Bill O’Reilly: The War on Christmas Spirit

Photo courtesy of Chris Walton / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Chris Walton / Flickr

Anyone offended by public displays of Christmas needs to see a psychiatrist. Are we clear on this? You are a loon if the sight of baby Jesus arouses anger or sadness in you. Get help.

This brings us to the governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee. He recently told me on national television that the reason he will not use the word “Christmas” in describing the state Christmas tree is that the word might offend non-Christians. The governor calls the state-purchased symbol a “holiday tree.”

My reply to the governor was that by excluding the word “Christmas,” he might be offending the 73 percent of Americans who describe themselves as Christian, not to mention the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide. Chafee chafed when he heard that but had no answer.

And then the governor did a very interesting thing: He announced the lighting of the “holiday tree” in Providence a full 30 minutes before the cord was plugged in. Very few Rhode Islanders even knew about the tree lighting because it was done so surreptitiously. Chafee did that because he feared protestors would do what they did last year: sing Christmas carols at the lighting. And we can’t have that, now, can we?

Jon Stewart and his merry band of elves will tell you that the so-called “War on Christmas” is a figment of the imagination, perhaps a result of indigestion after eating too much holiday pudding. Stewart’s posture is similar to what Ebenezer Scrooge put forth when the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come told him he was bound for hell. I am channeling Charles Dickens to see whether the ghost can visit Stewart on Christmas Eve. I’ll let you know what happens.

There is something to the argument that there are more important things to worry about than whether people like Christmas. But the assaults against the national holiday are annoying, unnecessary and often disrespectful. I mean, here’s how bad it is in this country: A pastor in Arkansas canceled a play called “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown” because some nutty atheist objected to public school kids seeing it on church grounds. So Charlie, Snoopy and Linus were thrown under the bus by a Christian cleric. Good grief!

For all of you separation-of-church-and-state fans, here’s the deal: Jesus of Nazareth was a man. In fact, he was the most influential person ever born. A third of the world’s population has signed on to the Christian edicts: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. That sounds like a good thing.

So, when President Grant honored Jesus by signing into law the national holiday of Christmas in 1870, the nation certified that a positive message of generosity and peace was worthy of a day off. Pretty much everybody was on board.

But not today. In our current state, the Thomas More Law Center has to litigate against attacks on Christmas every year. Anti-religion zealots put up billboards in Times Square denouncing Christmas as a “myth.” Rabid secularists bridle at any mention of Jesus or his nice mom and dad.

To them I say: Peace on Earth and tough. You don’t like the federal holiday? Try to rescind it. Start with our pal Lincoln Chafee. See how far you get with that.

And by the way, Merry Christmas to all. Even you loons.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Bill O’Reilly: Merry Christmas, 1913

Photo of this Furby Boom courtesy of Hope Farm Soho / Flickr

Photo of this Furby Boom courtesy of Hope Farm Soho / Flickr

One hundred years ago in America, Christmas was a mighty different situation. Based on newspaper reports, MyHeritage.com recently put together a list of the most-asked-for gifts by children who lived back then. Here are the top five requests:

—Candy.

—Nuts.

—Rocking Horse.

—Doll.

—Mittens.

It’s a modest list, to say the least, but reflective of a time that was far less complicated than society is today. Now, kids rule in many homes. And Santa is under siege.

This year, the top five kid-wants according to retailers are:

Furby Boom.

—Teksta Robotic Puppy.

—LeapPad Ultra.

—Flutterbye Flying Fairy.

—Big Hugs Elmo.

Let’s begin with Furby. This is a robot toy that resembles an owl. The “all new” Furby has a mind of his own and can interact with the tykes. Let’s hope Furby isn’t a member of the Hells Angels.

The Teksta puppy is allegedly just like a real dog except there is no bathroom component. Teksta will dance and respond to your hand gestures — not including the middle finger. The puppy can even perform back flips that will amuse and amaze. I guess.

The LeapPad Ultra is yet another high-tech gizmo that will hypnotize your child. It’s a tablet that kids can write on, as well as summon apps, videos and games. If your child isn’t an Internet zombie by now, he or she will be once the LeapPad gets inside the house.

