Only in America: Thanksgiving reflections of an Irishman

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On Thursday, America celebrates Thanksgiving - a time when families spend hours and sometimes days cooking every delicious food known to man, a time when y'all sit around a table with the family you love and the family you tolerate – and you pray a political argument does not start before saying grace. After food, it will likely be time for the main event – watching your favorite sport on your 42 inch TV and having leftovers.

America you truly have traveled a long way since the Mayflower pilgrims landed on your shores 398 years ago. Those pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621 because of a successful harvest and celebrated the second one in 1623 because of the rain after a long drought. (Can you imagine ever being so thankful for rain, that you would celebrate it?).

Before you enjoy your family time, I think it is critical to reflect on some of the miracles we see in our world every day, that we may take for granted.

Earth & Mother Nature

In this world of instant gratification, we take so many things for granted and just expect things to happen like it is routine. We expect the sun to rise in the east and set in the west – but have you ever looked at our planet and be in complete awe?

  • Have you ever thought about how our planet is constantly rotating inside a system of other planets that also rotate around each other and yet we never collide?
  • Ever thought about the miracle of us simply being able to walk around - our planet is constantly traveling around 1000 miles an hour and yet we never fall or lose balance?
  • Ever thought about the miracle of rain? We live in an atmosphere that collects moisture from our planet which then resides in the clouds in the sky and then is released when they collide.
  • Have you ever looked at the beauty of our planet and feel like it is an artist canvas? Whether it is the slopes, the different colors in trees, plants or grass or simply the amazing sky filled with so much character?
  • Ever thought about the miracle of farming and growing the crops we eat? The fact we can plant a seed in the soil, water it, look after it and it grows and then we eat it when it fully matures?

Standard of Living

We have also been blessed to see incredible man-made advancements over the last 10, 20 and 100 years that we should be thankful for. I am in my mid-thirties so let's compare the standard of living from when I was growing up and look at the advancements to today.

Food

Let's start with my favorite advancements. Have you noticed the increase in choices of food available to you? When we were growing up some produce was seasonal - today you can buy food at any time of the year as food comes from around the globe.

In our local supermarket, they regularly have promotions with food from other cultures around the world - they have French week, Spanish week, American week etc. If you like food from a different culture, you can get it most of the year now.

Entertainment

Have you noticed how easy it is to entertain yourself today and the standard of that entertainment? When we were growing up, we would go outside and entertain ourselves by playing soccer or some other game and when it was dark we would come inside and go to bed. On rainy days, we could sit inside and play board games or watch the one TV in the household which only had 6 stations and was about 3 foot deep. If you wanted to watch a programme at a certain time you had to watch live, and if someone else in your family wanted to watch something at the same time, YOU HAD TO COMPROMISE - or if it was your parents, you watched what they wanted.

Today we entertain ourselves by playing video games from the comfort of our own chair on the X-Box or PlayStation. We can watch live TV, or we can watch on demand on our flat-screen which likely have 100's of stations. If that was not enough we likely have more than one TV so there is no need for compromise and we have the added benefits of apps where we can stream and binge watch shows on platforms like Netflix or Amazon that we can even watch on our phones or tablets.

Technology

Phones

Do you remember the phone you grew up with? There was usually one phone in the house, it was centrally located, you had zero privacy, you actually had to answer the phone to see who was calling, and the most horrific thing about the phone - it only had one function, to make and receive phone calls.

Today people use cell phones and we all have one of our own. We can walk and talk, have complete privacy *(apart from the NSA), we can call screen and decide if we actually want to talk to the person calling. Today we can do a lot more on our phones including texting, email, take pictures, look at the internet, go onto social media, listen to radio or podcasts, watch videos, listen to music and play games. Today we have more power and access to more information with our phones than Bill Clinton had when he was President of the United States.

Computers

Do you remember your first computer? I do. It was big, bulky, slow and could only do a few things on it. It had Microsoft word, excel, dial-up internet, and two games - solitaire and minesweeper. When we wanted to use it, it took forever to load.

Today computers are smaller, faster with Wi-Fi broadband and extremely fast. We also have laptops which today can do more than at any point in human history. We have cloud technology which connects everyone. I am blessed to do a show on the Blaze and each week I am amazed at what we can do. Every Thursday I sit in my office in Ireland and use a free app on my PC, record my show, upload it to the cloud which takes seconds and I can email my producer Kris (who is nearly 5000 miles away) the details and he can instantly access and download my recordings. He then edits my show, (hopefully makes me sound better), uploads to all platforms and people can listen anywhere around the world.

Music

If you are under 21 today, you really don't understand the joy of music. I grew up in an era where we had to work hard to listen to our favorite songs. We had these things called cassette tapes and you had to rewind and fast forward several times to get to the exact point where your song started. If you wanted to repeat the song, you had to go thru the whole process again. I remember living thru the revolution of the Discman where music came on CD's that allowed you to skip to any song you wanted easily. Both of these are rarely seen today as they have been replaced by the iPod or streaming.

