of the Highroad done for lowering the amount of traffic on Highway 76 or downtown Branson? Why would any business person, theatre, shop or restaurant owner on Highway 76, with half of an ounce of brains, want less traffic on Highway 76 in the mid 1990s or now?” While we are at it maybe one more would be appropriate, “Do you believe there is a Branson conspiracy to hide the existence of the Highroad?

Thanksgiving is all about to whom the “Thanks” is “given!”

Posted in General,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the November 22nd, 2009

This annual Thanksgiving reprint is a wish from the Bthe Ole Seagull and the entire Groman family that you and yours will have a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving.

Common sense tells an Ole Seagull that something celebrated as “Thanksgiving Day” should be a day of “giving thanks.”  Generally speaking, who among us says “thank you” to “no one?” When thanks is given it is for something and is “given” to the person or entity believed to have provided that something.

Yet, even as some would take “CHRIST” out of CHRISTmas they would take the “Giving” out of Thanksgiving. To whom are we giving thanks? From Coronado’s 1541 Thanksgiving in Palo Duro Canyon, in what is now West Texas, through the 1600 Puritan Thanksgivings in New England, history testifies to the fact that our modern day Thanksgiving is rooted on giving thanks to God for blessings bestowed.

The true meaning of “Thanksgiving,” and its involvement with the very foundation of our Nation can be readily gleaned from the Proclamations establishing it and history itself. One of the “First Thanksgiving Proclamations,” issued in 1676, by the Governing Council of Charlestown, Massachusetts proclaimed, “a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favor …”

On December 18, 1777, after the victory over the British at Saratoga, the Congress recommended, “That at one time, and with one voice, the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgements and offerings they may join the penitent confession of their sins; and supplications for such further blessings as they stand in need of.”

On November 16, 1789, the First President of the United States, George Washington, issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation stating, “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to ‘recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many single favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Perhaps Abraham Lincoln, in his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation said it best. “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things.  They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.  It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.  I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

Particularly at this time in our Nation’s history, it would seem appropriate, during our Thanksgiving celebrations, to stop and give “thanks” to Almighty God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon this Nation and its people. As Lincoln so beautifully said, “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God.”

Ouch and sorry, but our Forefathers didn’t prohibit Nativity scenes on public land, prayer in school, etc.

Posted in General,Government,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the November 15th, 2009

In a recent “Letter to the Editor,” published in the Taney County Times, Bill Stephenson of Kirbyville said, “Both Betty Edwards and Gary Groman [a.k.a. the Ole Seagull] recently opined that my and everyone else’s children should be taught in our public schools to be Christians according to what I must suppose is their personal interpretation of what that means.” As to Stephenson’s assertion that the Ole Seagull wrote that his “and everyone else’s children should be taught in our public schools to be Christians according to what I must suppose is their personal interpretation,” put in its kindest light, the Ole Seagull would suggest that Stephenson is inaccurate.

In a recent column entitled, “An Ole Seagull’s ‘Separation of Church and State 101” The Ole Seagull stated “his basic belief that the ‘created’ have no power or authority to change the laws of the ‘Creator.’” He continued, “The created either follow the laws of the Creator or don’t and must live with the result(s)”

The word “school” was mentioned in the column twice, the first being in connection with a rhetorical question and its answer. The question was, “If the U.S. Constitution, the document upon which our government is based, says there should be no prayer in schools, no nativity scenes on public property, that the Ten Commandments cannot be displayed in public buildings, Christmas should be called ‘Winter Solstice,’ etc., shouldn’t that be the law of the land?” The immediate answer was “Absolutely, and if a frog had wings it should be able to fly but a frog doesn’t have wings and the Constitution contains no such language!”

The second mention of the word “school” was contained in the following paragraph, “Can any reasonably thinking person really believe that the same Congress that encouraged the ‘people of the United States’ to acknowledge ‘with grateful hearts the many single favors of Almighty God,’ intended that the First Amendment they had proposed, not two months prior, be used as a tool to take prayer out of schools, remove the ten commandments from the walls of all public buildings etc.? It flies in the face of logic.”

