“Mission accomplished!” Then why are we still there?

The Ole Seagull is a conservative and voted for for George Bush twice but he is inclined to agree with Pat Buchanan’s December 27 World Net Daily Commentary entitled, ‘“Stay the course’ Is not enough.” Whether or not one agrees with our reasons for going to war why are our troops still bleeding and dieing after the mission was declared accomplished? This has to be one of the first wars on record where more people died after the war was over than during the war. Oh, that’s right; although the mission was accomplished the war goes on. Is it America’s roll in the world to try to impose its version of democracy on the rest of the world?

Is the NFL’s “pet” season fair to its fans and teams?

The victory of the St. Louis Rams over the Philadelphia Eagles on December 27 means something in the standings and, sadly, might actually get them into the playoffs at the expense of some other NFL team but in terms true NFL football, putting the best team available on the field, it is meaningless. As is the case in “pre” season football, the RAMS did not beat the best team the Eagles could put on the field. They beat the Eagles “playoff expendable team” (pet) which, for most of the game, if not all of the game in some cases, had healthy star players like running back Brian Westbrook, offensive tackle Tra Thomas and quarterback Donovan McNabb off the field saving them for the playoffs. How fair is that to teams like the Carolina Panthers, the fans, the RAMS, and what kind of message does it send to those players on the Eagles that are “expendable?” Shouldn’t the NFL at least charge a reduced rate for the “pet” games?

It’s what Payton Manning didn’t do that makes him what he is!

With less than a minute left in the game, Payton Manning threw a 21 yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley to break Dan Marino’s 20 year old record for the most touchdown passes in a season. Although the fans went crazy the game wasn’t stopped and there was no celebration on the field. Instead Manning indicated they were going the two point conversion, brought his team up to the line, handed the ball off to Edgerrin James who took it in for the two points that tied the game and enabled the Indianapolis Colts to go on to defeat the San Diego Chargers, 34-31 in overtime.

Why wasn’t the game stopped to honor this tremendous accomplishment? Because Manning had requested that the game not be stopped and to an Ole Seagull that tells more about why he is the champion and leader that he is than does that 49th record breaking touchdown.

Have more died from taking Vioxx or the importation of drugs from Canada?

A December 26 editorial piece appearing in the Springfield News Leader, entitled “In re-importation, government favors industry over patients” said “The federal government told Americans that Vioxx was safe. After nearly 28,000 people died or had heart attacks while taking it, the manufacturer pulled it from the market.” Is it possible that the drug industry made billions of dollars off this drug while thousands of those taking it were dieing and suffering from it?

It went on to point out that just last week “this same government said it could not vouch for the safety of drugs imported from Canada by consumers seeking to save money.” Is it possible that the drug industry stands to make billions of dollars more in profits if the importation of drugs from Canada is prohibited?

The federal agency responsible for both of these situations is the FDA. An Ole Seagull would bet that the records of the FDA indicate that a heck of a lot more people have died from taking Vioxx, an FDA approved drug, than have died from letting the consumer buy drugs from licensed pharmacies in Canada, “nearly 28,000” more.

The Christmas gift that keeps on giving

As we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus let us not forget that in the light of the Star of Bethlehem is the shadow of the cross. The “gift” of delivered that first Christmas was “opened,” some 30 odd years later at Calvary when, as He hung on the cross, His body bloody and beaten, Jesus said, “It is finished,” gave up his spirit, and died for our sins.

All that is left is to accept that “gift” because “God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” Jesus loved us, you and me, so much that He willingly gave His own life for us so that we would not perish but have eternal life.” Now to an Ole Seagull that’s the Christmas gift that keeps on giving.

“Never give in” reverses school policy against the Christmas colors

In the continuing effort to take “Christmas” out of “Christmas” in our nation’s schools, under the guise of separation of church and state, perhaps a small ray of hope has shown through. Recently, a law suit filed by Liberty Legal Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund in Federal Court on behalf of some of the parents of the Plano Independent School District in Texas alleging “religious hostility.” On December 16 the Federal Court granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the district. What was the TRO against? According to a December 15 article, entitled “Schools prohibit Christmas colors,” among other things the banning of the “the colors red and green from a ‘Winter Break Party,’ requiring parents to bring only white plates and napkins.”