The Flutterbye Flying Fairy is marketed toward little girls and, according to the manufacturer, puts “enchanting” fairy flights directly in the hands of the child. There’s never been a more magical experience, says the toymaker. Obviously, they’ve never been to a Metallica concert.

And finally, the Big Hugs Elmo toy moves his arms to return hugs, plays songs, dances with your children and might even kick in toward their college education. Elmo is for both girls and boys and is capable of making more than 50 animated sounds. If that sounds like your Uncle Vinny, it’s a coincidence.

The cost of these toys is substantial, and you’d better have an engineering degree if something goes wrong. The high-tech dog is especially interesting, conjuring up all kinds of horror movie possibilities. Don’t tell me the toys don’t have chips in them that can be activated by some crazy scientist in Bavaria. No way this thing is getting inside my house. I already have a dog named Fiona who would attack the bogus dog on sight.

For my money, I think toys are too complicated these days. I like the rocking horse and toy train scenario. But if I gave those things to my kids, their response would be somewhere between the Bay of Pigs and Woodstock — a lot of angst and chaos.

Luckily, Santa Claus has adapted, and his new high-tech sleigh and reindeer have him finishing his rounds in Guam long before dawn. But don’t mention the Flying Fairy to old St. Nick. He’s not into competition.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Bill O’Reilly: 57 Channels and There’s Nothing On

Photo courtesy of Daniel Y. Go

Photo courtesy of Daniel Y. Go

Marketing surveys now show that when Americans come home from work, more folks turn on their computers than their television sets. That is a first.

The reason is twofold: First, you can create your own world on your PC, and second, TV is awful. Flat-out awful. For years, television has been losing viewers because the product, generally speaking, has collapsed.

Reality TV has destroyed the tube. Cheap, mindless shows featuring people who should be deported rule the airwaves. Don’t believe me? Well, TV Guide recently listed reality TV’s most startling moments. The choices are indeed startling.

Among them is Marie Osmond fainting on “Dancing with the Stars.” That was unforgettable, was it not? All 10 of her siblings attempted to resuscitate her.

Laurie has a breast-baring meltdown on a program called “She’s Got the Look.” I don’t know who Laurie is, but I believe she may be overexposed. Or something.

Rebecca gets dentures on “Breaking Amish.” I am not fabricating this. I didn’t even know that the Amish broke anything. Hopefully, Rebecca can clean the dentures without electricity. At least she’s in better shape than Laurie.

An Elvis impersonator is overwhelmed by memorabilia on the show “Hoarders.” I missed that. I’m sorry.

Tom DeLay dances to “Wild Thing” on “Dancing with the Stars.” That was why Marie Osmond fainted.

“The Osbournes” examining the aftermath of Ozzy’s ATV accident. Does it get any better than that? Does it?

Kim Kardashian weds Kris Humphries on “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding.” This was the nadir. An untalented but ambitious woman marrying a young basketball player and then divorcing him about 20 minutes later. And the guy got hurt. So why are people watching that? Disturbing question.

Monica Lewinsky hosts “Mr. Personality.” This was an actual TV show. Insert your joke here.

On a show called “The Surreal Life,” the guy who played Mini Me in an Austin Powers movie rides a scooter naked. Why didn’t Kim Kardashian think of that?

The “Queer Eye” guys go nude. Did they have scooters, as well? I honestly don’t know.

Michelle Obama appears on “The Biggest Loser.” This is a weight loss program, not the Republican Convention.

And finally, chef Gordon Ramsay “fat-shames” a “Hell’s Kitchen” contestant. All I can say is that Jackie Gleason would have taken Ramsay out.

So it is beyond dispute that television is in deep trouble. These reality shows make “Gilligan’s Island” look like “Macbeth.” They are like unspeakable zombies destroying the entire structure of the television industry.