The other option was something we did every day after school - we would come home, put on a station that just played music called MTV (today you likely know MTV as the station where you watch 16 and pregnant or teen mom), and we would do our homework and wait until our favorite song came on.

Education

As impressive as the above are, I believe we have made the biggest improvements in education. Today there is no excuse for ignorance as you can teach yourself ANYTHING. If you wanted to be smart when I was growing up, you had to do really well in school, go to college and actually work hard. If you wanted to learn about a certain topic it required you to go to your library with all the nerds, look for books on the topic and go thru each book and learn about it.

Today you can educate yourself from the comfort of your own home. Is doing well in school still a positive thing? YES. But today you don't need to go to college to be smart. Colleges like MIT make all their courses available online for free. If you want to research something today, you don't need to go the local library, you can google and research it on the internet from the comfort of your living room or even on the toilet in complete privacy.

Today you also have access to more information, with the creation of companies like Amazon; you have access to more products than ever before. You can buy physical books in a used condition, you can buy books for your Kindle or if you are not the best reader you can buy audiobooks. The other advantage of these wonderful services is sometimes you can get access to free products. I am always searching Amazon and I purchased and downloaded 12 different books of writings by Edmund Burke for the grand total of ZERO dollars. Amazon also regularly has penguin classics like Moby Dick etc. for free.

Conclusion

Our world has changed dramatically for everyone in the last thirty years. With the advancements in technology, a lot of these products have become considerably cheaper over time which means any positive changes directly benefit EVERYONE in society and they can help empower people who come from poorer backgrounds.

Looking at all the advancements we have made, it would be very easy to simply celebrate material things. However, that is not the real miracle here. The real miracle is the environment needed to create these products and historically only America has truly ever understood this idea.

Man is meant to live free to pursue their own happiness, to be allowed to succeed or fail on their own merit and if they are successful to keep the fruits of their labor.

It is why the world changed and improved for the better when America was formed. If we share these principles again, just close your eyes and imagine what our world could look like in 5, 10 or 20 years.

Jonathon hosts a weekly one hour show exclusive to the Blaze Radio Network called Freedom's Disciple where he highlights the IDEA of America, promotes the eternal principles of freedom & and shares his passion of America's Founding documents. Please check out his show for FREE here.

This compromise is an abomination

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Three decades ago, "The Art of the Deal" made Donald Trump a household name. A lot has happened since then. But you can trace many of Trump's actions back to that book.

Art of the Deal:

In the end, you're measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish.

People laughed when he announced that he was running for President. And I mean that literally. Remember the 2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner when Obama roasted Trump, viciously, mocking the very idea that Trump could ever be President. Now, he's President.

You can't con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don't deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.

This empire-building is a mark of Trump.

RELATED: 'Arrogant fool' Jim Acosta exposed MSM's dishonest border agenda — again.

The most recent example is the border wall. Yesterday, congress reached a compromise on funding for the border wall. Weeks of tense back-and-forth built up to that moment. At times, it seemed like neither side would budge. Trump stuck to his guns, the government shut down, Trump refused to budge, then, miraculously, the lights came back on again. The result was a compromise. Or at least that's how it appeared.

But really, Trump got what he wanted -- exactly what he wanted. He used the techniques he wrote about in The Art of the Deal:

My style of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I'm after.

From the start, he demanded $5.7 billion for construction of a border wall. It was a months' long tug-of-war that eventually resulted in yesterday's legislation, which would dedicate $1.4 billion. It would appear that that was what he was after all along. Moments before the vote, he did some last-minute pushing. A national emergency declaration, and suddenly the number is $8 billion.

Art of the Deal:

People think I'm a gambler. I've never gambled in my life. To me, a gambler is someone who plays slot machines. I prefer to own slot machines. It's a very good business being the house.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, Senate passed the legislation 83-16, and the House followed with 300-128. Today, Trump will sign the bill.

It's not even fair to call that a deal, really. A deal is what happens when you go to a car dealership, fully ready to buy a car, and the salesman says the right things. What Trump did is more like a car dealer selling an entire row of cars to someone who doesn't even have a licence. When Trump started, Democrats wouldn't even consider a wall, let alone pay for it.

Art of the Deal:

The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.

He started the wall on a chant, "Build the wall!" until he got what he wanted. He maneuvered like Don Draper, selling people something that they didn't even know they wanted, and convincing them that it is exactly what they've always needed.

As the nation soaks in the victory of the recent passing of the historic First Step Act, there are Congressmen who haven't stopped working to solve additional problems with the criminal justice system. Because while the Act was impactful, leading to the well-deserved early release of many incarcerated individuals, it didn't go far enough. That's why four Congressmen have joined forces to reintroduce the Justice Safety Valve Act—legislation that would grant judges judicial discretion when determining appropriate sentencing.

There's a real need for this legislation since it's no secret that lawmakers don't always get it right. They may pass laws with good intentions, but unintended consequences often prevail. For example, there was a time when the nation believed the best way to penalize lawbreakers was to be tough on crime, leading to sweeping mandatory minimum sentencing laws implemented both nationally and statewide.