It really takes a special thought process to get from those two paragraphs, or anything else in the column, to the point of saying the Ole Seagull wrote that Stephenson’s “and everyone else’s children should be taught in our public schools to be Christians according to what I must suppose is their personal interpretation of what that means.” From an Ole Seagull’s perspective, as illustrated in the instant situation, the results from that type of process are based on “A fountain bubbling over with misinformation.”

And the “bubbling over with misinformation” doesn’t stop there. Stephenson goes on to say, “Our nations forefathers knew this was a problem too. Who could they possibly appoint to determine what must be taught, and how?… The only right answer to religious teaching is for government to stay out of it. Completely out of it. So they addressed it in the very first amendment to our Constitution with this law of our land: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Wow, so that was the rational for the first amendment? That’s the first time the Ole Seagull has ever heard that rational expressed and, for what it matters, in an Ole Seagull’s opinion it is about as valid as what Stephenson said the Ole Seagull wrote.

As originally written and specifically stated, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits “Congress,” from making a law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Who does it apply to, local school districts, cities, states, counties” or “Congress?”

Isn’t that the same Congress defined in Section 1 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution? Some might ask, “How did we get from a prohibition against the Congress of the United States doing something down to local government entities, taking prayer out of local schools, removing the Ten Commandments from city buildings, or prohibiting the display of Nativity scenes on public land or a public prayer at a meeting or football game? Come to think of it, why does it make any difference? One thing is for sure though; if that was the intention of our Nations Forefathers it was well hidden and not adhered to for well over the first 100 years of our Nation’s history.

An Apology for Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Posted in General,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the November 8th, 2009

Dedication: The republication of this evolving tribute is respectfully dedicated to the Branson entertainment industry for its steadfast support and honoring of America’s Veterans, active duty Military personnel and their families.

It is a sad fact of life that the politicians, and those in power, start wars and that the people of the nations involved bleed, die, suffer, and otherwise pay the price of war. Even in today’s world of terrorist attacks, as the people of countries or ideologies make war on each other they fall into two general categories, “Military” and “Civilian.” The “Military,” the fighters, generally kill each other and the civilians they believe are making war on them, the old fashioned way, directly, with bullets, rockets and bombs either delivered directly, by suicide bomber, plane, drone, etc. History testifies to the fact that they, and the civilians their actions impact on, are generally the first to bleed, suffer, and die.

The Civilians of warring nations provide the means for the military to kill each other and the bodies to replace those that are killed or maimed. History records that the bullets, bombs, torpedoes, planes, ships and other implements of war, used by Japan, to destroy the peace at Pearl Harbor and by America, to reestablish that peace in WW II, were made by civilians.

Prior to December 7, 1941 there was peace between the United States and Japan. At approximately 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, while Japanese diplomats were in the process of negotiating to maintain that peace with Secretary of State Cordell Hull in Washington, DC, and without warning, the country of Japan shattered that peace by spilling American blood in a cowardly surprise attack on the United States Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The attack killed over 2,400 and wounded over 1,175. On Monday December 8, 1941 President Roosevelt went before Congress and declared December 7, 1941 as, “A date that will live in infamy.” Congress declared war against Japan on that date.

Upon the death of President Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, over three years and 200,000 American lives later, Harry S. Truman, became the 33rd President of the United States. He was a Missourian known for honesty and one of the most respected politicians of his time. The war in Europe was over and the Axis Powers of Italy and Germany had been defeated. All that remained between war and peace was the fanatical and kamikaze like resistance of the Japanese people and their army of over 2,500,000. In spite of the repeated warnings to surrender and that the alternative “was complete and utter destruction,” Japan refused to surrender and continued to fight.

Truman had served as an Artillery Officer in France during World War I and, prior to becoming President, was not aware of the “Manhattan Project” and its Atom Bomb. His advisors estimated the war could be shortened by a year and that 1 million Allied casualties, 500,000 of them American lives, could be saved if the Atomic Bomb was used on Japan. He decided that enough American blood had been spilled in trying to reestablish the peace that Japan had shattered. Truman said, “Let there be no mistake about it, I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used.”