Thank God PBS is still on the air. But even here there is some worry. Elmo has been seen hanging with the Kardashians. It’s just a matter of time until someone gets engaged.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Bill O’Reilly: The Technology of Nature

Photo courtesy of Robert Huffstutter / Flickr

Photo courtesy of Robert Huffstutter / Flickr

ANGUILLA, British West Indies — So here’s the setting: the warm azure water of Maundy’s Bay sliding up and down bright soft sand. In the distance, the islands of St. Maarten and Saba can be seen. The blue sky above is dotted with huge white clouds that bob along propelled by a warm breeze. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Yet on the beach, some human beings barely look up at the incredible vista. Their machines envelope them like Venus flytraps. They are texting, emailing and chatting with folks somewhere else on Earth.

Welcome to our brave new world.

H.G. Wells wrote a book called “The Time Machine,” in which most humans were reduced to a trance-like existence, ruled by bad guys called Morlocks. You should read this book, because we are rapidly heading in that direction. By the way, the Morlocks were cannibals.

Texting is addictive. Once you get emotionally involved with constant external stimulation assaulting your brain, it is hard to stop looking at your machine every two minutes. Without rapid-fire words appearing on a screen, you feel bored, not part of the action. It really doesn’t matter what is being sent to you; the fact that words are flashing in front of your eyes is hypnotizing.

Kids are the most vulnerable to the embrace of the machines. Children today don’t really watch TV anymore. I mean, they still sit in front of the set, but they are texting while they’re watching. They are multitasking. Thus, their concentration is divided and much is missed, and not only on the tube, but also in life.

Nature is a brilliant teacher. But how can you learn if you can’t even sit on a beautiful beach without playing with a machine? Forget about thinking. No time for introspection. Nope. There are messages that have to be answered. Stuff is happening and must be acknowledged.

There is no question that communication and information flow are enhanced by the high-tech gizmos. Instantly, we can engage anyone in the world if we have their cyberspace information. But again, if we allow the machines to dominate us, we will miss out on real life, which, in order to be fully absorbed, needs to be seen and heard. Machine distractions prevent that.

When I tell children that they are far too dependent on their gizmos, they do not deny it, but they really don’t care. This is their real life: texting about trivial things, listening to numbing music on their private headphones. The machines block everything out; you create your own little trivial world.

Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I concur. The world is a fascinating, difficult place, and in order to take full advantage of what the planet has to offer, we need to see and hear natural things.

That is if you don’t want the Morlocks to get you.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Bill O’Reilly: Is the U.S. Going the Way of the French?

french-cafeReaders of The New York Times must have been confused the other day when the paper ran an article titled “Under Strain, France Examines Its Safety Net.”

Because the Times is ultra-liberal on its editorial page — pretty much advocating every entitlement possible — the hard news story seemed somewhat out of place. It chronicled the enormous benefits that French citizens receive. Paid child care, free higher education, free health care, a mandatory five weeks of paid vacation, monthly government payments for each child, two years of government-paid unemployment insurance, generous pensions — the list is endless.

But there is huge trouble in the socialist paradise. Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin wrote this: “The spiraling costs of cradle-to-grave social welfare programs have all but exhausted the French government’s ability to raise the taxes necessary to pay for it all, creating growing political problems for President Francois Hollande, a Socialist. … Investors are shying away from the layers of government regulation and high taxes.”

The French economy is stalled because employers must pay 48 percent of every worker’s salary to the government. That means that for every $1,000 a hotel clerk receives in gross pay, another $480 goes from the hotel to Paris. So fewer jobs are created and more French people are unemployed because employers get hammered when they hire anyone.

But that’s OK for many over there. Rubin’s article quotes an unemployed guy named Louis Paris: “You cannot take away guns from Americans, and in the same way you cannot take away social benefits from French people. They won’t stand for it.”

There are about 66 million people living in France; about 314 million reside in the USA. Yet the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama want to create a French-style nanny state here despite the evidence that France is falling apart economically. Does that make any sense?

And how can an ultra-liberal newspaper such as The New York Times continue to advocate a nanny state when its hard-news pages are full of stories about Greece, Italy, France and other countries in dire economic trouble because of entitlement debt?

The answer lies in crazy ideology. Some liberals (and conservatives on other matters) are so committed to their philosophy that they don’t care about reality. As long as the program fits into their utopian vision, they’ll support it, no matter what the consequences.