RELATED: If Trump can support criminal justice reform, so can everyone else

Only in recent years have governments learned that these sentences aren't good policy for the defendant or even the public. Mandatory minimum sentences are often overly harsh, don't act as a public deterrent for crime, and are extremely costly to taxpayers. These laws tie judges' hands, preventing them from using their knowledge and understanding of the law to make case relevant decisions.

Because legislation surrounding criminal law is often very touchy and difficult to change (especially on the federal level, where bills can take multiple years to pass) mandatory minimum sentences are far from being done away with—despite the data-driven discoveries of their downfalls. But in order to solve the problems inherent within all of the different laws imposing sentencing lengths, Congress needs to pass the Justice Safety Valve Act now. Ensuring its passing would allow judges to use discretion while sentencing, rather than forcing them to continue issuing indiscriminate sentences no matter the unique facts of the case.

Rather than take years to go back and try to fix every single mandatory minimum law that has been federally passed, moving this single piece of legislation forward is the best way to ensure judges can apply their judgment in every appropriate case.

When someone is facing numerous charges from a single incident, mandatory minimum sentencing laws stack atop one another, resulting in an extremely lengthy sentence that may not be just. Such high sentences may even be violations of an individual's eighth amendment rights, what with the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. It's exactly what happened with Weldon Angelos.

In Salt Lake City in 2002, Weldon sold half a pound of marijuana to federal agents on two separate occasions. Unbeknownst to Weldon, the police had targeted him because they suspected he was a part of a gang and trafficking operation. They were oh-so-wrong. Weldon had never sold marijuana before and only did this time because he was pressured by the agents to find marijuana for them. He figured a couple lowkey sales could help out his family's financial situation. But Weldon was caught and sentenced to a mandatory 55 years in prison. This massive sentence is clearly unjust for a first time, non-violent crime, and even the Judge, Paul Cassell, agreed. Judge Cassell did everything he could to reduce the sentence, but, due to federal law, it wasn't much.

The nation is facing an over-criminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties.

In cases like Weldon's, a safety valve for discretionary power is much needed. Judges need the ability to issue sentences below the mandatory minimums, depending on mitigating factors such as mental health, provocation, or physical illness. That's what this new bill would allow for. Critics may argue that this gives judges too much power, but under the bill, judges must first make a finding on why it's necessary to sentence below the mandatory minimum. Then, they must write a clear statement explaining their decision.

Judges are unlikely to risk their careers to allow dangerous criminals an early release. If something happens after an offender is released early, the political pressure is back on the judge who issued the shorter sentence—and no one wants that kind of negative attention. In order to avoid risky situations like this, they'd use their discretion very cautiously, upholding the oath they took to promote justice in every case.

The nation is facing an overcriminalization problem that costs taxpayers millions and amounts to the foolish eradication of individual liberties. Mandatory minimums have exacerbated this problem, and it's time for that to stop. Congresswomen and men have the opportunity to help solve this looming problem by passing the Justice Safety Valve Act to untie the hands of judges and restore justice in individual sentences.

Molly Davis is a policy analyst at Libertas Institute, a free market think tank in Utah. She's a writer for Young Voices, and her work has previously appeared in The Hill, TownHall.com, and The Washington Examiner.

New gadget for couples in 'the mood' lets a button do the talking

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Just in time for Valentine's Day, there's a new romantic gadget for couples that is sure to make sparks fly. For those with their minds in the gutter, I'm not talking about those kinds of gadgets. I'm talking about a brilliant new device for the home called "LoveSync."

This is real — it's a simple pair of buttons for busy, modern couples who have plenty of time for social media and Netflix, but can't quite squeeze in time to talk about their... uh... special relationship.

Here's how it works. Each partner has their own individual LoveSync button. Whenever the mood strikes one partner, all they have to do is press their own button. That sets their button aglow for a certain period of time. If, during that time window, their partner also presses their own button, then both buttons light up in a swirling green pattern to signal that love has "synced"...and it's go time.

According to the makers of LoveSync, this device will "Take the Luck out of Getting Lucky." It brings a whole new meaning to "pushing each other's buttons." It's an ideal gift to tell your significant other "I care," without actually having to care, or talk about icky things like feelings.

If you find your significant other is already on the couch binge-watching The Bachelor, no problem! You can conveniently slink back to your button and hold it in for four seconds to cancel the desire. No harm, no foul! Live to fight another day.

Have fun explaining those buttons to inquiring children.

No word yet on whether LoveSync can also order wine, light candles or play Barry White. Maybe that's in the works for LoveSync 2.0.

Of course, LoveSync does have some pitfalls. Cats and toddlers love a good button. That'll be a fun conversation — "Honey, who keeps canceling my mood submissions?" And have fun explaining those buttons to inquiring children. "Yeah, kids, that button just controls the lawn sprinklers. No big deal."

If you've been dialing it in for years on Valentine's Day with flowers and those crappy boxes of chocolate, now you can literally dial it in. With a button.

Good luck with that.