At approximately 9:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, after repeated warnings for Japan to surrender, the Atomic Bomb was dropped from the “Enola Gay” on Hiroshima. In spite of the horrific carnage and destruction that resulted Japan did not capitulate. On August 9, 1945, another Atomic Bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Japan sued for peace the next day and the formal surrender papers were signed, on the deck of the Battleship U.S.S. Missouri, on September 2, 1945. Peace had been restored.

Some say America owes Japan an apology for using the Atomic Bomb. The lives sacrificed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved many times the lives, Japanese, American, as well as others, that would have been spent if the war had continued. Without Pearl Harbor and the refusal of Japan to end the war that they had started, not only would there have been no Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but millions of people, Japanese as well as others, would not have died. If the people of Japan are due an apology it more appropriately should come from their own government.

Some say that Japan owes us an apology for Pearl Harbor. No apology can undo history, the treacherous cowardice of that attack, or bring back the lives that were lost. Rather than seek useless insincere apologies let us thank God that the nuclear power used to end a terrible war, has never been used in war since. At the end of the day, the blood of her sons, and ours, staining the sands of remote Pacific Islands such as Peleliu, Okinawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and others, solemnly testify to the futility of such an apology.

“Seagulestions” on the Highroad and Branson Landing show things haven’t changed much

Posted in Branson,Opinion by The Ole Seagull on the November 1st, 2009

A recent headline in this paper, “Financial reports show decreases across the board” got the Ole Seagull thinking about history, the present and the future. As he did so what came to mind is the old adage “The more things change the more they stay the same.” To illustrate his thoughts on these issues he is going to use the power of the “Seagulestion,” a rhetorical Seagull question that he thinks he knows the answer to, but is not as positive as he would like to be as to the answer.

The first paragraph of the story reports, “Monthly reports reflected a 9.3 percent decline in sales tax revenues for August as bond payments on the Branson Landing exceed revenues.” Hey that’s good news because it indicates the city is getting revenues from its investment in Branson Landing. Would someone from the city send out a press release explaining in plain English, that most of us could understand, a clear precise list and explanation of exactly what revenues are generated from the Branson Landing that the city is getting and can use for its day to day operations?”

In like manner, it would be helpful if the city of Branson could publish a list of the precise expenditures it makes on an annual basis regarding Branson Landing for both operations and bond and other debt retirement. Hey, while they are at it why don’t they come up with a simple one page report that the normal citizen can look at and determine how much more, or less, the city is paying than they are taking in from Branson Landing?

Other “Seagulestions” come to mind. How much of the city of Branson’s city retail sales taxes collected at Branson Landing can actually be used by the city for current city operational costs? What percentage of the city’s Tourism Tax, the one where 75% goes for infrastructure and its operation and maintenance and 25% for the marketing of Branson, collected at Branson Landing does the city actually get to use for those purposes?

Were the citizens of Branson ever told by a past City Administrator in a public meeting that the city would have no legal responsibility to pay anything on the TIF Bonds should revenues from the project not be sufficient to do so? But wait, weren’t the citizens of Branson all a glitter in the mid 90’s about how the Highroad should be built on an emergency basis to help eliminate the traffic in downtown Branson and on Highway 76?

Now here’s a couple “Seagulestions” for the ages, “Precisely how much has the building of the Highroad done for lowering the amount of traffic on Highway 76 or downtown Branson? Why would any business person, theatre, shop or restaurant owner on Highway 76, with a half of an ounce of brains, want less traffic on Highway 76 in the mid 1990s or now?

Maybe someone from the city, even though they were not the ones who put the city in its current situation, could explain why the article appears to be reporting that the city has an obligation to cover the shortfall on the bond payments and how we got from having no responsibility to pay anything on the TIF bonds to this point? On the other hand, at the end of the day it isn’t going to make a lot of difference, like the Highroad before it, those who have the power and influence will continue to do what they want when they want and the rest of us should just keep our mouths shut and be thankful. “Yup, the more things change the more they stay the same.”