Here’s backup for that statement. I submit that President Obama and all the Democratic politicians who voted for Obamacare never even read the proposed bill. Nancy Pelosi admitted it. So now, when chaos reigns, they act surprised that things aren’t working.

There comes a point when ideology has to be put aside and what’s good for the country must be embraced. France is a selfish nation that is going down the drain economically because the folks there want stuff and economics be damned.

The United States is not far behind.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Bill O’Reilly: The Kids Are Amazing

oreilly_wideFor many American children, the floor has become their closet. This drives me crazy. I walk into a room where an urchin resides, and there are clothes scattered everywhere. Believe me, I know the passive-aggressive tactics that kids use to torture their parents, but something else is going on here.

More than a few times, I’ve heard parents describe their offspring as “amazing.” If you look up that word, you will see this meaning: “To cause great wonder or astonishment.” That’s what “amazing” means. So occasionally, I will ask the parent of an “amazing” child to tell me exactly why that word applies to their tyke. What is the “great wonder” associated with him or her?

“He just is” comes the usual reply, along with a look that could kill a cactus.

Many children fully realize their parents see them as astonishing creatures and incorporate that into their daily presentations. That is, they throw their stuff on the floor because if you are truly amazing you can pretty much do what you want. Right?

When I confront the urchins about strewn clothing, I sometimes get a blank look. So I read their minds. And the brain waves come back this way: “Why are you bothering me? This is interfering with my texting. Someone will pick up my clothes. And if they don’t, so what?”

American children are being done a great disservice by adult society. For reasons only Dr. Phil understands, many parents have decided to attach their own self-image to their children. So if the kid is amazing, that means the father or mother is amazing, as well. That’s what’s going on.

The huge downside is that it takes a lot of work and perseverance to become amazing, and most human beings never reach that status. But children are generally not told that. They are rarely confronted with the fact that life is tough and that to succeed you have be honest, industrious and disciplined. The discipline part kicks in when you hang up your clothing.

The disturbing thing about childhood these days is that some parents and grandparents excuse a lot of questionable behavior because they want their kids to approve of them. It all goes back to “amazing” again. If your extra-special kid doesn’t like you at the moment, maybe you aren’t topnotch.

Americans whose parents were raised during the Great Depression or World War II understand how drastically things have changed on the home front. My father did not care a whit whether I liked him, and it would have been unthinkable for him to pick up my stuff. There were rules in the house, and they were enforced.

So today, as an adult, I still pick up my stuff and recycle and keep a neat house. That is routine and not at all amazing. But I’m not sure that tradition will survive the next generation.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Bill O’Reilly: Welfare Nation

Photo courtesy of Justin Hoch

Photo courtesy of Justin Hoch

My parents were children during the Great Depression, and it scarred them, especially my father, who saw destitution in his Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood: adults standing in so-called “bread lines,” children begging in the streets. My grandfather was a New York City cop, and so my dad did not suffer as others did. But he never forgot the brutal scenes and worked hard his whole life to build some financial independence.

Fast-forward to the severe recession of 2008, when millions of Americans lost jobs and equity in their homes. No bread lines, but much pain. The Obama administration responded by pouring trillions of dollars into stimulus and rescue programs, some of which succeeded in stabilizing tottering banks and auto companies. But along with that, the president and his acolytes openly encouraged Americans to use the welfare system. And now the entitlement culture has exploded.

According to the Census Bureau, more people in America today are on welfare than have full-time jobs. There is a culture of dependency being created that is truly shocking. A recent study by the Cato Institute concludes that welfare now pays more than minimum-wage work in 35 states. So why enter the workforce at the bottom if the government will give you the same compensation for sitting on your butt?

Some believe that the Democratic Party, which champions the entitlement culture, is doing so to assure future votes from those receiving benefits. And right now, about half of all American households are getting some kind of compensation from the feds. Some of that, such as Social Security and Medicare, has been earned. But nearly 50 million Americans are receiving food stamps, and 83 million are on Medicaid.