To an Ole Seagull what’s exciting was that as soon as the lawsuit was filed the Plano Independent School District issued a “clarification” of the future applications of its policies. Can a reasonable person believe that anything would have changed if the parents had simply “given in” and had not had the conviction to file the lawsuit? As indicated in this situation, to keep all vestiges of Christianity from being removed from public life will require effort, sacrifice and the will to fight. Perhaps Winston Churchill said it best when he said, “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Does one wish someone “Happy Holidays” to celebrate Kwanzaa?

As an Ole Seagull sees it the answer is “No”. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the noun “Holiday” as either a “holy day” or “a day on which one is exempt from work; specifically : a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.”

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines “Kwanzaa” as “An African-American cultural festival, celebrated from December 26 to January 1.” In spite of what many people think Kwanzaa is not an ancient African celebration or tradition, it “is simply a time of reaffirming African-American people, their ancestors and culture.” that was founded in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga.

If one really wanted to convey good wishes to those celebrating Kwanza why not give them and what they are celebrating the honor and respect of calling it what it is and say “Happy Kwanza?” One could apply the same logic to wishing a Christian a “Merry Christmas” or those of the Jewish faith “Happy Hanukah.”

“Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” my foot, “Merry CHRISTmas!”

The “Grinch” never came any closer to stealing the true meaning of Christmas than has being “politically correct.” In recent years the traditional Christmas greeting of “Merry Christmas” has been changed to the “politically correct” terminology of “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.”

“But Seagull, you wouldn’t want to offend those who are celebrating Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or something else would you?”

“What’s to offend unless someone is looking for a reason to be offended?”

To an Ole Seagull, it appears that if anyone should be offended it is the vast majority of Americans to whom the celebration of Christmas is so significant and special. Those who want to preserve the history and tradition of the “Christmas” that the U.S. Congress designated as a legal holiday on June 26, 1870.
What do “Happy Holidays,” and “Seasons Greetings,” have in common with “_ _ _ _ _ _ mas?” They leave “Christ” out. So what? What does Christ have to do with the celebration of Kwanza, Hanukkah, Santa Claus, presents, office parties, red nosed reindeer, decorating trees, wreaths, holly, sleigh bells, retail sales, booze, and feasting? Not much.

What does Christ have to do with CHRISTmas? Everything! Without Christ there can be no CHRISTmas. There can be a holiday, a season, festivals, and religious observations of every persuasion but, without Christ there can be no CHRISTmas, in either fact or spirit. One cannot even say or spell the word “CHRISTmas,” let alone explain its actual history, meaning or origins, as it is celebrated in the United States, without Christ.

The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia states that Christmas is “Christ’s Mass in the Christian calendar, the feast of the nativity of Jesus.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “Christmas” as “A Christian feast commemorating the birth of Jesus.” Jesus who? Jesus, the Christ Child, the only begotten Son of God, born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.

First there was Jesus Christ and because of Christ there is the celebration of His birth, CHRISTmas. Secular customs and traditions have developed since; but, first there was Christ.

Even the greatest current secular symbol, the “Ho, Ho, Ho” jolly old Santa Claus seen everywhere during the Christmas season, was first made popular in New York during the 19th century. And before that the European traditions of “Sinterklaas,” and Saint Nicholas can be traced back hundreds of years; but, first there was Christ.

Why, there are even some who would try to replace the bright guiding light of the Star of Bethlehem with the red glow of the nose of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Rudolph’s nose has been guiding Santa’s sleigh since 1939 when Robert May wrote a verse for a Montgomery Ward promotional comic book. In the late 1940’s his brother-in-law adapted the verse and used it in the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer;” and the cowboy crooner, Gene Autry, made Rudolph famous but, first there was Christ.

When someone says “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings,” rather than “Merry Christmas,” those wanting to share the gift of CHRISTmas could ask, “What Holiday?” or “What Season?” What better way to create or reinforce an awareness of the “reason for the season,” that very first CHRISTmas when “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life?”

