Archive for June, 2010

The Definition of Insanity

Tuesday’s Kendall County Republican Club meeting featured a crime report from Republican Sheriff Roger Duncan. It reminded me of how fortunate we are to have elected (and re-elected) the 4th generation Texan to his post. He and his deputies provide a model for how a government agency can and should run.

The numbers speak for themselves. In all of Texas, a violent crime occurs every 4 minutes. In Kendall County, one occurs only every three days. In Texas, a property crime occurs every 33 seconds. In Kendall County, one occurs only every 44 hours. Undoubtedly, demographics play a part in these figures. But solid management and forward-thinking leadership do, too.

Sheriff Duncan brings an uncommon blend of experience and energy to the job. Thirty-one years with the Dallas Police Department equipped him for his current role. His high character provides an intrinsic desire to serve the people effectively and to manage their resources trustworthily.

Upon taking command in 2005, Sheriff Duncan hired a very capable chain of command to help him execute his vision for the office. Matthew King, Louis Martinez, Shad Prichard and Jim Bernarduci ably serve the sheriff and the people of Kendall County to this day.

Sheriff Duncan created a Citizens Advisory Board to facilitate communication and trust with the community. He also established a Citizens Academy to educate law-abiding citizens in the ways and workings of law enforcement. It boasts more than 150 graduates to date.

History is on Roger Duncan’s side. His great-great-great-uncle signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836. Roger’s love of and commitment to an orderly, independent Texas couldn’t run much deeper.

Roger’s and his wife Norma’s commitment to the Republican Party runs deep, as well. Norma serves as president of Kendall County Republican Women. The sheriff rarely misses one of her meetings or a meeting of the Kendall County Republican Club.

The sheriff told a story Tuesday night of an intersection of stupid criminals and smart law enforcement. His department had received several reports of motor vehicle burglaries (stealing contents out of a car) at Po-Po’s Restaurant.

So, his team staged a sting. They placed valuables in the front seat and a sheriff’s deputy in the back seat of a darkly tinted vehicle.

Before long, their suspects rolled up in the truck the officers had identified in a surveillance video. The bandits came first to the unmarked squad car. They smashed a window only to be greeted from the back seat by a uniformed deputy.

Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. But for Kendall County criminals with Sheriff Roger Duncan around, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting the same result.

The Blame Game

Stories don’t get much more tragic than last week’s news from an Arkansas campground. Twenty people died when a sudden nocturnal torrent swept their tents, campers and cars downstream. Several victims were small children. The vacation-turned-nightmare plot is the stuff of horror flicks.  
I felt deep grief for the survivors. I also couldn’t help but imagine who would get the blame for the catastrophe. The parks department? The campground host? The Weather Service? The Corps of Engineers? The tent makers?
The uncertainty of life is hard to swallow. Each day has equal opportunity for joy and sorrow. And when sorrow comes, especially to good people and for no obvious reason, it feels natural to medicate the pain with blame and revenge. It only takes a few pages of the biblical book of Genesis to see how instinctive blaming others can be. 
The blame game for the Gulf oil spill is in full swing. Some accuse BP of cutting corners. Others target the U.S. Minerals Management Service for cozying up to Big Oil. Still others blame the White House for a slow response. If I looked hard enough, I could probably even find an enviro-blogger blaming me for owning a fossil fuel-powered vehicle.
The blame game is a popular past-time in our litigious society. It’s easier to point a finger than to pick up a shovel. “To err is human,” so they say. “To blame it on someone else is even more human.”
As government dependence grows, the extent to which governments are blamed for disasters also increases. This is a shame for many reasons, among them this: Who will want to serve in an entity that has limitless culpability? Only the clinically insane and the maniacally egotistical, neither sound governors.
I don’t blame President Obama for the oil spill, though his political philosophy wants people to think that the federal government has the capacity to be responsible. Neither do I blame the Arkansas Parks Department for the deaths on the banks of the Missouri, though I do hope it improves warning systems.
Some incidents are bigger than our governments can handle, and thankfully so. Otherwise, we would all be living in covered, padded barracks under incessant safety supervision. Not exactly the life of freedom to which our founders aspired.
The chance of rain makes clear skies more enjoyable. Most Americans would take the prospect of unemployment over a mandated federal job. They’d take the potential of being uninsured over a uniform government-run health care system. They consider insurance a duly earned reward for work well done.
Where there is big government, there is big blaming. There are also fewer citizens rising to the occasion to solve problems and to meet needs. “Why?” they rationalize. “That’s the government’s job.” 
On the other hand, where government is limited, freedom expands, as does the ingenuity of a gifted people.

Kids Still Say the Darndest Things

TV host, author, lecturer and all-around inspiring individual, Art Linkletter, passed away last week. His 97 years should amaze us all.

The high points: Born to an unwed mother in central Canada in 1912. Orphaned shortly thereafter. Adopted by a shoe-repairing Baptist minister (“He saved souls/soles 7 days a week!” Linkletter would say). Graduated college. Married for 75 years (to the same woman!). Pioneered audience participation-based radio and TV variety shows.

Reality TV never had it so good.

In his best-selling book “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” Linkletter compiled the best of his impromptu conversations with children from his program “House Party.” In his honor, I offer some of my own kids’ darndest things. First, from our firstborn:

During the World Series last year between the Phillies and the Yankees, he said, “I’m going for the Yankees.” I asked why. “Because I don’t know what a Philly is and Yankees are soldiers.”

While unpacking Christmas ornaments, we came across a picture frame ornament that said, “First Christmas 2003” (the year he was born). I asked, “Guess who was born in 2003?” His answer: “Jesus?”

He asked me once if I knew how fast bullets go. “Eighteen million miles per hour,” he replied. I asked how he found that out. “Hadley told me. He learned it at school.”

He then asked if I knew know how many bad guys there are in the world. “Twenty,” he said. Again, I asked how he knew. “Luke told me. He read it in the newspaper.” I inquired as to how many bad guys there are in our town. “Two.” I wasn’t sure if I should feel relieved by the low absolute number or petrified by the high percentage of the total!

My wife asked him if he knew where cheese came from? She gave him a hint: “Mooooo.” His guess: “A moose?”

And when we told him we were going to have twins, his perceptiveness poured forth, “Oh man, that’s going to be a lot of work.”

Now, from our second son:

When he saw a crescent moon rising in the evening sky, he asked, “Is the moon broken?”

While fishing at a pond on a friend’s ranch, he walked down a few dozen feet to a grove of trees. When he came back up, I asked him what he saw. His calm and slightly snarly response: “Fierce animals.”

When I asked, “Who went tee-tee in the garage?” he instinctively passed the blame: “A skunk did.”

He refused to eat watermelon because “it has peas in it.” When I asked him to wash his hands before dinner, he reasoned, “But I’m going to use a fork.” And when I told him he was getting close to age 4, he retorted, “No, I’m not. I’m getting close to 6!” In other words, he wants to be just like his big brother.

And we should want to be like Art Linkletter: contagiously hopeful, fastidiously committed, promoting faith, health, decency and adoption. Enough of art imitating life. Let life imitate Art.

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