The United States became the world’s strongest economy by folks working hard. Layabouts and people who game the system actually harm our country. Safety nets for the poor and disadvantaged are a must for any compassionate nation, but encouraging folks to go on the dole when it’s not absolutely necessary is disgraceful.

And that’s what the Obama administration is doing. How else can you explain a 40 percent rise in food stamp recipients in just three years (2009 to 2011, the last statistics available) and a rise of 15 percent in federal disability payments over the same period of time? Is the workplace that dangerous? Really?

As a person who has worked extremely hard for more than 40 years, I don’t want my tax dollars going to drunkards and drug addicts. And in America, there is no substance testing for welfare recipients. Every time that comes up, the civil liberties lobby screams.

America has become a much weaker nation since 2001. The wars we have fought to protect ourselves against terrorism have drained our treasury and created a deep distrust of authority. The hope and change espoused by President Obama has led to chaos in the health care arena and a massive entitlement industry that is growing larger every day.

Unless the voters wise up and get back to self-reliance and responsible government, this nation will continue down the Nanny State road. That path is unsustainable. But even worse, it is un-American.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Bill O’Reilly: Back to School

schoolbusIt used to be that most kids hated early September: those back-to-school ads all over the place and the dreaded specter of another long year sitting in front of Ms. Crabtree or whomever. Most baby boomers like me equated Labor Day with a trip to the dentist.

No longer.

These days, many urchins actually like school. They look forward to getting up early, hopping on the bus and learning their buns off. How is this possible?

I think I know.

Simply put, many American children want to get away from their parents, some of whom micromanage every move they make. These days, everything is set up for the kids. No longer do they have any freedom. It’s play-date this, sporting activity that. Camp here, seminar there. Climb a tree? You could be arrested — and you might even get dirty!

So children experience more freedom at school than they do at home. In the hallways, they can relate to other kids and engage in actual conservations and horseplay without Mom hovering around. Also, the high-tech gizmos in many classrooms give kids some power over their academic performance. So school is cool and much more stimulating than home.

My high school experience was mainly tedious. I had to take Latin. Amo, amas, amat. I am bored; you are bored; he, she or it is bored (loose translation). Five days a week, I fought slipping into a coma.

But when I got home, the fun began. My mother wanted me out of the house. The rule was be home by 6 and don’t assault anyone. I ran wild. Tackle football without equipment, stickball in the street and competitive basketball on a cement court. It was nonstop action with no adults in sight. Why would anyone want to go to school?

Today, adults are swarming their kids like ants on Haagen-Dazs. The tykes are rarely unattended. Instead, they are shuttled from venue to venue in enormous SUVs driven by mothers holding a huge cup of Starbucks in one hand and a cellphone in the other. Leisure time is often contrived and full of pressure to win a black belt or master perfect ballet moves.

Wouldn’t you rather be in school?

The obsession with offspring is part of an overall narcissistic plague that has infected the USA. Children are now extensions of their parents’ egos. They are scorecards. The parents win if their kids do well in whatever. The children feel this very personal pressure so much that school demands are almost a relief.

So three cheers for the beginning of the school term. After a summer of smother, the urchins are finally free to express themselves in classrooms all across America.

Amazing how things have changed.

Veteran TV news anchor Bill O’Reilly is host of the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor” and author of the book “Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama.” To find out more about Bill O’Reilly, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. This column originates on the website www.billoreilly.com.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Bill O’Reilly: What Happens in Vegas

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

LAS VEGAS — This is a town that looks better at night. Millions of lights pierce the darkness creating a visual that is both energetic and trance-inducing. The multilayered lightshow is dazzling and unique in America.

But when the sun comes up, Las Vegas speaks directly to the recession. Half-completed buildings loom over the landscape like giant steel skeletons. Some developers ran out of money and simply walked away leaving huge, hulking abandoned structures to absorb the desert wind.

But just down Las Vegas Blvd. are the winners: lavish hotels that cater to one’s every need. This is a city that best defines the two Americas and our very competitive capitalistic system. If you want to understand the free marketplace, Las Vegas is an excellent classroom.