If we keep the spirit of the Christ Child and His love in our hearts and share it with others, CHRISTmas, in its truest sense, will be with us everyday of the year, Merry CHRISTmas folks, Merry CHRISTmas.

A branding study, a promise, and Branson’s future

At a time when other tourism destination cities, particularly coastal destinations, are recovering from the effects of 9/11 Branson appears to be, at best, level with its percentage of first time visitors continuing in a downward trend to critical levels. In an Ole Seagulls opinion, every person living in Branson and Taney County has a vested interest in reversing that trend because if it continues, and the sales tax revenues received from tourism drop enough, the residents of the City of Branson and Taney County will, one way or another “pay” to make up the difference.

“Whoa there a minute Seagull, is that a threat or scare tactic?”

“No, it’s the reality of the situation.”

Recently, the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce issued a report on the “branding study” that was conducted at their request and funded by the City of Branson. It pointed out that those who actually come to Branson are impressed with what Branson has to offer “great shows, beautiful outdoor environment, a wide range of attractions for young and old and all at a great price.”

“Ok, that’s the good news, what’s the bad news?”

“There are a lot of people that will not come to Branson because they have the perception that Branson is “out-of-date country and western shows and nothing else.”

The study refers to these people as “Resistors.” The scary thing is that not only are these people a large part of the “first time” visitors that Branson needs but they are so sure they are right that they don’t know they are wrong. The challenge is to show them why they should come to Branson and when they get here show them why they made the right decision to come.

“Did the study say that Branson must change its image, shows, entertainment, or culture to attract them?”

“Absolutely not, what it said was that the perception of the Resisters, as to what they believe Branson is, has to be changed to accurately reflect the reality of what Branson has to offer.”

In fact it indicates that Branson’s tourism product, as it has evolved and is continuing to evolve, has the right combination of factors to satisfy the needs of both the loyal visitors, who have been coming to Branson for years, as well the Resisters. The challenge is to show the Resisters enough about what Branson actually has to offer so that their perceptions will change.

Although, the study said, “it’s never easy to change perceptions through marketing,” it is clear that Branson will not attract the Resisters without showing them that Branson is “more than they expect.” To reach the “critical mass” required to change their erroneous perceptions in a given market will require increased marketing costs. The study recommends that this be done on a market by market basis as funding permits.

Interestingly enough the study showed that the number one thing that people identified with Branson was “values.” It’s a term that means different things to different people but we all know it when we see it. In an attempt to capture the unique character and values of Branson, the study developed “The Branson Promise“.

Although, the study states that “values” and The Branson Promise alone are unlikely to change a Resisters perception, it is obvious that they will play an important part in not only that change but in the experience that both loyal visitors and Resisters will have while in Branson.

“But Seagull it’s only a bunch or words.”

“No, it’s a promise, the creation of an expectation, which if fulfilled in the Branson experience of each visitor can ensure the future success of Branson.”

To an Ole Seagull, The Branson Promise and the commitment of every person who interfaces with our visitors to ensure its fulfillment is what will make Branson unique from all other tourist destinations. It is that “something” that they will want to experience again, that very “something” that a lot of us experienced when we first visited Branson and the reason why Branson is now our home.

Can a school teach the history of the National Holiday called CHRISTmas without mentioning Christ?

It’s interesting to note that Bill of Rights Day is December 15. Being celebrated this close to Christmas perhaps it would be appropriate to stop and reflect on an article appearing in the December 6, Chicago Tribune. The article reported that “When children who attend the McHenry County school gathered in the gym last week to brighten friends and parents with holiday cheer, they sang of lighting candles for Hanukkah, gave their rendition of a Jamaican folk song and even did their lists for Santa. But their songs never mentioned Christ or the Christmas story–an omission that drew swift criticism from Christian groups pushing public schools to remember the meaning of Christmas.”

It’s truly an amazing thing how people have used the courts of this nation to prostitute the words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. How can any reasonable person use these simple words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” to prohibit the singing of “Silent Night” or any other Christmas carol as part of the educational process relating to what Christmas in America. Is not “Christmas” the very name that the Federal and most state governments have given to the holiday that is universally celebrated in this country each December 25? How do the schools teach the true history of this national holiday without at least mentioning Christ?