Millions of hardworking folks come here to have fun. In order to maximize the entertainment, you have to spend money. Whether you spend it on gambling, live shows or fine dining, it’s up to you. The money flow supports tens of thousands of service workers and, at a much higher level, the movers who run the tourist businesses. If you can’t make a decent living in Vegas, you are in major trouble. Responsible workers are sorely needed.

But still there is destitution on display. Addiction is the primary driver of that, although laziness is featured, as well. Some of the poor in this town simply want to play all the time. And they pay a price for that, as prosperity eludes them.

Some of the have-nots sit on sidewalks hoping for money from passersby. Sometimes, gamblers give the beggars casino chips. Panhandlers say the best time for them is after midnight when the winners emerge from the gambling dens. Redistribution is much easier when you’ve just run the table.

President Obama should spend some time in Vegas. Maybe then he would understand capitalism better. No matter how many handouts the panhandlers get, their circumstances rarely change. The money is mostly used to feed their compulsions.

On the other end, the rich 1 percenters hustling the gambling tables are trying to increase their affluence by taking chances. In the process, they are providing salaries for the hardworking men and women who keep the entertainment establishments running. Bottom line: Both the wealthy and the poor in Vegas are exercising their personal freedoms.

From observing the action in Vegas, Obama might finally realize that it’s freedom of choice that most often dictates who fails and who succeeds in the capitalistic system. In Vegas, no outcomes are guaranteed and no government can level the playing field. Prosperity or lack thereof is all about individual decision-making.

But the president would most likely never admit that, because it goes against his belief that government can impose a form of social justice by forcibly redistributing the wages of the successful.

For Barack Obama, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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Bill O’Reilly: Teenage Werewolves

Michael Landon in "I was a Teenage Werewolf", 1957

Back in the 1950s, “Little Joe Cartwright” starred in a movie called “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.” That’s right, after seeing a full moon, Michael Landon ran around a public high school foaming at the mouth and pretty much out of control. Since there was little difference between his behavior and that of the normal students, he got away with it for two semesters.

As I watched the film, I remember thinking that it was going to be tough for Landon to get into college with that on his resume. But then the 1960s happened, so that was that.

This brings me to the present. My life these days is largely confronting political and social madness on television and then going home to deal with teenage drama from an almost-14-year-old girl. I vaguely remember being 14, because I was ensconced in a Catholic high school that gave out homework assignments like they were M&M’s. Believe me, I had plenty of angst. But nobody paid much attention to it.

Like today, many teenagers back then brooded full time. Check out James Dean, an outstandingly cloudy guy. But now teens have two things that embolden their disenchantment: the Internet and permissive parents.

Earlier this week, I was encouraging my urchins to speed it up because the bus was coming.

“I can’t go faster ’cause you’re staring at me,” the teen wailed.

“I’m not staring at you. I just came into the room.”

“But I can see you!”

You get the idea. My daughter also did not want to wear anything that covered her legs — even though it was 39 degrees outside. She wanted to wear shorts. At that point, I started wishing she’d turn into a werewolf. At least the fur would keep her warm.

But it is the Internet that is truly changing the teenage dynamic in America.

It used to be that teenagers would hang out together and swap stories of woe. I remember seeing Billy Joel and his crew at stores on Levittown Parkway. They were just slouching around the same as my guys were. Just being with other teenagers was comforting, but we actually had to leave our houses to do that. Now, teens can gang-brood from their rooms on the Net.

Because nearly every awful occurrence is highlighted on various Facebook pages, teenagers now find it easier to justify their own craziness. “How can you criticize me for getting a C when Shelley got all F’s and crashed her dad’s car?” That kind of thing.

Nothing is private anymore. Teenagers are subjected to (and some participate in) incredibly destructive behavior online.

And parents have few options. Even if you ban home computers, handheld devices are all over the place. You’d have to put a full-time bodyguard on the child in order to provide complete protection.

In the end, all parents can do is try their best to impose a sense of responsibility on their kids. But don’t expect any appreciation, and be watchful at all times. Kids today are growing up at warp speed; the machines march them into adulthood way before they’re ready.

Even with fangs, Landon had it easier.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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